It presumes much, however, about the extent of knowledge concerning semiotics from its readers. It is a sustained argument in several phases--citing Ernst Cassirer, Le Corbusier, Jakob Johann von Uexkull, Siegfried Giedion Joseph Rykwert, Merleau-Ponty and others--and at once maintains a fluidity of discourse and relentless brutality of presentation and refutation.
I gave it one star less than perfect because, like all publications from MIT Press and Routeledge it is a very abbreviated account of something that should be longer, often combining words that are difficult in themselves with a syntax that demands their lucidity. I like pentasyllabic words and erstwhile prefixes, but sometimes enough is enough. But it is not as bad as Deleuze and Guattari.
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Amazon Rapids Fun stories for kids on the go. Amazon Restaurants Food delivery from local restaurants. ComiXology Thousands of Digital Comics. East Dane Designer Men's Fashion. In fact, it is exactly the same as the differentiation of the modern from the past that Perrault himself hoped to establish, though of course with the opposite intent of demonstrating the superiority of the scientific modernity of late seventeenth-century Paris to the ancient tradition.
Additionally, the phenomenologist attempts to resolve a perceived imbalance between dueling pairs—the formal and the perceptual, the subjective and the objective, the rational and the poetic. Such oppositions belong to distinctively modernist organizations of thought, traceable back to Kant and Hume. Instead, they naturalize the modernist myth of autonomous technology and ever increasing instrumentalism and rationalism. Either this underestimates the complexity of our world and the nature of humanity, or else, as Langdon Winner quipped long ago, human nature is so weak that it was not really worth saving.
More damagingly this sort of criticism anthropomorphizes technology even as they describe it as de-humanizing. The problem with technology is that it has come to be, or at least seen to be, far too alive, too like humans, not that it is dehumanizing. Finally, while they mourn the triumph of such instrumental realism over the poetics of Being, their account of the body and modernity simply inverts what they see as the modern value system, claiming that it is science that is false and what is real is the domain of subject.
In short, they look forward to the ending of the modernist end of architecture, but their arguments are committed to an eternal circling around modern forms of knowledge they condemn. Even in style, their general portrayal of modern architecture and modernity are so extraordinarily reductionist and determinist, while their claims for the past are so grandly nostalgic and romantic, that their depictions have a distinctly heroic modernist flavor.
This means of course, that they find plenty of what apparently was lost when they turn their attention to more recent works. In turn, we must question not only the grounds upon which they define modernity as a break with the Western tradition of the body, but also the usefulness of this tradition itself and its historical armature. The crisis of modern science, its erosion of a meaningful figurative architecture, is a phantasmagoria for those who take pleasure living in the tomb of Architecture they construct.
At the same time as the phenomenological position was developed, poststructuralism, deconstruction, critical theory and psychoanalysis began to be mined by designers and theorists. However, since the late s, their texts and projects have attempted to open the possibility of a post-humanist architecture. As a result, their projects and texts are filled with references to alternative models of corporeality, such as blobs, rhizomes, cyborgs, mutants and prosthetic supplements. Just as architectural phenomenology developed through specific networks of actors and institutions that mobilized both architectural and extra-disciplinary sources, the post-structuralist position precipitated around academic institutions especially those of the American North-East and sought to open architectural thought to new and more critical constellations of thought.
These were often combined with references to scientific discourses, such as chaos theory, complexity theory, embryology, genetic engineering and most recently ecology and emergence, since these seem to offer alternative metaphysics and metaphors of the relationship between the culture, the subject, the body and nature. Michael Hays, Eisenman, and Diana Agrest. Folding in Architecture , and many others. For example, the ANY project headed by Cynthia Davidson, consisted of a series of annual symposia, a thematically oriented journal, and related book projects, all of which helped to coalesce a network of architects, theorists, educators and by extension pedagogical programs.
Many of these journals are now defunct—indeed ANY was conceived with a built-in expiry date. But through them, post-structuralist theory, new scientific paradigms and computer-aided design were annealed into a formation that continues to proliferate within schools and increasingly influences the design that emerge from professional practices. Yet, in spite of all these differences I will demonstrate how both operate within the same field of reference to the Vitruvian Figure and the tradition of architectural humanism for which it stands.
Again, these examinations are not meant to be exhaustive or exclusive, but rather serve as case studies that evidence a pattern of argument repeated many times over in texts of other writers, in academic reviews, and between the lines. She traces this authorization to Vitruvius, quoting his famous equation: Nature has designed the human body so that its members are duly proportioned to the frame as a whole… we can have nothing but respect for those who, in constructing temples of the immortal gods, have so arranged the members of the works that both separate parts and the whole design may harmonize in their proportions and symmetry.
