Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

The question of what architecture is answered in this book with one sentence: Architecture is space created for human activities. The basic need to find food and water places these activities within a larger spatial field. Humans have learned and found ways to adjust to the various contextual difficulties that they faced as they roamed the earth. Thus rather than adapting, humans have always tried to change the context to their activities. Humanity has looked at the context not merely as a limitation, but rather as a spatial situation filled with opportunities that allows, through intellectual interaction, to change these limitations. Thus humanity has created within the world their own contextual bubble that firmly stands against the larger context it is set in. The key notion of the book is that architecture is space carved out of and against the context and that this process is deterministic.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Spatial Desire

Abstract
We discover, move through and occupy within, space because of our mobility. Through a change of diet, bipedalism, the use of tools, curiosity, and by following prey, hominins expanded their original territory out of Africa. This I would like to call: a spatial desire, which resulted in humans exploring and quickly settling anywhere on the planet. Immersed in the world, humans have observed and created a framework in which the search for an essence of the phenomena that this world brought forth, could be represented, and maybe understood. Through the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, especially his Phenomenology of Perception, we aim to support the argument that we make perception out of things perceived. In addition Merleau-Ponty helps us to understand that the world is not what we think we see it is, rather it is how we experience it. Earlier, Oscar Wilde had suggested that art brings out not only the essence of an object, but also the phenomena of the object of art. To Wilde and Merleau-Ponty art shows us the world as it truly is. As an example the work of conceptual artists, Richard Long and Walter De Maria, show that through a minimal intrusion the essence of the site can become visible.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 2. The World Is Islands

Abstract
Hypothetical and often in an allegorical way, the island has been used as a space to discover the origin of space. For the anthropologist the island is about the (re)discovery of the origin of man (anthropology). In many adventure stories such as Defoe’s Robison Crusoe it alludes to the origin of Western society. It are on islands that Darwin discovers and formulates his ideas on natural selection. An important allegorical meaning of the island can be found in reading Heidgger’s Building Dwelling Thinking (1954) in which the dwelling is an island, architecture as the act of possession of space.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 3. Of Pyramids and Fire

Abstract
In animal space there are activities, instinctive behaviour and the context; a space in which the animals, including humans play out their lives. It is with these two parameters of context and activities that Darwin places his theory of natural selection: species adapt and physically adjust to their environment. This adaption is also done through a manipulation of the environment: through the construction of enclosures to provide for protection as well as physically comfortable space. In the jungle we can find pyramids that go beyond the basic constructions that provide shelter. These monumental structures are symbolic spaces expressing humanity’s desire to overcome the limitations of their context, to reach beyond themselves. In the dense Guatemalan jungle, standing on top of one of those great Mayan edifice, Tikal 1, a layered space unfolds beneath. We can see the jungle with its spatial hierarchy that can be read in a similar way as Abraham Maslow defined his hypothesis of the Hierarchy of Needs. Going further back in time, humanities’ conscious use of fire is investigated as the way it has been used to control the context in space and time. The creation of this man-controlled bubble of heat and light could be considered as that very moment when architecture was born.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 4. Useless Architecture

Abstract
Death is believed to be the end of biological life. With life playing its drama all around us, the appearance of death within the time-line of life suggests that there is, in terms of spatiality, a space of death. This notion leads to a duality of space: the space of the living and the space of death, a space reserved specifically for the dead. In addition, next to it there is also is a space of the dead; a dead body as an object still takes up space among the living. As we saw in Chap. 1, the space of the living is what Merleau-Ponty defines in his book The Phenomenology of Perception; as fundamental. Merlau-Ponty points out that there would be no space for us if we did not have a body (Maurice Merleau-Ponty: The Phenomenology of Perception. p.). The question of the space of death is a metaphysical enquiry that might been asked by probably every human who has ever lived: is there a space in which the dead in some form or another continue to reside? That is, is there a spatiality in an afterlife? The space of the dead, on the other hand, is a space here among the living: the space the dead occupy as a corpse is a space that equally occupies the human mind. It is through architecture that humans try to answer this question; a stone placed on top of a deceased body symbolically tries to overcome this ultimate limitation of life. These stones, heavy in weight and sometimes hauled from very far distances, are the very first acts of architecture; as a physical manifestation of a symbolic gesture in which the memory of the dead is expressed as persisting within the durability of a material that has been around for millions of years. A gesture that is still practised today.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 5. Chicago

Abstract
For this chapter, let us turn our attention towards the Great Fire of Chicago of 1871, and the impact that I shall argue, it had on the buildings we see around the world. Herodotus, Pliny, Ovid and Tacitus all wrote about a magical bird: the phoenix, which was said to end its own life by burning and would then be reborn out of the fire. The story displays aspects of symbolism of regeneration, resurrection and immortality (P. V. Aureli: The possibility of an absolute architecture. p. 34.); we will see something similar happening after many fires that destroyed large portions of any city that has burned down in the past. P. V. Aureli, in his book The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture, suggests that the idea of the city should start with the limits of architectural form itself, and that “architecture must address the city, even when the city has no goal for architecture.” (Jean Chevalier ed. al: Penguin dictionary of symbolism. p. 752.) Within Chicago, a chaotic development of a city built on a grid that was thrown over a stretch of marshland, the domino effect that resulted out of “The Great Fire of Chicago” expressed both these issues: the limits of the architectural form were expanded rapidly horizontally along the grid as well as vertically, and the resulting architecture of skyscrapers would define a new form of urban development. The fire had a significant influence on the built world as we see it today. A combination of factors and inventions, such as fireproof steel construction, the use of elevators, and air conditioning would in their combination lead to the re-building of Chicago. The dynamics behind these technological drivers that initially were devised to rebuild a fast growing city has today changed the face of architecture around the world. These innovations led to the creation of a Universal Space, which takes the global as its total environment while bringing the various localities together into one overarching system.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 6. Universal Architecture Domination Act

