Echoes in Perspective-Essays on Architecture

Echoes in Perspective-Essays on Architecture

by Daniel Pavlovits


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781782799634
Publisher: Iff Books
Publication date: 05/29/2015
Pages: 186
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Daniel Pavlovits is a writer, educator and editor. He has taught in schools of architecture at the University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney, University College for the Creative Arts Canterbury UK and University of East London. He has given lectures, contributed to symposia and held seminars on issues architectural in France, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Australia. His writing has been published in Architecture Review (UK), Architecture Review (Australia), Archis, Newsline and The Architects Newspaper.

Read an Excerpt

Echoes in Perspective

Essays on Architecture

By Daniel Pavlovits

John Hunt Publishing Ltd.

Copyright © 2014 Daniel Pavlovits
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78279-964-1


On the Archaic Origins of Architecture

Watching late-night television one evening starring Tom Hanks in the epic movie Cast Away, the story of an ill-fated courier pilot being washed-up on a deserted South Pacific island after his airplane crashed into the ocean and his attempts at survival on the island and escape from it back to civilization, a striking thing was portrayed about the elemental nature of the human condition vis-à-vis envelopment and shelter. This led me to begin to think about the archaic conditions governing the psychological and anthropological genesis of what has become known as architecture in human history, and its fundamental relation to the biological condition.

In the movie Cast Away, after being washed-up on this fictional desert island, the protagonist attempts an ill-fated escape back to civilization by attempting to float through the breakers a rubber dingy salvaged from the plane crash. The scene ends in disaster when the rubber dingy is washed back by the waves onto coral, puncturing its fabric. No longer of any use as a floatation device for the purposes of survival at sea, or indeed escape from the desert island, the fabric-hull of the thus ruined rubber dingy is trans-morphed in the scene following into an ad-hoc canopy of shelter for our protagonist in his moment of ordeal.

What struck me in this sequence of scenes, is that despite the constantly balmy and tropical climate in which this desert island is fictionally located, and despite the ample tree-covering of the ground for use as shade from the sun and protection from rain, the protagonist nonetheless found an urge, need and desire that cannot but be construed as archaic, to seek-out and erect a device for shelter, which in any logical analysis, was of no apparent need. What struck me from the portrayal of this scene, is that this act of creating shelter seemed as some sort of archaic and deepseated psychological and anthropological – even evolutionary – connection of biological specimens to the need for envelopment.

As we well know, many species, let alone humans, construct for themselves and their offspring, various forms of shelter serving the purpose of envelopment, be it burrows in the ground, nests in trees, nests in streams or rocky outcrops or, as humans did originally, find settlement in caves or other naturally occurring places of shelter. What is unique about this practice is not only the obvious reason to provide shelter from predators and/or elements of nature for the purposes of survival, but it seems as though it might be appropriate to speculate that there exists an archaic, possibly genetic need and desire based within our biology, for a form and type of envelopment – even in apparently idyllic climates such as a tropical desert island.

Thinking about this speculation and reflecting on biology and species of varying intelligence evolved from it, it cannot but raise the question of whether this archaic condition latent within our evolutionary past and psychology leading to anthropology is as such the archaic origins of architecture, for it is arguably within this archaic origin that we find the genesis of what we now practice and understand as architecture.

Of course, the practice of what we consider and recognize as architecture is a development beyond the basic seeking of shelter, specifically marked by the emergence of building and construction of artifices in an artful way – something that is denoted by the Greek term tékhne; its origins might nonetheless arguably be rooted in an archaic psychological and anthropological need and desire for envelopment, something that is present in varied biological species, both animal and plant life beyond the human being. This is to say, that the metaphysics of architecture might be found within a psychological and anthropological distant past rooted in evolution, of which architecture as we know it, with the application of art, artifice and the concept of tékhne to the act of building, is merely an extension.

It would be interesting to study, look into more deeply, and theorize this archaic origin of architecture. No doubt, evolutionary science relating to plant and animal life, anthropological research into indigenous forms of the prehistoric practice of shelter, and not least psychoanalytical sources, including Freud's many case studies, would need to be researched in order to do so. It would also be interesting to speculate and research the effects of an absence of envelopment on psychological wellbeing. In doing so, it might be possible to assert that architecture as we understand it from our civilized human history is none other than a biological condition rooted within evolutionary history, imprinting itself on our psychological past and present. I would give this theoretical study a preliminary title of "The Archaic Origins of Architecture", a study and consequential theorization of the need and desire for envelopment as a fundamental trait of the biological condition and, as an extension, the human condition.