The Vitruvian body was therefore circumscribed into ideal natural order and the hierarchies of architecture become authoritative. Greg Lynn offers a similar characterization by ascribing to the Vitruvian system a set of formal principles derived from an understanding of the body as whole, ideal, static and organic. These values, he argues, have governed architecture since the Renaissance. He also reasserts that Vitruvius defined a canonical body metaphor. Despite their differences, both the phenomenologists and the poststructuralists accept that the Vitruvian body defined the classical tradition, which in turn determined subsequent architectures through certain geometries and organizational principles.
Like the phenomenologists, for Agrest and Lynn, this metaphor was the core of a classical architectural language—its grammar, as it were. Principles such as organic wholeness, harmony, proportion, verticality, symmetry and eurhythmy, structured this system. Nevertheless, while both treat the Vitruvian system as the origin of an architectural tradition, divergences appear between the phenomenologists and the post-structuralists.
Most obviously, their use of terms suggests different conceptions as to the status of this humanism. For them, the metaphorical presence of the body is something precious, to be preserved wherever possible and recovered when lost. By contrast, Agrest focuses on what and who is necessarily excluded from this Vitruvian system. She is centrally concerned with the representation, or rather the lack of representation, of women in this humanist system: Moreover, rather than revealing a metaphysical truth, it serves to naturalize cultural and historical values as truthful and conceal violence done by them.
Nevertheless, it is governed by a conception of metaphorical signification and representation via formal systems of order in which the body, architecture and the subject constitute a closed loop of reference. Agrest suggests that issues of sexuality and gender had been rather neglected in architecture. This third repression completes the displacement of the feminine with her erasure at the metaphysical or poetic level. Nevertheless, certain geometries and poses have been associated with certain genders.
In all these examples, first the feminine sexuality , woman sex , and female gender are repressed by a masculine model; then, because this phallocentric ideology is presented as neutral, matters of gender, sex and sexuality are marginalized as such. This, it is suggested, has been a continuous condition from Vitruvius through Modernism. These repressions have continued at a subconscious level, only uncovered by the critical theorist or historian through textual hermeneutics and deconstruction. Thus, Agrest suggests alternative architectural geometries, drawing upon different models of the body that might open architecture to other forms of subjectivity.
They do not seek direct geometrical or organizational models, but cultural signification and subjective identification. In their work, the matter of the body, its Flesh as they entitled their monograph, has been a primary site of investigation of the relationship between a subject and the contemporary conditions of space. The gendered body and the critique of the phallocentric body as a model is central.
For example, in Bad Press: The mis-ironing of shirts thus calls into question this masculine body model and reveals the unconscious gendering of architecture. In the Para-site, installation at the Museum of Modern Art, live-video feeds of other locations in the museum are displayed on a series of monitors, hung on architectural armatures that parasitically attach to the neutral white box of the gallery space.
By re-orienting the monitors and locating them in relationship to indexes of the body—domestic furniture—the exhibit challenges the neutrality of the body, concepts of embodied orientation, as well as the relationship between telepresence and physical space.
The primary material of this pavilion for the Swiss Expo is, according to the architects, water. A manufactured fog envelops a lightweight structural space-frame that provides platforms for occupation. The result is at once an intensification of embodiment and disorientation of geometric orientation, both for the architecture and of the experience of its occupant. The architects planned for a smart raincoat to be programmed according to a questionnaire; this prosthetic would compensate for the physical disorientation by augmenting the senses with informational indicators.
What lies hidden within this interior? It is worth examining this because it bears directly on how he and Agrest believe architecture signifies subjectivity and how one might propose different ideologies and power structures. Proportional orders impose the global order of the whole on the particular parts. This whole architectural concept ignores the intricate local behaviors of matter and their contribution to the compositions of bodies. In these projects, Eisenman argued he was exploring the relationship between post-structuralism and architecture. While Eisenman based his research on linguistic and textural references within poststructuralism, Lynn seized upon the scientific allusions and materialism within the writings of Deleuze and Guattari.
Such digitally-based research has since proliferated across the globe and continues today within many schools as computationally-based design attempts to develop new processes of fabrication, genetic algorithms and design ecologies. The best example is his juxtaposition of two apparently similar lines presented as the frontispiece to this chapter. While these two lines appear alike, their geometries refer to very different understandings of the relationship between form, matter and forces. If any part of the line is changed, all the others have to be recalculated and redrawn separately to be re-integrated into the line.
The second curve is defined by a spline geometry based on the flow of forces through the curve; this force is regulated by the position of the triangular handles. Such topological geometries are integral to the animation and surface modeling software and any change along the curve is recalculated along the length of the curve as a renegotiation of forces. The former, Lynn argues, presents a hylemorphic and humanist world view that sees matter as at once objective and inherently static, and which must have ideal and subjective geometries in the universal Kantian sense of subjective imposed upon it to give it form.
The second curve maps forces, forms and matter as an intrinsically dynamic and interrelated field, in which subjects and objects negotiate and unfold each other diagrammatically. Such geometries do not operate according to mimesis of a fixed model, but through animations and dynamic modeling based on differentiation, multiplicity, continuous variation and transformation.
