Reconciling Poetics and Ethics in Architecture




BALTAZAR, Ana Paula + Silke KAPP

PhD Candidate, Federal University of Minas Gerais School of Architecture, Belo Horizonte

KAPP, Silke
Senior Lecturer, Federal University of Minas Gerais School of Architecture, Belo Horizonte

Learning from favelas: the poetics of users' autonomous production of space and the non-ethics of architectural interventions [download doc]

This paper starts by introducing the spontaneous, dynamic and autonomous process of production of the space of Brazilian favelas (illegal settlements where the usually economically excluded from the cities accommodate themselves). It first draws a distinction between favela and its usual English translation-shantytown or slum-, emphasising the informal and autonomous process of its production as opposed to the heteronomous process of production of the formal space of cities. Then, it discusses the usual institutional interventions by the Government, Academy and NGOs, designed by architects and urbanists, which completely ignore the dynamic and autonomous logic of the space of favelas. It then compares the non-planned design process of favelas with the planning tradition of formal architecture. The article finally concludes with a provocative proposal for architects to learn from favelas instead of imposing their traditional processes and products on them, which is illustrated by the `interface of spatiality' designed by the research group MOM (Morar de Outras Maneiras) - which in English is LOW (Living in Other Ways), and its application at the Aglomerado da Serra, the biggest shantytown in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

BIRD, Lawrence

PhD Candidate, McGill University School of Architecture
A step forward, a glance back: metropolis as prosthetic utopia [download doc]

This paper examines the imagery of the city in the animated film Metropolis by Rintarô and Katsuhiro Ôtomo (2001), a film which film refers back to two earlier Metropolises (Lang, 1927; Tezuka, 1949). The paper adopts the hypothesis that visions of the city such as those cited in this film (including those of Le Corbusier, Hugh Ferriss, and Albert Speer) can be considered as examples of prosthetic imagination. The imagined city is thus revealed as caught up in what Bernard Stiegler refers to as the Epimethean complex: bearing a relation of différance to the present and historical city, looking backward (in delay, too late) as it looks forward (in advance), doubling anticipation with error, utopia with dystopia. As a prosthetic, a utopia falls in the class of what Stiegler proposes as a third genre of being: organized inorganic objects, between animate and inanimate, where it belongs with architecture. This suggests that utopias should actually promise us not a homeland but instead a "not-at-home" land, where we dwell with other emanations and animations of the strange.

CARTER, Jennifer

PhD Candidate, McGill University School of Architecture
The ethics of conservation, the poetics of reconstruction: Conservation, pedagogy, and historiography at the Musée des monuments français (1795-1816) [download doc]
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As founder of France’s first national museum of sculpture, Alexandre Lenoir was a highly controversial figure, and his creation and inclusion of the fabrique as a seminal element of the MMF presented an emerging curatorial discipline with foundational ethical questions. Museological conservation was one of the strategic cultural projects launched by the Republican government following the overthrow of the Ancien régime, and its first official guidelines (1790 and 1794) articulated an ethics and practice that defined the scope and application of preservation methods, without addressing the more pressing need to repair mutilated objects that, paradoxically, this very revolution had made a reality. If unethical as fictional instrusions, Lenoir’s assemblages of sculptural débris nevertheless furthered the cause of another of the era’s revolutionary goals, that of societal reform. This paper explores how the contentious museographic innovations introduced by Lenoir poetically addressed new historiographic and subjective ideals towards animating the past, and as such were one individual’s attempts to realize both the larger pedagogical objectives of the French Revolution and the restitution of a fractured national ethos.


PhD Candidate, McGill University School of Architecture
Pierre levees, nationalisme et territorialité dans le discours de J.-A. Dulaure (1755-1835) [download doc]

Ma proposition s’inscrit dans une réflexion sur les rapports entre territorialité, architecture et nationalisme. L’architecture est un acte éminemment identitaire qui participe au développement de l’identité nationale de deux façons très différentes. D’une part, l’architecture développe et affirme une identité culturelle (style, méthode de construction, matériaux, etc.) et d’autre part, l’acte de construire consiste à s’approprier ou à réclamer un territoire. Ces deux modes identitaires sont très différents et soulèvent un grand problème : l’identité nationale doit-elle être revendiquée comme phénomène culturelle ou plutôt dans ses droits à un territoire particulier? Afin de réfléchir à cette question, je m’interroge sur les rapports complexes entre territoire, architecture et nationalisme qui se développent à la fin du 18e siècle en France. Les travaux de l’historien, géographe et architecte Jacques-Antoine Dulaure sont à cet égard exemplaire.

