Dwelling and Architecture




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© 2008 by jovis Verlag GmbH I Texts by kind permission of the authors. Pictures by<br />

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FotoSoyuz: p. 167 I Denis Diderot: p. 51 I J.N.L. Dur<strong>and</strong>: p. 71 left I Daniel Fidel<br />

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978-3-86859-012-8<br />

Foreword 6<br />

Rod Hackney (RIBA)<br />

Introduction 8<br />

One 15<br />

On <strong>Dwelling</strong> <strong>and</strong> Building<br />

Two 33<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong> in the World<br />

Three 49<br />

The Technology Issue<br />

Four 61<br />

Modern <strong>Architecture</strong> <strong>and</strong> Traditional <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

Five 75<br />

Earth, Character, Aesthetics<br />

Six 91<br />

The Making of Things<br />

Seven 107<br />

The Building of <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

Eight 121<br />

The Building of Places<br />

Nine 141<br />

Modern Spaces – Contemporary Places<br />

Ten 159<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong> Disengaged<br />

Epilogue 172<br />

Quoted Literature 174

Foreword<br />

7 _______<br />

Foreword<br />

Rod Hackney<br />

“A great part of the present evil state of architecture is due to the client – to the man,<br />

(never a woman?), who gives the order, the man who pays.” We are all acquainted<br />

with the big businessmen, bankers <strong>and</strong> merchants – you know? Those responsible for<br />

the credit crunch, who tell us, “Ah, but I am merely a man of affairs, I live entirely<br />

outside the world of art; I am a philistine.”<br />

Who’s having this whinge? – Another clue! “Never undress in your bedroom. It is<br />

not a clean thing to do <strong>and</strong> makes the room horribly untidy.” Thus prescribed the<br />

writer of the old testament for architects, still rigidly adhered to by self-respecting<br />

‘Modernist Movement’ designers. Yes if you still haven’t got it, let me tell you, it is<br />

the Swiss/French Architect Le Corbusier’s, ’The Manual of <strong>Dwelling</strong>,’ in his 1923<br />

book, Towards a New <strong>Architecture</strong>. The gospel went on, “Keep your odds <strong>and</strong> ends in<br />

drawers or cabinets,” <strong>and</strong> the advice extended to keeping buildings off the ground, go<br />

high young man/woman <strong>and</strong> put the restaurants in the sky to thus avoid, “that fungus<br />

which eats up the pavements of Paris.”<br />

Oh, Heidegger, wherefore art thou? Readers! Get yourselves introduced to a balanced<br />

approach to his views – it might be good for your souls!<br />

Chinese architecture students at Princeton University, with limited English language<br />

speaking skills, are told, “Don’t worry, Heidegger is incomprehensible.” Well, all will<br />

now be revealed, in clear script, as beautifully structured as you could hope for, in the<br />

following chapters. This is a bright, positive, intelligible <strong>and</strong> warm interpretation of<br />

Heidegger’s architectural thoughts. Heidegger was a poet. This book is poetry.<br />

Arctic Eskimos, who annually move between winter <strong>and</strong> summer dwellings will underst<strong>and</strong><br />

it – they are born philosophers. To the Canadian Inuit, Heidegger’s carefully<br />

constructed relationship between building <strong>and</strong> dwelling is as poetic <strong>and</strong> skilful as<br />

persuading the visiting polar bear to go <strong>and</strong> eat somewhere else without having to<br />

shoot the beast.<br />

This work wraps around Martin Heidegger’s 1951 Building <strong>Dwelling</strong> Thinking – distinguishing<br />

the limitations of modernism/de-humanised environments (when mod-<br />

ernism became no more than a ‘style’), the liberation of individual/society, <strong>and</strong> human<br />

relationships with nature/locality. Nevertheless, while this writing helped to shape the<br />

arguments against Modernism’s arrogance, not all aspects of Heidegger’s philosophy<br />

were either applicable to architecture nor had they been applied would they have led<br />

to a humanised, tolerant, not repressive <strong>and</strong> not depressing environment: over 6 billion<br />

people cannot all be hunter-gatherers like the Inuit, can they?<br />

Heidegger trusted human beings more than the proponents of Modernism did. To<br />

him we human types are manifest, warts <strong>and</strong> all; we revel in untidiness. <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

is not about living in a house; for us dwelling is a verb <strong>and</strong> the centre of everything<br />

we do. To dwell is not static – it is on the move <strong>and</strong> even when it stops its journey it<br />

is rarely still. It is there before we journey <strong>and</strong> there when we arrive, it is not placespecific.<br />

A good home is where we make it, it is where we lie.<br />

The Dutch gypsy, Rem Koolhaas struts his stuff on the other side of the tennis net.<br />

No more unintelligible to some of Princeton’s professors than Heidegger perhaps, but<br />

much more appreciated by the fresh-off-the-international-transport-vehicle Chinese<br />

architectural students. After all Koolhaas’ urban designs are as clear to most as a colourful<br />

psychedelic MP3 cover.<br />

To start with Heidegger <strong>and</strong> finish with Koolhaas is a rare safari, but the reader may<br />

conclude that it works! Both men believe that proper structures (buildings if you like<br />

– but please include caves, warehouses, shops, public spaces) allow ordinary mortals<br />

to dwell; both agree that a house is not, “a machine for living in” (Le Corbusier again<br />

in 1923), <strong>and</strong> both agree that God is in the mess of everyday living. Both believe that<br />

human beings are complicated, but they are at the height of the food chain; they are<br />

clumsy, cluttered <strong>and</strong> puzzling, yet they have produced evocative cities full of charm<br />

<strong>and</strong> surprise <strong>and</strong> many without Teutonic planners having had any control of them at<br />

all. Oh, Thank God for the human spirit. Whilst it remains free, complicated <strong>and</strong> undisciplined,<br />

the future is bright; the quirkiness is fun, the unexpected is what makes<br />

dwelling so magical.<br />

Good architecture is about raising the spirit. It is not a piece of black <strong>and</strong> white photography<br />

without a human being in sight to interrupt the cold view of the building.<br />

The author of this work has remained true to this debate; academics, lovers of good<br />

design, as well as readers of a good argument, will enjoy this narrative <strong>and</strong> wellconstructed<br />

theory…. In fact, true to its task, the following chapters will make a good<br />

place to live, a series of ten dwellings perhaps, a home fit for readers.

