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Space and he Architect

Space and the Architect

Lessons in Architecture 2

010 Publishers, Rotterdam 2000

To Aldo von Eyck ( 1911-1999)

The light consumes the chair.

absorbing its vacancy.

and will swallow itself and reh!ase the darlcness

that will fi ll the chair again. I shall be gone,

You will say you are here.


Space and t e Arc it ct is t e ~Quel to ussons for Students i

Architecture p b · &h d in


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Herman Hertz

rger, September 19


ovember 2000


Foreword 9

1 Space 10

Rittveld's spm u

Carden wall of VE'Vey house, te Corbusier 11

• the idea of space • physical space • space and emptiness

• space and freedom • the space of architecture

• space apertence 'Mountains outside. mountains jnsjde'. Johan van der Keuken 1&

• the space of the painting

'Las menina$'. Diego Ve\Mguet zo

'Sketch for Bar in the Folie~ Berqere', £douard Manet 20

'Interior with ffarpskllordist', Emanuel de Witte n

'Louvre'. Hubert Robert 21 'Pantheon', Giovanni Paolo Pannini n Compositions, Piet Mondrian 22

• space u a longing • apace and place

2 Mental Space and the Architect 26

• designing is a thought process

Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp . Le Corbusie r 29

• ingenuity. creativity • erasing and demolishing old cliches

Eames HoWle. Los Angeles, Charles and Ray Eames n

'Nemausus' housing, Nime&,Jean Nouvel 12 Maison de Verre , Paris, Pierre Chareau, Ber nard Bijv!H!t and

.Jonjs Dalbet 34

Doll's hguse, Je-an Nouvel 3S

Picauo'HyM u Dining table, Puis . Le Corbusier 37

• perceiving

Le Corbude(t sketchbooks .,

• experiment-experience

Mater~al com d1•e1tos autor~ ,


Spatial Discoveries 48


Sodal Spue, Collertive Spate na

spatial discoveries

'Simiane-la -Rotanda', Henri Cartier-Bresson m

'Scholastic info rmation'. Robert Qoi•neau 54


habitat and wcial vme

0J)!!n-air Khool in the dunes 54

Nias struts. !ndone.sia m

Suresne$ ghonl. Pa.ri5. Baudoin & Lods 55

Hakka dwelling-holl$\lS, fujian U5

School. At hens Talds Zenetos 59

Diiren housing complex 1Jo

De Po\yg oon primary school. Al mere 6 2

Residential court projj!cts ll2

Pe.terssdtult , Baste. Hannes Meyer and Hans Jakob Wittwer 68

collective $]lace, social use

"'ai$on Susptmdut, Paul Nelson 10

Budapest Railway Station, Gustave riffel 118

Uni versity centre. Malmo n

Public bath s 141

Guggenheim Mll$\lurn, Ne" York, Frank Lloyd Wright "

Theatre complex on Spui. The Haque 144

Hong Ko ng and Shanghai Bank. Hong Kong . Nonnan Foster 7 6

Mar!rant theatre. Uden u z

Bari Stadium. Renzo Piano zs

social space

Escalator in Mu~e Georges Pornpidou, Paris, Rento Piano and Richard Rogers 79

' Amsterdam. Global Village·, Johan van der Keuken t so Sociology of the table 154

Roof of Unite dllabjta tipn . Marseilles . !& Corbusier 80

the qramma1 ofsocial space

'White City', Tel Aviv, Patrick Geddes 84

Ministry of Social Welfare and Employment. The Hague 1sa

Milsons aGradins, Henri sauvage 87

foyer, stairs and bridges, Chasse Theatre, Breda 162

Centraal Beheer. Apeldoorn 90

Montessori College Oost, Amsterdam 164

Vj!la YPRO. Hillltrsum. MVliDV 95

building configured as city


Dubrovntk. Croatia t?l


Space and Jsl.u ?8



Antlclpatl.ng the Unexpected 174

• the guiding concept • the complexity of simplicity (or the pitfalls oheduction) • constructivism

Bxanotsi 101

1-iuseu de Artt S.io Paulo (MUP), Lina Bo Bai<li 106

Pire!lj Towers. Milan 1!19

DenelUJCPatent Office. The Hague m

head and hand

• anticipating the unexpected

Ext~nsions ro Centraat Beheer, A]!!!ldoorn u2

Gebaute Landschaft Freising, Munich 184

Competition for the

B ib lioth~ gue de France , Paris 1 8 7

Carre d'Art, Himes. Horman Foster too

Haveli.s, Jaisalmer 192 Venetian pal~ces 196 Orphanage. Amsterdam. Aldo van Eyck 198

Kimbell Art Museum , Fort Worth !.{)uis Kahn zoo

Academy for the Arts and Architecture, Maastricht. Wiel Arets 202 Unjycrsjty Librm. Gronjngen ?Ol Duren h ousin g oom p l~x 104

Extension of Yandmttn department store. A11.1en 206

Mater~al com di•e1tos autor~!:1

1 In-between Space 210

Sta Maria della Cnnsolazlone Todi 212

Paul Cfunne, Pierre Bonnard and Giorgio Morandi 217

Maison Curutcbe t, La Plata. I.e Coxbnsitr zzo Piu~a Oucale, Vigevano 221

Monte Albin 226




The space of the thutle of Epidaurus na

Media Parle, Cologne zn l'lCK Dormitory, Kurobe 212

Public library and Centre for Kusic and Dance, Breda 236 Cbass~ Theatre Breda uo

Gebaute La.ndschaft Fr~ising,Munich z•s

Office building for Landtag 8nndenburq, Potsdam 246

• the environment built a meqaforms

a landscape as beuer of meaning

• spatially evolved planes pjsac, Peru zsz Moray, Peru 254

Stairs and rreads 256

Stair of Machu Pichu il!!d outs.l d ~! stair of Apollo Schools us 'Amphitheatre' trt.ad.s, Apollo Schools, Amsterdam 260 Anne Frank School. Pa~ndrecht 262 Stair in Vid!!O «n trt of Theatre Comolex, The Haque zn Outdoor stair of De Evenaar primary sclloo\, Amst'e rdam 264 Stair in ntension of Centraal Beheer, Apeldoorn 265 Stair ln Maison de Yeue. Paris 266 SUirs of Grand Bibliotheque, Puis, Dominique Perrault 268 Roof of HewMetropo\i$, Amsterdam, Rento Piano Zfi9 l.ibuuy steps. Columbia Univer~ity,New York 210 St air of Opera House, Paris, Charles Garnier

and stair of Pbillharmonfe


Hans Scba roun 271

Cimefour Rue Vilin/Rue Piat. Ronies 2n

Lesson• for Iuellen 274

Nnxes zv

Cntriculum Vitae 2&9

AW4tds zag

Buildings and Projects 289

References uo

Arrbjtectllf'al Ci t ations za1

JUnstrations 29Z

Credits 292

Mate>nal com di'E'IIos autoras


Who today would dare to claim that things are not going weU with architecture? Has there ever been such an abundance of new examples and variants of forms and materials? Has thete ever been a time when so many successive options were able to attain

expression together? It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer opul ence of it aU and to keep fotlowing the trail you have set ou t without being t oo wildly di verted by the new things that keep appearing. Today, it seems. there are no more restrictions - at least in the wealthy pa.rt of the world which sets the tone in the poor part where it is imitated all too avidly. Anything goes. everything is feasible and indeed made, phot ographed. published and dissemi· nated wherever new things are produced. Seemingly without limit and at a headlong pace with the callfor change the one Implacable restriction. this "throwaway production keeps on mv.ltiplying. How many buildings praised to the skies by the deluge of inter· nation.\I maguines and other media. are still part of archite(· ture's collective memory five years on? With a very few exceptions indeed, maybe fewer than during the era of modernism. they aU melt into the background. having been sucked dry and eulogiud to death, succeeded by ever new generations of buildings undoubt- edly destined for the same fate. Once everything may and can be done. then nothing is neces~ry. Where freedom rules, there is no place for d.ecision-making . We slaves of freedom are condemned to unremitting change. This . then. is the paradox - that ultimately this freedom limits the architect in hi! scope. What is there for an architecture student to learn when one thing and one thing alone is important to him, namely to think some- thing up as quickly as possible and get all attention riveted on it so as to become famolll. if only for a few months? After that it's baclc to the drawing board, or rather from the scene to the screen. Today the world of architecture resembles a football match with only star players who can do anything with a ball, bu t wi thout goal posts and consequently without goals. However magnlficent the action, it is unclear where the game is heading and what

exactl y we can expect of it. There are far more possibilities

ideas. and so our Wl!alth is also our poverty. If it is so that architectute in the postmodern age has been freed from narratives as truthful as those of modernism with i ts quest for a better future. then it must carry its meaning within itseU. That the things we make are surprising and look good is not enough. They will at least have to contain something. an idea that is of some use to the world. The architect needs to feel some responslbi\ity,like t he struc· tutal engineers and consultants who, laying claim to an ever greater slice of the cake. enter by the back door to steadily rob him of his freedom. If the architect is a specialist anywhere. then it is in orchestrating the spatial resources and whatever these are able to accomplish. He must at(:ept his sodaI and cultural obligations and concentrat e on the creating and shaping of space.









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Garde.n wall of Vevey house, Swit~erland I•· •J

le Corbusier, 192'·25

The garden round this house built by le Corbusier for his parents right on the bank of lake Geneva, is separated by a waU not only from the road runn i ng alongsi de but, in the corner ofthe site, also from the lake itself. There the wall turnIng the corner

combines with a tree to carve out a shel- tered spot to sit with a view through a large window punched in the waU of the aU- dominating lake Geneva and the taU range of the Alps beyond. The stone table resting <Jgalnst the wall below the window opening a,s it so often does in le Corbusier's many terraces, confirms the sense of being

i ndoors in this external

the immense landscape around. On the face of it the last th i ng you would

think of would be to limit this grand prospect, yet you experience the openness of the lake as too unprotected and immense. By looking through the window from a

space as against

















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sheltered, relatively indoor place, you are less absorbed in the immense totality and the framed piece oftandscape gains in depth because of it. The window in the wall erops the unham·






pered vastness Into a view out and, thus accommodated, or r<Jther brought within reach emotionally, this becomes the space of a painting.

or r<Jther brought within reach emotionally, this becomes the space of a painting. • Ma'ter SPACJ


or r<Jther brought within reach emotionally, this becomes the space of a painting. • Ma'ter SPACJ



or r<Jther brought within reach emotionally, this becomes the space of a painting. • Ma'ter SPACJ

• Tu JDu or srt.ca Spue is more an idu than a delineated concept. Try to put It Into words and you lose lt. The Idea of space shnds for everything that widens or removes exirting limitations and for everything that opens up more possibilities, and Is thus t.he opposite of hermetic, oppressing, awkward, shut up and divided up Into drawers and partitions, sorted, established, predetermined and immutable, shut In, made certain. Space and certainty are strangers. Space is the potential fo r the new. Space Is what you have in front of you and above you (and to

a lesser degree below you) , that gives you a freedom of view

and a view of freedom. Where there is room for the unvcpected

and for the undefined. Space Is place that has not been appro- priated and Is more than you c:an fill. Space also comes from an openness to multiple meanings and interpretations; ambiguity, transparency and layered ness i nstead of certainty. Depth Instead of flatness, a greater dimensionality in general and not exclusively and literally the t hird dimension. Space, like freedom, is difficult to get hold of; Indeed, when

a thing can be gruped and so comprehended It has forfeited

its space; you cannot define spue, you can describe it at most.