These geometries, Lynn argues, can contain and express difference in a way eidetic geometries cannot. Moreover, both groups define modern architecture as a break with this Vitruvian body. However, neither associate this break with the advent of an overtly modernist style of architecture.
As we saw in the last chapter, the phenomenologists located this break in the late eighteenth century; for the post-structuralists, this break has yet to occur. In fact, they understand the modernist architectures of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries as merely extensions of classical humanism. The apparent abstraction and functionalism of Modernism were merely new guises of the classical value system of architecture. In discussing gender, for example, Agrest argues that the Vitruvian tradition extends into modernity and continues to inscribe its phallocentrism into architectural geometry, form and space.
In Les mots et les choses translated as The Order of Things , Foucault develops this concept as a finite configuration of representations, concepts, words and things that determine the conditions of any specific knowledge or practice of that time. Importantly, an episteme is defined as much by the differences that can occur within patterns of statements as any coherence and without reference to some external identity, model, essence or spirit.
It is through the concept of the episteme that Foucault provided an alternative to the conventional history of ideas privileged by rationalization and progress. For example, he argues that the division between classical architecture and truly modern architecture cannot be defined stylistically but is to be located in the disruption of a deeper structure of signification. He also shares their understanding of Renaissance architecture as referring to religious value, while suggesting that Enlightenment architecture privileged rational and positivistic knowledge.
He argues that Durand conserved the fiction that architecture represents and that what it represents is a truth that lies outside architecture. As I have shown, the phenomenologists argue that the body metaphor defines architecture as such. The metrification of the architecture was not a rationalization at the hands of a science divorced from the world of myth but rather a technique to produce an architecture that would even more truthfully represent the timeless as construed in seventeenth-century France.
This Eisenmanian Perrault would not mark a break with the classical but merely the adoption of scientific rhetoric in order to conserve the classical system. It is important to recall that the body was itself understood through functionalist frameworks as a machine; the house as a machine for living therefore was also like the body as machine. Yet, something did alter with modernity in that we became aware of the fictional status of these classical values as fictions.
Modernism maintained the conditions of classical architecture but no longer enjoyed its authority. As the world of humanism and its God became a fable, its structures remained as empty husks. If so, modernist architecture not only continued the Vitruvian tradition, it continued it as a simulation. From this point of view, the phenomenologists fail to interrogate how perception itself is shaped or how some perceptions become more important than others.
Two paradoxical conditions arise in this network of arguments. Because no general alternative model of architecture can be posited directly without unwittingly maintaining the classical model, what is required is the deconstruction and trans-valuation of models themselves. As the reductive nature of humanist metaphysics becomes apparent, it immediately begins to lose its authority, that is, the memory of its presence is experienced as absence what is misconstrued as the experience of alienation. The ability to perceive humanism as limited suggests that its space no longer encloses knowledge.
For writers who constantly bemoan alienation, the poststructuralist pursuit of accomplished nihilism may be their only hope. Nor can the post-structuralists project a different architectural model or suggest that we progress beyond the classical without collapsing their discourse back into the fictions of the classical in this case, that of progress.
As a side-effect, their architecture must continually defer to modernist that is, the not-yet-modern but really classical architecture as simulacra that, paradoxically, operate as origins for their thought of a not-classical architecture. To do so, he attempted to draw out the organizing principles of their architecture in abstract diagrams related to the spatial and formal effects experienced by the subject of the architecture. As I have shown, they argue architecture has been operating as a continuity of humanism since the fifteenth century.
Yet, such a claim relies upon the anachronistic premises of a unity of a singular tradition, an antithetical modernity, and a constant invocation of the Zeitgeist. Whatever its merits might be, the text fails to provide such an archaeology. Eisenman bases this argument on the apparent resemblance between Renaissance architecture and ancient architectures.
The system of ancient classical architecture is not necessarily the same as for the Renaissance simply because they use similar words or forms; their meaning and function are subject to extreme difference. For example, a Doric column in the Greek temple is a fully formed object and a component of another volumetric whole; for the Renaissance it is a dependent component of a planar wall system.
One should not assume that Renaissance architecture represented a past architecture simply because it redeployed its overt signs, but more to the point, such repetition is insignificant since signs are mobile and transformable rather than fixed marks of continuity. It is the construction of the classical architecture within and through the work and writings of Renaissance architects that remains to be described, not their repetition of a classical architecture as an already defined and fixed site of history. Rather, it would need to be determined how this recovery was a transformation within the discourses about building, design and its practices and knowledge e.
One could not assume that there is a continuous discipline of architecture that coheres to an essential identity. Instead, one would map the transforming constellations of practices and formations of knowledge. Rather than privilege the apparent similarity of certain Renaissance forms to Roman or Greek orders, one would ask what it was that allowed these objects to reappear in the way that they did.
Similarly, rather than detect in Modernist architecture a continuation of classical order and define truly modern architecture as a break with this order, one would begin to ask how this apparent continuity became possible and the role it played in constructing a modern discipline of architecture.