On <strong>Dwelling</strong> <strong>and</strong> Building<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong> <strong>and</strong> Housing<br />

We Dwell by Building<br />

The Truth of Building<br />

The Fragment <strong>and</strong> the Rock<br />

Is Truth Collective?<br />

Is <strong>Dwelling</strong> Collective?<br />

Staying with Things<br />

Heidegger’s concept of dwelling: The “gathering of<br />

the fourfold” (i.e., the four components of man’s<br />

world – earth, sky, mortals, divinities). <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

achieved by building (constructing <strong>and</strong> caring).<br />

Heidegger: Buildings serve dwelling <strong>and</strong> reveal the essence<br />

of things (with reference to “The Origin of the<br />

Work of Art”). The l<strong>and</strong>scaping around the Acropolis<br />

best appreciated in this context. Revealing the essence<br />

of things is achieved collectively. <strong>Dwelling</strong> is also<br />

achieved collectively. Man’s involvement with things.<br />

Things are inseparable from space. Things create<br />

places. <strong>Dwelling</strong> is achieved in places.<br />


One On <strong>Dwelling</strong> <strong>and</strong> Building<br />

27 _______<br />

Religion <strong>and</strong> mass culture: the involvement of the faithful with artwork can be collective <strong>and</strong> intense, albeit<br />

not necessarily extremely thoughtful.

<strong>Dwelling</strong> in the World<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong> in the Past<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong> <strong>and</strong> Awe<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong> with Others<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong> <strong>and</strong> Thinking<br />

Building <strong>and</strong> Buildings<br />

True Buildings<br />

“Vernacular” <strong>and</strong> “Learned” <strong>Architecture</strong><br />

Heidegger’s dwelling achieved before the industrial<br />

revolution. “The plight of dwelling has nothing to do<br />

with the condition of the industrial workers” seen as<br />

referring to Engel’s relevant book <strong>and</strong> as such contradictory<br />

to Heidegger’s own statements in Aufenthalte.<br />

Was recollection possible in nineteenth century<br />

hovels? Thinking is crucial for dwelling. Building,<br />

important not only as process, but as artefact as well.<br />

<strong>Architecture</strong> matters. Heidegger: “true” buildings<br />

allow dwelling. “True” meant in specific cultural<br />

environment. The search for “true” buildings since<br />

Vitruvius <strong>and</strong> romanticism. Vernacular architecture<br />

produces true buildings. Loos.<br />


Two <strong>Dwelling</strong> in the World<br />

39 _______<br />

The layers of care <strong>and</strong> neglect are discernible in this palimpsest of human dwelling, which occasionally<br />

took place in this courtyard in Manhattan, New York. Clearly, dwelling cannot be identified with living in a<br />

house.<br />

to enter the museum crowded with visitors as it was.” 5 What annoyed Heidegger was<br />

not merely the supposed commercialisation of the sublime. During his extended visit<br />

to the Parthenon, “the crowd of visitors became larger. Hardly was the obtained staying<br />

to be substituted by sightseeing arrangements … The annoyance with the crowds<br />

was not that they blocked the ways <strong>and</strong> obstructed access to different places. What<br />

was much more bothersome was their tourist’s zeal, their to-ing <strong>and</strong> fro-ing, in which<br />

one was, without being aware, included, as it threatened to degrade what was just now<br />

the element of our experience into an object ready-at-h<strong>and</strong> for the viewer.” 6<br />

The movement of tourists undermined the ability to stay with things, by distracting<br />

the attention, disturbing the intellectual awareness <strong>and</strong> dissipating the inclination of<br />

the entire Being of the philosopher to identify with them. How could this fail to be<br />

true also of the workers in the first industrial age?<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong> <strong>and</strong> Thinking<br />

Is dwelling, then, exclusively the offspring of contemplation? By thinking, can we<br />

learn how to dwell?<br />

For Heidegger, thinking is certainly of fundamental importance to human beings’<br />

staying with things, which is interlinked with dwelling. Thinking is not a detached<br />

mental activity of a distant observer, but a complex procedure by which man in his<br />

everyday life, involved with things, comes to know the world of which he is part <strong>and</strong><br />

his position in it. 7<br />

The natural ease with which “earth <strong>and</strong> heaven, divinities <strong>and</strong> mortals enter in simple<br />

oneness into things” in the farmhouse in the Black Forest, does not imply a lack of<br />

thinking on the part of its unsophisticated occupants. Nor does the loss of contact<br />

with nature by townspeople preclude dwelling. The contemplative life may compensate<br />

to some extent for the authenticity of dwelling that we have now lost. “We [sc.<br />

we who are assembled in this lecture theatre in Darmstadt] may even be much nearer<br />

to that bridge [sc. in the old town of Heidelberg] <strong>and</strong> to what it makes room for<br />

than someone who uses it daily as an indifferent river crossing,” 8 he comments. And<br />

later he proposes a way out of the situation of the homeless, “Yet as soon as man gives<br />

thought to his homelessness, it is a misery no longer.” 9 Thinking is the first step towards<br />

overcoming the dwelling crisis. Thinking may st<strong>and</strong> in the way of the gradual<br />

unravelling of things <strong>and</strong> the reduction of daily life to a series of purpose-oriented<br />

activities; that is to say to the ongoing loss of the preconditions for dwelling.

Three The Technology Issue<br />

51 _______<br />

Denis Diderot, Encyclopaedia, the design of a mill. As early as in the eighteenth century, producing bread<br />

was a complex procedure. Personal involvement with things essential to survival had given way to efficiency,<br />

even prior to the Industrial Revolution.<br />

The Power of Technology<br />

Heidegger declares that it is not his intention to encourage us to build farmhouses<br />

like the one he has praised. That would be, in any case, in vain, since the problem of<br />

contemporary homelessness lies in the fact that we do not possess the preconditions<br />

for dwelling, <strong>and</strong> therefore for building this kind of “true” house. The lack of a true<br />

home is not due to our inability to reproduce the configuration of the farmhouse in<br />

the Black Forest, to construct other, identical farmhouses, but in our inability to stay,<br />

to live there, caring for <strong>and</strong> fashioning things, full of feelings <strong>and</strong> thoughts.<br />

Our technological culture itself has undermined this ability, has cut us off from our<br />

world. “The irresistible modern technology together with the scientific industrialization<br />

of the world is about to obliterate any possibility of staying,” 1 concluded<br />

Heidegger on his visit to Greece in 1962: staying meant both individually <strong>and</strong> collectively,<br />

it may be added.<br />

It may not be wide off the mark to assert that technological advances increasingly individualise<br />

dwelling. In our contemporary world, individuals are not able to survive,<br />

far less flourish or live long <strong>and</strong> pleasant lives without constantly resorting to products<br />

