Page 9 - 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


                                                                                                        DOI: 10.14621/tna.20180101

                                  Architectural Sensibilities:
                  Observations on Perspective Space and Elastic Space

                                                    Michael Jasper

                                                       University of Canberra
                     GPO Box 1159, Canberra ACT 2600, Australia;

Abstract                                                          1. Introduction

This paper initiates a formal and thematic examination of         In an essay published in 1955, Giulio Carlo Argan
architectural sensibilities at work in mid-twentieth century and  examines the architectural space concept and strategies
contemporary architecture. There are two propositions             of form distribution at work in Palladio [1]. Argan argues
underlying the paper. The first, methodological proposition is    that Palladio has a way of viewing architectural form
that the different qualities and effects of perspective space     that is different from a classic viewpoint, the latter
versus elastic space as formulated by Giulio Carlo Argan offer    marked by a perspective space concept. Palladio’s non-
a productive lens to the analysis. A second proposition is that   perspectival or elastic space concept has its origin,
certain works of architecture express institution                 suggests Argan, in the military architecture of
characteristics and in turn underlyling specific architectural    Sammicheli and Argan sets out to track features of that
temperaments. In order to test these propositions’                provenance, the main object of his essay. What is of
operational and heuristic potential, the paper undertakes an      interest today are the specific formal and conceptual
overview examination of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’          qualities contained in Argan’s categorisations of two
Bordeaux Law Courts (1992-1998) and Le Corbusier’s Palace of      space concepts and their ongoing potential for
Justice Chandigarh (1951-1957). Compositional, figural, and       conceiving and interpreting works of architecture.
formal conditions and organisational strategies are
considered. The paper contributes to basic and applied            An indication of the potential in Argan’s categorisations
research into architectural space concepts, adds to scholarship   can be found in the shift he claims to locate in Palladio,
on the practice and history of architectural composition, and     the latter establishing ‘a new viewpoint in architectural
makes a modest contribution to secondary work on the two          theory… [a new] relationship is established between
case study projects.                                              building and environment, new because it is …
                                                                  completely non-perspective.’i The building for Palladio,
Keywords:         Architecture; Character; Composition;           continues Argan, ‘does not sum up or represent the
                  Expression, Space concepts; Le                  space [as in classical theories], it exists within it, and the
                  Corbusier; Rogers Stirk Harbour +               space, which is no longer thought of as structure […]
                  Partners                                        counts as pure phenomenal reality, as a sensed and
                                                                  shifting assemblage of effects of light and atmosphere.’ii
Article history:  Received: 25 February 2018                      This idea of space as a sensed and shifting assemblage is
                  Revised:                                        understood by Argan to apply to a building on its own as
                  Accepted: 13 March 2018                         much as to a larger complex of open space and built

                                                                  According to Argan, the perspective space of classical
                                                                  architecture achieves unity through abstract
                                                                  proportional associations, assuming an a priori
                                                                  geometric structure bounded and made tangible
                                                                  through the specific continuity of the wall plane. This is
                                                                  in contradistinction to non-perspective or elastic space,
                                                                  understood as a physically discontinuous realm whose
                                                                  unity is a posteriori and perceptual, relying on the body’s
                                                                  movement and the ground plane rather than the wall.


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