Perhaps it is from within this archaic origin for the need of envelopment that we can argue the development in humankind of building practices in their most rudimentary form – just like our cast-away's practice in the late-night television movie – in addition to beginning to theorize the development of sedentary settlement that arises from it, even the emergence and development of archaic urban forms in early human civilization. Of course anthropology asserts to already possess a theory as to why settlement occurred in early human history, and the reason behind the rise of proto-typical villages and community. However, none of them to my knowledge begin with an evolutionary, biological and psychological reasoning and argument come theory. To do so would be to go beyond the physical archaeological and anthropological study of the practice of prehistoric life, in order to delve into the philosophical, metaphysical and theoretical origins of architecture, of which it might be asserted, that a central component is the archaic desire, urge and need for envelopment as a phenomena and practice, possibly arising from the most basic of biological conditions, the need for sheltered sleep.

Turning our gaze to recent modern practice of architecture and planning, perhaps the reason behind the failure of Modern, twentieth century urban planning might just be able to be explained from such a philosophical study. The fact that Modern architecture and urban planning treated material structure and construction as an object placed within a carte-blanche field similar to and extending from Le Corbusier's Plan Voisin project for Paris from 1925, explains why such vision for our urban environment has arguably resulted in failure. The reason arguably being, that it fails to provide and resolve the archaic biological, evolutionary, anthropological and psychological need for an experience and sense of envelopment (beyond the need for shelter) that might do justice to the human condition, instead treating architecture as a series of objects placed within a blank field.

Of course this practice of Modernism in urban planning evolved from a utopian resolution to the disease and decay fostered by historical urbanism; however, a study as such proposed above, might be able to argue its failure from a unique philosophical angle, as opposed to the merely subjective and technologically aesthetic.

There seems something fundamental in the need and desire for envelopment, to which architecture is but a calling. If architecture and urbanism would be understood as a response to an archaic evolutionary, anthropological and psychological need rooted within the biological and psychological human condition, our understanding and indeed development of architectural thinking would alter. This is to say that our subjectivity by which we perceive the utility of architecture would morph from an exercise perhaps in pure development and expenditure of capital for the purposes of return, or even a simplistic practice of aesthetic taste, toward beginning to seek out and address the psychological and evolutionary need in us, and reflecting it and the most basic trait of the human condition back to the world through what might be conceived architecturally.

Some architects indeed already practice this thinking and observation in their own built projects. For instance architecture that seeks to mimic and extend the condition of the traditional macro built environment on a micro-scale is but one example, treating the configuration of an individual building along the lines of a miniature city, creating room and openings for rest and reflection, contrasted with adjacent spaces leading to a prescribed end of uniqueness or destination, possibly connected through a vista of sorts either visual or audible, in the same manner that nineteenth century urban planning envisioned the layout of the city in places such as Paris (but of course for other reasons), or to a lesser extent some parts of London. This, of course, is not to make an argument for the return of such nineteenth century form in the present day, but rather to comprehend something about the principle of envelopment as central to the concern and psychological wellbeing of human beings and their experience of an environment, albeit practiced and achieved in a contemporary, critical, and even radical way. Criticality always emerges from theory, from a deep understanding of an issue, and what such a study and theory of envelopment might offer as the one being ruminated on here, is insight into new ways toward contemporary criticality in practice.

Herein lies the possibility of architecture and the thinking through of architectural possibilities toward the realization of envelopment as one of the most basic and fundamental urges within the human condition. Such thinking lays out the possibility to rethink the practice and articulation of architecture in a way that transcends itself and begins to speak to our innermost needs, thoughts, feelings and desires as latent within an ur-psychogeography. At the point of this latent ur-psychogeography coming into practice, we would experience architecture as an immanence and extension of everything that makes us who we are, reflecting back to us in turn our most basic psychological needs and desires that have perhaps long since been forgotten, merely to be reawakened from the depths of our unconscious.

Architecture based on such a premise, research and practice might be the beginnings of a new subjectivity in architecture, a subjectivity that might just result in doing justice to an archaic evolutionary, biological, anthropological and psychological source, need and desire, resolving in its wake everything from form through to function, and arresting and then suspending the way we experience, feel and think of ourselves in, and as a result of, architecture and the urban condition: envelopment, where desire may live.