<strong>and</strong> accomplishments of technology. People sometimes seem inclined to forget that<br />

technology, like the science that increasingly supports it, is the result of long collective<br />

effort, is pre-eminently a social achievement; they may acknowledge their dependence<br />

on technology, but many refuse to acknowledge their dependence on society. This<br />

paradox is due to the fact that the use of technology nowadays allows the individual<br />

to withdraw into the closed world of his personal daily experience. In earlier times<br />

the need for collective activity – for hunting, for constructing irrigation works <strong>and</strong><br />

paths – left little choice to the members of the community but to participate in the<br />

common task. Today the illusion of self-sufficiency is fuelled by achievements made<br />

possible through collective effort. Ironically, then, being-in-the-world is becoming<br />

increasingly individual at a period when large-scale cooperation, a prerequisite for any<br />

advance of science <strong>and</strong> technology, is more essential to life than ever before, is as much<br />

the cornerstone of human civilisation as it has ever been.<br />

Gods in Danger<br />

Individualisation of dwelling seems to be only part of the problem. Linking technological<br />

progress to our distancing from God, Heidegger warns, “Unavoidable as<br />

it is, this destiny could not, then, but refuse a staying to man, which would have

Modern <strong>Architecture</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

Traditional <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

The House-Machine<br />

The Demolition of the Past<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong>s <strong>and</strong> Dwellers<br />

Le Corbusier <strong>and</strong> the house-machine. Positivist<br />

approach. Detached approach to the house, quantifiable<br />

criteria for evaluating houses contradicting<br />

Heidegger’s imperatives. Taut: “Houses are built for<br />

people.” Architects criticising modernism turned to<br />

Heidegger, not Taut.<br />


Four Modern <strong>Architecture</strong> <strong>and</strong> Traditional <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

65 _______<br />

“Today’s houses may even be well planned, easy to keep, attractively cheap, open to air, light, <strong>and</strong> sun, but<br />

do the houses in themselves hold any guarantee that dwelling occurs in them?” asks Heidegger. In each<br />

cultural environment there is a particular concept of what “home” really means. Here, the entrance to a<br />

house in Porto Novo, Benin.<br />

though, as the offspring of rationally formulated design principles. Gropius, too, aspired<br />

to “… express life in his epoch in clear, simplified forms,” following “the dictates<br />

of constructive logic.” 5 Thirty years later Heidegger asked “today’s houses may even<br />

be well planned, easy to keep, attractively cheap, open to air, light, <strong>and</strong> sun, but do<br />

the houses in themselves hold any guarantee that dwelling occurs in them?” – clearly<br />

a rhetorical question implying a negative answer. 6 His assessment met with the agreement<br />

of a large part of the public, judging by the many modifications made to Le<br />

Corbusier’s houses by their occupants, even after the architect had achieved international<br />

recognition. 7<br />

Like the Bauhaus, Le Corbusier targeted the academic architecture of his day, <strong>and</strong> his<br />

aim was not to reply in advance to Heidegger’s future objections. In “The Manual of<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong>,” contained in his book Vers une <strong>Architecture</strong> (Towards a New <strong>Architecture</strong>),<br />

which met with an enormous response over the years, he addresses himself clearly to<br />

people who were able to define for themselves the conditions in which they wished<br />

to live. His visions, however, did not relate exclusively to the upper classes: “All men<br />

have the same physical make-up, the same functions. All men have the same needs …<br />

The house is a thing essential to man,” 8 he said, foreseeing <strong>and</strong> partly contributing to<br />

the dissemination of the benefits of progress to all strata of society.<br />

The house not only had to be a machine – it had to be seen as such by the public.<br />

According to Heidegger, the reliance that, linked man with tools as things, the feeling<br />

that he could trust them to build his world, the feeling, that is, that he could use his<br />

house to build his dwelling, was now to give way to the cool assessment of the effectiveness<br />

of the machine-dwelling.<br />

The Demolition of the Past<br />

In order to achieve the perfectly functioning dwelling, the dem<strong>and</strong>s usually made by<br />

people on their houses had to be dropped. There would have to be an end to tiled<br />

roofs (only flat roofs would be made <strong>and</strong> planted up), dark basements (buildings<br />

would be supported on stilts), small windows (the interior of the house should be<br />

opened up to the surrounding space), an end to thick walls <strong>and</strong> plaster decoration.<br />

There would have to be an end to the sitting room that was opened only on the rare<br />

occasion of a family visit; in vogue even in the smallest working-class dwellings since<br />

late nineteenth century, in imitation of the bourgeoisie mansions, this consumed<br />

much-needed living space. Customs <strong>and</strong> accepted beliefs would have to be demol-

Four Modern <strong>Architecture</strong> <strong>and</strong> Traditional <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

69 _______<br />

A rationally designed recycling bin in Strasbourg set against the “primordial” house during Christmas<br />

festivities. Modern architecture was perceived as a detached design <strong>and</strong> planning philosophy that ignored<br />

man as a historical being <strong>and</strong> addressed him solely as a thinking being. As such it was incapable of providing<br />

“homes” for real people. Is rationality incompatible with dwelling after all?<br />

Heidegger’s bridge is certainly a different one. Le Corbusier’s houses are reached by<br />

crossing Adam Smith’s bridge, not Heidegger’s.<br />

<strong>Dwelling</strong>s <strong>and</strong> Dwellers<br />

Le Corbusier’s language may have been very sharp <strong>and</strong> may therefore have helped to<br />

rally architects to the flag of modernism, contributing in this way to the establishment<br />

of this movement, but his views did not meet with general approval. Colin St John<br />

Wilson has made us aware of the scope of reaction against Le Corbusier by modernist<br />

architects who perceived that he narrowed <strong>and</strong> impoverished the Modern Movement<br />

from its early years in the mid-1920s. 15<br />

Among the dissidents was Bruno Taut, a pioneer of the working-class housing in the<br />

Weimar Republic, that is to say, at a time when the erection of decent housing had<br />

been generally recognised as the most effective means for blunting the explosive social<br />

inequalities that scourged Europe. Taut foresaw the danger of architecture developing<br />

into a means of imposing views on how people should live; views which, while<br />

enlightened, were foreign to their mentalities. Not wishing to contribute to architecture’s<br />

becoming, once again, a tool for the physical representation of yet another ideal<br />

world, he professed a different kind of positivism – one that showed greater respect<br />

for real, not ideal people.<br />

While in self-imposed exile in Japan <strong>and</strong> Turkey in the second half of the 1930s, he<br />

wrote his Architekturlehre: Grundlagen, Theorie und Kritik aus der Sicht eines sozialistischen<br />

