The post humanist movement which currently traverses various disciplines in the arts and humanities, as well as the role that the thought of Deleuze and Guattari has had in the course of this movement, has given rise to new practices in architecture and urban theory. This interdisciplinary volume brings together architects, urban designers and planners, and asks them to reflect and report on the (built) place and the city to come in the wake of Deleuze and Guattari.
About the Author
Vana Tentokali is a Dr Architect and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Architecture at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Vana has held a number of positions, including being a member of the teaching faculty in the Department of Architecture at Roger Williams College (Bristol Rhode Island U.S.A., 1986); a Research Fellow at the Behavioral Science Research Group in Architecture (Department of Architecture) and the Program for Gender Studies (Department of Humanities) at MIT Cambridge Massachusetts, U.S.A. (1982-1985); a Visiting Scholar for the Program of History, Theory and Criticism (Department of Architecture MIT, spring semester 1992), and a Visiting Research Fellow for the Program in Hellenic Studies, (Princeton University, U.S.A., fall term 2008).
Constantin V. Boundas (Trent University, Ontario) holds M.A. Ph.D. from Purdue, and he is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and a member of the Centre for the Study of Theory, History and Culture at Trent University. He is the editor of The Deleuze Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993); with Dorothea Olkowski, of The Theater of Philosophy: Critical Essays on Gilles Deleuze (New York: Routledge, 1994); and of Deleuze and Philosophy (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006); the General Editor of The Companion to the Twentieth Century Philosophies, jointly published by Edinburgh and Columbia University Presses in 2007; and of Deleuze: The Intensive Reduction (London and New York: Continuum, 2009).
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A city can sometimes seem to be a clearly defined entity, but only when we do not look at it too closely. The thing that makes a city is the connectedness of its citizens, which makes possible a range of specialisation that is impossible in an agricultural village. The people associated with a city come and go like molecules in a body. If we are rooted it is not so much in a specific location as in specific networks. Identities are fluid and are activated by circumstances. The city organism does not have consciousness in the same way as us and does not give an account of its state of mind, but the non-conscious processes that make it work are sometimes like and sometimes the same as the unconscious processes that produce our conscious states of mind – desiring machines. It is the connections that matter, and the edges of the entity fade away: we can participate in urban networks and urban prosperity, even if we live in a place that looks like the countryside and do our networking online from there. Inside and outside no longer have the physical meaning that they used to have when we could only communicate effectively by being physically close to other people. Rather than thinking of the city as a citadel, bounded by a wall, we should think of the city as a cloud or a swarm with dynamic relations between its personal particles. Its collective will is not directly articulated but can sometimes be inferred. The city as the original engine of communication-making has generated multiplicities of becomings that we do not see in advance because it is not our conscious will that is making them but something that happens between us when we assemble unknowingly in an ill-defined entity much greater, more complex and diffuse than we can grasp.
After dark, approached from the air, the city looks serene: an accumulation of points of light. A barely indicated line of dots here in the darkness marks an outlying road. It gets brighter along the arterial highways where red and white corpuscles flow in opposite directions. A sprinkling of lights over the suburbs, and then more spilled light in the places where there are more people than cars in the streets – a central square, a mall. We know what it is like to be in the city – that is where most people now live – but even when we are not actually in it, it is in us, and we can travel across the distances between cities without ever ceasing to be urban. Even in private in my car when I can see rolling fields on either side of the motorway, I am in an environment made in a factory, made comfortable so I do not feel the weather outside, and I can learn from my radio about the new developments in government, or listen to music that I have brought along with me, which might have originated at the court of Versailles, from imperial Vienna, or from a garage in Indianapolis. I am not, here in the car, going to hear the singing of skylarks – the road noise masks any real sounds from the locality – and even if I turn off the road and put myself quietly in a field so that I can listen, I hear the skylarks as an urbanite with a sense of the pastoral. If I am going to escape the city I need to do better than this.
The city pulses with life. Its glow masks the stars, and it has its own weather – the smoggy haze that shows up in beautiful sunsets and stealthily stifles its inhabitants. It is the city's connections that are important, more important than the things connected, but we do not always notice that because we have names for the things, so we can focus on them more easily. Things can be delineated and be in identifiable places, but the connections arise between things and can disappear with a shift of the things or even a shift of attention. When we meet, our eyes make contact: we have things to say to one another, something will happen between us. You have a name, I have a name. I can talk about your eyes and your voice, but it is more difficult to say what it is that we have between us. A space, yes, but it is a space with a certain charge, and it is easier to demonstrate it than to talk about it. The best way, as in a novel or a play, is to act it out and feel what it is that happens. At the scale of the city some of the connections become more concrete because they leave tracks. 'The town is the correlate of the road'; it arises because of the connections between things – connections with other towns, and in principle with the farmland in between them. The connections themselves are not human, even when they are connections between humans. The eye contact between us is not in itself more human than the road that joins my house to yours. The connections are what matters: the roads bring the traffic, the commerce, the new ideas and people, the food. The town needs these flows coming into it and leaving it, just as a body needs food and produces waste, and if it is cut off from them then it expires – undernourished or overwhelmed by its own waste products. There is an old idea of a town with a fortified wall around it, making a clear zone inside and outside, but even in such a case – where the boundary is announced and solidified into a thing – there is a need for traffic in and out. The surest way to bring such a town to its knees was to lay siege to it, to stop the flows, and then it becomes very clear that the boundary is normally a control rather than a barrier. The barrier was needed when the place came under attack, not when things were working normally, and the reason it might come under attack would be because towns were places where valuable things accumulated and could be plundered. Nowadays that sort of thing is more likely to be done electronically, but in the times when walled towns were built they were refuges where the citizens could barricade themselves and their livestock until the immediate threat had passed. It is those moments of emergency that gave the towns their defined militarised form, but what made them work as towns – as generators of ideas and prosperity – was quite different. The boundary gives the impression that the town might be a contained entity, but it is not. The city always necessarily reaches out beyond its limits, drawing in the supplies that it needs.
