Manual No Matter: Theories and Practices of the Ephemeral in Architecture

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But in each case the score is, in and of itself, insufficient. Indeed the implementation of the score is deeply dependent on our understanding of what the score is meant to help us create or recreate. And that is where, I think, it really gets complicated. How do multiple objects occupy the same space-time location? Can we leave the object oriented universe to consider them as wave field phenomena? How do we consider constructive and destructive interference patterns, beating patterns. Previous article. The odds of my ever getting there, however, are slim. I never really knew how Las Vegas was like the exact opposite of all other American cities in that what was illegal everywhere else including citizens were, like magic almost, legal in Las Vegas.

It's like "who was kidding who? Las Vegas as capital of Native America? I'd say they were definitely guests at the "cocktail" party. The exclusion, you could say, came after Learning from Las Vegas was published thus no bitterness before the publication, as you imply. It may be too hard now-a-days to recognize the "Pop" sensibility of the critique--the whole mixture of high art and low art which was then something like sacrilege. Plus, the "in your face" stance i. You and others may well see sarcasm as an effect of "the ugly and the ordinary" critique, and I concur that that is one fair interpretation, but there is very little sarcasm within the actual text itself.

It's probably also fair to say that most people that saw Venturi and Rauch's entry at Roma Interrotta saw sarcasm as well. But was "Pop" sensibility too often just confused for sarcasm? For example: "Many people like suburia. This is a compelling reason for learning from Levittown. The ultimate irony is that although Modern architecture from the start has claimed a strong social basis for its philosophy, Modern architects have worked to keep formal and social concerns separate rather than together.

In dismissing Levittown, Modern architects, who have characteristically promoted the role of the social sciences in architecture, reject whole sets of dominant social patterns because they do not like the architectural consequences of these patterns. And the whole texts reads more of solid architectural because the text really is so rich with just talking about architecture critique then some sort of sarcastically based evil plot.

It came to Quondam's collection via an email attachment from a former VSBA associate, who also received it as an email attachment. In any event, Koolhaas' talk was recorded and transcribed, although the text here appears to be only a first attempt draft. It's always a risk to enter a new territory and be part of an organization and an event over which you have had no control. In the introduction, I hear a kind of certain vindictiveness against Modernism which sounds slightly alarming, and I want to emphasize that no matter what comes, the only reason I'm here is my respect for and liking of the Venturis, and we will see later kind of how that can be used or abused in this meeting.

I want to tell you a number of vignettes and a number of fragmentary interpretations of the activity of the Venturis, and you have to bear with me if it is not entirely smooth, because it is kind of fairly recent, but what I hope to do in this kind of short presentation is to introduce a series of themes on the Venturis and a reading of the activity of the Venturis that could be maybe helpful in this discussion.

I want to start by a fluke coincidence: the Concorde, the World Trade Center, and Learning from Las Vegas all appeared more or less at the same time, in You know what happened to the first two, and we don't know what happened to the third. They were all products of a lavish confidence of cultures striving in a single direction, namely forward.

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I remember finding Learning from Las Vegas at the Cornell campus store--a massive slab of a book between white socks and underwear. It is still an impressive use of irony, and, for those who don't know the book in its original form, it was kind of a huge book designed in a kind of quasi-Roman, very monumental style. It is an impressive use of irony, that a book about architecture is more a theory of [the] future and even its possible disappearance, to have such a monumental and intimidating presence.

And I think that introduced, immediately, the aspect of the Venturis--their kind of relentless and savage use of irony. And then there's a third chapter. It is mysterious and possibly a result of evaporating public patronage that since Learning from Las Vegas , there have been no more architectural manifestoes. All we now talk about are cities. And the fact that we only talk about cities, and that we only work on manifestoes about cities--whether you talk about Banham's Los Angeles , my own New York mutations, or a whole generation of studies of the urban condition--all of that is most blatant proof that our speculative abilities have been surpassed by what exists.