Architekten (Lessons in <strong>Architecture</strong>: Principles, Theory <strong>and</strong> Critique from the<br />

Point of View of a Socialist Architect). 16 What is interesting here is that Taut, who in<br />

1929 had written a book entitled Die neue Baukunst in Europa und Amerika (also published<br />

the same year in English as Modern <strong>Architecture</strong>), 17 in which he propagated the<br />

then avant-garde movement, defined himself seven years later as a socialist architect,<br />

not as a frontrunner of modernism. With a trace of bitterness, he notes, “Houses are,<br />

of course, built for people. It can only be a joke when various prophets of modernism<br />

speak of a machine-dwelling, referring to the house. We should be aware of the consequences<br />

of the concept ‘machine-dwelling,’ a machine whose product is dwelling, that<br />

is, working, eating, sleeping, bringing up children, company …” 18<br />

This was a direct, <strong>and</strong>, admittedly, slightly unfair criticism of Le Corbusier. For Le<br />

Corbusier too wanted the house to be “a shelter against heat, cold, rain, thieves, <strong>and</strong><br />

the inquisitive. A receptacle of light <strong>and</strong> sun” 19 – that is, he wanted the house, de-

Five Earth, Character, Aesthetics<br />

81 _______<br />

New York. Meatpacking district. The fact that several activities are better served at ground level does not<br />

necessarily mean that contact with Mother Earth is a sine qua non for dwelling.<br />

building. As such, it does not depart (at least not in any significant way) from what<br />

is h<strong>and</strong>ed down by tradition, though it is at the same time unique. It belongs to an<br />

architectural type. The features that the farmhouse shares with other similar buildings<br />

confirm that its occupants are members of a community, <strong>and</strong> moreover of a specific<br />

cultural environment, <strong>and</strong> its uniqueness affirms their individuality.<br />

Is this kind of individualisation a precondition of dwelling as meant by Heidegger?<br />

If we recall his reaction to mass tourism, the annoyance he felt at what he perceived<br />

as the levelling brought about by people’s group behaviour, we may suppose that<br />

mass production of st<strong>and</strong>ardised identical houses would not be his first choice. For<br />

a further reason, too: that st<strong>and</strong>ardisation is intertwined with a rationalisation of the<br />

building process. Rationalisation results in detachment, which in itself is not compatible<br />

with the slow, arduous building of a house, <strong>and</strong> with it of dwelling. 15<br />

One has the impression that individualisation is the essential first step in the creation<br />

of what may be called the identity of a building – or a settlement – which is a<br />

rather ill-defined yet immediately recognisable aggregate of features. Viewed from this<br />

st<strong>and</strong>point, Le Corbusier’s attitude that all people have the same needs appeared to<br />

have a significant downside: its justification of the st<strong>and</strong>ardisation of housing in order<br />

to facilitate its industrial production would result unavoidably in a lack of identity. Le<br />

Corbusier was by no means alone in his fascination with the industrialisation of housing.<br />

Industrialisation was hotly debated by the utopian architects of the 1960s <strong>and</strong><br />

1970s, just as it is pursued by several advocates of hypermodernity today: the breach<br />

with the past often appeared to be linked with the ab<strong>and</strong>onment of the manner of<br />

constructing a building that approached it as unique.<br />

Taut claimed that most of the problems contemporary architecture was faced with<br />

were due to the fact that it was no longer practised as an art, in the sense of arts <strong>and</strong><br />

crafts: pursuing the beautiful while solving specific technical problems. 16 The domination<br />

of architecture by technology, by mass-produced, st<strong>and</strong>ardised building parts,<br />

<strong>and</strong> the concomitant transformation of the architect into a production manager <strong>and</strong><br />

of the craftsman into a labourer who exercised no initiative in what he did, undermined<br />

architecture, just as much as dwelling was undermined by the treatment of<br />

houses as machines.<br />

Was lack of identity, however, an inevitable consequence of the st<strong>and</strong>ardisation (or<br />

even repetition) of the building layout <strong>and</strong> form <strong>and</strong> the rationalisation of the building<br />

process? At first sight the answer appears to be positive: one might think of the

Five Earth, Character, Aesthetics<br />

87 _______<br />

Robert Venturi <strong>and</strong> his team awakened our awareness of the fact that ordinary, “un-heroic” architecture is<br />

founded on generally understood codes of communication; the city thus becomes intimate <strong>and</strong> the built<br />

environment reflects the relationships between members of societies. However, un-heroic does not necessarily<br />

have to be identified with ordinary. Here the Rosa Luxemburg monument in Berlin; inspired by the<br />

dumping of Luxemburg’s body in the L<strong>and</strong>wehrkanal, following her assassination in 1919.<br />

<strong>Architecture</strong> <strong>and</strong> the Public<br />

Beauty may individualise, but individualisation does not necessarily beautify. The<br />

discussion on beauty may well have been marginalised or even outlawed by post-war<br />

theories of architecture, but the general public still judged the built environment by<br />

that criterion. Le Corbusier’s turn to an almost “sculptural” architecture in the early<br />

1950s offered little help: some of his buildings may have attracted admiration, <strong>and</strong><br />

still do, but generally speaking, the architecture of the 1950s <strong>and</strong> 1960s met with<br />

no enthusiasm. The individualisation of buildings was overshadowed by what was<br />

perceived as ugliness. People would turn their backs on them, whenever feasible. Turn<br />

your back <strong>and</strong> you cannot see. Highly recognisable buildings were perceived as indifferent,<br />

cities as “soulless,” spaces as lacking interest. 34<br />

These perceptions were deeply rooted <strong>and</strong> based on hard facts, despite the arrogant<br />

claim architects made that they were the temporary reactions of laymen to the new:<br />

Jane Jacobs was among the first to condemn the destruction of places that were the<br />

venues of the daily routine of city-dwellers, <strong>and</strong> the dismantling of their micro-environment<br />

in which those social relationships that enriched life developed spontaneously.<br />

The small-scale neighbourhood, with its complex mixture of activities, had<br />

been sacrificed in the name of the sound functioning of the city, designed on the basis<br />

of the separation of dwelling, work, recreation, <strong>and</strong> circulation. Conventional streets<br />

lined with dwellings <strong>and</strong> shops had been abolished, to be replaced by highways <strong>and</strong><br />

endless tracts of wastel<strong>and</strong>, neglected leftovers of space squashed between indifferent<br />

multi-storey complexes. Casual, fortuitous social contact no longer had a clearly defined,<br />

tangible field of action. People were left profoundly bewildered, with a feeling<br />

of homelessness.<br />

Jacobs’ book Death <strong>and</strong> Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, 35 reflected<br />

the mood <strong>and</strong> gave voice to the views of the general public about their city. It thus<br />

brought the debate on architecture down to earth, <strong>and</strong> grounded the evaluation of<br />

architecture firmly in empirical evidence, checking its claims against reality. 36 Robert<br />