• PB'ISJCAL sun We call the macrocosm space, endless space. Not emptiness, benuse we see it to contain objects In

In the firm expectation

that there Is something for us to find there. Spue travel sug- gests that we are doing just that and so a spatial envelope Is added to our te rritory from where we can see the earth as an object with a outer shield of links enveloping ft. There Is emptiness only when there is nothing to be seen or to find. For physicists it is space to the extent that objects or phe- nomena exist or rather move there.' Outside it., outside the scop e of thei r atten tion , there I~ emptiness. It is SlliCe insofilr as we claim to recognize an order In It; whitever we are blind or deaf to, we vcperience as emptiness. The microcosm , as endless as this is, evokes no sense of

a structured relationship a nd perhaps

evokes no sense of a structured relationship a nd perhaps , 14 IPACI .UD f8:t AIC&lliCJ


14 IPACI .UD f8:t AIC&lliCJ

space, though we flnd more to Interest us there; bacilli, par- ticles, genes. That this 'negative' space falls to arouse In us il sense of space says much about our Imaginative powers. Similarly, the mass of water below the surface of the sea is too solid to evoke a sense of space, though the deep-sea diver obviously takes a different view.

• suer AIID rxrn11111 Anything we cannot grasp we exper-

ience as emptiness. This might be a view into the distance acrou a sea without ships, without waves, without douds, without birds, without a setting sun, without visually recog- nizable objects. The desert too stands for emptiness, despite the contours of hills and valleys and its teeming Ute. Here It is the absence of people and objects, the desolation, that leaves us with a feeling of emptiness. This feeli ng Is even strongerln the deserted city, where everything revolves around people. Without people, the space of the houses, streets and squares, the space In a physical sense Is emptiness, a void. Emptiness Is a feeling too, one you experience the moment you know or suspect that something precious Is lacking or has left. but equally so when we are the leavers. For us the emptiest thing imaginable Is the painter's blank canvas when our t houghts as observers are of pai ntings we know. For the painter it Is space the moment he or she decides that it has to become a painting; the challenge to conquer it Irrevocably robs the canvas of its virginal state.

• sue• AlfD ranoox Though spue has a liberating effect,

It Is not freedom. Freedom Is unbridled, unlimited re lease. Spue Is ordered , targeted, even if that order Is emotional by nature and impossible to define. Fre·edom is virtual, existing only as something i n the distance that is not part of you, such as a horizon that shifts when you think you have got closer to lt. Or behind bars, In the minds of prisoners. f reedom Is something you feel when It Is not yours, you feel spue when you feel free. freedom presupposes independence, and that Is il dead·end street. Space complies, seeks embedding; free- dom devours, like fire, indiscriminately.' Freedom takes no

street. Space complies, seeks embedding; free- dom devours, like fire, indiscriminately.' Freedom takes no I 0


street. Space complies, seeks embedding; free- dom devours, like fire, indiscriminately.' Freedom takes no I 0


street. Space complies, seeks embedding; free- dom devours, like fire, indiscriminately.' Freedom takes no I 0


account of things, has no respect. Is anti-social, antl-authorl- tar1an: freedom cannot choose for with every act of choosing It reducu itself; it Is a menu without end. Where everything Is possible and permitted there Is no need of anything. Space Is a supply, that creates a demand. Space has shape , it 15 free- dom made comprehensible.

'Freedom b amorphous.' S.W•~~<~~O&IJ

Spue arouses a sense of freedom. Comparatively speaking, the more space, the more freedom , and that whkh frees brings spiCe. footballers or chessmen that manage to achieve freedom of movement do so within the limitations of the rules of play:

that way they create space. When we talk about freedom we usually mean space. Feeling free means having the sp.ace you need.

• n1 sr.t.n or uc•rnno•• Physically, space is shaped by what It Is that surrounds It and otherwise by the objects within It and perceivable by us, at lust when there h light.

'Our view crosses the space and gives us an Illusion of relief and distance. This is how we build up spue: with an upper and a lower, a left and a right, a front and a rear, a close by and a far off.

If nothing obstructs our view, It c.an carry very far Indeed. But ffft meets nothing, it sees nothing: It sees only the thing It meets: space, that Is what obstructs the view, what catches the eye: the obstacle: bricks, a corner, a vanishing point:

space, that is when then~ is a

you have to turn the corner that It may continue. There Is nothing ectoplastic about space: space has edges, it is not simply everywhere, It does what has to be done to make the railway tracks meet long before they reach Infinity.''


corner, when It ceases, when

'Space Is In Itself, or rather It Is In Itself pre-emlnentty, Its definition Is being In Itself. Each point of space Is and Is per- ceived to be where It Is, the one here, the other there: span Is the evidence of the where. Orientation, polarity, envelop- ment are in themselves derivative phenomena that depend on one' s presence." Houritt Mec~ou-Poncy

When we In the architectural world speak of space In most Instances we mean a space. The presence or absence of a mere artlde determines whether we are referring to Infinite space, to a more or less contained space, or something in-between, neither endless nor contained. Aspace Is determined, meaning finite, and fi xed by its periph- ery and/or the objects In it. A space ls meant for something, offers protection to something or makes a thing accessible. It Is to some degree specifically made, maybe variable as regards function, but not accidental. Aspace has something object- like about it.• even though it may be the uact opposite of an object. We might then perceive 1 space as an object but In a negative sense: a negative object. Sp"e In archlt.ecture primarily conjures up thoughts of exces- sive dimensions, such as those of cathedrals by which one Is willingly Impressed as was the Intention, yet space Is a rela- tive concept. A void in a house o,.ny other Intervention that occasionally breaks through the dictatorship of the prescribed height of 2.1 metres in Outch housing, gives a sense of space, as does an elrtra-spacious balcony, ten-ace, landing, stair or porch.ln each cast it Involves relatively more than one expects, more than we are used to: space Is beyond. Everybody has their own Idea of an Ideal space and we can aU recall a number of spaces that once made a particular impression on us, yet who c.an describe exactly what it wu that produced that sense of space? My first thoughts are of the great ball of the Assemblh In • Chandlga.rh designed by Le Corbusler, which we wue marched through at speed after having handed In our cameras. The gigantic black ceiling with Its recessed mushroom column heads- now that took guts! And the reading room of the






Blbllothique Ste Genevieve In Paris, the tall living room of Charuu's Malson de Verre, the Mosque at Cordoba•.•

Even though we cannot put Into words what makes a space fine or buuttful, you can say that it is alwllys a kind of 'inside' with depth and perspective, giving a sense of widen- ing without adversely affecting that character of inside. You might call it a sort of balance between containmentand expan- sion that is able to affect you emotionally. This involves all kinds of factors lnfiuendng the effect of space. such as quality of light acoustics, a particular odour, people. and last but not lust your own mood. It makes quite a difference whether you are alone in the large

u courtyard of the Alhambra, in the quiet of morning filled with the scent of blossoms, the only sound being the ripple of the fountains ruffiing the waters In the pool so that the flrst rays of sunlight throw dandng reflections against the smooth marble of the surrounding colonnades; or that the entfre court- yard Is jam-packed with busloads of noisy tourists photograph- ing In all directions with sweaty bodies and bare and hairy legs In clumping leisure footwear, garishly printed T-sh1rts and cute caps. The Galeria Vittorio Emmanuele In Milan and the Square of StPeter's in Rome, by contrut. are particularty well served by the throngs of visitors they are so able to accept. Similarly, what good is an empty st.11dium? People and spate depend on one another, they show each other their true colours. There en be no-one without some memory of being affected or moved by the space of a building or city, where the visual impression aroused other fulings or at leastso acu!ntuated them that they now come the more strongly to mind. That your own mood affects your appreciation of space is self-

evident, yet not everyone can go on t o describe that mood, ilnd certainly not as suggestfvely as Flaubert conveys in Hodomt

Bo~ory how your surroundings take on the colour

of mind you are projectfng. 'Living fn town, amid the noise of the streets, the hum of the theatre CTowd, the bright lights of the ballroom- the sort of

of the fra me

the bright lights of the ballroom- the sort of of the fra me ll life that


bright lights of the ballroom- the sort of of the fra me ll life that opens

life that opens the heart and the senses like flowers fn bloom. Whereas fo r her, lffe was cold as an attfc facing north, and the silent spider boredom wove Its web fn all the shadowed comers of her heart.'•wru.,. n.~

'She reached the parvis of the CathedraL Vespers were just

over, and the people were pouring out through the t hree doors like a river beneath the arc:hes of a bridge; In the middle, firmer than a rock, stood the beadle. 'She remembered the day when she had gone In there, tense and expectant, with that grut vault rising high above her, yet

overtopped by her love

her veil, dazed, unsteady, almost fainting.'' W>t.,. R•ubort

She walked on, weeping beneath

'The nave wu mirrored in the brimming fonts, with t he begin- nings of the arches and part of the windows . The reflection of the stained glass broke at the edge of the marble and continued on the flagstones beyond Uke a chequered carpet. Broad day- light shone In through the three open doors and stretched down the whole length of the Cathedral in three enormous rays. Now and then a sacristan crossed at the far end, making the oblique genufleJCion of piety in a hurry. The crystal chan- deliers hung motionless. In the choir a silver lamp was burn- ing. From the side-chapels <lnd darker corners of the church came ocusionally a sound lfke t he exhaling of a sigh, and a clanking noise, as a grating was shut, that echoed on and on beneath the vaulted roof. 'L6on walked gravely round the walls. Never had life seemed so good to him . Presently she would come, charming and ani- mated, glancing round at the eyes that followed her; in flounced dress and dainty shoes, with her gold eye-glass and all manner of adornments new to his experience; and in all, the ineffable chann of virtue s urrendering. The Cathedral was like a gigantic boudoir prepared for her. The arches leaned down Into the shadows to catch her confession of l.ove, the windows shone resplendent to light her face, and the censers would burn that she might appear as an angel i n an aromatic

cloud:• Gu<to\'10 ~bort

face, and the censers would burn that she might appear as an angel i n an


face, and the censers would burn that she might appear as an angel i n an
face, and the censers would burn that she might appear as an angel i n an

• IPACI IXPilii"CI It Is often " ld: walk through It, film It, and the spatial i mage will unfold, yet the deepest Impressi on Is whtn even such acts fall to rnul what It was tuctty that brought on that feeling of space. The essenct of spatialtty dOH not allow itself to bt defined but

at most descrfbad. Hence It gi ves ri se to an endless litany of woolly statements about ~rchiterture,at best drcumscriblng movements that can help us to at Least get some grasp of the

s ubject.

What makes us ttl Ink of things

ing, a sensation-. undergo, and particullrty when the thing we see Is Impossible to take In 1t 1 gl1nce and thus uns ped- fled . Or rather, that It hu such a layeredness abo ut It thlt we art Incapable of surveying it In i ts entirety. It arouses expec- tations. The senu of space Is sustained by the tack of an overall view of th space you are l n. Even when we mean a s pace s hut In on all si des that Is s urveyable In all its parts, the re is, or at least so It seems, always somethi ng around the corner. Pertlaps the feeling of space arises when the expected Image and the Image you exp.rlence 1re not one and the same, In the way that sou.nd becomes spatial when dlrt~ctand reflected

s o und j ust fall to colndde at their rectivtr. So much for the viewpoint of the spectator. There can be I!O doubt that the designer hu h.ad it all i n hh mind In one way or another, that Is, In measurements, mller- ials a nd qu11ity of light. For him, at some stage, th~e were no more secrets; the architect must have had a picture l.n his mind of the space he was making, at least to a point, for the question remains of whether the re sult as realized really ctld

agree with hls ldea of It beforeh1nd. Scale models and other three-dlmensl0111l representations help

us to form a picture, but - however realistically suggested - It can only be an abstraction, deprived as It is of all those non- vl s ulll components that together shape our se nse of space. How three- dimensional Is space In fact. and how far Is exper1-

endng s pace th e preserve

which uchltecture belongs? To understand more of the phenomenon 'space' we should pertlaps leave architecture for a moment.

