Saturday, October 30, 2010

Signs and Meaning in Architecture

In order for a "Mere Building" to become Architecture, must it mean something? How much does the generic office tower mean, which even at its worst, most would still consider it Architecture, albeit BAD Architecture. In the end what does the Sigrum's building really mean to the non-architect?  Does a building's size, or use, or cost automatically make it architecture? Does the purpose of its construction, does its builder's intent affect how we view it?  To broaden our investigation further, what distinquishes the questions of Architecture from that of other art?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hegel and the Architectural Present

Is there a hegelian Spirit of an Age? Does the concept of Kunstgeschichte or that ideas belong to their time due to some common rational ( determanistic?) movement have merit or is some other force at work?

The notion that ideas (and by extension works of art) are products of a specific time and cultural need, or force is attractive because it allows us to give them rational justifcation and order. Artworks are "products" of the ideas and currents of an age is simply the extension of the self as creator to the scale of the society. But in all actuality there could be no egocentric order to it. As much as the we would like to find the common thread and predictability or at least "road map" to why a culture acted and created in a certain that was to some dgree controlled by us, it may be a projection of man's desire to find order in it. The abstraction of order projected upon the world around us, is fundamental to the human condition. From man's first attempt at demarcating space, to the development of religion, science and philosophy, the application of the abstraction of order has followed man's metaphysical need to understand his place in the universe. Anywhere there is a complexity of ideas, current events, biology, news, human psychology etc there is an organizing superstructure of order- even if that order may not fit neatly into the categories in which we want to place them.

However could the organzing principals themselves determine the outcome? Could it be that ideas are determined by pure coincident, morphological process (such as with languages) or event based causality and not some rational abstraction? Could Hegel's concept of history really be a response to the rational determinism of the 17th century?

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Historically, Architecture has been described, and by extension defined, by its meaningful form. A temple was recognizable as a "temple" both by its superficial form and the physical experience of its spaces. The design of a building's edifice, color, form, site, urban context, materiality, plan and spaces etc. were all deliberate attempts by the architect to communicate meaning to its users and the larger community in which it interacted.

Modernism has freed Architecture from the Ideology of Style. In doing so it has allowed contemporary culture to represent itself more specifically through uniquely expressive and diverse forms. But without a common typological or ornamental stylistic vocabulary, contemporary architects are reduced to using materiality, iconography and more fundamental formal-spatial gestures to invest meaning within buildings. However, this reliance of an underlying form takes more planning, skill and effort to use successfully than the historic formulaic decoration that quasi projected socio-functional type of "house", "bank", "office", "apartment building", etc, or the cultural function "threshold", "base", "ceiling", "roof", "etc". Contemporary Architects must now develop these on a per project, situational basis.

When combined with the current methods of Architectural production (design through construction) the resulting buildings have become progressively less meaningful. Consequently, I would argue that contemporary Architecture is at once both more rich and less "architectural" than buildings of earlier eras.

The Unnecessary

Architecture is messy. It is the turbulent balance of the useful and useless.

Monday, September 20, 2010


The question of what architecture elements (and their components) mean and how they function within a larger structure of building is a unique question that is quite different than the ephemeral questions of language and structure. Contrary to what architects would like to believe, Architecture is not a "language". The idea that it could be, that by adding up its parts and sign-like references, one could produce meaningful architecture, rationally, consistently like a good writer uses grammar is an conceptual abstraction. 

The fallacy of Architecture-as-sign (as opposed to Architecture-as-symbol) lies partially in the nature of meaning itself and partially in human experience. 
Somewhere within the study of a thing there must also be an equal effort to experience it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Space-Time and Perceptible Space

The idea that space, like mass can change its "formlessness" poses a problem. That space is manipulated by gravity and is not separable from the idea of time cannot help but alter our understanding, our conceptualization of immediate, perceptible space around us.  However, because gravitational spatial distortion or multiple Riemannian spatial dimensions are not experienced first hand or at least perceptible without scientific aids, the idea of a space-thing which can be folded or compressed remains an abstract rational construction.  How this will change man's perception of the sun, the seasons or distance is unclear.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Image from:

For centuries after Copurnicus developed the sun centered cosmology (as opposed to the Aristotlian earth centered one) scientists could not prove that it existed as such but instead had to 'believe' it. First, the idea was for all practical purposes immeasurable in 1543. The tools simply didn't exist to prove it one correct. Second, it more than clashed with the existing idea of the universe- it negated it. Everything that was known about the world up to that time reinforced the earth-centered universe. Finally, Copurnicus had most of the science wrong. Slowly, first Galileo then Kepler, the science was massaged and corrected.

Scientists and philosophers following Copurnicus, first had to believe it was correct, before they could even prove it; today our cosmologies are not that different. Much of what we believe about the universe we can not prove and the corresponding conceptions (then there are multiple cosmologies) of world over-reaches our science. Because no one single theory summarizes the universe into one singular idea, the elastic "Big Theory - relativism - Big Theory" revolution is in mid cycle.  Many relativistic, small theories, solve localized problems. The question on which one to believe is not less of a problem now then it was in 1543.