Durant les années révolutionnaires, l’engouement pour tout ce qui appartient à l’histoire locale, nationale, devient en France une véritable obsession. En 1805, un petit groupe d’hommes très actifs, J.-A. Dulaure et ses collègues, mettent en place une institution nouvelle chargée de promouvoir l’histoire de l’art français. Le but de cette nouvelle Académie Celtique est de documenter les antiquités d’architecture trouvées exclusivement sur le territoire français. Ils se passionnent pour les monuments primitifs, les dolmens, cippes, bornes ou murailles qui couvrent le sol de France. Dans son essai sur les frontières, Dulaure est définitif, ces monolithes de pierre qu’il nomme « pierres limitantes » ou « pierres levées », sont les « premières pensées de l’homme sur les institutions sociales ». Dans le contexte du colloque, à partir des écrits de J.-A. Dulaure, j’amorcerai une réflexion sur les liens entre nationalisme, régionalisme, territoire et architecture afin d’apprécier la complexité de ces enjeux dans le contexte actuel.


PhD Candidate, McGill University School of Architecture
Mirage as Architecture: The Soil of Desert, the Soul of Man [download doc]

The silence, the heat, the soil, the absence of water, the poverty, the enigmatic plays of light and shadows—the architecture— create perception of holiness and sanctify the desert city as one gets immersed in it. The primary objective of this paper is to explore the metaphors and meaning of space in desert cities that bring up poetic and ethical views concerning the question of representation in architecture. The inimitable tapestry of the architecture, the transient character of the pathways and the timelessness of the city narrate a story that cannot be understood in a linear sense. Entering… exploring… departing the city allows for a unique way of participation in the architectural space, addressing the themes of silence and emptiness and their relation with the minimalist view of architecture in the contemporary world.


Professor, Cooper Union School of Architecture
Spaces of Empathy and Ethics [download doc]

Empathy and ethics can be understood as the capacity to recognize and comprehend another’s being and circumstance in the world. This recognition and comprehension is always in space, it requires an exchange across space. One could say that the material of empathy and ethics is space and consequently the articulation of space is intrinsically an ethical question. Architecture is at root an empathetic discipline, a discipline of mediation, with the capacity to mediate an exchange of life and space. Our ontological, cultural and functional desires and necessities echo through the discipline of architecture in a constant exchange with the world. Architecture is itself a promise, a promise to construct shelter and sanctuary, not only for our bodies, but for our mental and emotional lives, a promise to construct sanctuary for our humanity. The capacities of capital and technology as modes of binding freedom are in serious doubt. This is evidenced not only by the “20th century war” continuing now into another century with no sign of slowing. But in the unprecedented inequities generated by the requirements of global capital. Through regimes of accumulation the laser of capital has produced a concentration of the globes resources leaving an unprecedented number of people in the dark. 3 billion people, “Half the world”, live on less than 2 dollars a day, as a “proportional indicator” of capitals capacities for distribution it is quite shocking. One billion people do not have access to clean drinkable water. Perhaps, the poetic imagination is the most pragmatic means of addressing our social and political lives because it affords a means of comprehending this fragile globe, and its people, it introduces a politics of slowing down, of searching for: new modes of concern for the other, new promises for distributing risk and resources’, new words for rebinding freedom and hope, new spaces of empathy and ethics. Architecture’s principal cultural contribution is found in its ethical dimension, in its capacity to embody the human condition and frame a social contract with all of the mystery, nuance and imagination of life itself.

GUESS, Alice

How to draw a crooked line. Or, A case for the sublime in contemporary architecture. [doc]

As appearance gets more controlled in the public realm, design ordinances, design review boards and committees slip a veil of perfected mediocrity over much new architecture. The domination of the design process and drawing production by digital media also makes it difficult to transgress the taught web of perfectly straight lines. In such a climate how does a practitioner find the courage to draw a crooked line and once drawn, translate such lines into challenging built work. Much like the compelling beauty of a crooked nose, or a scar, we need jolie-laide or pretty-ugly structures, to reassure us of our own humanity. Using examples of contemporary works with qualities of the sublime, this is an exploration on striving for imperfection.


