• Lauren Kehoe - Oxford School of Architecture

The montage of gaps

A Future Architecture Perceived Through Two and a Half Dimensions

The twentieth century has seen a shift in attitude towards the confines of space and time. Previously, space was defined by physical boundaries and time was continuous. Both were characterised by a series of dictating systems, portraying an all-seeing universe independent of individual experience. A revised experience of ‘space-time’, influenced by cubism and futurism, the growing film industry and the even the musical scores of Stravinsky, embraced the fragmented allowing freedom from universal continuity, and acknowledged the importance of the individual’s viewpoint. That the understanding of an image can only be realised over time, is also true of physical spaces. This presents an opportunity to create new multidisciplinary architectures that combine data, light, sound, motion, structure and location into an entirely new environment; a ‘moving architecture’ that portrays past, present and future.

In his book “Les Peintres Cubistes”, Guillaume Apollinaire describes the cubists’ rejection of the three dimensions of Euclidean geometry, advocating that “the fourth dimension endows objects with plasticity…it represents the immensity of space eternalising itself in all directions at a given moment.” (1) Despite the cubist intentions to form a truer representation of the phenomenology of space, architecture remains fixed within traditional forms of orthographic projection. The highly finished collages produced by architects are often singular in both dimension and meaning. By allowing elements to escape from the flattened picture plane and form readable gaps, personal narratives and alternate perceptions can be explored through the ambiguity of their spatial representation. Collage can provide an image that is not yet fully realised, enabling a more in depth understanding of the rich layering and complexity of the built environment, and allowing for futures to be re-imagined.

Heidegger asserts that we understand objects in the context of other objects, not as separate self-contained entities. Therefore a consciousness of these interrelationships within the architectural field allows for multiple readings and manipulations, which reveal new spatial compositions. Space, according to Heidegger, is bound to places by human activity and experience, so it is critical to understand the architectural ‘ground’ as more than space enclosed by political boundaries. Instead the ground must be read as a complex layered physical and cultural construct.

Current forms of architectural representation reveal a division in motive. The primary form of architectural drawing that is produced by the majority of professionals in practice follows the traditional routine of plan, section and elevation. While these orthographical forms of depiction are well suited to the task of relaying information for construction or fabrication purposes, they lack phenomenological complexity. The systematic approach towards construction drawing is designed to prevent ambiguity or multiple interpretation by using detached forms of notation. Walter Benjamin goes as far to state, “the most essential characteristic of the architectural drawing is that it does not take a pictorial detour” (4). As Lebbeus Woods comments, drawing is a mode of thinking “there are ideas and feelings that can only be expressed in drawn form. We might imagine, if we look at the caves of Lascaux, that drawing came before writing and was, in its narrative making of marks, its source” (5). Both collage and drawing within architectural representation have the ability for the subjects to constitute a projected future. Whether or not that future is realised is not necessarily significant in this respect. The phenomenological construction of space lies within the depiction of the narrative.

From the geometrical ordering, minimalism and precision of Daniel Libeskind, Ben Nicholson, and James Corner to the utopian and dystopian visions of Superstudio, Archigram, and Time[scape] Lab, a value in the thickened thresholds and liminal spaces offer the potential for dialogue between the existing and proposed. Tangible qualities of space and form are acknowledged and explored through making. The partial transparency and layering of materials serves to engage a tactile quality within the work, provoking a varied interpretation of their output.

Architecture is no longer considered as a static process. Discussions are now formed around life span and reuse of spaces. The meaning of this past, current and possible architecture must be explored within the blurred border of collage and architecture. As the junctures, seams and gaps in our world are revealed, significant moments of discontinuity give an opportunity to grab onto the world beyond. Gaps are especially open to varied interpretation. In contrast to the familiar understanding of a montage of fragments, the montage of gaps aims not to shock its audience, but to become understandable, by remaining unfinished so that it is available for endless revisions and appropriations by those who conceive it. In the montage of gaps authority is shared between the producer and the user. This fracturing of the picture plane is particularly appropriate to user creativity in architecture because a building is not experienced all at once; it is experienced piece by piece, in moments separated by divisions in both space and time.

(1) LD Henderson, The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1983, p. 355

(2) W Benjamin, translated by Levin, T. Rigorous Study of Art, The MIT Press, New York, 1988, p. 22

(3) L Woods ‘Line’ an entry on Lebbeus Woods Blog. Available at: http://lebbeuswoods.wordpress.com/2008/05/05/line/ (Accessed 31 March 2014) (2008)

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