Venturi spoke a few years later, in 1966, of the contradiction <strong>and</strong> complexity that<br />

made historical buildings interesting, <strong>and</strong> in 1972 of the meaning with which ordinary<br />

architecture is charged. 37 Venturi <strong>and</strong> his team made us aware of the fact that<br />

ordinary, “un-heroic” architecture is founded on generally understood codes of communication,<br />

making the function of buildings <strong>and</strong> the sociopolitical choices associated<br />

with their erection visible in the city. Thus, one may conclude, the city becomes<br />

intimate <strong>and</strong> the built environment reflects the relationships between the members<br />

of societies.<br />

Endnotes<br />

1 Futurism was an early twentieth century movement that<br />

sought to take technology to extremes. The proposals of Antonio<br />

Sant’Elia for the città nuova (new city) in 1914 are emblematic<br />

of the movement. Le Corbusier proposed to house<br />

large businesses <strong>and</strong> also the “working class” on skyscrapers<br />

st<strong>and</strong>ing on stilts amidst greenery <strong>and</strong> to free the ground beneath<br />

them, which was to be devoted to infrastructure networks<br />

<strong>and</strong> traffic circulation.<br />

2 Ron Herron, “Walking City” project, 1964. In Herron’s designs,<br />

earth is conceived more as wastel<strong>and</strong>, rather than as<br />

nourishing mother.<br />

3 The garden city movement, founded in 1898 by Ebenezer<br />

Howard, sought to offer an alternative to conventional approaches<br />

to mastering the expansion of cities. Garden cities<br />

were more or less low-density communities surrounded by<br />

greenbelts, consisting of carefully balanced areas of residence,<br />

industry, <strong>and</strong> agriculture; they provided high living st<strong>and</strong>ards.<br />

4 Cf. Taut 1920, 4.<br />

5 Taut 1977, 134 (“Das einfache, sozusagen normale Gefühl,<br />

das sich gegen die Unterbringung von Familien mit Kindern<br />

im 10. oder im 20. Stockwerk…”)<br />

6 Le Corbusier 1927, 54.<br />

7 “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Heidegger 2002, 21.<br />

(“Sie lichtet zugleich jenes, worauf und worin der Mensch<br />

sein Wohnen gründet. Wir nennen es die Erde. Von dem, was<br />

das Wort hier sagt, ist sowohl die Vorstellung einer abgelagerten<br />

Stoffmasse als auch die nur astronomische eines Planeten<br />

fernzuhalten. Die Erde ist das, wohin das Aufgehen alles Aufgehende<br />

und zwar als ein solches zurückbirgt. Im Aufgehenden<br />

west die Erde als das Bergende. Das Tempelwerk eröffnet<br />

dastehend eine Welt und stellt diese zugleich zurück auf die<br />

Erde, die dergestalt selbst erst als der heimatliche Grund herauskommt,”<br />

“Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes,” in Heidegger<br />

1950, 31). Pikionis’s thought unfolds in parallel with that of<br />

Heidegger; as usual, though, it is tinted with a rather neoplatonic<br />

mysticism, “It was our duty to preserve [Attica’s soil]

Six The Making of Things<br />

93 _______<br />

It is quite clear that Heidegger pointed out some aspects of dwelling that many people recognised as familiar.<br />

In order to assess the validity of his reasoning, we should ask: How do people actually dwell? Here,<br />

a reused colonial house in Porto Novo, Benin.<br />

to dwelling <strong>and</strong> the construction of lodgings of all kinds in a wide variety of cultural<br />

environments.<br />

According to the predominant interpretation adopted by traditional positivist anthropology,<br />

people dwell in structures that are the product of the transcription of<br />

preconceived designs onto raw matter. As Amos Rapaport expresses it, “in any given<br />

case, emic, culture-specific categories or dimensions are used by particular groups<br />

to classify <strong>and</strong> order domains <strong>and</strong> settings, thereby to structure space <strong>and</strong> hence to<br />

organise it. These orderings <strong>and</strong> organisations can then be expressed through physical<br />

means, resulting in built environments. In effect, the organisation of space cognitively<br />

precedes its material expression; settings <strong>and</strong> built environment are thought before<br />

they are built …” 1<br />

This manner of thinking goes back at least to Aristotle, who draws a clear distinction<br />

between noesis (νόησις: cogitation) <strong>and</strong> poiesis (ποίησις: production). It may be recalled<br />

that, “things are generated artificially whose form is contained in the soul [of their<br />

maker] … In generations [i.e., in the making of things] … part of the process is called<br />

cogitation, <strong>and</strong> part production – that which proceeds from the starting point <strong>and</strong><br />

the form is cogitation, <strong>and</strong> that which proceeds from the conclusion of the cogitation<br />

is production.” 2<br />

The process of the creation of any artefact, then, according to Aristotle, includes two<br />

stages: conception <strong>and</strong> design on the one h<strong>and</strong>, <strong>and</strong> physical construction on the<br />

other. 3<br />

Cogitation <strong>and</strong> Production<br />

It is quite clear that Heidegger pointed out some aspects of dwelling that many people<br />

recognised as familiar. However, does this mean that his concept of dwelling, as laid<br />

out in “Building <strong>Dwelling</strong> Thinking,” is not simply a pure theoretical construct that<br />

has little more to do with hard facts than vesting some obvious truths with philosophical<br />

language? In order to assess the validity of his reasoning, we should ask: How<br />

do people actually dwell? To answer this question, we need to review the empirical<br />

data assembled so far.<br />

The ways in which people organise their living space – that is, modify their environment<br />

to make it more favourable to themselves, or at least in a way that they believe is<br />

more favourable – has been systematically investigated by anthropologists <strong>and</strong> social<br />

anthropologists. In time, a huge volume of field observations was assembled relating<br />

Integration into the Environment<br />

The antipode of this positivist way of seeing things is the phenomenological anthropological<br />

approach. “The forms people build, whether in the imagination or on the<br />

ground,” notes Tim Ingold, interpreting the conclusions of a large number of field<br />

researchers, “arise within the current of their involved activity, in the specific relational<br />

contexts of their practical engagement with their surroundings.” 4 The way, that is, in<br />

which man lives in his environment <strong>and</strong> assimilates it may be described as integration<br />

into it, not as the relentless imposition of preconceived schemata on it.<br />

Seeking to blur the distinction between the conception <strong>and</strong> the construction of artefacts<br />