The Discipline of Architecture and the Architectural Process

In asking the question of what entails the act of architecture, the initial question that must be asked is, what is it that composes the discipline of architecture? The fact that the act of architecture akin to other professional pursuits is born of an education relating to a specific knowledge base, and is bounded by such knowledge base, makes it obviously a procedure that is disciplinary in nature. Setting out the boundaries of knowledge and craft related to the act of architecture is initially none other than setting out the boundaries of the discipline of architecture.

In beginning to answer the question of the boundaries of the discipline of architecture, a crucial starting consideration might be the nature, meaning and etymological origin of the term "discipline". The modern English term "discipline" arises in our language from the Old French term descepline, which in turn arises from the Latin disciplina, meaning to impart instruction to a disciple who is being initiated into a practice. The English term disciple arises from the Latin discipulus meaning a pupil, which person is in a position of receiving instruction in a certain activity or craft. The term of discipulus is formed from the lost compound of discipere, meaning to grasp intellectually or analyze thoroughly, creating the Medieval Latin term disciplinare from around 1300, meaning to chastise, related to the Latin disciplina meaning instruction.

Thus the discipline of architecture and the consequent act of making architecture rests and resides partially within receiving instruction and "chastisement" in the form of a pupil from people who practice the discipline, in order to gain knowledge and intellectual insight into the act of architecture, and furthermore to be able to analyze thoroughly that which pertains to the making of architecture. Thus the cradle of the discipline of architecture is its many and varied schools of architecture where instruction, learning and a passing on of knowledge occur for the purposes of (re)creating that which is architectural or could be deemed as architecture, resulting in the architectural act.

The basis of such education, knowledge and learning in relation to the discipline of architecture, which still holds true today, was articulated by Vitruvius in his De architectura (Ten Books on Architecture) in the 1st century BCE, in which central to all architecture are the three qualities of firmitas, utilitas, venustas – translating to that which is solid, useful and beautiful. Thus the core competency of a person within the discipline of architecture must be to produce structures which are solid – not prone to falling down or collapsing; useful – that is satisfy the needs and requirements of their users; and beautiful – that is satisfy an aesthetic category that has changed and continues to change over the course of the centuries, but which can nonetheless be recognized in something that is executed.

The discipline of architecture and the very act of making, conceiving and drawing up a building, space or series of buildings that might be conceived as an act of architecture, is predicated upon the instruction and knowledge gained during an education in its discipline, and is a kind of built structure that satisfies all the requirements of its users in a way that is solid in its construction, useful to its intended users, whilst furthermore aesthetically interesting, contributive or suitable to the location in which it is set.

In the modern conception of such disciplinary parameters, the discipline and education – and later professional output – of an architect in the course of conceiving architecture thus must resolve the requirements and strictures of various and numerous building codes relating to structural adequacy, fire, water, light, ventilation and insulation, to name just a few parameters, whilst achieving this in a materiality that satisfies the needs of the users who will come to use the building, and do so in an aesthetically interesting, pleasing or suitable way in relation to its context, making it thus beautiful.

Further to the above minimum disciplinary competency relating to the modern act of architecture, architectural education and later professional delivery, the modern discipline of architecture requires all of the above to be realized in a way that is cost-effective and within a certain budget of the builder or commissioner, realizing a profit for the thus mentioned developer. The discipline of architecture thus educates and instructs the pupil of architecture to a level of competency in which the outcome of his ideas and solutions to problems given the eventual users of his building and the site in which it is located, satisfy the building codes, create something suitable in terms of function, produce something that is pleasing aesthetically, and additionally fall within the budget of the investment.

In setting out to demonstrate such competency in the discipline of architecture across various scales and intended uses of building, a judicious choice and realization of structural systems, related materials, type and limitation of construction cost and time must all be paid heed to. Furthermore, all of this must be executed and achieved in a way that satisfies all of the needs of the buildings' users pertaining to solutions for light, ventilation, energy use, comfort and circulation, and do so in an aesthetically pleasing or interesting way.


Excerpted from Echoes in Perspective by Daniel Pavlovits. Copyright © 2014 Daniel Pavlovits. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Preface: Perspectives on the Architectural 1

On the Archaic Origins of Architecture 5

The Discipline of Architecture and the Architectural Process 11

Parkour and Architecture 26

Architecture as Politics 33

Politics, Architecture and Activism 44

The Promise of the Politics of Digital Architecture 60

A Reading of Planonemons 71

The Path on which Architecture Finds Itself 93

Questions Concerning the Redevelopment of Ground Zero 102

The Possibility for Architecture Theory 128

On Poetics, Poiesis and Architecture 139

On the Significance of Corners 149

The Voice of Ruins 153

References 165

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