Building as Body
[Excerpt from a paper in progress]
Filarete (Antonio di Pietro Averlino) took this concept [the connection of the building to body] even further, beyond the classical definition, noting that the body, “…contains cavities, entrances and deep spaces which lead to its proper functioning.” While Vitruvius saw the body as a formal proposition, Filarete sought a spatial and more complex definition of the body analogous to architecture. Vidler’s writings, regarding the post-modern culture and the body in architecture, reflects on this historical definition from the body imposed upon architecture defining form and proportion to the body as a much more complex organism regarding an architectural analogy. He notes that, “Within the context of a consumer-oriented historicism, this aggressive and uncompromising delineation of what we might call the post-humanist body has taken on the allure of the ‘pure and hard’ last stand, a final gesture against the too easily embraced ‘return’, in the form of commercial post-modernism, to the simulacra of classicism.” What this background illustrates is the classical definition of body as form and proportion to the departure from (or the return to the classical definition) a much more complex, and spatial, definition of the body.
While the complexity of the body is examined by Filarete, so is the prevalence for the body to become sick, and even die. Filarete notes that a building, like a body can, “…become sick and die; sometimes it is cured from its illness by a good physician…A number of times it can recover, thanks to a good physician, until its death at it allotted hour. A few are never ill and suddenly die: others are killed by men for some reason or another.” This passage acknowledges the contention between time and architecture regarding the evolved state of the building in time. It concedes that buildings, like human bodies, suffer the consequences of breaking down, falling ill, and – oftentimes – meeting their demise through demolition.
Vidler, A. (1990). The Building in Pain: The Body and Architecture in Post-modern Culture. AA Files.
Thoughts on the Manimal
Maybe this image dates me but I have been intrigued by it since it was included in Ben Van Berkel and Caroline Bos’s publication, Move, in 1999. While they have a different perspective on this creature, a Manimal, it is a work created by Chinese artist Daniel Lee. Using software, Lee was able to combine his art into a single medium.
What I found particularly intriguing about this image, and, hence, its impact on me over decades- and continuing- is the seamlessness of the parts to the whole. This Manimal, in particular, combined the features of a human, snake, and lion. However, it is impossible to delineate the thresholds between them. Instead, the Manimal assumes his own characteristics and personality as the progeny of these creatures, the next generation of evolution.
Imagine the Manimal, not as a human, snake, and lion, but as an architect, computer scientist, material scientist, aerospace engineer, mechanical engineer, chemist, artist, and more. What is the form of their progeny? How introspective, representative, performative, and transformative are they to our collective being? And how will their evolution, their personalities and characteristics evolve spaces of interaction, production, aesthetic, intersection, and explanation?
Thoughts on Shadows and Mirroring / In Praise of Shadows
These thoughts are regarding a recent lecture given by Benjamin Bratton, entitled Simulations and Doubling.
Bratton’s example of the shadow puppets exposes a reaction in which they“…accessed the agency of the shadow perhaps more directly and presents them not as deceptive illusions but as direct presentations of the fundamental mythic systems that underlie daytime reality but, which, are otherwise obscured by it.”
Another example that is given within the same talk is the description of shadows. This then becomes the new In Praise of Shadows1. It is through the combination of the human form and the angle of incidence due to the sun’s rays at the given time in which the human body is re-formed. While distorted, this distortion is not merely the manifestation but the formal re-evaluation from the confluence of forces at play- that in the body, atmosphere, time of day and year, and so forth.
This shadowing, as a representation of an actual object, connected yet distorted, is a spatial and formal reconstitution of the forces both physical and invisible, is a constitution of technology. Technology allows for the manifestation of the invisible forces to inform and shape and reinvigorate perception.
1 To note, the original In Praise of Shadows is a novel by Japanese novelist, Junichiro Tanizaki, on the musings of Japanese aesthetics
It should not be thought of as artificial intelligence but intelligence of the artificial