The great thing that the town offers is the possibility of specialising. When people hunted and gathered to sustain themselves, they did not accumulate wealth and power. The history of human settlement stretches back only to a limited time – roughly 10,000 years – and before that the human population was relatively small and limited in the places it could inhabit. The earliest towns we know about were in Mesopotamia, where agriculture seems to have begun, and where people started making food to come to them rather than going out looking for it. In those early days everyone would have been in touch with food production in one way or another, growing crops, husbanding animals or hunting. As towns grew, it became possible for people to develop more specialised skills such as making ceramics that demanded practice and expertise. The larger the population of a town, the more specialised its inhabitants can become. Instead of producing my own food, I might pay someone else to supply me, while I concentrate my energies on something else, like making clothes that people will pay for. Towns have to be places for commerce in a way that the countryside does not, as it would be possible to subsist there on a smallholding without the same need to connect with the outside world. In a town there is always a deal, and the food chain is longer. Even today most food is grown in the countryside, but usually it is nowhere near the place where I buy it. The green beans in the supermarket come from Kenya. The asparagus comes from Peru. I have no idea how the food arrived here, or through how many hands it has passed, or by what transport it was carried. There are specialists who do those things – people who work in docks and warehouses, truck drivers and sales staff. Each has their own set of skills, their own world that overlaps with other people's without being identical. In a small town there will be some commerce, dealing with the essentials for daily life. In a large city there will be a much wider range of professional services – lawyers' offices, a hospital, and maybe things that only the prosperous can afford to buy – fashionable furniture, luxurious clothes – as well as the necessary things that the smaller town would have. There is something about the proximity of other people and services that makes this diversity and specialism possible and practicable. There is some mechanism at work, which we need not fully understand, that certainly makes this happen.
In recent centuries cities have changed. The state used to be a city, but now the state is usually a nation, and national boundaries are the places where we find the defensive barriers, and they are not walls for military defence but places that mark the edge of jurisdiction and control the movement of people. As late as the early nineteenth century, cities were still walkable, but they started to spread as suburban railways extended the distances across which viable daily connections could be made. Then there were the effects of the automobile and electronic communications. The city now can be quite diffuse – I can live in the countryside, and might work from home on a networked computer, physically travelling to a workplace for some meetings, or to different places to meet colleagues at convenient places – a hotel lobby, a coffee bar, a club. We travel more than ever before and maintain links with people across long distances, but we still do not feel that we know someone we have not actually met in person.
In the city we keep meeting people we have not met before. That may be the defining characteristic of urban experience. If I live in a village, then the people I meet are very likely to be people I have met before, and I will acknowledge them when we pass each other in the street – maybe stop for a chat. In the city that is much less likely to happen, and we usually avoid personal interactions with the people in the street. In the city I meet some familiar faces – friends, colleagues, shopkeepers – but usually when we meet it is by some sort of arrangement. If I have a club or a favourite cafe and fairly regular habits, I might meet up with friends in a semi-random way, but the key thing with the city is that I have ways of disconnecting from other people as well as meeting them. If I find someone lying in the street in my village, then I will certainly try to do something to help. In a big city it is by no means certain that that would happen, especially if we have seen other people walking past. We connect in the city in different ways, and it is not to be taken for granted that we feel a strong-enough bond of humanity with everyone else there if we feel that there are others around who might be more closely bonded, or more properly responsible. Diogenes lived (like a dog) on the streets of Athens and was the first person to call himself cosmopolitan – a citizen not of this particular state or that, but of the cosmos – but although he has an imperishable reputation, it is all too easy to imagine his presence as difficult for respectable citizens to accept, and if they went about their business in the city, would they stop and listen to his ideas? The city brings us closer together in some ways, and has been an engine for the opening up of human possibilities, but at a personal level it changes us and makes certain sorts of disconnection not only possible but also normal.
The city is a plateau in which certain sorts of interactions occur, and it does not have clear boundaries – they are not the point. Once we have learnt to behave in certain ways, we do not immediately abandon them with a change in location.
