12. SURFACE AND THE SPACE OF APEARANCE
Surfaces, especially in relation to architecture, are not merely superficial concerns, nor should they be treated as diaphragms, beholden to function and form. They serve a far higher role, that of the vehicle, the mask, through which architecture, and therefore people, make their appearance upon the stage of our human world.
The question then is how to design surfaces in direct response to this human need for appearance; and how to create them as representational masks, carrying the memory of the collective public realm. Both Hannah Arendt and Gottfried Semper offer insights towards this question, from eras which still bear relevance to our own. The work of number of highly rigorous contemporary practices is also of great interest, as they strive to tackle this question.
Modern building technology, coupled with the infinite possibilities of today’s computerized design vehicles offers an incredible array of choices to the architect. However, our society, though extremely superficial in so many regards, seems to reduce perception to the fleeting glance, to the instantaneous image; more often or not these are found in televisions and video-games, and not in their proper place in a truly public realm.
The challenge is now to realize a project through which these questions of surface and appearance can be explored; and in which the appearance of a building can be exploited to the highest possible degree as a free element (per Semper) and as a true embodiment of human intention (per Arendt).