Partner, Henriquez Partners Architects
The Ethical Challenges of a Practicing Architect [download doc]
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How do architects achieve a balance between the conflicting interests of the public, the client and their personal vision? It is this paper's contention that Architects have the ability to take a leadership role in the search for collective orientation within our communities, rather than act merely as consultants who service a consumer society. The serious social, political and environmental climate since 9/11 required many of us to examine more carefully the reality of the forces shaping our economic world order. From this new perspective, the larger questions now seem clear. Who do architects serve? Who do we represent? What type of work will we do? These are not questions of ability, but of ethics. This paper will use selected recent projects by Henriquez Partners as case studies to explore the issues confronted and the choices practicing architects must make when challenging convention. Recent work on several projects in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver will be presented, tracing Henriquez Partners' efforts to move toward an architecture that is a poetic expression of social justice.

HEREDIA, Juan Manuel

PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania School of Design
Ethical-Poietics, Typicality and Tectonics: On Greek School Rationalism [download doc]

The relation between ethics and poetics overlaps that between practice and making. Praxis as action subsumes poiesis as mediated ‘action.’ The first constitutes human inter-subjective ‘paramount reality,’ (Schutz and Luckman 1973), the second supports and recreates it. Yet ‘Praxis is not Poiesis‘ (Et. Nic. Z, 4; 1140a17). Any discussion regarding the reconciliation between ethics and poetics needs acknowledging this original and asymmetrical condition. Moreover ‘the guide for the measures that lie at the heart of techné [poiesis] is the typicality of praxis itself, commonly called ‘use’’ (Carl 2000). This paper examines a set of remarkable public and ‘utilitarian’ buildings made in early twentieth-century Greece, that through sensible attention to the typicality of praxis, and with techno-poietical command, reinvented their cultural milieu with ethical strength. Whether simply described as ‘rationalism’ and more generously as ‘critical regionalism,’ Greece’s 1930’s school building program has been more adequately portrayed as a moment ‘leading to a poetics of identification between typology and construction’ (Giacumacatos 1999). Ethical-poietics out of typicality and tectonics.

JEMTRUD, Michael, Katsuhiko Muramoto, Danielle WILEY

Michael Jemtrud
Associate Professor, McGill University School of Architecture

Katsuhiko Muramoto
Associate Professor, Penn State University, Department of Architecture

Danielle Wiley
PhD Candidate, Carleton University, Cultural Mediation

Participation, Intersubjectivity, and Presence in a Digitally Mediated Workspace [download doc]

The theoretical and intentional underpinnings of the proposed third year design studio recognizes and attempts to identify characteristics of the biased nature of electronic modes of making and seeing but asks the question as to what is possible only in the network driven digital realm rather than lament on what is presumably lost from location-based collaboration. It provisionally accepts the seemingly enhanced features of a digital mediated environment such as a more thorough integrative mode, increased interactivity and responsiveness, and greater immersion in the process. However, it begs the question of what participation is over and above mere task-based collaboration and how is it that the technology enables a richer mode of creative activity. The focus of investigation concerns the choreography of digitally mediated technologies in “staging” the spatial and temporal conditions of possibility that enable a dynamic interplay between technological mediation and the embodied reality of making. Notions of the imagination, embodied reality, digital modes of representation, and ethical issues of “working together" will be discussed in relation to the results of the design studio.


Professor, Parsons The New School for Design, Product Design
Speak, Stone: Geometries of Rhetoric in a Late Quattrocento Façade [download doc]

Through the façade of the ducal palace of Urbino, this paper examines the role of architectural ornament as a vehicle for mediating private and public identity. Constructed within a primarily oral culture, in which the arts of memory were commonplace among patrons and artists, the articulation of the façade reveals as much about Duke Federico da Montefeltro’s unique approach to governance as his interest in history and innovative architecture. Instead of building his palace as a hermetic fortress, as did many of his contemporaries, the military captain and his architects conceived a structure that seemed, in the words of Baldassare Castiglione, “not a palace but a city in the form of a palace.” The implied convergence of the civic and domestic realms is not exaggerated: Urbino’s citizens enjoyed a liberal access to the ducal palace uncommon for its time. This open engagement is memorialized at the entrance court of the Urbino palace, where seventy-two stone tablets were set into the back of a continuous stone bench that wraps the base of the façade. Executed by Ambrogio Barrocci da Milano, the tablets were carved in relief to represent war machines, hydraulic turbines and various military and architectural emblems from the sketchbooks of court architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The placement of these images in the public forecourt demonstrates the transparency between the duke’s endeavors and their direct influence on the well-being of Urbino and its citizens, since mechanisms of architectural construction and destruction represented the source and investment of Federico’s wealth. By embedding these images within the palace façade, the duke and his architect offered citizens a palpable reminder of the interdependence of the House of Montefeltro and the city and lands of Urbino. Why seventy-two tablets? This paper will offer speculations.


PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh, School of Arts, Culture and Environment
Bridging Ethics and Poetics in the Design Studio [download doc]

This paper will discuss the relationship between poesis (making) and praxis (doing) in architecture and will explore the potential of praxis as a bridge between ethics and poetics in the context of architectural design education. For this, I will exploit the example that Aristotle himself gives to distinguish poesis, as the building of a house, from praxis, as the playing of the flute. Emphasizing on the contradictions that this example brings forth, I will point out the ‘practical’ and mundane implications of building a house, on the one hand, and the ‘poetic’ and rather artistic character of playing the flute, on the other. Returning to the call for reconciliation, I will utilize the contradictions of Aristotle’s example to argue that a possible way to bridge ethics and poetics is by reappraising the everyday, mundane and practical aspect of creation, which in terms of education is being tacitly learned and taught in the design studio. The proposed view of seeing architectural design education as praxis should not be confused with the traditional request for ready-to-work practitioners, or any techno-romantic vision of mere progress, efficiency or effectiveness. On the contrary, the bridge that reconciles ethics with the making of poetic architecture, is built upon the primary action of ‘simply’ doing it

KUNZE, Donald

Professor of Architecture and Integrative Arts, Penn State, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
The Natural Attitude [pdf]

'The Natural Attitude' (the world seen from a neutral point of view) might be traced to Jean le Rond d'Alembert's controversial contribution to the fields of mathematics and gambling, the 'Martingale theory' - the notion that past performance can affect the future outcome of some random activity, such as tossing a coin. This seemingly harmless but fallacious view of stochastic processes nonetheless reveals a peculiar aspect of modern and post-modern attitudes towards the 'relation of architecture to philosophy', namely, the role of the point-of-view. The Natural Attitude's manipulation of point of view is in fact a theory of topics that can subvert philosophical positions to create momentary economies out of concepts, phrases, techniques, and favoured objects of concern. The result is the death of discourse, the imposition of a historicism that resists being characterized as such, and an ultimately projective mental logic. Breaking the spell of the Natural Attitude requires a restoration of the role of contingency at all levels of architectural critique. This can be accomplished by employing the Lacanian idea of the 'matheme' as a 'procedural fiction' that works as a temporary scaffolding around a theoretical structure. This matheme combines the notions of the voice, topological suture, interpolation (summation/condensation) and interpellation (indication/mandate) within a 'matrix of the uncanny' to restore the beautiful to the true.

LAGUEUX, Maurice

Professeur, Université de Montréal, Département de philosophie
Y a-t-il une problématique éthique propre à l’architecture? [download doc]

La question éthique qui se pose à l’architecture est fort différente de celle qui se pose aux scientifiques, par exemple aux biologistes. Ceux-ci peuvent laisser à d’autres, plus compétents en la matière, le soin de répondre aux problèmes éthiques qu’engendre leur pratique; ils n’en seront pas moins considérés comme des biologistes de génie pour autant. On ne saurait en dire autant des architectes qui se diraient incapables de résoudre les problèmes éthiques engendrés par leur pratique. L’architecte doit apporter une solution esthétiquement satisfaisante aux problèmes éthiques reliés aux lieux qu’il destine à l’exercice de diverses activités. Les théoriciens de l’art étant de plus en plus enclins à souligner l’importance des dimensions éthiques de l’art, on devra aussi se demander si les artistes qui pratiquent la littérature, les arts visuels ou les arts de la scène se trouvent, de ce point de vue dans une situation analogue à celle des architectes.