Spue does not by definition need to be literally three-d1men-

slonlll, nor litera lly visual the s pace feeling In t.erms

whkh Is flat, f ull, nanow or limited lacks, one feels, ttle ne- ces"ry space, and so spaceIs more like feeUng stereoscopic- ally than seei ng stereoscopically: a fuller, more complete experience. Dancers Indi cate areas by exploring a nd enfoldi ng them wlth their moving bodies, without delimiting them In a material sense. This way they crute s pace. Musfc has Its own spatiality, which moreover Is ambiguo us by nature. Not only ttle acoustiC5, which enable you to dose your eyes and hear the space you are In, but also stereophonic aids, such n c os, can help you pi cture 1 space. Making a space audible Is strengthened when the sound comes from different directions.

IS spatial? Spatbllty Is a feel -

of the rut, walk-all-over wortd to

by nat ure . We do, though , express that ref er to vis ual reatfty. That

For the musician, the buitdlng c1rries the musi c. The com· poser Hector Ber11oz, for example, simply coutd not h!Uigl ne how 1 spac.e could be eqerie.nced other than tilrough the music reso unctlngln it. Of a visit to StPeter's I n Ro me he wrote: 'these paintings and statues. those great plllllrt, all this giant architecture, are but the body of the building. Mu$ICIs Its soul, tfle supreme manifHtatfoft of Its

exi stence." H• ctor 8o<liot

But along with tbese sensations In a literal space, we can also experience a sense of space In a complex and so not l mmedl · atety ctlstinguishable tapestry of voices. 1n the choir I hu rd many voices, each of which seemed to be singing Independently of the rest; rising and fatting along invisible ladders to and over each other, sometimes pairing off, someti mes crossing each others' paths like comets pulling a long tall of harmonies behind them, they kept each other flo1tlng In equlllbrium, and despite the skilful em bra ngle·

ments aU wu u strong and tran s pare n t as silver se~ffolctlng

In space: •• rh

n doVr1b

A notion of space turns up In every corner of our consdous- ntss, In llnguage, danct, s ports, psychology, s odology, economy; wherever movement Is possible, and so just as easily on the flat surface. Space as experience has to derive from an Ur-feellng, an abil- Ity to Imagine a dimension that projects above basic ru llty, an exposure to a reality greater thin we are able to conceptu- atlu . Sense of space Is a mental construct, a projection of the outside world n we experience it according to the equipme nt at our disposal: an Idea.

tl'A.CJ \1







Mountains outside, mountains inside (ul

Johan van der Keuken, 1915

'The way these mountains rise in oppos· ition, inside and outside, as each other's mirror image- th is Is space u interprHed by Johan van der Keuken.

'Of course,

not shown us how t he ext ernal space ofthe landsape ent ers the room, ttansforming the world for us int o a more familiar im~ge. Here, though, day and night are turned inside out, so that you~ howmountains

there are fe w painters who have

rest during the day in gigantic slee ping

b~gs, while simultan~usly,flying at nigh t

over the

window, one mountain is already up and about. 'There is also a negative where mirror situ- at ions now seen from the other side must reside; again and again outside and night and day and inside are tucked one int o the ot her.

pe aks looking in

through the li t

'But what the phot o shows more tha n any- t hing e lie is how your experience of the wor1d outs ide e tches Its Impressions in your mind: the lithograph of your land- Kape of memory. 'So, in your mind, the external space is pro· jrcted inside through t his rectangular lens of t he darkene d room. into the space inside yourself; your own s~Jace.'"

• 1111 SPACI or tBI unnnrc The fult p~ne of the painU!r often contains more space than the thre~dimenslonalspue of the architect. Condemned as he Is to the flat surbce, the painter constantly has space In mind. Giving expression to that s pace Ia Indeed the perpdual concern of the palnterty art, and It keeps finding new mechanisms to i1Chleve it. A well-painted space can be just as suggestive as reality - with this d ifference, that the painter chooses • nd fixes a

moment where all the conditions - light, a mbience, ftores- cen c e - are s o pe rfect t hat you s eldom if ever c ome ~ cross them In the reality of ' nature' . He can compress several non·-sfmuluneous eJqJeriencu Into one Image. He can luve things out, arrange them, shift them, fo19t links between them or strengthen t hem- in short, he can place the llllage In the best possible light and so help the Idea t o come across better. to Intensify the experience. The pai nter Is able to locate you In space. Using the stand- point he hu chosen, he can remove much from your view to a rouse •nd sustain a sense of expectancy. Pers pectfve Is one of the mea ns for reproducing re• llty. lt Is through penpecttve that the artist is able to achieve the most suggestive possible rnding of three-4tlmensional space, and when you concentrate from the right position on the i mage of spice thus constnJcted you c:an Imagi ne yourself In that painted space.

But we must not become fixated

on the

effect this ty pe of

representation of literal depth has as a standard for spac~ experience. For all their perspective, m1 ny paintings, un1 ble to arouse" sense of ex pectincy, ~ave remai ned fult. Sense of space Is born of colours set side by side, that give the plane depth or set it In motion. And spact can be set free In tflt p~ne,In a sideways direction, a.nd also between two overlapping layers of paint. Not only do painters s ucceed In rendering the s pace of our reality, the opposite is also true, thilt reality Is a rendering of the pai nU! r's s pa ce . We a lso experience spa ce as we know tt from Images given us by piilnters. Painters teach us to see an d in so do ing shaJM our lmilge of s pace . By adding aspects to It that our own eyes failed t o absorb, painters mas our eyes a nd thu s s ll1 pe the space of our rea lity . Once you are heedful of the fKt that space Is the painter's ultimaU! goal,

then it Is Impossible to desaibe all the many ways in which ever new openings are found to attain lt. The~ the experie nce of s p1ce goes much further thin j ust seeint stereoscopically. Not being clearty ~id out or trans· pare.nt In our perception of It, this space has more t o do wltb ~yerednesslind the curiosity this Incites. For palnU!rs seek nothi ng other than to acideve ll spatiality of the flat surface, m1king it deeper, higher, thicker, more expilnsive or more trllnliplrent. And then we have said nothing yet about the mental space that the painting offers, witfl fts references, associations and metaphors. The following examples from the world of painting, seen through architect's eyes, shne the quality U.at they all 1ppeal directly to the uchltect's sense of space.



COil" d



'Las Meninas' 1"1

'Sketch for a Bar in the Folies

Diego Velazquez, 1656

The subject of the painter depicted in Velbquez' painting evidently is in front of the canvas. It even seems to be the spectator. The foreground is made part of the action as it were, an extrapolation for· wards. So the depth of t he painting then lies in front of the canvas a nd reaches to the rear wall of the room in the p11inting. The complexity of the observer·observed relationship in and in front of the canvas keeps throwing up new philosophical ref\ections on the rela tivity of subject and object. seen from changing vantage point.s."

What concerns the art historian here is whether the image in the mirror is a reflec· tion of the painting in progress or that of the sitters. What in t erests us is that the real space and the space of the painted reality interpenetrate. Yo u can keep on maintaining that a pa int· ing gives an illusion of space, but the space 'in reality' is an illusion of another kind. Here the two illusions come with in a hair's breadth of each other.


Bergere' 1


Edouard Ma net, 1881

If in reality mirrors have a somewhat illuso~ effect in increasing the space. in paintings or photographs they renect a mirror image in a more natli111l way. Not only do we se~ in the upper right-hand corner the man face to face with the barmaid as well as seeing the girt from the back, we can observe the entire theatrical setting behind the observer that places the girl in the widest space. Although not without perspective, this is not what gives the s.urfate i ts sense of depth; or it may be the various vanishing poin ts thatlend it an undefined, ftagmented spatiality. Because the mirror draws the world behind you Into the painting , you the spectator are drawn into the painting yourself."


" 'Interior with Harpsichordist' 1••1 Emanuel de Witte. ca. 1665 'Louvre' tuJ Hubert Robert.


'Interior with Harpsichordist' 1••1

Emanuel de Witte. ca. 1665

'Louvre' tuJ

Hubert Robert. 119&

An effect of depth such as th at suggested in This depiction of the large museum gaUeJY

this painting~one architects would love to see in their buildings. For this, though, all the cards have to be right: the position of the two figures, and the light entering through the windows strengthening the stage-set effect of the enfilade. With suffi- cient knowledge of architectural and house typologies of those days it should be possible to reconstruct the entire floor plan from the painting. The actualspace ofthe house is encapsulated in the picture.

s uggests an e ff~ct of dep th so refined that you might wonder whether observing real· ity through one eye would give you a greater feeling of depth. Projected on to your retina it would probably make little differ- ence which 'illusion of space' you were looking at. Perspective Is often spoken of disparaging· ly, as If it were a trick, but when applied by someone who knows how t o wield it, it can be more convincing than reality.

but when applied by someone who knows how t o wield it, it can be more



but when applied by someone who knows how t o wield it, it can be more

su.cr u

but when applied by someone who knows how t o wield it, it can be more

'Pantheon' fu J

Giovanni Paolo Pannini, 1734

The almost photographicaUy accurate iUus- trations that Pannfni painted of so many buildings which dominated sixteenth-cen- tury Rome make him the greatest architec- ture 'photographer' of the pa.st (a shared first place with Canaletto}. At first gtance he keeps strictly to the perspectival reality, but here. witll the interior of the Pantheon in Rome, he is In fact achieving what today's photographers accomplish with the


widest of wide-angle lenses- and evidently with greater ease Pannini succeeds in avoiding altogether the distortion that becomes stronger with the increase in the angle of vision and cannot be corrected along acceptable lines in a photograph. He manages to combine in the sweep of a single static image a dynamic which the human eye is able to grasp by moving through a whole series of images.

Compositions ,,


Piet Mondrian, Jtll/ 1917

lolondrian went to every length to shake off the effect o f dep th our eyes have become

aU too conditioned to through the custom· a !}I perspectival effect in paint!ngs. Every slanting line for him was automaticaUy a reference to a rudiment of perspective. ln Mondrian the spaee is exclusively in the plane itself, although in his later work the physical thickness of the painting began to play a part too. Then you see horizontal and vertical bands overlapping and con- tinuing over the thidcness of the support· ing frame. If in his 'cubist' period beginning in 191Z we still see something like contained ceUs, ln the peliod centring on t917 the compo- sition of lines and colours become a more open and spatial system with a laterally inclined centrifugal movement keeping to the plane of the canvas. With the object-like rectangular colour fields acting increasingly, with the passing of time. as weights in the equipoise of the constructed space, we can discern a remark· able affinity with SchlSnberg's Klongfotbe theory. Schonberg, a compo~rwho was also a painter. sought analogous balances of units of sound whose duration, volume and timbre. depending on which instrument produced them. would evoke a new musical spatiality. In the De Stijl g roup where the thinking and aspirations of a rchitects and painte rs such as Rietveld, Mondrian and Van Does- burg complemented one another, the key aspect was space. Never before had paint- ing and architecture come into suc:h dose proximity as in this period, with the pos- sible exception of the Baroq ue. In the Baroque, rather than being satisfied with

built space, th ey

it with paintings that presented the iUu- sion of additional space. In Mondrian's studio we can see paintings hung on and in front of the waUs, making a composition of the room. This composition in effect constitutes a new pai nting of the Individual compositions from whicl't it is assembled.

ultimately supplemented


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Sometimes on a puff of wind, sometimes In a storm they fly up, a cloud of birds before the s un .

What drums give th e birds flight that they expose themselves lightly t o so much ai r.


Our urge for space Is aimed outwards, so It Is centrifugal by nature. We wish to grasp more and make It our own; we brave the risks of the unfamtllar. t he unexpected, to Increase our drcle, our experience, o ur awareness. Space Is exptrtatlon; a nd ultimately a desire to amve somewhere.

