THE BASIC 'CELLS' OF ARCHITECTURE
What is probably the most breathtaking insight of this approach consists
in the following: premodern architecture cross culturally and diachronically
through times can be understood from two basic schemes. They correspond
to what we consider with the term 'cell' in biology. Very different architectural
forms and styles can be structured in very similar ways, that is, they
are - particularly if they are ontologically important - all structured
according to these two schemes.
• Vertical Polarity Scheme. Seen in the framework of 'cosmos-typology', this column form was an early model for the harmony of the universe, in the primary micro-cosmic, in the secondary mesocosmic and in the final macrocosmic sense. Note that from the beginning geometry was primarily an expression of the model and was later abstracted and applied to other domains (universe).Is there an instinct component in man's architecture? At least, the tremendous continuity of the two schemes mentioned make man's architecture comparable with the instinictive types of buildings made by animals (see Juhani Pallasmaa's beautiful book on 'Animal Architecture').
• Horizontal Polarity Scheme. The same principle could also be used horizontally or quasi horizontally. It was paired with river systems, later led to the study of moon, sun, other planets and stars.
VERTICAL POLARITY SCHEME IN ARCHITECTURE, ART,
PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION AND IN THE
PERCEPTUAL ORGANISATION OF AESTHETIC ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
In this framework we show a collection of slides which could be endlessly enlarged. What is important in this type of worldview is of a philosophical nature. Note the functional definition of the object is relevant, but its aesthetic qualities, its 'membership' in a harmonious system. 'Hen kai pan'. All is one and one is all, a Greek principle. Coincidentia oppositorum in the Middle Ages. Yin Yang, Daoism in China. It is evident that these patterns played an important role in the history of art and also architecture. We are just not aware because of our art historians: they are rationalists and thus analytically dissect art into styles.
An important remark: The pattern we described is identified by many with Christian ideology. But this is entirely wrong and shows a tremendous lack of understanding. Polarity is much older than the European Middle Ages. It is as old as man. It formed the first system of cognition. Christianity used this pattern, because it was established in everybody's mind. We must revise it fundamentally. I is one of the most important architectural properties of humanity.
Picasso (1958) painted a very strange bundle of flowers formed by two hands, functional the lower part, colourful vital upper part. Maybe it alludes to Anaximander's saying that man is the most intelligent being on earth because he has hands.
The Japanese Ikebana is not just simply nature worship it is a particular aesthetics with natural materials. Polarity is its basic concept. Note that the similar concept of 'still-life' (a paradoxical term!) is an established category in European painting.
Rabuzim, a so called naive painter. Of course he is not naive, he simply expresses the orders of the village-cultures where he came from.
Publicity. The house should gain a particular meaning. Wherever it comes from, maybe from fireworks, the pattern is evident.
The romantic picture, sunset, the far off island, they all seem to be related to our pattern.
Hundertwasser understood the problem we are talking about to some extent, but remained fixed on oriental forms. But we feel his buildings as very human in contrast to the concrete bunkers of the internationally competing star architects.
Asian sanctuaries whether of the autochthonous type (India) or historical (Buddhism) strongly indicate the heaven and earth topic in general demarcated by a particular building (e.g. stupa).
A painting by Max Ernst (The whole city).
In the following some very different elements of buildings of the European tradition in various styles. What is important is the heaven and earth topic, the 'dynamic/ symbolic above' versus 'static/ functional below' theme. Note the 'synthesis of arch and column (Auxerre, Crypt, 11th ct.)
Columns and arch in the sense of heaven and earth are the most frequent frame for European painting related to religious themes (Tiziano, Tintoretto). Note the hut in the arch field (G. Bellini, Sacred Conversation)
Protruding elements indicate sacred meaning, relation of earth and heaven whether in the case of the Greek Athena (from Barbakeion) or a Hawaiian deity (Pele). Whether in a small and simple icon (B. Daddi, Madonna with Christ and Saints 14th ct.) or a Renaissance niche (Donatello, St. Peter; Orsanmichele, Florence)
In this sense the Mongolian steppe deity Vajrapani in its terrible form standing on a small island and surrounded by virulent flames stands very close to our initial picture of Caspar David Friedrich.
