Page 10 - The New ARCH Vol5 No1 (2018)
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International Journal of Contemporary Architecture ”The New ARCH“ Vol. 5, No. 1 (2018)                  ISSN 2198-7688

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The latter is thus capable of infinite extension when        relevance and provides a hinge to the theme of
used to explain new conditions made manifest                 architecture’s relation to external forces, including its
according to Argan in the military architecture of           ability to express institution-specific characteristics.
Sammicheli.                                                  Eisenman develops this position across a series of
                                                             lectures and papers dating from at least the 1980s. His
The one way of seeing architectural form leads most          larger project among other ambitions seeks to establish
readily to an ensemble of homogeneous relations, the         conditions which might allow architecture to remain
other finds its manifestations in heterogeneous states.      open to its future and its present via a critical and deeply
A perspective space concept for Argan leads to a system      informed engagement with its past. This is done in part
of parts in favour of a larger whole, with spatial units     with the aim of identifying, or establishing the
such as rooms as well as linking elements attached one       conditions of possibility for, the new to continuously
to the other via perspective connections in a striated       appear. ‘Opening up the relationships,’ writes Eisenman,
plan. Palladio’s non-perspective idea of space propels       is undertaken in such a manner so that the formal
spatial units to the surface in plan as well as in section   analysis of architecture’s past is ‘not only explanatory
and elevation with parts never coalescing into a whole.      but also generative.’vi
In this point of view, spatial units follow a logic of
‘unrelatedness or absoluteness among singular forms,’iii     Architectural conditions and composition devices
continues Argan, finding one manifestation in Palladio’s     categorised into formal aspects and conceptual aspects
en suite plan disposition for example.                       of any architecture according to Eisenman are
                                                             interpreted as giving corporeality to things outside the
To enlarge Argan’s categories, it can be claimed that a      discipline. On the one hand for Eisenman this
perspective space concept is aligned with an economy         engagement proposes to ‘open up the existing rhetoric
of sight and theories of composition, and an elastic         and tropes sedimented’ in architecture’s present.vii On
space concept bracketed by theories of assemblage and        the other hand it seeks to sketch out and identify
an idea of sensation. This expansion of Argan’s              aspects of a conceptual configuration that would move
interpretive frame finds support and some resonance -        beyond the explanatory to the generative. Taken in a
at least as regards the first term - in Peter Eisenman’s     preliminary manner, architecture’s relation to
allusion to the ‘dominance of vision and the visible in the  institutions (whether of government, the university, the
form of perspective’iv in theories of architectural form     church, the museum, the law) and their specific qualities
making ever since the emergence of perspective space         - is one kind of exteriority. The potential to make
and up to today.[2] According to Eisenman this way of        corporeal - within disciplinary limits -, specific
conceiving form that prioritises sight ‘has become so        characteristics is part of that effort. A corollary impact
sedimented in architecture that it is assumed to be a        would be to ask whether and under what conditions
natural condition.’v The critical and operational sides of   might architecture engage in the reconceptualization of
Eisenman’s work on discipline specific concepts seeks to     an institution, accompanying an institution at moments
make evident the non-natural status of such conditions       of formation and subsequent transformation.
in part in order to propose or allow other conditions to
emerge. This critical project is intended to contribute to   Argan’s argument for differing concepts of space can be
opening the discipline to the generation of other kinds      considered a part of this larger critical-theoretical
of formal order and space configurations. Following          project and I suggest provides a useful lens for the
Eisenman, each of Argan’s space concepts can be seen         interpretation and – following Eisenman – generation of
to highlight factors internal and external to the            specific kinds of architectural form. Table 1 seeks to
discipline. They can thus be interpreted as expressing a     summarise the conceptual and formal aspects of the
different architectural sensibility leading in turn to       architectural sensibilities according to the two poles of
unique physical manifestations, ones with their own          perspective versus elastic space concepts and describe
logical limits independent of representations of             their distinguishing conceptual and formal
function, material, structure, or site. This independence    characteristics.
extends to architecture’s potential capacity according to
Eisenman to display, to render, or to make corporeal         Argan’s pair of space concepts can contribute to
factors external to architecture. Such external factors      examining how architectural form is conceived during
can include institution specific requirements or             the process of developing building responses to specific
characteristics.                                             conditions and institutional requirements. When
                                                             deployed alongside Eisenman’s ambition to move from
The examination of buildings according to different          description to the production of other possible
space concepts is thus part of a larger research             conditions, there are methodological implications. One
endeavour into the discipline’s latent and immanent          implication is that a consideration from different
conditions, one that has increasingly occupied architects    viewpoints and plastic sensibilities may allow us to
and scholars. Eisenman’s work in this area is of particular  better comprehend formal operations and plastic-

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M. Jasper: “Architectural Sensibilities: Observations on Perspective Space and Elastic Space”, pp. 1–8  2
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