Abstract
In a similar way as the characters described in the creation of the concep of the Universal Space conceived in Chicago that has shaped the building technology that is forming the world today, we will now look at a small group of mainly western European architects that have defined the architecture we see around the world today.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 7. Transitional Space

Abstract
Transitional spaces are spaces in which the dominant factor for the creation of space are the activities taking place within them. As we have seen in Chaps. 3 and 6, the importance of the three parameters that in my opinion define architectural space: context, construction and activities all have shifted. This shift on the emphasis of construction was to overcome the dominance of the context, which resulted in a move from Sequential to Universal space. Out of the Universal Space due to the shifting of the parameters of space, emerged a new type of space which I call: Transitional Space(Martin van der Linden: Transition! in Paul Jackson, Reimi Suomi: e-Business and Workplace Design.). In Transitional Space the context and the process of construction become one, which allowed for an emphasis on the activities taking place inside this space.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 8. Context Welcome

Abstract
Architecture creates space for human activities. The Glass House is an enclosure of these activities in its purest sense. The three elements of the construction of space are all there; in the creation of a Transitional Space, it leans heavily on the logistics and technical means of the Universal Space. Then there is the natural surroundings, which is first found and bought as farmland, then enhanced, and later re-designed in order to make nature, the context of the house look more beautiful, more natural. However, the emphasis in the Glass House is on the activity of living. This is an architecture that opens life by letting the outside in, but also in a voyeuristic way showing the life on the inside outwards. In the Glass House, which Philip Johnson designed and built in 1949 for himself, everything is open and visible. As humans have resisted the limitations that the context imposed on them, in The Glass House that Philip Johnson, the space, due to its glazed openness, both becomes the immediate spatial context but is also distances itself from that context. It is enclosed, yet open, and depending on the season it can be heated (although rather poorly) and cooled. In an early article in Life magazine, Johnson is described as: living alone, but also very open, very minimal “accompanied only by weather, paintings and books.” The openness and visibility expressed in the Glass House can be read as a metaphor of contemporary living; today, many online-users all seem to live in glass houses, as they share on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram what they eat, where they shop and what they buy, and who they have sex with. Everything is visible, as we are witnessing everything from everyone. The Glass House, when completed, was so popular that Johnson’s life partner, David Whitney had to put up signs asking for people not to enter the property. The Transitional Space of the Glass House becomes a metaphor of our life, or where our lives are heading.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 9. The House as a Container for the Unconscious

Abstract
A few years after the American warships  of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854 forced Japan to open its trade to the world, the Japanese government sent out their young architects to learn about Western architecture and construction methods. Japanese architecture had up to that point been in the very capable hands of carpenters. The influence of the Japanese carpenter can still be felt today, as most of the larger construction companies in Japan can trace their origins back to traditional carpentry; the world’s oldest continuously running independent company was Kongo Gumi, founded in 578 and remaining continuously in operation until in 2006 it was absorbed within another Japanese construction company, Takamatsu. It is around the end of the nineteenth century that in Japan a schism appeared within its construction field with the introduction of the profession of the architect which led to one person now being solely in charge of the envisioning part of construction, while the execution would be remain in hands of the carpenters who were modernising as well. The division of architecture as an intellectual activity fitted well with, whom I believe is one of Japan’s most influential architects: Kazuo Shinohara (1925–2006). Although at first glance, Shinohara’s early projects look like the design of a traditional Japanese house, while analysing his writings, that always accompanied the publication of his projects, a series of deeper conceptual layers of spatial thought appear. For Shinohara, the house is a work of art, a “binding relationship between seemingly indifferent components and the whole (J. A. Architecture: Kazuo Shinohara. p. 119)” Shinohara sought contradictions, in order to provoke an emotional reaction in the people using his spaces. Shinohara took the small house and turned it into a self-expressing universe.
Martin van der Linden

Chapter 10. Zero-Time Space, the End of Architecture

Abstract
An archaeology of the future would reveal that any future is firmly set in the time it was imagined in. Following the paths of the changing spatial transitions between context, construction and human activities as outlined in this book we do not need to rely on technology to show us the paths towards the future. On the contrary, the parameters that have been driving the process of modernisation—the reduction of space, the shortening of time and the emphasis on human activities—will continue to determine not just the way our cities and architecture will look like, but also the way we use these spaces. Ironically, the effect of all these transitional spaces that we are building is slowly destroying the one bubble we call home: our planet. Cities seen from space glow in the dark, not only because of the lighting that keeps us up at night, but also due to the heat generated to keep us warm. This heat is also visible emanating from the exhaust of the air conditioning units that keeps us cool in the summer. Our dreams of imaginary spaces are ever more quickly destroying our planet, and we are at a turning point regarding the direction where these spaces are taking us.
Martin van der Linden

Backmatter

Additional information