Before Deconstructive Architecture the parameters of the static body have been the primary factor in determining a space.
Before Deconstructive Architecture the evaluation of functionalist theory and its application in modern architecture has been conducted by Lebbeus Woods in the year 1997:
“All designed space in fact pure abstraction, truer to the mathematical than to any human function” [Woods, 1997: 23].
Woods refers to the untruthful pledge that architects claim that each design has been shaped to follow a human “program” by using the repetitive Cartesian rules of geometry. Woods questions how could the claim (function follows form) when in the past rectangular space have been ideal for office work, bedroom or a butcher.
How can it be that the same rectangular shape is ideal to housework, sex/ sleep, or chopping of the meat? Surely the above human activities differ in the choreographic movement of the body in performing the functions, yet identical forms of spaces envelop them.
One could argue that the rectangular form seems to correspond more with the equipment/ furniture shape than the actual human factor. This displacement raises another fundamental question regarding the responsibility of an architect; Is the nature of an architect to surrender to the appliance’s deterrents or is it the movement in architecture has become overtaken by an ideology of providing pure and décor stripped building but that they have lost the consideration of function:
“The modern movement attempted to purify architecture by stripping off the ornament of the classical tradition to reveal the naked purity of the functional structure beneath. Formal purity was associated with functional efficiency. But the modern movement was obsessed by an elegant aesthetic of functionalism, not by the complex dynamics of function itself” [Johnson, Wigley, 1988: 16].
Wigley argued that modernist architects were at the same time attempting to conduct themselves faithfully to the pure aesthetics of the building by claiming to serve the dynamics of the function.
According to Eisenman, the human factor was considered to be the origin around which the buildings have been conceived for the past five centuries. The parameters of the body have been the primary factor in determining a space, however, this space has failed to respond to the spiritual side of one’s body:
“… [for] five centuries the human body’s proportions have been a datum for architecture. But due to developments and changes in modern technology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis, the grand abstraction of man as the measure of all things, as an originary presence, can no longer be sustained, even as it persists in the architecture of today. In order to effect a response in architecture to these cultural changes, this project employs an other discourse, founded in a process called scaling” [Eisenman, 1998: 70].
Peter Eisenman has also raised his doubts regarding the corresponding aspect of architecture to the actual event that it houses, present at Deconstructive Architecture.
In a lecture titled “Strong Form, Weak Form”, whilst arguing his reason for the need of displacing architecture, Eisenman compares other art disciplines to architecture. Eisenman exemplifies the freedom of poetry and music in becoming what it transpires to be. In return, architecture fails to evolve and with the cause identified by Eisenman is the overwhelming presence of reality impacted by the past:
“The question is, why do we want to displace architecture today? Why is it necessary to separate function and structure from symbolism, meaning, and form? Because in the past architecture always symbolized reality. In other words, while language was one kind of reality, poetry another, music another, architecture was perhaps the ultimate condition of reality, because it dealt with physical facts, with bricks and mortar, house and home. It was the physical place, the fundamental condition of reality” [Noever, 1999: 34].
Eisenman indicates that by architects focusing on the actual technological consideration in a building they have ignored the feelings of the occupier and were not even tempted to challenge them as it can be achieved in the other art forms.
In 1991 at Columbia University Bernard Tschumi delivered a lecture titled “Six Concepts” [Tschumi, 1996: 230], whereby he elaborates the truthfulness of the modernist architects in relation to use, arguing that modernists were preoccupied more with the appearance, driven by the rejection of ornaments whilst ignoring the function factor in a building.
The traces of the overwhelming presence of pure aesthetics in cubic volumes found in modern architecture compile the argument in doubting their affiliation to the activity it houses, not visible before Deconstructive Architecture.
Auge, M., (1995): Non-Places an introduction to the anthropology of the post modernity. Verso, London.
Benjamin, A., ed. (1988): Deconstruction in Architecture. Architectural Design, 58, no. 3/4, London.
De Certeau, M., (1984): The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall, University of California, Berkeley.
Derrida, J,. (1976): Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Johns Hopkins UP, Baltimore.
Eisenman, p., (1988): “Eisenmanesie”. V: Architecture + Urbanism, Vol. Extra edition, August. p.:70.
Jencks, C., ed. (1992): The Post-Modern Reader. Academy Editions, London.
Johnson P., Wigley, M., (1988): Deconstructivist Architecture. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Leach N., ed., (1997): Rethinking Architecture; A reader in Cultural Theory. Routledge, London.
Noever, P., (1999): Architecture in Transition; Between Deconstruction and New Modernism. Prestel, Munich.
Ryan, M., (1982): Marxism and Deconstruction: A Critical Articulation. Johns Hopkins UP, Baltimore.
Tschumi, B., (1996): Architecture and Disjunction. MIT Press, London.
Woods, L., (1997): Radical Reconstruction. Princeton Architectural Press, New York.
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