For the past month I’ve been reviewing the book Architecture and Disjunction. It is a compilation of essays written by Bernard Tschumi from 1975 to 1990, and explores the architect’s eagerness to define “space”, and the contradictions and dualities that thinking about said definition creates. (Specially the paradox between built and ideal architecture that I mention often in older posts.) This week, an essay called “Spaces and Events caught my attention.
Is there a way to satisfy different needs with a single architectural approach?
Some time ago I had the opportunity to present an entry for a 5-home design contest. The task consisted in designing the group of single-family houses, according to specific necessities and users. A common approach would be to plan each project separately. Another, thinking about each house as a unique element of a whole that has aesthetic language as a connecting theme. These lead to the question: Is there a step further? Is there a way to satisfy different needs with a single architectural approach? The formal solution to the problem was the creation of a basic module that contained all “rigid” program of a house: kitchen, bathroom, stairs. The result was a rigid, but compact package; Something like an architectonic swiss army knife.
Part 4: The Ambiguous and Undefined.
For Robert Venturi, “both-and” carries a latent ambiguity in its meaning. Man, used to catalogue objects, always tries to define realities in an exact manner: Black or white; Inside or Out. This way, man only achieves to perpetuate a single attribute, when objects may have more than one. We catalogue depending on how truth accommodates to our personal vision and ambition. Context changes meaning; Duality always exist. Truth is the juxtaposition of what an image is, and what it seems to be. Like Joseph Albers said: “Physical truth always differs from the psychic effect it creates in our subconsciousness.” (Venturi, Robert 1966, p.20)
Part 3: Both-And and Crossprogramming
An architectonic element is often interpreted as an absolute in a universe of dualities, or even multiplicities. “Either-or” is chosen instead of “both-and”. For example, a space can be considered as an outside or inside space, but never both. For Robert Venturi, “An architecture which includes varying levels of meaning breeds ambiguity and tension.” (Venturi, Robert 1966, p.23) In consequence, space can have various interpretations, which change depending on the observer. “At one moment one meaning can be perceived as dominant; at another moment a different meaning seems paramount.” (Venturi, Robert 1966, p.32)
Part 2 : Gradient
Even though Gradient is an inherent concept on architecture, it possesses an importance that is not considered constantly: Its application often involves gratuitous sets of absolute opposites that do not interact nor complement each other. Dualities in design; inside, outside; private, public; object, space; Are treated as incorruptible truths that cancel each other out. This creates buildings that have a mutilated content and a lack of mutual potentiation of the parts that make the whole. The value of a unified whole is far greater than the value of its parts by themselves.