continued (part 2)



(1)Subhuman Architecture: 'Constructivity'
Fig. 5, 6, 7

Subhuman Architecture
Fig. 6, 7


Fig. 6: Japanese primatologists have produced a measured plan of the nightcamp of a gorilla group (Izawa/Itani 1966, in Egenter 1983). This drawing shows a perspective into the night camp of this gorilla group, using the indicated measurements of Izawa and Itani. For better visibility the bamboo grove has been cleared on the drawing to give an impression how social relations work in this temporary settlement.
Fig. 7: Same arrangement like Fig. 6. Great Apes show a very clear sense for spatial order. The female and her baby have their nest in the centre and above the ground. They are protected by five other individuals including the dominant male with their tower like nests strategically protecting the centre. (Egenter 1992, 2001)

In the primate world constructive behaviour has deep roots (22 million years). A tremendous tradition, which - from the beginning takes place in arboreal space with nests partly high up in the trees. Nests are fibrous constructions with arms and hands as 'first tools'. The fabrication of tree nests includes things like the experience of self produced, reliable stability of a construction, the expression of security, of commmodity, of closeness in the social sense (Egenter 1983, 1990c).

In regard to the concept of 'settlement' it is important that nestbuilding and passing the night in nests happens in groups. Evidently there is some sort of a plan reflecting social structure and the defensive character in regard to predators around the night camp. Note that locomotion in arboreal space is difficult at night for the animals: stereoscopic view is blocked to a great extent.

About 16 million years ago space becomes mainly terrestric for Hominoids in Africa. Nests are dominantly built on the ground. Rooted materials like bamboostalks are knotted and fixed at a hight of ca. 2 meters, thus producing a tower like stable construction which on top carries the nest. The animal climbs up and spends the night on top of his construction (Egenter 1983, 2001). This can be considered as the beginning of architecture.

(2) Semantic Architecture:
topo-semantic functions and the model of categorical polarity
(Fig. 5, Fig. 8-12, Fig. 13)

Semantic Architecture
Fig. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


Fig. 8: In central Japan one hundred villages were researched at the time of their Shinto cult festivals. The results of the study were quite new in regard to religion. Cults could now be understood not from belief or verbal ideals, but, evidently the 'seats of Gods' showed their central content as socio-territorial demarcation. The cults were recognized as traditional local constitution, which provides basic structural conditions for the village: socially and politically (founderhouse), spatially (value focussed axis) as well as aesthetically and ontologically (PRO-portion = META-physics) (Egenter 1980, 1994a)

Fig. 9: One village composed by four hamlets shows the basic conditions of the spatial organisation of a village in the framework of what is called the "cultfestival of the village deity" (Egenter 1982a).

Fig. 10: Primary forms derived from the study: hutlike type and columntype. Both differ only quantitatively in regard to their basic diameter. In culture they have evolved differently as roofhut or roof and symbolic column. Important is their autonomous structure, a result of a grip of the hand without any preconceived idea. (Egenter 1980a 1994a)

Fig. 11: Selection of hutlike types in various cultures

Fig. 12: Selection of column types in various cultures. Many of them were considered of highest values, being sacred or representing deities. The Djed pillar of Ancient Egypt for instance (9) was representative for the the wellness of the Pharaoh's empire. (Egenter 1980a, 1994a)

Semantic factor: Essentially from the nest, but also in relation to traffic signs of greater apes (Savage-Rumbaugh 1996) we must assume that building included an increasingly important semantic dimension, the 'sign in the landscape' which developed into a particular class of 'semantic architecture'. It developed functions of socio-territorial control combined with food control. This type of architecture became extremely important for the evolution of human culture.

Early tools must have greatly stimulated and differentiated constructive behaviour. Tools allowed to cut materials and transport them somewhere else and combine them with other construction materials. A wide spectrum of forms is possible which we can reconstruct to some extent if we look at the material culture of traditional populations of hunters and collectors. Traps, nets, for animals and fishing, originally small round huts or tents and other small forms, basic means of transport, illumination, fire for cooking and warmth, etc.. In other words, we can assume a considerable equipment which did not show in the archaeological method (s. Egenter 1991a, 1994b, 2003).

Categorical polarity: Primary aesthetic factor. The most important development in the line of semantic architecture was 'categorical polarity'. It can be assumed as an autonomous technological development. The human hand forms a lower part by binding rooted stalks into a stable cone. A surplus part is forming a protruding element which remains naturally unbound and mobile. Two contradictive categories in one form. Aesthetically PRO-portion is born. The artificially produced 'categorical polarity' can be used to make analogies to similar structures of natural forms (top and trunk of trees, protruding parts of heads [horns, antlers], wings and body of birds, etc. (Egenter 1994a, 1994c). Did this comparative process of artificial form (semantic architecture) and natural forms contribute to the increasing size of the human brain from Homo habilis to Homo sapiens sapiens (ca. 2 My - 40 Ty). Did it form the 'discovery of nature'? Was it the first human system of cognition programmed to form aesthetic harmony?

Polar analogy: We can explain this analogy between two different forms structured according to the principle of 'categorical polarity' with the following formula, expressing 'polar analogy'.

O/A1 = O/A2 = O/An.