'The undefi ned remains /Indefi nably enticing'

J~o~dith lie rz_btr§

As soon as a new area of space becomes emotionally and phys- Ically accessi ble, Its anonymity crumbles. Elich step Is a new designation, a new signlfli, so that step by step It becomes appropriated as part of our familiar world.

As a regio n becomes more and more

kind of region, the Indefi nableness. the unexpected, seeps away, and with It its spatiality unti l finally It Is ap propriated and absorbed; 1 region fo r our homecoming. If spue-accessfng desire hu centrifugal directionality, once that s pace Is colonized our attention t urns to ever more dru - tfcally opening it up and n ploltfng It In o ur minds. More and mort assoclatfo11S take hold and. with these Incorporated In ou r famlliu world, o ur focus In time becomes Increasingly

familiar, no matte r what

focus In time becomes Increasingly familiar, no matte r what 7-S··· •• • 0 • n





no matte r what 7-S··· •• • 0 • n inward-looking, concentrated on the mentally and

inward-looking, concentrated on the mentally and emotionally newty :accessible area. This Is how our centrifugal usire m•kes the switch to centripetal attraction; space, appropriated and familiar, becomes place. Desire with Its tensi on ilnd risk of th e unk nown. u ndefinable and unexpected tends to dissolve in i need fo r consolidation, safety, ill.ttachment, protection and delimitation.

• IPACI A.II'D PLA CI The distinctio n between space 1 nd place is dearer than one might suppost from the way these two words are used. For th ey are all too often confused. Pla ce makes us think primarily of restricted dimensions. a play are~,balcony, study niche, parts of the h ouse o r house-like parts, born of articulation, li rge enough t o contain several persons and small enough to p rovide the necessary 'cover'. Plue implies a centre of attention such u Is exemplified to perfection by 1 table. Plues can also be very large, as long as they ;are s uited to whatever Is to be enacted In them." Placets where you recog· ntze yourself, something familiar a nd safe, s pecially for you.

When a large n umber of people hive the sa.me feeling and de rive from It the sense of bei ng li nked tog ether, I t Is i c ol- lective place, such as where li beration Day Is celebrated or wllere the dead ue remembered. or a centre of religious com- munion. The sense of place can equ11ly be of 1 t emporary niture such IS when the national football tum wins. Place implies a spacial value added to a s pace. It has a par- ticular meaning for a number of people who feel attached to one anot her or derive from It a feeling of solidaritY. Space, whatever Its purpose, Cin come to mean place, wllether for I ndividuals or for s ma ll or larger groups. Place Is then a special adde d sign ifier, or rattle r, signifi~ of that sptce. Wh1t you as an architect can design are the conditions that make space fit t o be read u place; that Is. by su pplying j ust those dimensions or rather the articulation and ' covtr' that In a ctr· taln situation bring about the right sense of appropriateness a nd recognition."

The thing th 1t turn s s pace

in to place Is the lnflll given It by


lu occupants/users. A loc~tlon then becomes a ' partlculu' place coloured by occurrences past and present which lend it assodatlons. When we say we are making a place, we In fact mean making the space In such a way that the conditions for Its fnfill endow It with the quality of puce. lf place is an ultimate emotional appropriation of a spilce thiit originally was unsignifled but is potenthlly signifiilble, we can then s1y: sp.-.ceis a quality that contains the new, that can be filled In to make a place, so that space 1nd place can relate as 'competence' and 'performance'. Space and pl1ce are Inter- dependent In that each brings the other to awareness, enables the other to exist as 1 phenomenon. Birds searching for food need to carry their nest In their mi nds when passing outside their territory; there nn be no iidven- ture without a home-base to return to. You have to travel In search of space, to confirm the place you call your own; you must return home to recharge for a new journey."

'The need to get away? The desire to urlve?'"

lUrk St,.r>d

Space is longing, an upectatfon of possibiliti es, outside, on a journey, dynamic and open, away. Puce Is paust, inside, redemption, home, at rest. Making space and leaving space are lnsepnably bound, there must always be that openness to new fnterpretiltlons. The dilemma here is that the more suitable and right you make something, the stronger one particular significance will damp to it. This significance then leads a stubborn life of Its own. The more riveted space is to significan ce, the less space there remai ns for other significations and experiences. Space 41nd place cannot ulst without each other- each sum- mons up the other. If plue is heat, fire, then spice Is fuel. We need both as basi c elements of architecture: views to the front and cover behind•

spice Is fuel. We need both as basi c elements of architecture: views to the front


spice Is fuel. We need both as basi c elements of architecture: views to the front


spice Is fuel. We need both as basi c elements of architecture: views to the front
Mental Space and the Architect

Mental Space and the Architect

Mental Space and the Architect


Too often WI! fi nd the

crutive procus of the architect depleted as a succession of

fluhes of Inspiration that t he privi leged evidently receive as a gift a nd othus vainly keep waiting for, as though Ideas are


ki nd of ltlunderbolt from on high . When you see arc.hl·

t ects contin ually out to trump one another wi t.h new ldeu, you end up wonde ri ng at ti mes just where the hell they get them all from. That .architects have to t hink primarily In fo rms Is rooted In a misunde rstand ing. In the first plact, they must have an Idea of th e situations as thHe affect people a nd organizations, and how sltuatlon.s work. From there conce pts e merge: that Is, tdus regarding then sltu.tions take shape. Only ltlen does the architect envisage forms In wfllch a ll the ab ove mi gh t be cast. Surprising architectural responses are Invariably ltle ultimate formulatio n of the results of a thought procus. They did not appear out of t hin air, as gifts from the gods for the parti cularly talented. Architects , Including the seriously gifted, construct thei r ldus, even if tflest are keys to utterly new Insights, out of raw material that In one way or anot her had t o be a lready present In t hei r mi nds. No thi ng , after all, ca n be born of not hing.

mi nds. No thi ng , after all, ca n be born of not hing. Oeslg

Oeslg nf ng Is a complu thought process of potentia ls and restrictions out of which fdtas are born along falr\y system- atic lines.

Mew responses issue from combinations and quantitles otfler th a n t hos e we al ready knew. We do t.hings with wllat we have

in our mi nds, and more a nnot come out of t hem th an went

ln . AU neuropsychologica l explanations notwithstanding, It works the same as It does for the cook who can only use what

he has In his kitchen when putting his meats together.

Ignoring th e fact that a good cook can do much more with hfs

Ingredients than a less gifted collugue.ln both cases tht point

Is to fill the pantry with as many Ingredients u

u to have riche r combinati ons an d t hus a wide r range of pos-

posslbl.e so

slbilitlu at tflelr dis posal. The Ingredients the 1rc:hltect can draw from are the experi- ences he hu had throughout the ye~rs,tnd which he can directly or Indirectly relate to his profession. Considering that the range of his discipline Is Infinitely broad and Is literally about everything. that means a multitude of experi- ences. So It Is lmportut for th e arc hitect t.hat he has seen a nd heard a lot In his life. a nd anything that he did not tll· perience first-ha nd he hu a pretty good Idea of; that Is, he must empathbe with every situation he has come across.

first-ha nd he hu a pretty good Idea of; that Is, he must empathbe with every


Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France (zs· n J Le Corbusier, l9SO · SS The
Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France (zs· n J Le Corbusier, l9SO · SS The

Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France (zs· n J Le Corbusier, l9SO · SS

The chapel of Notre Dame du Haute in Ron- champ marks a new period in le Corbusie(s work and thinking. It was already notice- able in the Unite in Marseilles, and also In the ' Manufactures' in St Die, that he had

closed the chapter of the dematerialized 'heroi( period. Seen in retrospect there had been signs as early as the beginning of the thirties of a more grounded, sculptural development. If the Unite in Marseilles can ~tiUbe rega rded as a beton brut variant upon earlier ideas- in principle still exe· cuted in planes with a number of strongly plastic additions such as the pilotis and the roofscape, while the colours in refined patterns of soft hues become more primary

- the Ronchamp chapel is architecture of

quite another klnd.lt has much of a hol· lowed-out sculpture that resolutely con· founds, it would seem, the entire evolution of twentieth-century architecture. WhetheJornotyou find itbeautifu~you may wonder if that is the way to trown the top of a hill, like a untamed species of Parthe· non. You can advocate or llilify it but Ills impossible to ignore it; the influence it has exerted on architectural history is prodi· gious and still a$toundingly relevant today. Our main interest in the chapel is how '"d when an architect like le Corbusier man- aged to conjure up this wholly new formal idiom. The first sketches for this building see le Corbusier harking back to travel sketches made many years before, in which he noted down things that ellidently affected him and that he wished to keep hold or, sup- posedly without knowing at the time what possible good could come of them later. At issue on this early occasion was a particular way of bringi ng in light reflected down thro ugh a curved shaft. much like air t hrough a ventilation shaft such as those found on old sea vessels (which fascinated me as a child too). The Uteral way these found forms were ultimately adopted is astonishing , embarrassing almost, if only because one could not believe or rather refused to believe it could be done so simply. But every bit as astonishing is that these forms (because forms and notjust Ideas have been adopted here) take on an

entirely new guise in the new light in whkh Le Corbusier sets them. They were placed in a new context, and so transformed utterly. It is hard to comprehend today that they had been around eartier than that and were merely unearthed. It seems as though new forms are less invented than rediscovered, interpreted differently and u.sed differenUy too. We are able to understand where they came from, but not what is so fascinating about them and even Less why they are still successful today.


u L~ Corbusi er . s b tcb es o f ViU1 Hidrli11us~ ltlJ

MUU.L SP.&.t l AJfD fill .&.I(JIIIflCt



u L~ Corbusi er . s b tcb es o f ViU1 Hidrli11us~ ltlJ MUU.L SP.&.t
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• IIIOIKDnY, cuu1v1n

nlues shift all too tully requires an unremittingly crit:lc~l attitude tow~rds outmoded concepts (~nd naturally towards new potentials too). In lltenlly every sltuiltfon you hive to keep uking yourself whether the familiar path fs still the most effective, adequate and/or advisable choice or that we ne threatening to become victims of the daily routine and the str~ttjacketof elflsttng cliches. Each design decision it seems, tach choice we m~ke, needs sounding out every time against changing criteria, but all too often Inevitably calling for new concepts. This Is why we need Ingenuity and what we usually term creativity. Put briefly, the beginning of the design process could boll down to the following: First there Is a task, dearly couched or making a first vague appurance. You ne after an Idea that will give you a concept you can use to further elaborate the design. looking around you and drawing from your memory where the Ideas you once thought Interesting are stored, you head off In search of analogies that might well yi eld iln fdtil. Though Identifiable u missing pieces of your jigsaw puule, then links are all too often transformed -disguised, in other words. The llrt then h of course to see through those di sguises. Wt can auume that each new Idea and ntw concept must be a transformation or Interpretation, respectively, of something else,developed furthtr ~nd brought up to date. There Is no way of finding out how the Idea came to you ; wu It there illready, was It generated by old lmilges or only strengthened, confirmed? This Is a complex Interaction of suspecting, seeking ilnd recognizing, in the way tht ques· tion a.nd answer vie for primacy.