And I think that, in a way, the Venturis are interesting. Somehow it became fashionable after Learning from Las Vegas , and I think this was certainly not the intentions of Venturi and Scott Brown that it became fashionable , to pride ourselves of our lack of claim to be able to be part of a solution, and that we were gloating [ But you also have to ask what influence Learning from Las Vegas was on that phenomenon. Apart from turning our look outward, the great detonation charge of Learning from Las Vegas was finally the introduction of two sketches--the Duck and the Decorated Shed--that seemingly once and for all reduced all architectural choice to two terminal archetypes, a dilemma that, however disguised its humor and dressed in a rhetoric of populism, was actually pretty malicious[?

After Mies's "God is in the details," maybe the discussion of the Shed and the Duck was architecture's equivalent of "God is dead. Where simplicity cannot work, simpleness results. Blatant simplification means bland architecture. Less is a bore. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture , p. It is their aphorisms more than their forms that have put them in a sequence of precedence in architectures that goes from Vitruvius ' "commodity, [firmness] and delight," to Mies's "less is more," to end with a lethal "less is a bore.

It provided the alibi for an American imperialism of history and context from which even the thoughtless generic Modernism is a relief, and from which even beyond the obvious, such as Graves, the entire spectrum, from Skidmore to Jerdy to Gehry, is the unintended beneficiary. We are firmly embedded in a world, even before we represent it to ourselves through geometrical or symbolic means.

The givenness of the anonymous human being, like the field itself, provides a thick atmosphere within which perception takes place. I am geared into this fundamentally intercorporeal world shared with others who have their own viewpoints and agency.

This insight is a motive for renewed wonder, and brings the authors of Merleau-Ponty: Space, Place, Architecture to work out the critical and productive implications of his thought. Phenomenologically based architects, too, explore the consequences of the thinking body by designing on a human scale, highlighting texture, touch, and other sensorial elements, and by emphasizing the qualitative dimension of experience in their expressions of space.

Space is a major theme of Phenomenology of Perception , both in the chapters on the body and motricity and in the main chapter on space. The embodied being who experiences himself or herself both as subject and as an object for others displays this self-understanding in intentions toward movement and perception. Here, too, ethical concerns can become more prominent than the questions of spatial knowing and being that underlie them.

In The Visible and the Invisible , Merleau-Ponty observes that we understand why we see the things themselves, in their places, where they are, according to their being which is indeed more than their being-perceived—and why at the same time we are separated from them by all the thickness of the look and of the body The distance necessary for sight and the proximity of touch are our means of communication with things. At the same time, things in their places continue to interact with one another, to cohere or to dissolve over time.

Or we can emphasize difference and multiplicity over the preservation of identities, along Deleuzean lines. Among material philosophers, Jane Bennett thinks with both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze, challenging views of physical matter as inert stuff for human shaping. Rather, she and others claim that vibrant matter has its own effectiveness and agency, qua matter. She cites Merleau-Ponty as noticing that objects are already expressive, and that we know this when we know our own being as physical, alive, and present.

Each traditional element has two primary meanings: a physical fire burns the cedar in my fireplace, and, at the same time, fire can be considered as the dry and the hot component of composite beings. For Merleau-Ponty, flesh can likewise refer to the thickness of what lies beneath my skin, being of the same nature as the bodily flesh of others. It can also refer to the zone or straits that acts as a medium of communication, revealing relations between the human being and the world that includes latent or invisible aspects not fully disclosed or even able to be so.

He specifies that flesh is an incarnate principle that brings a style of being wherever there is a fragment of being.


The latent features contribute to depth felt as thickness in time and space. Our own bodies share the world, are objects for others, and change over time along with them. We bring the past with us, much as a cape streams out behind in the wind that is the future blowing our way.

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  • Thus we are in touch with the others who inhabit our milieu. Change can be measured only against a steady ground, but the notion of flesh reimagines what counts as ground. Taken as the in-between, it allows for us to change direction together, possibly with the recognition of what will support human flourishing rather than destruction. Merleau-Ponty: Space, Place, Architecture is divided into three sections, grouping essays with similar or complementary foci.