The history of architecture would be a discontinuous charting of difference rather than a tracing of a continuity given by an original model of Vitruvius. In so far as Eisenman accepts that the attempt to move beyond classicism is itself classical in its modernist variant , he not only is bound to an indefinitely prolonged ending but, like so many of post-modernists, elevates this break to a new form of completion of a Vitruvian origin.
He criticizes their metaphysics as dominant narratives but is happy to re-inscribe them as the origin of his historical significance. Thus, while on the surface of his rhetoric, Eisenman continues to operate within a Hegelian structure and conception of history. Greg Lynn also perpetuated this covert total history. Is Lynn being ironic, drawing a parallel between the idea of a whole history and wholeness in form, implying that the two go hand in hand, that the prejudice for wholes also makes architectural history seem more unified than in fact it is?
Even if this is the case, this is to conflate two different registers between appearances of truth and historical processes of formation. She does not, however, seem to ponder the possibility of concepts of gender actually changing from the fifteenth century to now, let alone deal with the non-binary constructs of gender such as existed in ancient Athens. Ironically, by their own arguments, neither Agrest, Lynn nor Eisenman can occupy a neo-avant-garde position.
They can only surf the wake of the classical, playing out the prolonged end game of its unconcealment as a fiction. A post-humanist architecture lay stranded in a near future perpetually delayed. If the phenomenologists ultimately offer moralism, the post-structuralists are bound to a negative theology. Moreover, by rehearsing a dialectic of tradition and modernity, poststructuralists de-historicize the formation of this dialectic and the objects made available through its discourse. They wish, for example, to displace the values of the timeless and the whole, but their attempts to do so rely upon a historical narrative dependent upon exactly these values.
It is bizarre to premise a shift towards a non-humanist architecture by maintaining—and reinforcing—a humanist historiography and the identities of architecture it has provided, both in terms of the nature of its objects of discourse and the discipline itself. This does not mean that architecture remains deeply humanist but that it may remain within the same space of knowledge that created this representation of its past and present.
This suggests re-examining the discourses surrounding the body and ordering that existed within modern architecture as a post-humanist archeology of the present. But this habit is itself modern, because it remains asymmetrical. Instead, here I want to examine how it operates as a historical object through which current discourse is constructed. What I will try to indicate is that, whatever else the Modulor may be or might have been, it has played an oddly useful role within recent discourses of the body in architecture. Even as architecture seeks to overcome humanism, the once rather forgotten Modulor returns as a specter of unfinished business.
It is unfinished in two senses: Like the phantom, the Modulor gains its power and importance not from an internal fortitude but as a shadow of the past. He completed the book, Le Modulor, in and published it in , followed by a sequel, Modulor 2 in Through these texts Le Corbusier developed and disseminated his claim that the forms of the human body can be inscribed within the geometries given by the Golden Section ratio and Fibonacci series.
The claim was that this constituted a proportioning system based on the human body. Beyond this simple account, any attempt to explain the Modulor is frustrated by the nature of the texts that described it. While the books were designed using the Modulor, and might be thought of as the first products of the system, the content shows little concern for systematic organization.
Hastily edited, Le Modulor and Modulor 2 were montages of tales of origin, and polemics about the future. These disjointed narratives were accompanied by parallel streams of diagrams, sketches, captioned and uncaptioned photographs, found objects, mathematical formulae and tables of numbers. The tone ranges from megalomaniacal to false modesty. The texts resist rigorous interpretation or deconstruction because their arguments disintegrate before the reader. Because of this, they can be interpreted to support almost any reading that one cares to project.
The first edition sold out quickly and was translated into English in , though by that time it was already widely discussed within Anglo-American architectural discourse. Soon, Le Modulor was translated into Spanish and was published in South America; shortly thereafter German and Japanese editions ensured it became a worldwide phenomenon.
Its successes spawned symposia, numerous articles, lectures, imitators and competitors. The British Library contains dozens of similar measuring systems created in the s, many citing the Modulor as their chief precedent. In addition, Le Corbusier collected a considerable amount of material for a never published third volume under the working title, Modulor III. Frequently reprinted, the texts continue to sell and be used. On its fiftieth anniversary, a newly boxed edition of both volumes was published at half-scale, accentuating the sense of the Modulor as a precious curio.
In Modulor 2, another apparently staged photograph depicted Le Corbusier at the site of what would become the city of Chandigarh, which he claimed was organized by the Modulor. In the photo, the architect examines his plans while a cut-out of the Modulor Man stands in the background as if it is an assistant surveying the land. This figure is positioned in the photo such that it appears to extend off the edge of the plan and into the landscape, literally mediating the border between the drawing and the constructed experience. Even at the end of the twentieth century, visitors to Villa La Roche—now a museum adjacent to the archive and administration center Foundation Le Corbusier—were still greeted by a Modulor Man printed on their entrance ticket, as if the Modulor was the currency used inside a parallel Corbusian universe.