Aculture where conditions ~nd


To find new COncepts

as an answerto new challenges you first havt to unmask the existing cllchts. This mens stripping the mainsprings of the programme underlying the architecture of the routine that has seeped Into them by bruklng open the programme and opening it up to new arguments. Whenever a progr~mmeIs judged critically It transpires each time that It has lost much of its nlidlty. This is why we must shift emphases and shake off Ingrained habits. This Is easier nld than done. The issue Is to demolish existing cllch~s. Agre.at dtal has been written about creativity and how it might be acquired, Invariably pointing out the Importance of forg- Ing links with other things entirely. However, It Is stressed far too infrequently that the difficulty of finding the new Is mai nly that of shaking off the old. Room for new Ideas hilS to be conquered by erasing old ldus engraved In our minds. If only one could keep beginrrlng with a clean slate, approaching each task as an unknown quantity, a new question that has yet to be answered. Unfortunattly this Is not the way our brains work. Associations well up Immediately, whether you want thtm to or not, major and m·fnor skills nurtured by experience and developed by professional expertise, tried and trusted red pes thilt stand there In the way of genuinely new Ideas. Ingenuity In finding new concepts is all too often seen u something exclusive, reserved for the few who are gifted In

that respect. When the prime concern Is Indeed the ability to shake off existing cliches and nch ttme face the task as an unknown quantity, then the problem Is mainly a psychological barrier that is going to need some demolishing. If the old, well-known part belongs to our familiar world, the new Is basically a threat. Whether it can become absorbed and therefore accepted depends on the usociations it evokes and whether these are regarded as positive, or at least not as negative. Achild, then, may see a flash of lightning, whose dangers we know and to which we feel a certain Ingrained fear. u a kind of firework with all the feelings of g1lety that brings. 'Alii have done throughout my life is to try to be just u open· minded as I was In my youth- though then I didn' t have to try.' This Is a remark Picasso must have made In later life. When plans emerged to keep the Elffel Tower after all- It w;u originally to have been a temporary structure- a storm of protest blew up, most of all among Intellectuals who saw the city disfigured with a monster culled from the hated world of Industry. And that when In the very latest generation there wu almost no-one to be found who was not inspired by It as a presage of a new world. Whether you like a thing or not depends on the affection you feel for ft. This Is not only something you have or acquire later, you must have had It to begin with to have liked tht thing In the first place; affection Is as much a condition as a consequence.

>I Robett Oola"noy. l!lo El{ftl 1

, P<Oi».bly liU

Eames House, Los Angeles,,•.,.,

Chanes and Ray Eames, 1945

The story goes that in 19<16, when Ch11les and Ray bmes decided to build themselves a house and studio, they were forced to restrict themselves to steel beams 1nd columns standardized for nsembly plants and obtainable from a firm ofstructural engineers, u mattrbl wu scarce so soon after the w11. And if this were indeed true, you might wonder If they really felt restricted by the thus imposed reduction of their house to a pair of box-shaped factory sheds, which they placed on the highest p;lrt of their eucalyptus-strewn site in a line along the property boundary. These industrial designers, constantly alert as they we re to everything that was new and potentially reproducible In series, sounding them out and absorbing them

into thei r world, clearty saw this

challenge. Typically, rather than feeling limited by having only those means at their disposal that Industry allowed at the time, they were Inspired by the possibilities thissituation brought. And so it was that the factory shed was transformed into a house with 1 form unknown before then. The point is that they saw the opportunity to look beyond the factory-building forms such as the prominent open-web steetjoists and sup- press those associations with others closer

to the domestic ambience. Charles and Ray Eames succeeded in erasing the factory element by means of simple yet marvellous elevations. likewise composed of standard

as a

marvellous elevations. likewise composed of standard as a )I ,. elements, with areas of colour and,
marvellous elevations. likewise composed of standard as a )I ,. elements, with areas of colour and,


marvellous elevations. likewise composed of standard as a )I ,. elements, with areas of colour and,


elements, with areas of colour and, on the Inside. sliding light-absorbent p;~nels,the effect being as much Japanese as Mo ndri· anesque. Again, the tiled paths and plant- ing right up against the elevations betray the sort of care that regrettably one only expects t o fi nd in dwelling ·houses. The basic. even bare, cont.liner aspect of the building is equalled only by the opu· lence of its infiU and contents. This consists of an endless and varied collection of objects and artefacts from all over the wortd. brought back by the Eameses from their travels - fasdnattd as they were by everything made by human hand the wortd over in a never-ending diversity. And what better accommodation for all

these Items collected by those irrepressible souls than these prefabric.ted containers. These lent themselves perfectly to being coloured in and Indeed to becoming part of the collection. When Ray £ames laid the t.lbl.e for her guests, It was not with the obligatory tea or dinner service of so many pieces and accessories to match, but according to quite another principle. She went through the abundant collection of plates and cups- and-uucers, finding for each guest a set deriving from differing services but com- bined to meet other criteria- a beautifully conceived combination of pieces chosen to match their user. The famllllf image of a table laid homo·

a beautifully conceived combination of pieces chosen to match their user. The famllllf image of a
a beautifully conceived combination of pieces chosen to match their user. The famllllf image of a
geneou$ly yielded to a gay miscell.Jny of colours and shapes, li ke a miniature 'musee

geneou$ly yielded to a gay miscell.Jny of colours and shapes, li ke a miniature 'musee imaginaire', of a new homogeneity. be it more complex and full ofsurprises. Two arrangemenu. two paradigms, both with their attendant associations. The so -many-piece table service stands tor comfortable circumstances and ancient descent, for such services get passed down from generation to generation and only in the hands of an old a nd established, cui· turally developed family do they survive through the years unchipped and generally unscathed. Combinations oftable services that are brought together from here, there and everywhere rather than comprising a set. are the province of the less welt·to-do who can afford tess and cannot boast an Illustrious past. The infinitely varied col· !Jtction of Ray and Chartes Eames represents the cultural elite of the small group that expresses its passion for exploring the world with Its great diversity of cultu res and customs, in a collection as precious in its heterogeneity as the family table ser- vice is in its homogeneity. Once the ques- tion ofwhat you can or cannot afford has been dispensed with. respect fo r the past acquires another value and another form, This example shows that old values, how· e ver interesting historically. are all too easily clung to against one's better judge- ment; and that suppressing and replacing such preconceptions creates new space, new room to move.

t.J naca ••oni AI.CIIfltf

Nemausus housing, Nimes. France

(IN I (

Jean Nouvel and Jean-Marc Jbos, 1987

These two aU-metal blocks, set at right

angles to a provincial feeder road to the city like some means of conveyance- more bus

or tra in th an ship-

that is more rural than urban. sit surpris- ingly welt in their context. This is because we have become oblivious to the metal bo~es of every imagi nable shape and size setting the sc.ene in increasing numbers throughout ouJ cities and landscapes. But it Is certainly also because of the magnifi- cent way these two lock in from either side of a strip of gravelled parkway flan ked by pl.Jne trees as if they had a lways been there. The a!lee of slender planes continues to dominate the picture, visible from all sides as the hou$lng blocks 'hover' on posts that are more slender stilL Here le Corbusie(s pitons principle is applied so convincingly a pres Ia lettre that one cannot help but be converted. Other than in the Unite whose heavy columns all but blocking the view gener· ated an inhospitable no man's land, these buildings stand on stilts in scooped-out, and therefore sunken, parking strips so

amidst a development

and therefore sunken, parking strips so amidst a development that the parked cars do nothing to

that the parked cars do nothing to obstruct the view through. Apart from the eye-level transparency on the ground plane tl'lis response is also a brilliant natural solution for the problem of parking which. although not new In itself, is here as open as it is objective through the mi nimal and s imple res ponse without balustrading orconcealing watts to block the view.

is objective through the mi nimal and s imple res ponse without balustrading orconcealing watts to
is objective through the mi nimal and s imple res ponse without balustrading orconcealing watts to


is objective through the mi nimal and s imple res ponse without balustrading orconcealing watts to


This project also stands out in that every· thing Is done to provide a maximum of space. Its access galleries are as broad as station platforms from whi ch you enter your home with as little fuss as possible, much like entering a subway train, effi. ciently but anonymously. Only the doormats Identify the entrances as front doors and these ultimately are more image· defining enn than the loud·and·dear graphics con· sistently derived from the world of trans· portation that are also used to number the apartme nts . The balconies have perforated forward·tilt· ing sheet-steel spandre l panels which give the building its unmistakable elegant


appearance, but behind which an utterly

different and more varied character emerges through personal use. Each component has

a certain over-measure seldom encountered

in housing , which may be why it gives off such a strong sense of space. The inhabi· tants respond with an almost un· french eagerness with additions of their own.

Perhaps it was the restrictions imposed out

of considerations of a rchitectural purity- such as the architect's ban on adding to the crude concrete walls worked by an artist, and the metal grid Landings between bed· room and bathroom- that in a presumably unintentional paradox were tl1e very reason why tenants responded with all

kinds of modifications of their own. Thes11 additions are nowhere to be found in artl· cles about the building, yet it is these that best illustrate the space opened up by the construction.


Maison de Verre. Paris (,

, ,

Pierre Chareau, B2mard Bijvoet and louis Oalbet, U32

When it proved impossible to acquire the upper apartment in the courtyard in the Rue Saint-Gui lliume. it was decided to remove the entire lower three ftoo~and slip a new house into the exirting bu ilding. Then a problem arose: the steel columns that were to shore up the remaining portion suspended like a stone bridge in the sky, could not be brought into the building in their complete state. As a result. shorter lengths consisting of sundry steel sections were combined and

assemb led on site using tie plates and rivets. So ultimately the solution was all-technical in the spirit of the bridge constructio ns of those days. which for us at least. used as we are to welded joints, have a nostalgic air about them. Wa s it originally the intention to clad these columns, thrusting up resolutely through the tall space, so as to mask at least some- thing of theirexplicitly technical look? We shall never know. What is certain is that the columns as rende red In the well- known perspective drawing contain nothing of this turn of events. germane as such devel-

opments are to the

though generally unexpected. There must have been a moment when the architects. reviewing the whole in the tight

practice of building,


IP&Cl AID til AICi l TitT

of the overallformal world they had gener- ated ror the house, decided that it was complete at this stage. And not just that. they had It painted In two colours In such a way that the technical build-up in parts would be more prominent still. Chareau must have b~n taken with these columns. unexpected images as they proved

to be, fully regaled and fr~-standingin the space. for aside from the black and red-lead

colou ring he clad the

slate panels. This is something only an artist would think of, one with his roots in Art Deco as evidenced by the innovative use of materials and joints at so many ptaces in this house. So we see Chareau uniting the redolence of disparate worlds into an amal- gam wi th its own individual aesthetic_ Add

flanges at places with

the furniture which togeth er with the steel structure presents a kind of biotopic unit, and it then becomes clear that our accep- tance of this aesthetic is g1ounded not in some lawor precept that guarant~sbeauty, but entirely in the positive associations that each of the components present here evokes in us. Qearly then, forms and colours (and of cou~ words) change when lifted from their original context and placed in another set- ting . Extricated from their earlier system of meanings they are now free to take on a new role. Place things in another setting and we see them in a new tight. Their meaning changes and with it their value, and It Is this process of transformation as enacted In our minds that gives architects the key to creativity.

Dolt's house, AD competition 1.,

Jean Nouvel. 1983


In the competition held in 1983 by th e

magazine AO to design a do ll's house (of all things), the submitted plans gave the expected broad spectrum of reductions of contemporary dwelling form$, in the way that doll's houses through the ages were for practical reasons invariably cutaway models of usually well-to-do houses from particulllr style periods. Jean Nouvel (of all people) submitted a design and won. And altho ugh by no means the greatt$t of his designs it is certainly one of the most remarkable. Who would have though t of a t oo lbox as a space for accommodating your childhood memorit$?

Dolls instead of steel

could scarcely Imagine a greater contrast. But the oblong terrace-like collapsible drawers unfold their contents so that at least everything is there at hand, a lot more clearty organized than most traditional

implements . o ne

clearty organized than most traditional implements . o ne u doll's houses. Although not directly a


doll's houses. Although not directly a model of a house th at we know, you could well imagine it as such. And although not a reftection of an existing type, it does give an illusion, an idea of a house.