<strong>and</strong> buildings, phenomenological anthropology has seen in “Building <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

Thinking” a theory that forms the basis for interpretative schemata which better<br />

reflect the empirical data. 5

Six The Making of Things<br />

97 _______<br />

The view of positivist anthropology emphasises the unique capacity of human beings to contrive in their<br />

minds not-yet-existing things <strong>and</strong> bring them into being on the basis of mental pictures. To what extent,<br />

though, are such pictures elaborated, <strong>and</strong> to what extent are they just general plans of action? Here, a<br />

street in Bilbao, Spain. People tend to feel comfortable in urban environments formed over time by a<br />

multitude of active agents.<br />

cherished by positivist science since early modern times, on the basis of an approach<br />

that distances itself from positivism.<br />

Heidegger’s mortals seem at first sight closer to Ingold’s than to Rapaport’s people,<br />

since they do not engage in the supposed hubris of imposing themselves, unrestrained,<br />

on their environment. 6 This environment is, in any case, not a set of objects outside<br />

them, but their very world, of which they themselves are part. The contradistinction<br />

between nature <strong>and</strong> culture, natural object <strong>and</strong> artefact, man <strong>and</strong> environment, is a<br />

pattern of thought in the Western world developed by the Enlightenment <strong>and</strong> Modernity<br />

that bears little relation to the complexity of the constant, mutual process<br />

by which man <strong>and</strong> the environment are shaped as an organic whole, <strong>and</strong> has bred<br />

the mentality that led the planet to the brink of disaster: so say the adherents of<br />

the phenomenological school of anthropology, who interpret empirical observations,<br />

“Natural” Building<br />

In the passage quoted above, in which Taut holds that “from an aesthetic point of<br />

view … new houses, new neighbourhoods, even entire new towns … cannot even be<br />

compared with the old houses <strong>and</strong> the old towns,” beauty is considered as a manifestation<br />

of an alleged “natural” production of built environment: the praise of old<br />

houses in general, <strong>and</strong> old towns in general, irrespective of their architecture, implies<br />

an admiration for a vaguely defined past when people supposedly built without having<br />

in mind preconceived plans. Such building practice qualifies as “natural.” We<br />

may recall here that building performed “naturally” produces the kind of buildings<br />

that allow dwelling in Heidegger’s sense: the “self sufficiency of the power” which<br />

ordered the Black Forest farmhouse implies a “natural” procedure. Loos notes in<br />

1910, “The farmer marks out the site for his new house in the green meadow <strong>and</strong><br />

digs out the trenches for the foundations. Then the mason appears. If there is clay in<br />

the area there will be a brickworks delivering bricks. If not, then he can use the stone<br />

from the shores of the lake. And while the mason is laying brick upon brick, stone<br />

upon stone, the carpenter arrives <strong>and</strong> sets up his tools. His axe rings out merrily. He<br />

is making the roof. What kind of roof? A beautiful or an ugly one? He has no idea.<br />

It’s just a roof.” 7<br />

Similarly, in 1925 Pikionis says of the peasant, “He doesn’t need a desk, nor a pen, to<br />

pour out the vain lines of his imagination. He hasn’t read any books on architecture.<br />

He doesn’t know of architectural order <strong>and</strong> character. But he achieves them unconsciously,<br />

following nature.” 8 The “old building” <strong>and</strong> the “old town” are the offspring<br />

of a “natural” process. The man-made environment produced by a “natural” process<br />

appears as an integral part of the natural environment; it counters man’s distancing<br />

from nature that resulted from nature’s objectification by modern science – a process<br />

Max Weber called the Entzauberung of the world (the stripping of the world of its<br />

magic). 9<br />

The great importance that many modernist architects attached to proportions in architecture<br />

seems, in this context, to have been the result of a quest for something to<br />

compensate for the loss of qualities that come with the “natural” processes of producing<br />

built environments. Designing buildings on the basis of a strict system of numeri-

Seven The Building of <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

117 _______<br />

Adolf Loos says, “The aim of a work of art is to make us feel uncomfortable; a house is there for our comfort.<br />

A work of art is revolutionary, a house conservative…” Here, a shop window in Berlin, Germany. Shop<br />

windows undermine the stability of the image of buildings.<br />

identifies the manipulating force of formal architecture, it fails to recognise that every<br />

act of building imposes patterns of thought on people who perceive its final products;<br />

<strong>and</strong> while formal architecture usually attempts to give monumental form to selected,<br />

commonly respected principles, r<strong>and</strong>om building activity just reflects commonly held<br />

views of the day <strong>and</strong> personal preferences, which are questionably worth acquiring a<br />

form that can last in time.<br />

Planning <strong>and</strong> <strong>Dwelling</strong><br />

In any event, a pressing need has arisen for a re-examination of the design process. 20<br />

Evidence assembled by field research has begun to play a truly important role in planning.<br />

Many more aspects of the life of a city <strong>and</strong> its inhabitants are being investigated<br />

<strong>and</strong> monitored nowadays than in the 1950s <strong>and</strong> 1960s. On the one h<strong>and</strong>, trends<br />

that can be detected statistically are interpreted as “inclinations” <strong>and</strong> as choices on<br />

the part of the public, that is to say, as an expression of opinion that has to be taken<br />

seriously into account. On the other h<strong>and</strong>, the impact of every measure is more carefully<br />

studied.<br />

Central planning is beginning to give way to more flexible schemata which correspond<br />

better to societies where individuals tend each to have his or her own way of<br />

life, <strong>and</strong> personal aspirations are accorded the respect that was once reserved for institutions,<br />

such as the nation or the Church.<br />

In this way, the participation of laymen in building their own houses <strong>and</strong> their own<br />

dwellings is becoming attainable once more, after an interval of two <strong>and</strong> a half centuries.<br />

In countries where housing is more or less centrally planned <strong>and</strong> provided for,<br />

this participation now takes the form of a constant supply of information to the housing<br />

<strong>and</strong> planning authorities. 21 This, of course, presupposes <strong>and</strong> dem<strong>and</strong>s respect for<br />

the citizen, <strong>and</strong> responsibility from the authorities – that is, democracy in the broadest<br />

sense of the word. In countries where housing is provided for through private investment,<br />

markets are sensitive enough to register any shifts in the needs or wishes of the<br />

public <strong>and</strong> ready to adapt to any new trends that can be detected – be it the choice to<br />

live alone or with a partner, to live in an extended or a one-parent family, to provide<br />

for either better private or better “communal” areas within the house, or whatever.<br />