    Alessandra Santos

    By the term liminal space, I mean to draw attention to the border regions or boundaries that allow us to become aware of how we experience space and time. As dusk disturbs the clear sight of day and offers a progressive modulation of our perception into the dark, so, too, our act of seeing shifts and we are aware of these shifts. The object in space, taken for granted in the natural attitude, is destabilized by shifting appearances on the border.

    Visual illusions that oscillate between figure and ground bring the character of the liminal zone itself into question. In chapter 1, Glen A. Mazis considers the poetic region inscribed by the effacing of boundaries, the blurring of edges, as night deepens. The presence and juxtaposition of incompossibles is not as jarring in the softer, more fluid conditions of the dark.

    His essay, Hearkening to the Night for the Heart of Depth, Space, and Dwelling, takes descriptive aim at the night itself. Mazis explores the density of irregular or indeterminate spaces, encroachments of the inside and the outside, and the resultant closeness to animal inhabitation. Mazis argues that the felt experience of night might lead us to have more depth in our making of daytime structures. We shift from night to shadows with Galen A. In the preface to Sense and Non-Sense , Merleau-Ponty declares his intention to form a new idea of reason that borders on unreason.

    On the one hand, Galen Johnson argues, reason might be construed as widening to include articulation in the arts, literature, and the psychology of eros and dreams.

    The modern baroque is a space of ambiguity, shock, and dislocation. The language of crossing, enveloping, or overlapping rests upon the possibility of boundaries in the knot or network of human relations with one another and with the surrounding landscape. Edward S.

    Swamp Pavilion

    This yields an intensity of sensation and affect that we continue to respond to today. Casey thematizes different levels of the articulation of interior and exterior surfaces in domestic architecture as well, since edges that are based on proportions of the human body help us make sense of our environment.

    Ephemeral Crossroads: seven lamps, six years, seven lux-pavilions

    He is interested in the gestural, narrative, and kinetic boundary conditions that show us the world and our own selves within it. Ettinger Poolside. Water is the space of immediate contact, as distinguished from the distance inherent in high altitude thinking. Immersed in the liquid medium of the swimming pool, we can be open to an affective sensibility of our very inherence as space.

    Randall Johnson draws on Bracha L. Ettinger, an artist and psychoanalyst, to speak to the symbolic, real, and imaginary aspects of the womb-like borderspace of the pool. Pleasure is not motivated exclusively by sight at a distance from the object-of-the-gaze, but includes the pleasure of being embraced by the proximate milieu of water.

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    Johnson traces thinking from an abstract space-without-time to an intimate atmosphere, space-with-affect. This brings us to the threshold of part 2. While time and space may be distinctly thought, they are necessarily intertwined in the lived world. Simultaneous and adjacent spatial fields seem different from the succession of temporal events in the now.

    Yet differentiation in how we perceive the spatial world, even through sight, is also dynamic and continuing. This section shows some of the implications of the intertwined spatiotemporal dimensions of human existence. While part 1, Liminal Space, seeks to think more carefully about the boundaries between articulated places and the effects of ambiguous borders, this part emphasizes the continuity provided by temporality in the experience of the world. Perception of any object in front of me includes the time it takes to situate it in context and attend to it as figure.

    The autumn moon, for example, is enormous, round, and orange on the horizon. Later the same evening, I observe that it is smaller away from the framing trees and buildings at the ground plane. What can account for this? These regions of space show me a thing, the moon, which I take as the same unmeasured being under different aspects, in a world that emerges over time.

    Thus those memories, which are now present, are of a past that never was as it is now. The future also bears down upon us, and we intend our movements in space, taking time, in pursuit of our goals. When we think about time experienced outside of personal perception and goals, we may think first of geological or archaeological time markers in the landscape, but Merleau-Ponty points as well to the cultural temporal traces that are inscribed in our inherence in space.

    History builds in layered, elaborated structures for our city dwelling. What happens to places over time includes changing inhabitants as well as the aging of buildings. Built memory demonstrates use, paths worn smooth, for example, but also the disintegration and renewal of articulated places. He is concerned with the distinctions between passivity, marked by embodied habit, and activity, marked by moving perception.