Do ch ildren really feel th e need for a reduc· tion of a literal house. where you always have too manycomers thatare inaccessible, and wi th the frustration that you cannot really get i nside it and ~lw ays feel shut out as a result? Here in this toolbox your th ings are always safely stashed away and it is

made to carry around .

Come to that. you can imagine Nouvel returning to this idea sooner or later Gust

imagine Nouvel returning to this idea sooner or later Gust th ink of the 'pull -out'

th ink of the 'pull -out' stan ds o f his super - revolutionary competition design for the St. Denis stadium). This concept breaks dramatically with the customary doll's house cliche. Not just in terms of the outward appearance and how it Rts together, it also shows a revamping of ideas about what it is that children might want from a doll's house. taking note of the fact that they have less need of some· thing representing a literal reality. With their capacity to th ink conceptionally, they are conten t with merely the idea of a house.

• Looking at the task before you in another light Is the same

as looking at another task, and for th1t you need other eyes. The problem Is that everyone Is constantly searching fo r rec- ogniuble patterns that are interpreted as rapidly as possible, In other words, that gain a place in our famtll•n world.

And the more familiar our world, the way we have bull tit pi ece by piece, the more trusted Insights we h1ve at our disposal and the more difficult it is to avoid them. Inventiveness Is In Inverse proportion to knowledge and

ex.perience .

Into the old grooves of t he old record of meanings, the way il knife keeps returni ng to the original striations In a sheet of cardboard. Finding new concepts would not be difficult if only It were easier to shake off the old ones.

Knowledge and llllpe r1en ce keep forci ng us back

The first of Mucel Ouchamp's ready-mades, dating from 1913 , showed that presenting an ' everyday' object as a work of art could turn it into something new. He placed tbem In an uttl!rty different contllllt where something else was expected of them, so to speak, without him having changed or added anything (save for the customary signature of the artist). 7hot Nr. "'utt (Ouchamp' s pseudonym in that circ umstan c.e)

mode the Fountotn wtth his own honds or not, fs not Important.

He CHOSI ft . He took o

~ mmon object. placed i t so that its

functional stgnlficonce disappeared under tht new Htlt ond the new point of vfrN- ht cnoted for this obj«t o new Ideo.''

Abicycle wheel or urinal it seems can lose Its original pur- pose and meaning and take on another. This process of tnns· formation evidentty enacted In our minds Is nowhere more

clearly revealed tha n in the art of the twentieth cent ury. By being able to perceive a thing differently, our view O'f things changes and the wortd changes with it. A mental clear-out.• ma king space In our minds by ridd ing them of so much ballast thit once meant something to us. And If anyone was famllfar with disassembling and dearing out associations, meanings and values. It was Picasso.

and dearing out associations, meanings and values. It was Picasso. MI -TAL I.PAt l ~o•a t•



I.PAt l ~o•at• IAJ:C11tf1Ct


and dearing out associations, meanings and values. It was Picasso. MI -TAL I.PAt l ~o•a t•
and dearing out associations, meanings and values. It was Picasso. MI -TAL I.PAt l ~o•a t•

Picasso's eyes 1••·••1

Picasso's t9•2 combination of a bicycle's handlebars and saddle as a bull's head is, after Duchamp's ready-mades, one of the most miraculous and meaningful art works of the twentieth century. Wllile a 'normal' collage draws a new narra· tive from disparate components each with its own story, llere two parts of the same mechanism combine into a single new (and different) mechan i sm that i nevitably and

inescapably calls to mind the llead of a bull. Indeed. so strong is this association that it is difficult to continue seeing anything of a bicycle in iL

Tile bike

the bull. Theoretically at least there must be a transition point where the components are so caught up in each other's new sphere of influence that, in a sort of magnetic impacting of meani ngs. the bull aU at once

Is fo rced Into the background by

ngs. the bull aU at once Is fo rced Into the background by •e P•blo PQuo.

•e P•blo PQuo. 7itrW Tou!NII, 19-U

the background by •e P•blo PQuo. 7itrW Tou!NII, 19-U appeafl or disappears to be replaced by
the background by •e P•blo PQuo. 7itrW Tou!NII, 19-U appeafl or disappears to be replaced by
the background by •e P•blo PQuo. 7itrW Tou!NII, 19-U appeafl or disappears to be replaced by
the background by •e P•blo PQuo. 7itrW Tou!NII, 19-U appeafl or disappears to be replaced by

appeafl or disappears to be replaced by the bicycle, or a notion of bicycle. It may resemble the conjuror's disappearing trick, but there is a touch of magic here too! Pica~sohimself considered this work com- plete only if someone. the t hing having been thrown out on the street, were to con- vert It back into a bike. Yet the artist must have originally seen the animal parts in the cycle parts; he evidently s_awthem less strongly anchored in their original context. This then is the lesson we can learn from it: new mechanisms can ensue fTom another assemblage of parts freed from t heir original context by taking them up In a ne wchai n of associations. That Picasso was persistently able to see forms in their 'autonomous'- unsignified- state, loosed so to speak from the relation· ship they fo rmed part of when he came

from the relation· ship they fo rmed part of when he came ., 8oth bicycle one!

., 8oth bicycle one! bulL hore durin~prepmllons1nd

orKtlet lor the actual Hght

hore durin~ prepmllons 1nd orKtlet lor the actual Hght across them, is clear from his studies
hore durin~ prepmllons 1nd orKtlet lor the actual Hght across them, is clear from his studies

across them, is clear from his studies of eyes that seemingly change into fish and then into birds without effort. Forms for him - and materials too! - were clearly free and stayed that way until engaged, temporarily. in a particular chain of meanings. or rather, 'system of signifi· cations'. On further conside ra tion we ca n well imag· ine that fo r Picasso it was but a small step for a plate to very literally signify a corrido. The fact is, he was obsessed with bullfight- ing and it was one of the themes that haunted him the way another might see the arena as a well-filled dish.

~· ')


it was one of the themes that haunted him the way another might see the arena
it was one of the themes that haunted him the way another might see the arena
it was one of the themes that haunted him the way another might see the arena

Dining table, Paris ,.,

Le Corb usler, tUl


Le Co rbusie(s table, consisting of a thick cantilevered marble to p on two sttel legs, found many times in his wortc and und by

him in his

et CoUi as a dining table. can be regarded

own house in th e Rue Nungesser


a new #mechanism'.

Wh ile n ot a ll tab l es we re wooden an d ha d four legs, this had been pretty much the norm. a nd it was simply accepted that at ti mes the legs would get in the way even when loca ted at the corners {such a5 when tables are combined to accommodate a

large r gathering). The stee l centra l legs of Le Corb usie(s ta ble with their weighted feet allowed a reason · ably stable t op to cantilever on all sides,

givi ng free

of this solution (one th at has to be put up with) is that the enormous weight estab· lishes a place- bound quality. So there are disadvantages as well as advan tages. It all depends on drcumstances, but it Is cer·

talnly a no vel esting to fi nd

On visiting a hos pital one day Le Corb usier saw a dissecting table. being used fo r

anatom ica l purposes , a ccordi n g t o Ma uri ce Besset making the purely functional advantages mentioned above aU the more logical. To see th e thi ng as a dini ng tab le was a particularly blu nt transforma tion, on e that

obviou sly di dn'

leg room a ll round . A drawback

idea, which ma kes it inter- out howit was arrin d at .

t bothe r Le Corbusier, nei -

out howit was arrin d at . t bothe r Le Corbusier, nei - " ••


howit was arrin d at . t bothe r Le Corbusier, nei - " •• designing


designing i t. no r when it

was use d daily by himself and his wi fe . Evidently he could banish t he visions of cadavers from his mind and even the chan· nel meant fo r running off blood is by no

ther when he was

means an unpractical considera tion for a dining table . Bizarre though th is exam ple may seem, it once again shows that forms a re able to change their meaning. But italso shows that l e Corbusier was able to see this par· ti cular fo rm distinct from th e chain of associations originally linked with it and slip it into a new chain. The form was freed, so to speak. of its meanings and the frame- work once containing them, to be given a new infill. 'signified', with other meanings in another context which it w:u now at lib· erty to accept.

• fori!\$ thlft as It were from the one meaning to the other,

depending on the meaning that presents Itself In a particular

situation through the usodatlons aroused by and thus linked

to the form. So we can say: form. association ( t, 2, 3)

Ing (t, 2, 3).'

lt hu to be so that associations attendant on a form are dependent on what you are doing, what Is occupying or maybe preoccupying you; and whatever It WiiS that Impressed you


earlier and thttrefore sfgnlfl•s 5Qmlthfng to

you Is fo rever

bei ng projected on to one or other form, suppressing that form' s previous meaning In the process. Thus we see the emphasis shift from the certainties of an esQbllshed order entrenched In forms as fixed meanings, to the perpetual dependence of each form on the context in wlrich it figure~

Twentieth-century painters saw the opportunity to free forms and materials from their chai ns of meanings enabling them to uke on other meanings and thus new concepts. Creativity in that respect Is the capacity to see 'things' dlf· ferently by lifting them from their present context so that they lose their origi nal meaning and, seen In a new context, evoke another and so become something else. So here In fact we have one thing that has been transformed Into another through what amounts to an Instinct on our part to read It differently. This Is the opportunity seized upon by artists like Duchamp and Picasso, and Le Corbusfer for one succeeded In doing the same for architecture.

IC 5n4LSP ACI&JIOllfi: AJC:IIflC:t

) 1

and Le Corbusfer for one succeeded In doing the same for architecture. IC 5n4LSP ACI&JIOllfi: AJC:IIflC:t


and Le Corbusfer for one succeeded In doing the same for architecture. IC 5n4LSP ACI&JIOllfi: AJC:IIflC:t

• Forms and things c~n apparently adjust to a new situation

and be primed to accommodate a new and opportune purpose. looked at tltls way, creativity Is seen to originate In an utreme capactty to adapt, In the sense that not only are you adapting to the potentials of things but at the same time than things are adapting to suit you.

' Regarding the form of the granlto washbasins

Centrnl Beheer and De Drie

Hove n, l got no further than a list of conditions that this form had to satisfy, such as filling watering cans and washing hands. The dimensions were In tact alre~dy fbed seeing that t.hey needed building-In to the brickwork, and they hid to be e<ut in concrete. But what on urth was the form going to be?

l tried to Impress my thoughts on the othrs and demon-

strated the movement you mllke when washing your hands by describing drcles In the air. Everyone knew that there was only enough money for something very simple and square at the most. It was clear that this rectangular form was com- pletely at odds wfth the flowfng movement l had outlined and

would be Impossible to keep clean besides. Until, illl at onc·e,

a polyester hard hat appeared before us on the table.