In this process, information assumes the role once played by the h<strong>and</strong>-operated tool<br />

in the formation of man’s environment, <strong>and</strong> goes some way towards justifying Marshall<br />

McLuhan’s view that the media is now an “extension” of man. 22

Eight The Building of Places<br />

123 _______<br />

Informal mosque in central Athens. The origins of architecture, maintains Vittorio Gregotti, lie not in the<br />

hut – architecture’s sacred cow since Vitruvius – but in putting a stone on the ground to recognise a place<br />

in the midst of an uncharted territory <strong>and</strong> an unknown universe.<br />

Which Space?<br />

Being-in-the-world is – as Heidegger had already pointed out it in his Sein und Zeit<br />

(Being <strong>and</strong> Time) in 1927 – a being-in-space. 1 However, this space does not exist independently<br />

of things; things are not contained in a pre-existing space. “Modern physics<br />

was compelled by the facts themselves to represent the spatial medium of cosmic<br />

space as a field-unity determined by body as dynamic centre,” notes Heidegger. “…<br />

Space is not something that faces man. It is neither an external object nor an inner experience.<br />

It is not that there are men, <strong>and</strong> over <strong>and</strong> above them space.” 2 Man is more,<br />

then, than the absolute point of reference. Man <strong>and</strong> space aren’t two distinct entities.<br />

Human beings are by “persisting through” (durchstehen) space. 3<br />

Even before World War II, several scholars had approached the concept of space<br />

from a subjective st<strong>and</strong>point. In 1945 Merleau-Ponty summarised the findings of<br />

the psychology of perception in his seminal work Phénoménologie de la Perception<br />

(Phenomenology of Perception). In it, evidence from various fields of knowledge was<br />

interpreted as indicating that a distinction should be made – as philosophers of the<br />

phenomenological school including Heidegger had already suggested – between “geometric”<br />

space, a theoretical construct of the human intellect dealing with abstract<br />

quantified relations, <strong>and</strong> a “human,” “existential” space, which Merleau-Ponty called<br />

“anthropological” space, the realm of an experience of relations with the world by a<br />

being situated in it. 4 In this context it is useful to note that, in Mark Wigley’s words,<br />

“Heidegger always insists that the fundamental sense of the word ‘in’ is not spatial in<br />

the sense of the occupation of a ‘spatial container (room, building)’ but in the sense<br />

of the familiar.” 5<br />

What was new in “Building <strong>Dwelling</strong> Thinking,” though, was the particular emphasis<br />

placed on the fact that man’s relation to space is metaphorically <strong>and</strong> literally subject to<br />

building; <strong>and</strong> the notion that places derive from things that make dwelling possible,<br />

<strong>and</strong> that dwelling is identified with man’s being-in-the-world; the notion, that is to<br />

say, that place is where human beings are-in-the-world.<br />

Vittorio Gregotti, a prominent member of the so-called school of Venice, referred to<br />

this notion of place as the outcome of man’s activity in his Il territorio dell’ architettura<br />

(The Territory of <strong>Architecture</strong>), published in Italian in 1966. 6 Modern architecture’s<br />

disrespect for the local, the undifferentiated mega-structures of the 1950s <strong>and</strong> 1960s<br />

obviously had inherent flows. The origins of architecture, maintained Gregotti, lie not<br />

in the hut – architecture’s sacred cow since Vitruvius – but in putting a stone on the

Nine Modern Spaces – Contemporary Places<br />

145 _______<br />

“Cities are the repositories of memories, as well as memory’s texts: their layered surfaces, their coats of<br />

painted stucco, their wraps of concrete register the force of these currents both as wear <strong>and</strong> tear <strong>and</strong> as<br />

narrative. That is, city surfaces tell time <strong>and</strong> stories. Cities are full of stories in time,” says Leonie S<strong>and</strong>ercock.<br />

Here, twin-towers memorabilia sold at st<strong>and</strong>s in the Ground Zero area, New York.<br />

of architectural trends, not least critical regionalism, which was informed by modernism,<br />

yet inspired by the specific context of the respective region – not of the building’s<br />

immediate surroundings as in the case of contextualism. 3<br />

The objective of the New Urbanism movement, on the other h<strong>and</strong>, was to resuscitate<br />

the qualities of the town that had been lost with modern architecture <strong>and</strong> town<br />

planning. 4<br />

Settlements designed by adherents of this movement recalled the image of the “traditional”<br />

town <strong>and</strong> adopted its symbolic system. The urban environments created<br />

were of high quality – the downside was that these settlements were transformed<br />

into small isolated residential isl<strong>and</strong>s for upper-middle class professionals living in<br />

nuclear families. A settlement with the form of a nineteenth century town <strong>and</strong> the<br />

conveniences of a modern city, with the atmosphere of yesterday <strong>and</strong> the opportunities<br />

of today can only exist as an isl<strong>and</strong>. A town today needs motorways <strong>and</strong> airports,<br />

large warehouses <strong>and</strong> petrol stations. Moreover, a town without supermarkets can<br />

no longer offer cheap food for low-income families, <strong>and</strong> a town consisting mainly of<br />

detached houses cannot house the large number of one-person households that are<br />

common in modern western societies.<br />

Places of Memories<br />

A lack of historical memory was obviously a major, virtually insoluble, problem in cities<br />

built de novo, <strong>and</strong> also in urban environments that had a large proportion of new<br />

buildings; these included the German towns that emerged after the mass construction<br />

of buildings to heal the wounds that were still evident at the time that the lecture<br />

“Building <strong>Dwelling</strong> Thinking” was delivered.<br />

The connection between places <strong>and</strong> memory had been noted in the antiquity, in the<br />

context of memorisation techniques developed by orators. It came to the fore again in<br />

the nineteenth century <strong>and</strong> early decades of the twentieth century with the view that<br />

the city was a text consisting of signs <strong>and</strong> symbols that could be deciphered <strong>and</strong> read<br />

(not necessarily in a single “correct” manner). 5 As Leonie S<strong>and</strong>ercock puts it, “Cities<br />

are the repositories of memories, as well as memory’s texts: their layered surfaces, their<br />

coats of painted stucco, their wraps of concrete register the force of these currents<br />

both as wear <strong>and</strong> tear <strong>and</strong> as narrative. That is, city surfaces tell time <strong>and</strong> stories. Cities<br />

are full of stories in time.” 6 Memory, including what we call “collective memory,” is<br />

assisted, supplemented, or even manufactured by loci – places. In the case of the built<br />

environment, buildings are such places. Some members of the “resident’s committees”

Nine Modern Spaces – Contemporary Places<br />

149 _______<br />

A typical “non-place” of contemporary cities – in this case, a sidewalk next to a billboard – becomes<br />

“place” for sanitation workers who are taking a short break. The distinction between “places” <strong>and</strong> “nonplaces”<br />

is rather arbitrary.