Once inside, architectural tourists can purchase a mass-produced replica of the Modulor tape measure modeled after one made for use in his atelier by his assistant, Soltan. It is interesting to note the degree to which it was written out of theories and histories of modern architecture. Yet, throughout his many examples, Slutzky never mentioned Modulor, even in a footnote. Moreover, the article appeared in a special double issue of Oppositions devoted to Le Corbusier in which the Modulor was not mentioned.
Graves used ad hoc references to traditional building components—such as wainscot, soffit, and cornice—rather than an abstract ordering principle derived from the measures of the body. It became a marginal object of architectural history in every sense: It simply faded, having been effectively written out of the active corpus of architectural knowledge. Now it is difficult to mention anthropomorphism, architecture and modernism without citing the Modulor as a prime example.
What is important is not the depth or breadth of writing about the Modulor—there remain only a few articles that treat it in a sustained fashion and no books. It continues to be seen as a historical footnote, but this position has become mobilized for a variety of purposes. At the end of The Dancing Column, Rykwert argued for the need to reinstate a metaphorical relationship between the building, the body and the world: It was perhaps the most convincing attempt to set out a mimetic teaching and it is at least partially successful… [It] has so far been an isolated instance of a techne formulated for current conditions.
Here a common interpretation of the Modulor as belonging to an early twentieth-century abstraction and systemization combines with an equally common reading that it was an irrational personal myth. Throwing off rationalism in favor of the primacy of perception, the Modulor attempted to tame modern technology for the embodied subject. For example, at one point, Le Corbusier differentiates the Modulor from the Vitruvian Figure because his system organizes things in accordance with an embodied subjective perception.
Le Corbusier sought to hear the speaking in figures of Greek architecture echoing across millennia and restate it within twentieth-century parlance. If, as they argue, modernity really sundered so completely the body-building metaphor that it killed the tradition of architecture, how does one explain the sudden appearance of the Modulor let alone the widespread re-emergence of the human figure as a model of order in the s? Second, in so far as they define modernity as a break with the body metaphor, the Modulor must be non- or even anti-modern.
The Modulor is anachronistic because in attempting to re-establish this relationship it contradicts the definition of modern architecture. Instead, they align the Modulor with a former historical organization of subjects and objects, knowledge and artifacts. In a profound sense, the Modulor never has its moment within history. Instead, it marks a double loss since its attempted recovery of the body metaphor remains tragically unfinished or failed. The presentation of the Modulor as anachronistic and idiosyncratic allows the phenomenologists to champion it and in doing so conserves and actually reinforces their homogenous portrayal of modernity.
Had it been adopted, as Le Corbusier dreamt as a universal measure, or rather, if the possibility ever had existed that it could have somehow overturned the pervasive instrumental realism they claim permeate modern existence, the phenomenologist account of modernity would cease to be possible.
Perversely, they champion the Modulor but need it to exist only ever as a failure, for the heroic Modernist architect to stumble, and indeed require that his attempt be abject in order to maintain their account of architectural history. In fact, numerous attempts to reformulate the relation between the body and architecture in a supposedly non-Classical, non-anthropomorphic, non-humanist form dig up the Modulor from its historical grave and present it as the modern heir to Vitruvius.
The relationship between the body and architecture was for the most part neglected. As before, the Modulor is difficult to account for within this history of classical continuity and modern rupture except as the exception to prove a historiographic presumption.
Vitruvian Man, the Golden Section, and Modulor Man were formerly proposed as idealized icons of the anthropomorphic relationship of the body to architecture. Because they argue that modernist architecture continued the Vitruvian tradition, the Modulor has become the very icon of this continuity. The Modulor refers to a modernism that is not so modern, as a final attempt to shore up a decayed body of classical architectural knowledge. As such, it marks the beginning of the end of this continuity of an architectural humanism. The last in a historical succession, the Modulor takes its place at the end of a classical lineage, not simply as the heir of Vitruvius but as the last, decrepit descendant in its genealogy of humanism.
For this very reason the Modulor now appears in architectural discourse far more frequently than it has since the s, especially in attempts to formulate a post-humanist architecture because it seems to reveal a modernism unable to break with a classical tradition. Nevertheless, as with the phenomenologists, the revision of the Modulor has a paradoxical effect.
The whole, ideal, masculine, anthropomorphic, harmonic, symmetric, representational, static body of the Modulor-as-modernist-Vitruvian-Figure effectively defines the grounds upon which a different supposedly truly modern formulation of the body can occur through multiplicity, monstrosity, feminist iconology fragmentation, asymmetry and operativity. Now, the Modulor appears more significant and dominant than it should because it marks the boundary for an order that might replace it.
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However, I wish to question the grounds upon which such a judgment becomes possible. This does not concern the Modulor itself but what its interpretation as a modern Vitruvian Figure reveals about the nature of the history in which this repetition can occur. As I argued in the last chapters, both define a break between traditional and modern architecture not in terms of style but according to the system of reference in which architecture participates.