Someone's straying eye had seen It lying in the cupbond. The perfect oval fo rm, e;cactly the right size, Ideal as

a mould, simple to Install and obtainable for free from the contractor: (1916)

build-In at various pl~ees in both

we wanted to

The theory Is as follows: new organiutionsfmechanlsms/con - cepts are found by steppi ng outside your task and relating It

- i. e. by assodation -to other known tasks and applying them

to your case. The difficulty here is the usually limpet-like adherence of these known tasks to their 'original' meanings, something like a chemical compound with a strong affinity, making It difficult for us to conceive of them as freed and Interpretable. The space for crutivity lies In managing to forget, In demolishing foregoing prejudices and 1bove aU In iln 1billty to un -lurn. A matter of learning to unl.eilm, then. The age-old question which Inevitably looms up here as else-

where Is this: Is creativity something you can acquire or Is It entirely a question of aptitude? And although without apti- tude you wfll obviously make little headway you could still say that the euler it Is to pull apilrt forms and meanings, the greater the potentials for creativity; this means seeing forms more as nlf-suffident phenomena, open to more and ever new meanings. Which brings us back to Picasso's abtllty to see the handlebars of a bicycle as form distinct from Its meaning. The question now is whether you could cultivate this potential. and If so, how. The precondition for crutlvfty Is that only the smallest amount Is fixed for you, meaning that the largest 1mount Is open-ended. The more doubt you have about the fixed mean- ings ilnd established truths imprisoning you, the easier It Is to put these In perspective and the more curious you need to become about other possibilities, other upects. Creativity depends on the ability to open your eyes so as to see things In other contexts and in particular beyond there- strictions of the arguments In the dosed drcle of the '~rchl­ tectural wor1d' . It Is more a question of mentality than of Insight and teachers should perh1ps do something about thb by no longer scaring students with all that dlsdpllne· bound Information and Instead using the time to challengethem to enlarge the drde of their Interest, to see more, to bring In other 1spects: to arouse their enthusiasm, receptivity and curiosity, that they uk more quution1 than they opect answers to, that they experience more of the worid, that they widen their fr1me of reference. Educ1tlon, and this Includes education of architec- ture students, should before anything else unfold mental space so as to explore the unknown, the new, the other and put It wfthln their reach Instead of filling the space In their heads with what we know already. Make them hungry Instead of nourishing them with Informa- tion.

• •nc••v•wa Perceiving Is the ability to extricate certain

aspects from within their conte.xt so as to be able to place

them In ' new contut. You see things differently, or you see

different things, depending on your Intentions In perceiving. bch new Idea begins with seeing things dlfferentty. New sig- nals bombard you, persuading you that things are not the way you thought, making Inevitable the need or demand for 1 new

response . To observe

surroundings, the world, differutly, you have to be capable of seeing things In another Ught. seeing thou same things differently. For that you need another sentlblllty, re5ulting from a different perspective on things, your surroundings, th world. The nchitect's most important attributes are not the tradi- tional emblems of professional skill. the ruler and pair of compasses, but hts eyes and urs. At a certain moment In the nineteenth century, painters began pillnting the pitches of light In the shadow of trees, where sunlight falling between the leaves perforated so to speak the areas of sh1dow. You could SlY that those p.atches of light must have always been there, and they undoubtedly were as long as there were people to look 1t them, yet those painters saw them for the first time. At least they only then became consdously aware of them as an essential aspect of the con- figuration we call tree. Their attention focused on the excep· tional quaUty of trees u providers of shade an.d shelter, and on the fact that people tend to linger there ratherthan else- where. Searching for other things, with the shift In attention t11at brings, they became consdous of aspects they had In fact always seen without being aware of ft. Often It takes painters and their Interpretations to make you aware of how things hang together. For Instance we see the landscllpe of Provence Influenced by the WliY C~zanne expert · enced It; we are In f<lct looking through the painter's eyes. You buome aware of what you are actually seeing only when that perception occurs In the right context at the right time . Prehistoric caves with paintings on the walls, now regarded as pinnacles of artistic ende.avour, were discovered at a second viewing, long after they hid bun closed up because no-one had then seen anything In them.

and so understand your situation, your

anything In them. and so understand your situation, your People began perceiving things thit until then

People began perceiving things thit until then had simply hid no part In the generil frame of reference. There was no Inter· est In them beciust the focus wu on other upects that were more relevant to them then . So other glasses were needed, so to spuk, 'to see what hid not bun seen to be seen'. The same tree observed by an ecologist, a biologist, a forest ranger, a painter and a transportation planner Is sun by each through different eyes and therefore regarded and valued quite dlfferently. Whereas the biologist probably assesses Its health above all, the forest rJnger calculates roughly how many cubic metres of timber it would give him, and the painter appredates Its colour, form and maybe the shape Its shadow throws. For the transportation planner It Is bound to be In the wrong place. All look at things through their own gluses and consequently assess things quite differently, uch within their spedflc contut. We can regard su ch specifi c contexts of assessment as 1 system of significations, and this system Is accessible to the focused eye of the practised observer. Eyes that are experienced In a particular area see the smallest difference that would be missed by those skilled In other areas and remain hidden to them. So, for Instance, It stems that Eski mos can see from the type of snowflikt whether It comes from the mountains, the sea or from any other direction, something that is of vital Importance to them to be able to find their bearings In an endless upanse of snow that otherwlst has nothing recog- nizable to offer.• Indians are able to distinguish the presence of hundreds of plant spedes, and from severJl hundred metres away too. If this is lnex1Jllcable to us, It Is equilly lnexpllc.able to them how, for example, we can distinguish and Identify so many kinds of red lights and other signals on the roads at night. lights that cause u.s to slow down hundreds of metres away because tlley tell us that something may be wrong farther along the road.• Everyone has an eye for a particular system of mea.nlngs because It Is of spedaland relevant Importance to them. They hardly see the other things If it all, such as the jungl.~dweller

Ml ltf.U


to them. They hardly see the other things If it all, such as the jungl.~dweller Ml
to them. They hardly see the other things If it all, such as the jungl.~dweller Ml

who left his native forest fo r the fi rst time and paid a visit to Manhattn . Whtn asked what struck him the most he re plied that the bananas were bigger than those back home. Thus throughout the history of pai nting. and In that of archi-

t e ctu re, we see different aspects coming to light that.

as a coherent system of meanings, milde claims on the attu- tlon, evidently because at a certeln time they were Important or si mply regarded as particularly attractive. Focusi ng on cer- tain related aspects Infinitely Increases your powers of dis- cernment vis-a-vis that relationship, yet It seems as though you can only focus on one area of It at a time. Fixat ed on t hat one area, you are blind to everything else which, though potentially perceivable, falls to get through to you. It is as though you need ill your attention for that one aspect on which you are concentrating and to which you are clnr ly recept ive.


When holidaying u

dragged from one cathedral to the other without their Interest being aroused In the slight est. They only had eyes for coffee• makers, scooters and most of all a new phen omenon In those days: parking meu rs. Until one day In Auxerre t hey sudden ly made a beeline for the cathedrel. Hid we finally managed to kindle their enthusium for the richness of this form-world that occupied and Ins pired us so? It took us only ;a short time before we succeeded, having scru pulously scanned the sur- roundings, In Isolating from its exubtrant backdrop a type of parking meter they e vidently h ad not seen before.

a family In France, our children were

Tr~velllng through a re mote desert area In India en rouu fo r Rajasthan, In all the stations you are served tea in fragile earthenware bowls t hat most resemble off-yellow flower pots without the hole at t he bottom. Once empty they are thrown out of the train window where, with 1 dull plop, they smash to smithernns on the pebbles betwnn the ralls. The reverse of this phenome non Is that of our throw-away plastic cups:

considered worthless In the West. there they are so ucep· tional that anyone s ucceeding In acquiri ng an Intact example places it as a source of admiration among the other treasures set In a s pedal place in t he house. Isolated as a unique exam- plar in a cult ure of mainly handcrafted artefacts it can only be regarded .u a creation of unattainable refl nement. It Is only wtth the grute st care that we managed to bring back undam- aged to our lndustl'lalhed world one or two of those su premely fragi le bowls as an elementary example of primitive produc- tion, where lbey occupy a spedal place i n our home as relics of a world lost to us l.ong ago.

We only perceive

firming our s us picions as It were, In other words the re Is an element of recognition. Thus discoveries are in fact always rediscoveries and, Invariably, the missing pl.ces from an alrudy conceived totality. The researche r ca n do little wi th phenomena he encounters that are Impossi ble to fit Int o his research, based as it Is on a known theory. Should he not wish to Ignore those new phe-

what we more o r leu expect

to find , co n-

those new phe- what we more o r leu expect to find , co n- nomena,

nomena, all he can do Is accommodat e them In a new t heory using inductive reasoning. 1t is not merely that wt can only

see things as part of a context (system of significations, field, paradigm) , for a thing o nly has meaning and value when placed In the context of the relationship in which it performs,

the s i tuation , the envi ronment I t occupies. To be able

ceive something It has to hold your i nterest, you have to have bnn searching for it to some extent, even if unconsciously. It sHms as though certain fudn1tions, pertl1ps borne with us since our childhood, persist In guiding or at all events

lnflue ndng our preferences

powers of discernment. You could call this secret force Intu- Ition. Schllem;mn, the man who discovered Troy, was apptlTently able without prior knowledge to point out the right hill to start dlggfng which Indeed was to reveal the dty, covered by naturt IS it had bnn and quite invisible. It cannot have been a nyth ing ot her t hi n colndde nce, but why did he decide to start digging there u opposed to 1nywhre else? Psycho- analysts explain the accuracy of his actions through the

resemblance of the Trojan landscape to that of Schllemann's childhood in the Rhlnela Pd.' His Intu itio n -w hat else can you call it?- arguably wu guided by 1n unconsdous experience that had stayed with him from his childhood. There h;u to be an im pulse to exdte the int erest: curiosity come5 before perception.

When Le (o ri)usler came across that marble legs In the dissecting room of tha t hos pital

table on two solid he must have rec-

ognized the form as an answer to o ne of the q uestlo n1 that hid been haunting him: the dining ta ble he had still to design t ha t would no t be the usua l four-legged affair. Or had he long borne it In mind as an 'Interesting solution' for possible use at a later date?

to per-

a nd dtdslons u well as our

Le Corbusier's sketchbooks ,,


'le Corbusier, in collaboration with many others, particularly Pierre Jeanneret. was altogether responsible for the foUowing:

'152 archite<'tura l projects, 72 of whlth were executed

24 urban plans 419 paintings 43 sculptures

43 writings and books

gobelin tapestri es, wall paintings. graph ic

wotl<, and of course furniture.•• The significance of this dazzling display of labour lies not only in the quantity as such but also in lhe sheer wealth of ideas it con- tains. In the explosion of idus that his investi- gations gave the twentieth cent ury Le Cor· busier is comparable only with Plcuso: le Corbusier the architect is the Picasso of architecture. No other architect has taken the possibilities of the twentieth century and so comprehensively ex:ploited and indeed generated them. It is generally known that le Corbusier always carried a sketchbook around in which he noted down everything that made an impression on him. Thinking in terms of what is customary among arthitects you might compare this

activity with the making of travel sketches -in which case le Corbusier has to have been the eternal traveller. It seems that even in the most impossible situations he would be eagerly gatheri ng material he needed or tho ught he might need some day. It is onl}' by looking at the thousands of sketches in the Fonclation Le Corbusier. often hastily done but quite as often metlc· ulously detaited, that one really gets an idea of a ll the things he saw, Df his enthu· siasm for just about every aspKt of life. forever scanning his surroundings. Often more written than drawn and intertwined with their captions, the speed and the c:ompact form they were set down In suggest a kind of personal s hortha nd. And le Corbusiersaw everything - partlcu· !any the things painters notice and archi- tects tend to overlook: ships, trees, plants. sheUs, bottles, glasses, rocks, forks. hands. cats, do nkeys. birds; and women, sitting. standing, lying. their hands, theirfeet, their breasts.lots of furniture, all manner of objects for everyday use and everywhere the human figure in every imaginable situ- ation. Eviden tly it was subjects from his immedi-

ate environment that comprised his world, a world that made no distinction between Dfficial Dr formal a rc hitectu re such as that of palaces. cathedrals and the like, and an informal architecture of peasant huts, where temporary and transient things loom as large as solid, massive edifices 'built for eternity. Interestingly, the re is no hier- archy among the images le Corbusier col· lected. To him the difference between things were bricks of equal value with which he built his new wortd. a world of new rela· tions hips. If there was one architect who saw his way to giving ex:ceptional shape to the demands ordinarily informing lhe everydAy environment and so reconciling them with the sweep of form that has invariably accompanied great architecture, then le CDrbusierwas that architect. In every period of his work, he considered everyday u~eand everyday experience of the whole and of each or its parts to be quite as spectacular as the form viewed in isolation. The attitude towards his sur- roundings evidenced by his sketchbooks is the same as that permeating everything he ever built. namely an unremitting cap- acity to get into the minds of the people who were to use his buildings, what their

cap- acity to get into the minds of the people who were to use his buildings,


cap- acity to get into the minds of the people who were to use his buildings,
cap- acity to get into the minds of the people who were to use his buildings,
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actions, their eJCperiences would be. lt is this ability to empathize that colours all his work as his and his alone. ACorbusian building is already inhabited at the design drawing stage, a quality that does not dim with the built result. It is j ust this thought-provoking line - from jotting.s of observations by way of design sketches through to the building as built - that makeste Corbusier's work Ideal for studyand consideration. You can see fTom his work the ins and outs of the design process and how an idea is born . The pioneering responses of a typical twen- tieth-century architect like le Corbusier ensue from the fact that the images ab- sorbed everywhere and from every age are not applied lock, stock and biUret but transformed by being confronted with each other, and so stripped of their original meaning that they an! free to accept new ones. And it is the incomparably rich 1ibrary' at hls disposal that is felt in every corner of his wor1c as a positive charge. rather than seen in the literal sense. Thus the wealth of ideas in le Corbusier's a!uvre Issues from the rich library of images he had accumulated for himself. It would of course be folly to conclude that having this wealth of eJCperience is the key to

being a good designer, but it is one of the conditions- no more. but no less either! Although all designers obviously have their

broadly speak-

ing, a certain analogy in the thought process involved. You might imagine it going something like this:

All the images you absorb and record together constitute a collection stored in your memory; a li brary of images. if you like, that you can draw on when confronting a problem. Often these images, memories of things seen earlier, are immediately 'applicable' in the sense that they inspire you. Moreover, there is always the ten - dency to inadvertentiy relate everything you see to what itis that is occupying you at the time. You are continually scanning your surroundings for things that might give you an idea of how to solve your prob- lem ofthe moment. (Thus we see Le Cor- busier often accompanying his sketches with explicit references to ongoing work.) Usually, tho ugh, the images get stored in your 'library'. and have a n indi rect Impact when consulted to help you devel.op an idea. This takes place through association, necessarily with some degree of analogy. Associations. as it happens, are seldom useful in a literal sense but bring you closer

own way of working there is,

to ideas or solutions so that these open your eyes to other possibilities, other para- digms, modes of organization, mechan - isms, and thus widen your horizon. Just as experiencing an unfamiliar cuisine stim- ulates you to new ways of preparing food without actually knowing the recipes, so associations too can encourage you to abandon well-trodden paths, suggesting to you that the answer to your problem might lie in anothe r di rection altogether. The increase here is not In the number of recipes but in your capacity to a rrive at new things, new mechanisms. The more you have been through, seen and absorbed and the richer the experience stored in your 1ibra,Y. the larger your ar- senal of potential indications from which to pick a direction to head in. In short, your frame of reference has widened. (Ttris Is why you can tell immediately from the designs done by first-year students- regardless of their ability to organize. say, a floor plan- whether they had a experien- tia lly rich or poor upbringing simply by toolclng at the forms they use.) Being able to solve a problem along funda - mentally different Unes. in other words to create another mechanism, depends on the richness of one·s experience, much like an

create another mechanism, depends on the richness of one·s experience, much like an MIWUL JPACI AKD
create another mechanism, depends on the richness of one·s experience, much like an MIWUL JPACI AKD

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create another mechanism, depends on the richness of one·s experience, much like an MIWUL JPACI AKD
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individual's linguistic powers of expression

can ext~nd no fu rt h er

allows. Nor should we forget that t he one

th a n his vocabu!Jry

person can get more out of a given ma-

terial than th~ o t her. The forms we hive stored in our memory consciously or unconsciously thrust them- selves upon us as we design. In fact it is very much the questio n whether the re Is anything at all you can think of that does not derive from the accumulation of images in your mind. Could your output possibly be more thM what you take in? Knowing many recipes d~s not ma ke you a cook, althOIJgh you would certainly have to be f•miliar with them, deviate from them, so as to arrive at culinary creations of your own. A new idea can only be born out of dis- mantling a previous one. Deiigning, des pite all ideas. met hods, processes, techniques and theories, is like watching aircraft take off: however atten- tive you are a nd however probing your aoalysis, to actually ta ke off yourself is another matter entirely. And s hould it be so that your design facui· ties ind~d sharpen as your collection of images increases. and that your abilities are indirectly determined by the we.Jith of experiences you have managed to harvest -

above all e lse Is to use and at least be recepti ve

then what ma tters your eyes a nd ears in every situation

and ask yourself if


situation might not have something in it for you. In prindple your material is everywhere, on the street, in the room, at all times.

Being an architect is more than a profession, it is, before anything else, an 4ttitude towards your surroundings! It is crucially imporhnt, then. that you really are affected by what you see and hear. Being receptive to inftuences is something you can team up to a point. Whethe r or not something truly ma kes an impression on you is con tingent on ea rlier experiences, the circumstances in which you had them and the anociations for you. (Travelling through Morocco the music you heard everywhere had not t he slig htest effect on

you; much later,

suddenly p"yed the same type of music, then it did malce an impression and all the imagery of that particular journey flooded back. Clearly the music struck home because it brought back positive memories.) So although we have no contro l over when we wi ll be moved, and bY what, we can at least exe rcise our eyes by acq uiring the habit of recording thi"gs on paper. Each of us should be capable of evolving a personal way of formulating things, so as to be able to retain "for personal use only' all t hose snat(hes of whJt we hear and see. and of what goes through our minds during con· versations a nd reflections.

at home,

whe n the radio

While on the subject. it see ms dear t hat of all the means of recording besides writing, drawing ultimat ely is the most appropriate

and, for our purpose at least. infi nitely more effective than, say, taking photographs whkh we all do at times. In many instances photos are undeniably a mo re a ppropriate means to convince others, in t hat the presented situation appears to be more 'objective' a nd there- fore more plausible. With drawings, there

is always t he danger that

artistic pretensions will o~ershadow t he

information that is to be conveyed. However. the benefits for yourself of draw- ing are that by looking at. things wi t h

the inevitable

gr e a t er precision, and above aU bY


ing more selective in what you consider important. your ac.uity in recording will increase. Drawing etches the images into your memory.'

• Even tod.ty Le Corbusler Is still t he grute st purveyor of

Ideas, concepts and images which, st ored In Ills schemH , are stfll being adopted by the Latest gene rations of architects, whtt htr consd ously or unconsd ously. So what he hi mself accumulated from tile put gets Im pe rceptibly p1ssed on as Inspiration and converted i nto fu el for modernity. A great many, mainly yo ung erdrltects su little in the pa st with Its forms, materia ls an d wo rkl 119 methods wlric h t hey regard u no lo nger applicable beuuse thes~ !Miong to a nother brief, with other Labour relations a nd for other sod1l contexts. Might knowledge of put forms guided by nostalgia not encourage an edectidsm of old stylistic traits?

Ye t tile oc~slons w h e n lA Co r bu s ler edopted histo ri~ l forms

almost literally, IS In

i11fluences - ane

he borrowed. Of stole If you P«fer, b~came profoundly modern through his l ntAtrventton , such as th e use of coloured glass, admired by alla11 d sundry In Chartres Cath e dra l with· out It occurring t o them that It could be ap plied In a modem setting.

few a nd f1r between. Come to that, everything

tile Ronchamp chapel - caU them direct

Influencing Is i n the main an Indi rect and usually unconsdous

proce ss of tran sfor matio n, but y ou cAn also pe rceive In UICh a way that, looking thro ugh the expnesslon of the form, IS It were, y ou Cin sl ngl.e o ut what of It may be of us e to you. You are then Interpreting what you s~ In a new role that Is appo· site and applica ble to you. Thi s Is how chuacterist ics come

to be selected wi th

a more stylistic manifestations.

Unlike hbtorians, who tend to foreground trai ts that adhere typewise to a particular period, auhltects are more keen on

th ose elements that do

not. Becauu these have not lon th ei r

validity they could weU be of use to us. And we visually extract whit we ~n use, I ndiffere nt to what the orfgfnallntentl ons

universal n lu e than their ori gin a l

may have been, a nd label It ti meless. It is

the timeless that

we seek.

And tt.es e days timeless !Ma ns of a U time .

from a particular time frame ~rtthose wttlla mort gene"! slgnlfl~nct and ever prtstnt In dlfftrent guises, eviden tly becauu they can be traced back to b:ulc human values which persist. If wi th varyi ng e mphasis, In th e way th at differe nt

Ele me nts unhlkhtd




Ut.CI &VI>til l U CIUUCf 4$


languages s hare an underlying gtntrative gr.wmmar. You need history not just to see what happened when and where and how different or uni que 1t was and ff there are breaks In the thinking, but also to establish what It Is that fs unchanging, to recognize the underlying strucbl re of similarities tht we nn merely plete together. like a pot unearthed sh01rd by shard. History keeps unearthing different aspects of an unchanging structure under changing conditions.

'The only available escape from the fundamental limitations of our Imaginative faculty lies In directing our attention more to the eJq~erienceswe all have In common, the collective memo.ry, some of It Innate (!)some of ft transmitted and

acquired, which In o ne way or another must be at tile


of our common experiential world

(W]e assume an under-

lying Mob)ectfve• structure of forms- which we will call arch-forms - a derivative of which Is what we get to see In 1 given situation. 'The wllole Mmusft lmaglnalreHof forms In situations what- ever their tJme and place can be conc~ved of as an infinite variety out of which people help themselves, In constantly changing nrlety, to forms whlcb i n the end refer back to the fundamentally unchangeable and underlying reservoir of arch -forms• ••• By referring each one back to its fund a men·

tally uncha ngea ble Ingredients, we then try to discover what the Images have In common, and fin d thus the •cross section of the collKtio n ~. the u nchangea ble , underlying element of all t he examples. which In Its ptu,.llty can be an evocative form-starting-point. 'The rfdler our collection of Images, the more precise we can

be In lnctfcating the most plu ral and

1nd the more objective our solution becomes, In the sense thlt it will hold a meaning for, a nd be given a meaning by, a greater variety of people. 'We cannot make anything new, but only reevaluate already uisting Images, In order to make them more suitable for our circ um sta nces. What we need to draw on Is the great MMusie lmaginalre• of Images wherein the process of change of sig- nification Is ctfsplayed as an effort of human Imagination, always finding a way to break through the esta blished order. so 11 to find 1 more a ppropriate solution for (the] sltntion. 'It fs only when we view things from the perspective of the enormous collage, that, with the afd of analogies, we can ruolve the unknown ind. by a process of extnpolation ~rrlve at solutio11s which can Improve the drcumstanns. ' Design cannot do oth e r tllan conve rt the underlying and the Idea of ever being able to start off with a clean slate Is absurd, and moreover, disastrous when, under the pretext of Its b~ng necessary to start completely from the beginning, what already exists Is destroyed so that the naked space can be filled up with Impracticable a nd sterile The various signification s of everything that has taken place, and Is still taking place now, are like old layers of paint lying one on top of a nother, and they form for us, In their entirety, the undercoat on which a new layer can be placed; a new slg· nlflcatlon whldl will slightly alter the whole thing.

most evocative solution,


'This transformation process, whereby the outmoded signifi- cations fade i nto the background, and new ones are added, must be ever-present In our worldng methods. Dnty by s uch a dialectical process. will there be a continual thread between pastand future, and the maintenance of historical continuity."

In the above quote dating from 1973 the emphasis Is mainly