Ten <strong>Dwelling</strong> Disengaged<br />

161 _______<br />

The man-made environment never consisted solely of tangible things. Sculptures like these stimulated<br />

people’s imaginations, creating in their minds worlds that would exist in parallel with the real one. We now<br />

perceive them solely as decorative. Cities are places of memory, as well as places of oblivion, fortunately<br />

so.<br />

The Insufficiency of Buildings<br />

Contemporary cities continually welcome new people, new ideas, new customs, <strong>and</strong><br />

provide them with a spot alongside existing ones. This additive manner of welcoming<br />

what is new tends to give life in the city the character of watching a spectacle. 1<br />

Additionally, the influx of images from advertising, from the constant movement of<br />

people <strong>and</strong> vehicles, from shop windows, from information of all kinds <strong>and</strong> forms,<br />

that succeed each other at a rapid pace, has rendered space, defined solely by physical<br />

elements <strong>and</strong> by architecture in the conventional sense of the term, irrelevant. If<br />

to this flood of images we add the virtual reality that has been claiming an increasingly<br />

larger part of our everyday experience, it becomes clear that we have to content<br />

ourselves with a rather superficial perception of some of the city’s features; we do<br />

not thoroughly experience <strong>and</strong> comprehend it, we rather encounter a series of events<br />

rather than buildings. 2 Cities are now less defined by physical elements – buildings<br />

<strong>and</strong> streets – than ever before. Aaron Betsky, who was commissioned to curate the 11 th<br />

Venice Biennale for <strong>Architecture</strong> asks, “How can we be at home at all in a world in<br />

which the continual movement of goods, people, <strong>and</strong> information continually erodes<br />

all sense of permanence from any place? How can we construct a physical order that<br />

can become a stage on which we can live our lives in concert with others if the constructions<br />

that allow us to live <strong>and</strong> play our roles are increasingly invisible results of<br />

communications <strong>and</strong> computer technologies?” 3<br />

Betsky, who seeks to retain as much as possible of Heidegger’s imperatives in the<br />

era of globalisation, claims that as the contribution of edifices to the creation of our<br />

perceptible environment fades, architecture has to assume a new role. “Buildings are<br />

objects <strong>and</strong> the act of building leads to such objects, but architecture is something<br />

else. It is the way we think <strong>and</strong> talk about buildings, how we represent them, how we<br />

build them. This is architecture … In this world it is not enough to keep the rain out,<br />

create room for office cubicles, or fit into a context that either changes continually<br />

or becomes artificially frozen. In fact, buildings are not enough. They are the tombs<br />

of architecture, the residue of the desire to make another world, a better world, <strong>and</strong><br />

a world open to possibilities beyond the everyday,” 4 he noted. “<strong>Architecture</strong> must be<br />

the beacon of coherence in the world we inhabit. We live in an environment that is<br />

becoming so difficult to define or even see that we need architecture to make sense of<br />

it, to make us at home in it, to help us find our way through it. We need architecture<br />

to build our humanity in a world of sprawl,” wrote Betsky back in 2000 in his book

Ten <strong>Dwelling</strong> Disengaged<br />

167 _______<br />

This picture, entitled “Life goes on”, was shot by Red Army photographer Jewgeni Chaldej in summer<br />

1944, in Sebastopol. Will building as a process cease to be necessary for achieving either dwelling or a<br />

rather vague sense of “feeling at home”?<br />

“There have always been non-places in the city, <strong>and</strong> this has been most often for the<br />

best. Their individual freedom (the flaneur’s freedom) may be fully experienced, sheltered<br />

from the ‘universe of recognition’ effects produced by excessive proximity, the<br />

intrusive sharing <strong>and</strong> cruelties of neighbours, the least amiable aspects of place.” 10<br />

Moving on the same wavelength, about the same period, Rem Koolhaas produced<br />

a radical manifesto in favour of the real cities of today: he declared that far from<br />

desirable, place-specific character is detrimental, “Is the contemporary city like the<br />

contemporary airport – ‘all the same’? Is it possible to theorise this convergence? And<br />

if so, to what ultimate configuration is it aspiring? Convergence is possible only at the<br />

price of shedding identity. That is usually seen as a loss. But on the scale at which it occurs,<br />

it must mean something. What are the disadvantages of identity, <strong>and</strong> conversely,<br />

what are the advantages of blankness? What if this seemingly accidental – <strong>and</strong> usually<br />

regretted – homogenisation were an intentional process, a conscious movement away<br />

from difference toward similarity? What if we are witnessing a global liberation movement:<br />

‘down with character!’ What is left after identity is stripped? The Generic?” 11<br />

The admiration felt by Venturi for “un-heroic” architecture had been transferred to<br />

the contemporary urban environment. The “no frill no thrill” city had found its theoretical<br />

justification. The generic city had been born. By far the larger part of the world<br />

population lives, stays, <strong>and</strong> dwells, albeit in the mundane sense of the term, in “generic”<br />

cities, throughout the globe: the old parts occupy only a small fraction of the<br />

total area of historic cities (themselves only a fraction of world cities), <strong>and</strong> house only<br />

a small part of the life that unfolds in them.<br />

Seeking to formulate architecture’s modus oper<strong>and</strong>i in today’s man-made environment,<br />

Koolhaas called upon it to “generate density, exploit proximity, provoke tension,<br />

maximise friction, organise in-betweens, promote filtering, sponsor identity<br />

<strong>and</strong> stimulate blurring …” 12 Instead of appreciating cities organised on the basis of<br />

elements that are recorded in people’s minds as “paths,” “edges,” “regions,” “nodes,”<br />

<strong>and</strong> “l<strong>and</strong>marks,” Koolhaas praised the generic city; in doing so he sought rather to<br />

disengage character from place, than destroy any sense of identity. The drawbacks<br />

of an identity bound to a specific place are indeed a cause of concern, as Neil Leach<br />

demonstrates, “Identity … becomes territorialised <strong>and</strong> mapped on to a geographic<br />

terrain. The individual becomes one with the l<strong>and</strong> in a process of identification …<br />

It is precisely in the context of an identity rooted to the soil that those groups not<br />

rooted to the soil are excluded …” 13

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