Published in 07 October 2013
Published in MEMAR Journal; October and November 2007
Today, the components affecting formation of space and generation trend of architectural space as a social/metaphoric interaction cannot be analyzed separately from objective and subjective transformation of meta-information age.
We have stepped into a new century in which Euclidean virtue of ancient structures, as a symbol of totality, are vaporizing in an intangible but perpetual trend of symbol and symbolized concept companionship. The topologic depth and frequencies of the modern world can be only summoned and spurred in a non-Euclidean teleological congruence. At present, it is not possible presume time (continuity) and place (prolongation) independent of global light constant because the fractal inequalities are the factors that determine our predestined fate at an irreversible acceleration. We have been situated on the verge of a quantum hyper-space where meta-sexuality has turned into an abstract observation.
What does the above paragraph mean to you? Don’t worry if you didn’t understand its meaning because this writing is meaningless even for me as its writer.
Such writing can be a part of a speech in an architecture faculty or seminar and the lecturer can be confident that not only s/he has astonished the audience but also they have been impressed by his wisdom and knowledge. Meanwhile, he can remain still confident that none of the audience would object him for meaninglessness and irrelevance of his/her words because nobody wants to admit that they don’t understand the words at all.
This writing can have application in an architecture competition as well. Some of its fading parts can be printed on vaguer perspective backgrounds to make the viewer suppose the imaginary and dumb perspectives are manifestations of these highly significant writings.
The roots of degrading architecture to a bombastic and semi-intellectual murmur date back to late 1970s when breathless proponents of modernism encountered harsh criticisms and many architects and intellectuals were influenced by a new horizon called “postmodernism”. This new tendency left its foremost effect on writing, linguistics, symbology, philosophy, literary review, social sciences, and psychology. However, the adjective “postmodernist” for such texts shall not be considered equal to the historicism style which was introduced to architecture under the title “postmodernism”. Most of postmodernist texts had two main characteristics:
- Complicated and intricate language:
- Interdisciplinary allegories and comparisons, and especially, transfer of concepts from the field of mathematics and modern physics into the scope of humanities.
During the 1980s, some modernist architects like Charles Janker and Peter Eisenman attempted to establish an organic linkage between their artworks and these postmodernist texts. Eisenman’s attempts to translate the deconstructivist concepts and ideas of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in architecture language are revealed in his explanations about his projects.
Referral of architectural ideas to philosophical ideas proceeded to the point that criticism of architecture was assumed a constituent of novel architecture identity in 1990s i.e. the new architectural works were not treated seriously if they were assessed discretely from their critical texts. It was a dangerous approach because in such a framework a professional could present thousands of pseudo-philosophic explanations for justifying a mundane architectural work whereas actual architecture directly influences the body and soul of the users. This influence occurs via architecture language and expressional means of architecture not by resorting to a realm outside of the architecture. To enjoy a worthy architectural work, no justificatory text is needed.
However, most of eminent architects (including Eisenman) no longer refer to postmodernist philosophical texts for explaining their works and try to explain the space using architecture language. But, the respective imported habit is still popular in some segments of intellectual strata of Iran’s architecture; many words and themes might become fashionable and reference to them can be regarded as a sign of avant-garde art; instances include non-Euclidean geometry, theory of chaos, fractals, topology, quantum mechanics, hyper-space, symbol-symbolized object discussion, Mobius strip and so on. Meanwhile, nobody has been so far able to demonstrate what impact these continual escapes to non-architecture fields, in a superficial and partial manner, have had on production of a valuable actual architectural work. Doesn’t excessive involvement in such statements lead to sheer paper architectural works, in the best case?
Haven’t we downgraded architecture and construction from a very serious task to a bourgeoisie amusement? Who can prove that a crumpled hyper-sink has a special superiority merely for being a non-Euclidean volume? Why shall any building with Mobius strip on its external surface be regarded as acceptable?
Why should some of our students waste their time on creating virtual space to such an extent that they would be deprived of basic ability to create actual spaces? (i.e. what they really have to do after graduation).
It is right that animated computer simulations and internet communications are denoted as “virtual world” but shall these all things keep us negligent of our real world? Of course, to rationalize this excessive attention to virtual world, we- the architects - always can state that the facilities in this country are not capable of making our creativities blossom.
The present article is not intended to dismiss architecture or literature critiques. Instead, the intent is to emphasize that criticism of architecture has to be expressed with architecture language and with implication to fundamental concepts of architecture space and its defining elements, and, it shall less resort to ambiguous and inexact loaning from other disciplines. Not every ambiguous or vague thing is profound, and indeed, architecture is tightly linked to the scope of thought and theory as specific intellectual foundations can be traced in any architectural work. What the present paper opposes is not philosophy itself but the artificial remaining philosophy.
The proponents of intricate expression in Iran usually refer to the works of Jacques Lacan, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, etc. Yet, most of these architects and students have never read the original texts of the mentioned authors and have gotten familiar with their ideas solely via scattered references in other texts. Besides, even the original texts of their works cannot be revered as holy texts.
A couple of years ago, a book caused controversy in academic and intellectual milieu of France and English-spoken countries. The title of the book is “Intellectual Impostures, Postmodern Philosophers’ Abuse of Science”, which fortunately has been recently translated and published in Persian entitled “Postmodernist Nonsenses”. In the respective book, some of common paradoxes and confusions as well as wrong usages of physics and mathematics terms and concepts in postmodernist works have been shown in a documented fashion and using plenty of examples.
As an instance, there are many mathematical mistakes in the works of Jacques Lacan who associates some branches of mathematics and topology with the structure of mental diseases. For example, he muddled up irrational numbers with imaginary numbers and mistakenly and arbitrarily used some key words of mathematical Squeeze Theorem or provided no logical explanation for assertions that the topological surface is exactly the same as neurosis system. Or via analyzing the works by Paul Virilio, the architect, urban planner, and former manager of specialized architecture school whose theories are mainly based on technology, communications, and speed, it was shown how an inaccurate pseudoscience has been used as reference. His flaws included mistaken usage of velocity and acceleration and the assertion of electron movement at light speed which is impossible due to non-zero mass of these particles (unlike photons) and also numerous other mistakes in non-Euclidean geometry fields and absolutely erroneous quotation of some equations. Even if we neglect such mistakes, there is still no logical justification why we should agree with transfer and extrapolation of concepts from a field like mathematics to a field of different type such as architecture, especially when these interdisciplinary transfer and generalizations are made without reason and relevance. In this case, the authors have only thrown a set of scientific words and expressions to the face of addressees. The experience of Parc de la Villette in Paris is worth mentioning here. Prior to implementation of the project, the designers had explained regarding the principal designing ideas that: we are handling a superimposition of surfaces, lines and points which can be of course seen in the diagrams and graphic images submitted as the park plan. Yet, following completion of the project, many of architecture critics and theorists believed that none of the asserted superimpositions are perceived in the actual park and those diagrams were better on paper than the real constructions.
Indeed, diagrams can act as helpful tools in designing stages if prepared based on actual needs and circumstances and with transparent architectural components. But the experience of Parc de la Villette indicated what real consequences will result from diagram preparation based on vague intricacies such as superimposition.
Isn’t it about the time to wonder what effects these all endeavors of Iranian students and architects in repeating postmodernist intricacies have had on generation of actual high-quality architecture? Shouldn’t we criticize architecture and produce architecture literature in architecture language and using the fundamental concepts of space and its constituent elements?
Isn’t it advisable to extract our designing ideas from the actual circumstances of the project and environment and its real requirements instead of adapting the designing ideas to the latest fashionable theories?
The theories come and go but the actual buildings will remain.