Like phenomenologists, post-structuralists treat classical humanist architecture as a linguistic system that operated through bodily tropes. They both think that the Modulor is isomorphic to that humanist language of signs and referents. They both accept that the Modulor is anthropomorphic and that this anthropomorphism represents an anthropocentrism derived from Renaissance or ancient cosmology.
In all these accounts, the Modulor appears as an anachronism. I mean anachronism in the fullest sense: I also mean it in the most literal sense of the original Greek, as something that is against ana- time khronos. The Modulor, as we have seen, does not fit easily into representations of modernity as a break with a classical humanist tradition or as its continuation. Yet, this depiction is complicated by the fact that this particular residue, as such, also plays a constructive role in the discourses of recent architecture.
Indeed, as we have seen, it was only with the dissemination of post-structuralism and phenomenology in architecture since the mids that the Modulor appeared as a notable—and problematic—object of discourse. Their understandings of the Vitruvian tradition and the Modulor as an anachronistic version of that tradition in modernity depend on this continuity and the role of the classical as a model. The latter is defined as a break, a simulation, a rupture or as alienation; in other words, a lack in regards to the continuation of the classical as model.
Moreover, the normative model of the classical absorbs any transformation that might have occurred, as the classical is re-inscribed in absentia as the basis for modern architecture. Given this characterization, one sees how these theories exhibit an anxiety about the supposed failure of modernism; indeed, defined as a negation, modern architecture necessarily fails and can only be in perpetual crisis. In so far as contemporary architecture seeks to move beyond anthropomorphism and humanism, or as others seek to recover such concepts and schemas, these figures provide the yardstick—or the Modulor tape—by which we measure our distance from both tradition and modernity.
Perhaps it seems perverse to suggest that the Modulor—by usual accounts a relatively unimportant interval in the history of Modernism—is crucial to problems of post-modernity and to formulating a non-humanist architectural theory. In histories that privilege continuity and tradition, even if the tradition of the modern is defined as continual change, such an anachronistic object must be explained away, re-integrated into the narrative, or marginalized as an error.
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Taking its anachronism not as a given, but asking on what terms it appears as such, I propose to employ the Modulor as a crack in historical representations that privilege continuity and simultaneity at all costs. A productive anachronism like the Modulor cannot be understood as something intrinsic to an object which can be empirically located within a succession of pasts, presents and future objects but as a complex figure in the construction of that narrative.
Accounting for its operations requires suspending many of the conventional assumptions that its presentation as an anachronism serves to conserve. Rather than interpret the Modulor as a modernist version of the Vitruvian Figure and an attempt to recover the values of a Renaissance or classical tradition, we should ask how such identifications were formed and what work they perform. Mapping the anachronistic time-frame within which the Modulor exists unfolds the possibility of reformulating the historicity of modern architecture as something besides a break.
It suggests a rather different account of modernity and the so-called Vitruvian tradition is required, one that begins to question the conventional accounts based on a dialectic of a lost tradition and modern rupture whether or not it has occurred already or awaits our discovery. Therefore, the following chapters will attempt to describe this identification as an object of modern architectural discourse that articulated an explicitly modern set of problems.
Considering himself chiefly a scholar of the Baroque, Wittkower presented this text on Renaissance architecture as a diversion from his main body of work; the volume reworked three essays already published in the The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes during the previous decade. This understanding also helped to construct the Modulor as heir to this tradition. Through this link, Wittkower sought to analyze architectural design both to embed it within its culture and as something that reveals this context.
Wittkower paid special attention to the preference given to developing schemes for centralized churches, which was at odds with the program of the Catholic liturgy which required a large space for an audience all located behind a central altar and a secondary lectern, typically solved by the traditional basilica type.
For example, Wittkower argued that Alberti claimed that: In such centralized plans the geometrical pattern will appear absolute, immutable, static and entirely lucid. The Vitruvian Figure was the link between Neo-Platonist cosmology and architectural forms. Signs did not represent or symbolize in the sense of Husserlian signifier nor as metaphors; instead, all true resemblances were understood as real relations. There resemblances were made evident via signatures: The system of signatures reverses the relation of the visible to the invisible.
Among the terms for such relations were conjunctio, similitudo, concertus, amicita and proportio. Then it provided a signature, proportion, through which this could be replicated. It is vital to note how different this is from the modern phenomenological explanation. The order was not to be perceived by an autonomous subject so much as it placed the subject within an order of divine resemblance that instantiated itself through signatures.
It did not matter if such orders were perceptible to the occupant nor ultimately to produce pleasing results for the eye, though that might also be a result. The first edition of Architectural Principles of six hundred copies was intended for Renaissance scholars, although Wittkower thought a few architects might also be interested.