It implies natural or artificial objects 1, 2 ...n which may all be different in their form but which have something in common which makes them highly similar, quasi identical. It is their categorically contradictive structure, O/A, meaning e.g. upper part with dominantly 'dynamic' category over lower part with dominantly 'static' category, both parts forming a formal unit in objects 1, 2 ....n. This common aspect is 'harmony between contradicting categories' in their forms. We have shown how this principle is effective e.g. in the Middle Ages and later and how it is misinterpreted by European Art historians (Egenter 1998b*, c*, d*)

(3) Domestic Architecture

Evidently this order is not invented by a prehistorical "Einstein". It is derived from models related to semantic architecture. In the case of the Ainu (Fig. 14) it is very clear: their whole society, their social, formal, spatial, aesthetic, religious, economical dimensions are structured into an enormously complex system of polar relations. 'Coincidence of oppposites' in the same form, in the same conceptual unit. Spatial, tectonic, architectural, or colour related on one hand, but also social, sexual or cosmic on the other side. Harmony regarding light and dark, regarding above and below, natural and artificial and so on. The whole environment with all its empirically and spiritually accessible parts is combined into a per/conceptual whole which is modelled according to sacred signs which express topos, verticality and categorical polarity at that place (Egenter 1991a).

Coordination of Semantic and Domestic architecture
Fig. 13, 14, 15

Fig. 13: Schematic representation of most important criteria of semantic architecture. The lower rooted part (A) forms a stable cone whereas the upper part (O) remains natural and dynamic, both parts combined acting as a model similar like the Chinese YinYang symbol. In contrast to this abstracted graphic symbol the O/A structure forms a primary local vertical axial system which can be interpreted in spatially extensive ways. If we assume its universality in rural agrarian domains since neolithic times we could consider it some sort of the 'gene of culture' providing the basic structure of art, philosophy and religion.

Fig. 14: Elements of the Ainu House and the evaluation of the landscape. The whole environment is interpreted in the framework of a categorically polar system from inside out, from the domestic domain into the whole valley with the dichotomy of upper river and lower river as main backbone. The whole system is structured according to the sacred signs of the Ainu, the inau (see drawing Nr. 3)

Fig. 15: Schematic representation of a simplified basic type of Japanese farm-house with cultplaces and cult-markers. The plan of the house is defined by the more ancient system of 'semantic architecture' which appears in the framework of cyclic cultic festivals as 'decoration'. The original meaning as territorial demarcation is no more understood and thus (as an Eurocentric projection) attributed to religion.

Similarly in the case of the Japanese farmhouse (Fig. 15). Semantic architecture defines the main points of the house, altar and entrance. The altar defines the upper part. Ritual behaviour, living and sleeping are focused on it. And the lower part with its pragmatic aspects of daily life like cooking and other work is related to the gate markers or also special markers for the hearth and the later established sacred column in the centre of the house.Note that in spite of considerable variations this basic pattern is common to all house traditions throughout Japan (Egenter 1982b, 1991b).

(4) Sedentary Architecture: settlement core complex

In Neolithic times semantic architecture developed into a very important system which supported sedentary life by a new disposition, which we called 'settlement core complex'. Core complex is a new function of semantic architecture on the higher level of settlement or village. Demarcation is initially set up by a founder at the borderline between wilderness and intended plantation surfaces. Nuclear border means its polar code is projected outwards. It defines the 'sacred territoriality' of the settlement, the functional and non-functional use of the surfaces and socially the power structure related to the founderhouse. Its representant is chief of the village, head priest (owner of deity; deity = demarcation sign) and - with his kin - ruler of the territory. The local festival calendar is the archive of village history. The most important criteria of this system are the toposemantic dimension of the fibroconstructive signs, their cyclic cultic reproduction and the structuro-symbolic form of the nuclear border marker ('semantic architecture').

Categorical polarity of the demarcation was used as a model to organise time, plantation cycles, organisation of work, etc. as we can see it in the example of the Ainu. Due to its model function for environmental order, its aesthetic and harmonising significance in general, it produced high values. It became sacred or was called 'above' implying high ontological ('worldview'-) values (e.g. in Japanese: 'kami', high above, which, in contact with other cultures became 'deity' or 'god').

Thus, this system of 'nuclear borders' was highly effective because demarcations were within the settlement, thus protected. In its performance, that is, by developing high values, it managed to guarantee the existence and diffusion of sedentary agrarian village cultures in many different parts of the world.

The concept of categorical polarity became the allround method to harmonise artificial arrangements as well as the organisation of natural environments. On one hand, the cyclic renewal of the demarcation set up initially at village foundation by the village founder produced local time, the 'once' of the foundation reinstituted and physically enewed at the cyclic festival. And it brought social hierarchy: the representative of the founderhouse became local ruler and priest at the cyclic rite as 'owner of the deity'.

In other words, 'semantic architecture' and how it is used in certain conditions lets us reconstruct the process of the formation not only of agrarian society, but also of its important characteristics, like religious rites, 'mythical time', 'creation of (local) world by gods', formation of social hierarchy and so on. What we called 'settlement core complex' must have formed the nucleus of a cultural system which we perceive in neolithic and metal periods as general characteristics of widespread sedentary village cultures,

(5) urban architecture: early city-states
(monumentalisation of fibrous village cultures)

We can also reconstruct how this 'settlement core complex' was used in the formation of earliest city-states and their hierarchical social structure. We can understand the role played by monumentalised temples for social control and centralisation. We can understand the formation of earliest script based on semantic architecture (Egenter 1984, 1989f*). But this transition is not discussed here. It is outlined in various other papers, e.g. in : 'Rural/ urban dichotomy' 1998g*. The basic new insight consists in the fact that the culture of early civilisations were not the great ingenious inventions as described by historians, art historians and archaeologists (e.g. Spiro Kostoff 1977). The developments can rather be characterised as a superseding process in which the new upper social class materially transformed or 'monumentalised' the 'fibroconstructive' non-durable culture of agrarian villages of neolithic and metal age origins. The new durable elements were transformed into instruments to exploit the agrarian population and to control extended surfaces from central temple systems (sacrifice transformed into tax).

In the following we will show some examples of our new systematic approach. We will indicate the interaction, the close relation between 'semantic architecture' and 'domestic architecture' (or 'vernacular architecture').

Continute to part 3