Polemic on Architecture and Landscape Architecture

The Architecture of Thought: A Naturally Pleonastic and
Bathetic Polemic Against Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Data: the gateway to our own realities; performing the substratum of structure and superstructure of consciousness. The latter is perceived as differential, referential and reflexive. Via procreativity, data provides definitions, boundaries, similarities and differences. Understood visually the latter becomes spatial, that is, architectural. The way architecture is: moment to moment design and redesign of the way we live, chose to live and will live. As Churchill said: we shape our dwellings and then our dwellings shape us. Architecture is therefore substantively real. It is prone to erosion and is developed in the mental both internal and external.

The term architecture is not as encompassing as the term ‘space’. Architecture is a subcategory of the synthetic a priori concept of space. The most fervent designers are most attuned to space. They realise that the built project spells disaster at every juncture. Since space exists virtually within consciousness, any built project means one less possibility, one less paradigm of construction. To take space seriously means to be precious about it. Therefore demolition is an architectural manoeuvre.

Sub-architecture is as numb and nonchalant to temporality as the sub-conscious. Is sub-architecture close to the datascape? If so, is datascape synonymous with bodily sense? Schopenhauer’s Will? The thing in itself? We already know through philosophy that these explanations are inadequate. They merely provide precise momentary explanations. The identification and explanation of suffering, (the corollary of need and desire) may provide a glimpse out of it, but only fleetingly. One type of food will always taste better than another type of food, regardless of its nutritional value.

The program or traditional conception of design in architecture can be viewed as the final symptom of the subarchitecture emerging to the fore. Sub-architecture is blind to the single reification. The single solution is mendacious. Sub-architecture ignores single design solutions. This is in contradistinction to the article of architecture that purports the most appropriate answer. The most suitable solution is that which reflects the code or language of our brains, informed by emotion. That solution may be reached by playing fifty-two pickup with site data/information, despite the stroke of the designer genius.

Design must organically reflect the distilled philological pattern in the brain. Distillation equals poetics nodding ominously to wisdom; the servant of simplicity. Simplicity acts as the foreground to collectivity; the archetype. In mathematical terms; the average interpolation of a number set. Simplicity is also the talented governoress leading the charge to greater, more loaded symbols, representations and therefore new metaphors. Simpli[city] is the arch-enemy of the convolution. But abstraction and compli[city] are also enemies of simplicity. These latter concepts work closer together; testing, interrogating and generally acting critical of poetics and wisdom. In this act, they continuously reexamine simplicity and wisdoms’ timelessness. Here design in the traditional sense, (the individual, muse inspired, artistic innovator) has privileged access to timelessness: sub-architecture. Nevertheless in context of ecological sustainability this is becoming rarer and rarer. There simply is too much information for one single consciousness to process.

Transcendental idealism, manifest by Copernican metaphors, leads to and supports the anthropocentric. Anthropocentricity, in its benign state, seeks to incorporate every datum possible via epistemology. When the threshold of anthropocentricity is penetrated, all new data and information falls either to one side or the other; the anthropocentric or the nonanthropocentric. If no new data is discovered, the knowledge slips unnoticed, untraceable into the ‘thing in itself;’ the unreachable inorganic; phenomena’s nemesis: noumena. It is not that this information is valueless. Instead, our systems, driven by imagination, are not yet ready for this newdata.

New concepts, combined with new experience feed the imagination that culminate in fresh concepts. The system: the architecture of consciousness, stands in perennial attention waiting for these concepts. The irony is that if a system is waiting for new information or is designed so that at some point x in the future it can incorporate new data, it cannot be a system. In other words, a system missing a part of itself, is not a system. This is perhaps the failure of epistemology and architecture. It is definitely the end of the ‘holistic.’ The hermeneutic circle highlights the relationships between the whole and its parts; individual parts of text cannot be understood until the whole is read and vice versa. Mereology and architectonics have close ties here. Mereology is clearly incorrect, because, unless trapped in an Orwellian nightmare, 1+1 can never equal more or less than 2.

Scepticism aside, it is possible to conceive our knowledge as all encompassing. If the non-anthropocentric is inexhaustible then its constitution maintains agnostic attributes. The nonanthropocentric is secure when and where the anthropocentric is also secured.

Our phenomenological disposition invests infallible trust in the validity of the data. The more epistemology fails the less range the anthropocentric can stretch. The world is not defined by the definitions of philology. Language is only one part of reality. Botany and taxonomy examine scientific elements of kingdoms that are not, and cannot be purely human. Furthermore, it performs these feats without appeal to the non-anthropocentric. The latter is acknowledged as part of a wider ecology. It is possible to consider the non-anthropocentric as a part of the spheres of taxonomy, a purely human endeavour.

This may seem harmless and even obvious. But the moment where a part of the organic or inorganic nonanthropocentric is labelled, it falls into the anthropocentric and is swallowed up by the all important, omnipotent attributer of value: language. Define or be defined, so the saying goes. I do not know personally, but have heard, that indigenous Australian cultures either consciously refrain from or feel no compulsion to label what Europeans call ‘land’. (Interestingly, as if in an minimalist art experiment, Eskimos have approximately fifty words for snow.) Architectonically, no label means no existence. No existence equals no value. Without value it eludes that human vacuousness, regulated capitalism. First the name, then the value, then the owner. Obstinantly unidentifiable, the non-anthropocentric has no pecuniary value to us. Anthropocentricity requires less empathy. Here I [cynically] suggest the less empathy, the easier its commodification, the faster its future is secured. Ensuring the existence of rare specimens for the enjoyment of future generations must surely mean an anthropocentric disposition. From a non-anthropocentrical point of view, words like erosion and weathering are meaningless. There is only movement and displacement.

The greatest landscape architects in Australian history have been operating for at least two hundred years. Complete with institution and union support they remorselessly pursued their self-defined brief day and night, year round. In fact they invented and redesigned new machinery in order to apply their program with the greatest efficiency. These holders of the torch commanded grandiose respect via the wealth and prosperity they watered down through communities. These landscape architects still work today, around the clock. They are called farmers and miners. Their architecture can be read in the standard topographic, elevation, sectional diagrams. The main apparent difference between these types of architects and our common understanding of architects is that the great ones swap artistic merit for profit. What these architects do to the landscape is carve their design to the point of ridiculousness; until resources are bereft. Why is nobody suing these people for negligence or accountability? Money. As a colleague once uttered: welcome to the real world.

Nevertheless, the scale of their efforts must be commended. Their cross and inter-disciplinary strength knew no bounds. In a way, members of the Eldorado Exploration Expedition were the first post-post-modern designers. They shared a universal understanding; feeding and supplying the world. They came from all walks of life. More importantly and characteristically, they were able to design the way they designed their design. That is, they were in control of their sub-architecture. They were able to transcend all disciplines. They were not concerned with the application and maintenance of labels and associations. That is, they didn’t care about what architects do and don’t do. They had a job to do.

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