What is the most important insight of this presentation? We gain insight into the other side of the medal. The human creation conventionally mainly seen from its great changes has a very conservative other side. There are traits that indicate great continuity. Certain parameters have not changed for millions of years. We somehow still build our nests. The strong desire to have a definite and specific place on this earth has always remained of great importance. The highest representations of man have always remained some emphasis of the meaning of a place.
Maybe the higher, the aesthetic way to do this may be about 2 million years old. It happened with the discovery of the concept of pro-portion which simply means something sticking out of a well defined portion.
A tremendous insight for the Renaissance oriented architect who thinks himself as the profaned world creator. No creation at all. But the respect for humanity and its history in the anthropological sense.
RENE MAGRITTE KNEW ABOUT
THIS SUB-REALISTIC INFRASTRUCTURE
OF OUR PER-/CONCEPTION
Stylistically Caspar David Friedrich is considered a Romanticist. But, please do not call me a Romanticist. First, Romanticism is not negative in my view. It was a very valuable search for the origins of human cognition and artful expression. Many artists expressed very important things. And I think Caspar David Friedrich's painting expresses something fundamental for the European or Western mind in regard to the 'Heaven and Earth Topic' as we called it. Note that it is not new. Petrarca had expressed similar feelings several hundred years before verbally when at the beginning of the 14th century he first time ascended the Mount Ventoux in Southern France. But, nevertheless, both are important sources in our 'phaseology of Cosmos perception'.
There is hardly any other man in this world who could less be called
a Romantic: Rene Magritte. Many consider the well known 'Surrealist',
as a painter who's works are expressing our modern times par excellence.
But this is another fairly simplistic etiquette of the art historians.
In fact, Magritte devoted his life as a painter exactly to what we dealt
with in this paper. He was convinced that there is a 'sous-realism', an
underground-reality in our rationalistic world, a structural view 'below
the table' of which we are not conscious. Magritte was a fierce detective
of such underground patterns, but he never did say where it came from.
His paintings can be read very clearly.
The first picture here in fact decomposes the mediaeval Madonna pattern into a modern interpretation. The protective coat of Saint Mary is lost, the modern Madonna is a wife, natural conditions, naked. The religious promise of salvation has disappeared, she has no baby, but a leaf indicating biology, life. The heaven and earth pattern has moved into the background, is also rendered natural, framed merely a hole in the wall showing clouds and the sea. A rock in her room indicates eternity, the stability of the 'natural'.
The second picture alludes to the ideal image of the bourgeois women of the 19th century. Hat like a hut covered with flowers. The individuality of the face is covered up by a similar object the 'bouquet' of flowers. The body of the woman is formed by a girdle indicating an upper and lower part, vaguely alluding to the former corset, providing ladies with a hourglass type of waistline. The whole in white, but in front of heaven and earth represented by the ocean and a brick wall indicating a balcony. Evidently the picture sarcastically alludes to the customs of the times completely de-individualising the female in regard to her figure. Evidently the custom is nurtured by a very ancient cosmos-analogy.
This cosmos analogy and female body is more explicitly shown in this picture. It alludes more on the moral implications of the Christian view of the body, celestial in the upper part, face and hairstyle most important. And all the implications of carnal life in the lower part. Here too we find a stone which implies eternity, particular in relation to the lower part of the polar implication.
Flower vase, evidently in the room of a house, on a table. The flower vase is positively shown in its realistic plasticity, but the upper part, the bush, is interpreted negatively, as a dissection, offereing an outlook, opening the view on a natural tree. The nest with eggs indicates the question of the origins. Do we see the natural tree with its top and trunk through the artificiality of the bouquet in the vase or is the the artificial vase and natural flower bush a derivation of the natural condition? Most scientists, if it comes to such questions, are in favour of the second answer. Magritte puzzles them with an alternative which seems absurd on first sight, but which may be right in an anthropological perspective.
We all know this type of doors. We have met them in the houses and apartments of our grand parents, maybe also parents. They did not mean anything. The profiles were either considered as a functional arrangement or decoration. But, Magritte gives this door - which is found all over Europe - an entirely different meaning, a deep meaning. It represents the structure of the cosmos. Heaven and earth topic. Again Magritte is ambivalent. Did the cosmos teach to make doors, or did the doors teach man to see the cosmos?