No other book on the subject of architectural history written by scholars of his generation had such a creative effect on men in practice. At the time of their publication, both Architectural Principles and Le Modulor were conjoined twins, one looking back, the other forward. It is seldom that chance timing in the publication of two books has been so fortunate as in the case of Dr. While the historian claimed discomfort with his new-found celebrity among the star architects of the day, he often emerged from the dim stacks of the Warburg Institute to share their spotlight.
Le Corbusier is thus in line of descent from Vitruvius and the Renaissance. This dialogue between Le Corbusier and Wittkower continued throughout the s and into the early s through lectures, articles and revised editions of their respective texts. By the early s this fortuitous alignment seemed to have shifted.
Some have attributed this to the rise of historical post-modernism; others, such as Peter Smithson, argued that architects in the late s were looking for something to believe in and having found it with the writings of Wittkower and Le Corbusier soon moved beyond their mid-century crisis of faith. Subsequent scholarship of both texts has been similarly sparse, at least in the terms of scholarship that affected design discourse. Le Modulor escapes because it is seen as an unimportant error about which there is little that needs to be said; Architectural Principles because it has remained too definitive for architects, its arguments so accepted, repeated and naturalized that its arguments have become part of the tacit knowledge of architectural practice, its claims taken for truths.
If the Modulor has become a lacuna because of its apparent anachronism and failure, Architectural Principles has become another blind spot because of its overwhelming success. This is even evidenced by the discourses of proportion within art and architectural historical scholarship of the time. Neither attitude is surprising. Nevertheless it is not unrewarding for the art historian. Panofsky speaks of proportion as interesting only to historians because such systems had themselves become historical objects.
He begs indulgence, promising that patience will be rewarded with a profound, but expert insight for the specialist, the connoisseur, or the dilettante. Of course, Wittkower had added this observation after the phenomenal early success of Architectural Principles. By , proportion was no longer an esoteric subject and Architectural Principles was key in this restoration. The interest in proportion was particularly intense in Britain, where it was linked to the rebuilding of cities.
Here proportion became a tool for mass-produced and prefabricated social housing under an expanded welfare state. On the European continent, intense interest in an exhibit on proportion at the Ninth Milan Trienniale led to the organization of a special three-day symposium in late September upon that topic. At the end of the long weekend, a standing committee was established with Le Corbusier elected as its president.
Harmony of the Machine Age, to have been supervised by Wittkower and to contain sections on history, contemporary issues, architecture and art. Some have seen this marginal result as the demise of the fascination in proportion. These manuals of practice continue to put human proportions front and center. Similarly, much introductory instruction in architectural design continues to repeat lessons on proportioning related to the Golden Section and the body.
Wittkower was usually careful to foreground the historical nature of his analyses and their specificity to a certain time, place and culture. Often in the s, Wittkower would reiterate that the Neo-Platonism of his Renaissance had little to directly offer twentieth-century architects. Rather than reveal an essential continuity that lay behind their forms, what one sees in the article is the creation of an object of architectural knowledge, available to certain types of analysis and representations and dependent upon certain precepts.
This has implications for the objects Rowe analyzed, that is, the buildings of Le Corbusier and Palladio. Courtesy of and copyright by MIT Press. For him, a grid is a grid is a grid, whenever and wherever it may have appeared. The result is that while Rowe might usefully have suggested that the relationship between modernism and classicism is more complicated than the Modernists would have us believe, he, like those we examined in the first chapters, prematurely foreclosed the conditions of differentiation, employing the Classical as the model of resemblance against which deviation is measured.
In detaching a system of relationships from their cultural and historical specificity, Rowe converted them, at least partially, from representations of meanings that lay outside architecture to an autonomous language of architectural order. For others, this syntax of lines, grids and points and grammatical rules of combination now were abstract and relative, and thus became mobile and productive of other architectures. This use of diagrams suggested the generation of an architecture isomorphic to its analytical tools, suggesting new processes of design and pedagogy that allowed the architect to consciously access and manipulate in new architecture the same level of abstract order such diagrams were said to reveal in historical architecture.
The diagram could become the locus of architectural order, even more real, or at least pure, than a built artifact and its inevitable contingencies and compromises. Methods of analysis used by the texts of the critic, historian and theorist had become generative of new objects produced by the designer. The point of such exercises was to instill in the student an understanding of the autonomous syntax of architectural order, rules which were tacitly or explicitly presented not only as fundamental but also timeless that is, classic in the sense of unchanging.
Recent interest in the diagram is part of this genealogy, continuing to locate the diagram as the origin of architectural order, an instrument through which the architect can engage the level of the discipline itself, to operate upon the shared, conventional, and historically accrued language, to chart its rules and limits, and to produce novel results.
The work of each architect was subject to analysis that privileged the diagrammatic representation of plans as a system or order, possible recombinations and, importantly, their effects for the subject of the architecture. The hope was to uncover the principles that governed all architecture. In the House series that followed, Eisenman mobilized such analytical devices as design tools.