PhD Candidate, Université de Montréal, Faculté de l’aménagement
Actions in indeterminability: exploring the possibilities of temporary architecture [download doc]

Temporary constructions reside in a grey area within Architecture. By their nature, they dispute the dominant role of Architecture as lasting and providing permanent solutions. Temporary constructions call for a belief in alternative possibilities; they have the potential to act upon the configuration of durable architecture and upon our apprehension of the city. In the current context, in which social, economic, ecological, or broadly, ethical impacts of large scale developments are frequently under question, small scale temporary architecture has the liberty to explore and test these larger themes through direct engagement with their site and their audience. As a design method in which provocative and generative ideas take the place of problem solving and completed solutions, temporary architecture is a different way of thinking about Architecture and is about finding responsible answers to urban interventions, teaching methods and for the role of the architect in defining tomorrow’s world. The argument proposed in this paper will be supported by projects such as the SrapHouse by Public Architecture in San Francisco, fauFILade, a winning entry to the Paysages Éphémères competition on Mont-Royal avenue and experiments conducted at the University of Montreal.

MCCANN, Rachel

Associate Professor, Mississippi State University, College of Architecture, Art + Design
Wild Beauty: A Sensuous Aesthetic of Architecture [download doc]

The modern problem of aesthetic irresponsibility is a problem of rupture. If we recuperate the territory below the subject-object divide as Merleau-Ponty has done in the Flesh, we find that the same urge that calls us to beauty also calls us to kinship with the larger earth. Drawing from Merleau-Ponty’s last works augmented by ecophilosophers David Abram and Steven Ross, the proposed paper examines the architectural implications of an ontology that replaces subject, object, and aesthetics with perceiver, perceived, and the cooperative act of the unfolding phenomenon. In the Flesh, the shared materiality and spatiality of perceiver and perceived forms the common ground for perceptual unfolding, the foundation for deep kinship (a principal facet of which is an ethic of care), a fascination with the sensuous world’s wild being, and a compulsion to express our intertwinement with it. Architecture that celebrates our immersion within the sensuous and spatial world embodies ethical beauty.


Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba, Faculty of Architecture
Educating the Ethical Practitioner [download doc]

The gap between professional practice and architectural education continues to widen. The belief that architecture can be reduced to a skill set or solipsistic mediation only exacerbates the difference. Recognizing the limits of both positions, this paper will present a mediating statement on the role of architectural education that exists somewhere between the ethics of rhetorical tradition and the poetics of the personal imagination. In this way, one may rethink the possibilities of practice and education as reflexive action. The paper will be grounded within an imaginary conversation between a Franciscan monk, two ancient Greeks (one mythical, the other less so), and a contemporary French philosopher.


Lecturer, Clemson School of Architecture, Charleston Architecture Center
Silent Space [download doc]

In Steen Eiler Rasmussen’s book Experiencing Architecture he asked the question whether architecture could be heard? Further he examined the poetic qualities of historical precedents and briefly commented on the banal acoustics of his contemporary world. His book was first published in 1959. Today in a culture dominated by auditory and visual noise perhaps the questions to be asked are what are qualities of silent space and of what value are they to architects? First, this paper will attempt to identify those qualities by examining a fairly recent built work - St. Petri Church in Klippan by Sigurd Lewerentz. Second, it will explore the ethical dimension of such qualities grounded in the notion that they invite a tender form of participation on both an individual and collective level. Further that such participation, imbued with meaning and beyond the constant barrage of information and commodity reception, is of great importance to the practice of contemporary architecture.

PARCELL, Stephen

Associate Professor, Dalhousie University School of Architecture
Architects Since Birth [download doc]

Thomas Clifton's phenomenological analysis of music, Music as Heard (1983), concluded that music is based ultimately on the human experience of sound. This questions the prevalent Western premise that music starts with pitch intervals. Maurice Merleau-Ponty concluded in The Visible and the Invisible (1968) that depth is the first human dimension and that we engage the world ultimately as flesh. This questions the prevalent Western premise that form is primary. This paper studies these two philosophical writings and considers their implications for growing an alternate discipline (which may or may not be called "architecture") that is rooted in our engagement with substance and space rather than principles of form or properties of buildings. This would question the assumption that architecture is an esoteric discipline that begins at age twenty and is anticipated by an aptitude for drawing.


Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University, Department of Architecture
Hannes Meyer: Connecting Poetics and Ethics [download doc]

Hannes Meyer (1889-1954) was called an "anti-aesthetic functionalist" in 1932 and a "posthumanist architect" in 1992. These statements show that he is criticized from both ends - poetics as well as ethics - throughout the 20th century. I want to elaborate in my paper how these both ends are connected in Meyer's statement “art is composition; life is function” of 1928. Reading this phrase as a rule of three, one can maintain that art relates to life in the same way as composition to function. While the relation `art versus life' has often been interpreted, I will focus on `composition versus function'. Composition requires elements that can be related to one another to compose a whole. But this is also true for the notion of function, traceable in the sciences as well as in architectural texts since the 18th century. However, function additionally implies an inherent idea of activity, and it is this idea that differentiates composition from function. Meyer describes the difference between composition and function as an outer design procedure in contrast to an inner one: composition needs a composer while function works out of itself. Life's reactions on biological, technical and social aspects produce form. Vice versa, Meyer's phrase states that a function-created form speaks about human life, while a composition-created form only speaks about the artist.

ROQUET, Nicholas

PhD Candidate, McGill University School of Architecture
The Ethics of Imitation [download pdf]

Modern historiography has dealt harshly with nineteenth-century revivalist architecture, condemning its lack of material truth and historical authenticity. John Summerson famously argued that Victorian architecture failed on its own terms, that is, as a “new style” for the age. In turn, more recent histories have sought to rehabilitate the Gothic Revival by underplaying its theatricality, and emphasizing instead its concern for social realism and moral reform. But is “authenticity” necessarily an appropriate category by which to judge buildings such as Fonthill Abbey or Cardiff Castle? This paper will examine the fascination which the album of Villard de Honnecourt exerted on mid-nineteenth-century medievalists, and in particular on British architect William Burges (1827-1881). Burges based his public persona on the historical figure of Villard, adopting his script, his graphic style, and on occasion his dress. Burges’s architecture can likewise be read as a fictional projection, onto nineteenth-century Britain, of what Villard would have built. For all its seeming eccentricity, Burges’s identification with Villard raises the question of architecture’s ability to create “counterfactuals”, and of fiction’s purpose in the present world.


Associate Professor, Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism
In the darkness of the lived moments: 1871 Paris Communes, barricade fighting and architectural experience in Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project [download doc]

Conceived in Paris in 1927 and still in progress when Benjamin fled the occupation of the capital in 1940, the text that has come down to us as The Arcades Project is in no sense a finished work. Nevertheless, it contains Benjamin's vision of architecture, in which we find the quintessence of his concept of experience. According to The Arcades Project, architecture inheres in the darkness of the lived moments, belonging to the dream consciousness of the collective; in this sense, architecture is the most important testimony to the latent `mithology' of a society. Benjamin's aim is to read the character of the nineteenth century in the physiognomy of its architecture, but the range of the word architecture is enlarged if we consider Convolute E [Haussmanization, Barricade Fighting] in which he discusses Paris Communes taking into account that tragic inhabitants' action to characterize the urban experience of modernity.

WEST, Mark

Associate Professor, University of Manitoba, Faculty of Architecture
Less [download doc]

The first question to ask of sustainability is “what do you want to sustain?” Looking at “sustainable architecture” today, it seems that we are primarily interested in sustaining a level of comfort and luxury to which we have become accustomed. I am interested in an architecture that does not confuse comfort with pleasure and that is capable of intensifying pleasure, not so much in the face of reduced resources, but through reduced consumption itself -- an architecture that seeks pleasure through the satisfactions of what physical life requires rather than through the excesses of “luxury” and their endless elaborations. By using flexible molds to cast concrete structures, the plastic figure of material stability is found while simultaneously reducing material consumption. Here an aesthetics of necessity is sought through a “yielding” approach where form is given through the physical desires and urgencies of the materials themselves, revealing an aesthetic “figure” to our actions in the world.

ZOU, Hui

Assistant Professor, University of Florida, School of Architecture
The Garden of Forking Paths: Fiction, Reality and Hermeneutics in Architecture [download doc]

This research begins by analyzing Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges’ fictional works about China while searching for the architectural realities in their works. It then progresses to a discussion about two European-Chinese garden encounters in the late eighteenth century demonstrating the fiction-reality relationship in mystic garden existence. With the revealed historical context, this research introduces the metaphoric approach of architectural fiction as a poetic resistance against the prevalent formalism of Chinese urbanism. Finally, it extends the fiction-reality consideration into a hermeneutic pedagogy for enhancing students’ cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective in their studio works.