John Ruskin explains a game of molecules in his Ethics of the Dust. The 'dust' in the title was his attempt to coin an Anglo-Saxon substitute for the Greek-derived 'atoms' – the unsplittables that found their way from Democritus and Epicurus into modern physics. In the game he has his class of schoolgirls move about in different ways – running about at high speed in different directions, to enact being a gas, standing in a more regular configuration to represent a crystal and so on. It is a problematic text for a modern audience, because it tries to explain womanly virtues along the way, but the game of molecules is an invitation to empathise with minerals, which is a challenging thought experiment for anyone. It is an attempt to illustrate the configuration and mutability, not an ascription of feelings to the particles. I am making the same move but in the opposite direction, thinking about the connections between people as if they were chemical bonds at a molecular level. The analogy is not perfect: the relations between people are much more complex and are affected by more factors, but the numbers involved are much smaller. The move from the molecular to the molar (which Deleuze and Guattari often make in a figural way) involves Avogadro's number (6.023 × 1023) which is many times the population of the earth (7.4 × 109) so the scope for complexity and emergence is vastly different, and we must not ask too much of the material. Michel Serres invokes the same model when commenting on Livy's descriptions of crowds behaving in different ways in connection with the founding of Rome. They go through phase transitions – a loose assembly like a gas that turns into a turbulent liquid and then an organised solid – just as in Ruskin's game, as a larger crowd – maybe thousands-strong, but nowhere near the numbers of molecules in a breath of air. The crowd seems to take on different characteristics as the links between people are intensified or dispersed. The social fabric takes on different properties, just as a physical substance (water, e.g.) takes on different properties (depending on whether we are dealing with it as solid ice, boiling water or condensing vapour).
Elias Canetti in Crowds and Power made a sustained study of the psychology of crowds, having noticed that when we are in crowds we behave differently from when we are alone. The demagoguery he witnessed during the 1930s induced crowds to behave in ways that the individuals in the crowds would not have countenanced as individuals, but they found themselves being carried along and implicated. Canetti's analysis defines the physical properties of crowds as impersonal tendencies that seem to be independent of the people who constitute any particular crowd – such as the tendency of crowds to grow: a small crowd attracts people to it; a larger crowd attracts people to it. Crowds can 'crystallise' around 'crowd crystals'.
The crowd crystal is constant; it never changes its size. Its members are trained in both action and faith. They may be allotted different parts, as in an orchestra, but they must appear as a unit, and the first feeling of anyone seeing or experiencing them should be that this is a unit which will never fall apart. Their life outside the crystal does not count.
The thing that makes the crowd cohere has nothing to do with the capabilities and capacities of these people as individuals but the elemental interpersonal forces. Canetti makes it clear that crowds have many different kinds of behaviour, but there are characteristics that come into play, so we can begin to understand that we are dealing with one recognisable type of crowd rather than another. The connections mean that the assembly takes on a life of its own, with its own collective will that is not the same as the life or the will of the individuals. That may remain unconscious or unarticulated, but it might be voiced or signalled by the crowd crystal, a demagogue or as a dispersed murmur rippling through the crowd, and can then catalyse the crowd's action. The crystal structures the crowd and gives it a particular set of potentials.
Excerpted from "Architectural and Urban Reflections after Deleuze and Guattari"
Copyright © 2018 Constantin V. Boundas and Vana Tentokali.
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Table of Contents
Introduction, Constantin Boundas and Vana Tentokali / Part One - Architecture and Urbanism: Arts of the Built Space / Schizoanalytic City, Andrew Ballantyne / Deleuze, Space and the Architectural Fragment, Marko Jobst / Architectural Translations of Deleuze and Guattari’s Thought on the Concept of Place, Dimitra Chatzisavva / The Skin of the Public Space, Vana Tentokali and Constantin Boundas / Bodies without Organs and Cities without Architecture, Chris Smith / Part Two - Architectural and Urbanist Tool Boxes / Gilles Deleuze and Chaos Theory, Stathis-Alexander Zoulias / A Thousand Models of Realization: Toward a Deleuzoguattarian Critical Urban Theory, Keith Harris / Non-Correlational Athens, Stavros Kousoulas / Architecture at the Age of Its Digital Production: The Force, Differentiation and Humanity of the Fold as an Architectural Principle, Constantinos Proimos / Design of Earth Movement: Objects, Buildings and Environment Conceived as Landscape Formations, Konstantinos Moraitis / Spatial Transcriptions of the Concept of the Fold in Architecture as a Landscape Sensitive Approach, Anthi Verykiou / Part Three - Vital Materiality / Laocoon and the Snakes of History, Bernard Cache / Reterritorializing Concrete as an Actor of Comfort in Architecture, Athena Moustaka / Radicalizing Architecture by redefining the Monument, Mike Hale / Diagrammatic Narratives: Graphic Fields of Rupture and Catastrophe, Anthia Kosma / The Concept of the Map in the Homeric Odyssey, Aspasia Kouzoupi / Part Four - The Clinical / From the Exhaustion of the Dogmatic Image of Thought that Circumscribes Architecture to Feminist Practices of Joy, Hélène Frichot / Bibliography / Index / Contributor Biographies