Repeating the Rowe and Wittkower three-by-three-by-three grid as the underlying schema, Eisenman subjected the grid to a series of permutations. Beginning in House IX and by the writing of the book on House X, however, Eisenman had begun to use similar techniques to question the limits of this language and its underlying assumptions and ideality. In contrast, Lynn refers to monstrous bodies and evolutionary theory as a counter-ethics based on continuous differentiation rather than resemblances to universal model and the ideal static geometries.
- Architectural Principles in the Age of Cybernetics.
- The Reluctant Vampire!
- Not Another Danger Boy.
- HOW! How the Walrus Got Its Tusks?
These concepts inform his Embryological House as an anti-Ideal Villa. This project was for a series of houses, not only designed through dynamical systems modeling with animation software but to be fabricated via mass-customization technologies CNC milling. Rather than each house being a copy or version of an ideal type, as he argued Wittkower and Rowe did, using such techniques would allow each house to be part of a potentially infinite—and infinitely mutating—series. The consistency within this series is given not by a static set of proportions but by a set of diagrammatically inscribed relationships that can be altered according to program, site, or pure variation.
For Lynn, the potential of this variable multiplicity links architectural geometry to globalization and post-Fordism: There is no ideal or original Embryological House as every instance is perfect in its mutations… This marks a shift from a Modernist mechanical kit-of-parts design and construction technique to a more vital, evolving, biological model of embryological design and construction. Rather than all the instances of the house relating to a transcendent and ideal type in which differences are insignificant, they are produced by differences immanent to processes of forming and manufacturing.
The Vitruvian body as model has been replaced by simulacra, copies without models. In these examples, we see the construction of an architectural body, but also an attempt to transform the body of architectural knowledge through the deployment of diagrams as analytical and generative devices. This diagram might be traced in the built architecture and indeed is described by the architects as the central mechanism of ordering and design, but it is not coincident with constructed forms.
Perhaps more importantly, the techniques used to make these arguments were transferred as tools for design, and thus their understandings of how architecture operated in the past were projected into concepts for the production of new architecture in the present. Instead, as I have described, they operate as central hubs within a larger and heterogeneous network.
This network of actors, institutions, texts, tools and media created a complex field of relationships. These relationships inform the surfaces of emergences of new concepts that extend from the middle of the twentieth century until the present day. Because of their prominence but also because of the dense triangulation made between the objects, tools and modalities of the critic Rowe, the historian Wittkower and the architect Le Corbusier, an incredibly persistent cycle of references emerged.
This loop allowed their objects and arguments appear transparent and matters of facts upon which subsequent arguments could build. Even after these linkages fade in prominence relative to others, their triangulation remains relatively stable and informs the patterns mapped through them. Thus, it is not Vitruvius who provided the model and origin for an ancient architectural tradition, it is not that Le Corbusier recreated this model, but the mid-twentieth-century discourses of proportion that partially configured the often preconscious terrain of contemporary thought.
In approaching this issue we are on the borderline between the human and animal worlds. Rudolf Wittkower presented his arguments in a beguiling expositional style, as if they were simple empirical descriptions rather than the strong theoretical assertions that they are. On the one hand, he presented a history of how systems of knowing had evolved in different cultures and was brought to bear upon a panoply of different issues. Yet the history he unfolded was one where the condition of knowing and of the objects of knowledge themselves become increasingly problematic.
Indeed, the implication of the revolution was that knowledge as such became a problem. Though Cassirer could never have pursued the implications as far as Foucault, he did argue that knowledge became different problems in modernity than they had been in the past. That is to say, the space of modern thought spans an abyss between what appears as a transcendental subject and the world of things, a reality only empirically accessible by that subject. Because the subject was the condition of knowledge, the knowledge of the subject necessarily became the central problem, as seen in the proliferation of fields that studied human nature and subjectivity, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and of course, history.
Yet, because for these fields the subject was at once the empirical object and subject of study, Cassirer found a paradox: No former age was ever in such a favorable position with regard to the sources of our knowledge of human nature. Psychology, ethnology, anthropology, and history have amassed an astoundingly rich and constantly increasing body of facts… We appear, nevertheless, not to have found a method for the mastery and organization of this material… we shall remain lost in a mass of disconnected and disintegrated data which seem to lack all conceptual unity.
The first, bottom-up, approach favored the specificity of objects and discrete fields, and cultures. The other route lay in the potential to develop a philosophical anthropology of cultural forms. While scholarly methods and archeological research since the nineteenth century had unearthed an unprecedented vast archive of material, these materials lacked a synthetic, non-reductive way of understanding these historical objects.
This was problematic for Cassirer, because any specific bit of empirical knowledge or artifact becomes a cipher for something outside it that tautologically enforces prepositions of a superstructure while doing little to illuminate the specificity of that artifact, knowledge or its cultural practice. Exactly at the moment when cultural practices seem to be dealt with at their most concrete, therefore, Cassirer argued that Hegel reverts to a form of metaphysics in which specificity of empirical practices and knowledge is lost since they are simply signs or markers of the development of something that lay outside them.