It is evident, this picture is very close to our initial picture of Caspar David Friedrich. But it is totally unromantic. It is unreal. In addition it shows a tremendous sarcasm. Two melon men Magritte type engaged in philosophical discussions can not walk like this in this environment. It is a nonsense painting. But through this nonsense it shows the limits of the human condition. Magritte interprets this man and cosmos relation quite different. It is critical of all those established customs and beliefs in which man interprets him off the grounds, familiar with the cosmos and its dimensions, mainly probably Christian religion, which destroyed man's strong relation with the earth.
Heaven and earth topic, blue mountains intersecting, a warm dusty sky contrasted by a piece of realistically painted mountain surface with grass and stones. A human face as negative form, mouth, nose, eyes. Magritte's equivalent to Caspar David Friedrich's cosmos experience: all this is merely an interpretation of our human senses. There is no reality as such. All is but a human construct.
Probably Magritte is the greatest visual philosopher of the 21th century. It seems that the art historians have not discovered him yet.
THE SWISS CONCRETE AWARD 1997 -
A PRAGMATIC EXAMPLE
Some of you might say that I have not spoken much of what is conventionally called architecture. To conclude I am trying to give an example for what I meant on the pragmatic level.
Above is a picture which can be found on various materials (CD, abstracts) of the 10th Alps Adria Conference. The small church is marvelously placed in U-formed valley surrounded by steep woods and high reaching cristal like mountains, partly covered with snow, all bathed in a warm autumn light. The picture would be entirely different without the chapel in its centre. Its vertical elements, the tower and the roof of the church indicate a vertical axis which implies transcendence from the human world to the skies, the heavens. and there is a similar horizontal or diagonal axial system which relates the mountains at the back in similar ways to the small human path leading to the entrance of the church. We called this vertical and horizontal polarity and I think it is clear for everyone that this relatively simple structural concept involves a tremendous complexity of relations, of identification, of beauty, of purity, of being embedded into cosmic forces, of being overwhelmed, in short, of a whole worldview or ontology.
Now I show a similar picture with a similar environment. This awful piece of concrete in a small 'romantic valley' got an award of the renown ETH Zurich in Switzerland. It got the concrete award! Note that the 'Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) played an important role in the organisation of this award and a related exhibition!
I tried to reconstruct the original condition of the valley. It is very similar like the church we showed before, a little less dramatic, maybe. But, definitely, there is vertical polarity of the church in relation to the structure of the valley, the skies at its end. And there is a horizontal polarity, the access-place scheme, related to the church entrance.
This example shows clearly: The architect of today has no sensorium anymore at all for such things. He has become a fully rationalised machine-like design apparatus functioning according to the universal homogeneity of space in the sense of physics. In my own generation this happened to Switzerland on the large scale. A tremendous change to the worst. And, unfortunately it will happen all over the world. I have seen such things also in India. Architects and designer have completely lost their creative sensibility for the conditions of traditional landscapes. And this process is further accelerated by the influences of the producing industries which have increased enormously in recent years on architectural schools all over the world.
THE TEACHINGS OF A DEITY
Vernacular world. Deities still have visible bodies on the island of
Bali. Which means that they still can teach us, if we are not blinded by
our own analytical culture. Note that in this traditional domain, man imitates
the deity. Not subjective originality is involved. The deity, as a temporally
deeprooted human artefact has preserved some ontological code which was
primordial for mankind: polarity, aesthetics, polar analogy, the axial
system of heaven and earth, the model for the unity of the human micro-,
meso- and early macrocosm. Do the Balinese deities have a 'divine' human
knowledge that has been lost in the western civilisations?
CARPAGGIO'S THEORY: THE ARCHITECTURALLY STRUCTURED EVOLUTION OF SPACE PERCEPTION
Carpaggio's theory can help us to understand our comparison: we only must try to implode our modern concept of space. Human per-/conception of space was not always as it is today. Our modern consciousness of larger spatial dimensions and universal space has developed along with our cultural history.
Thank you for listening.
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