architectural evidence that the spatial subject exists

04_palazzo-del-littorio_carminati-lingeri-saliva-terragni-vietti-nizzoli-sironi1 crop

We draw buildings,

build buildings,

use buildings, and

write about buildings.

No one has yet explored, or explored fully, the quadripartite structure of our engagement with architecture. And in particular, the relation between these terms – drawing, building, using, writing – which is sequential episodic and cyclical. One thing is clear however: this engagement with architecture is also an engagement with ourselves. We draw buildings, which puts them in relation to the symbolic world of desire and ideology (think of the ideological shift attending each new technique of representation). We build them, which extracts them from a representational context and puts them in an organised world of finance and production. We use buildings in symbolic and material ways, the latter primarily by inhabiting them. We write about them to reorient them within their symbolic and material contexts, and to plot the path of their efficacy, as part of a continual process that critically rearranges our thinking on architecture. This is not a process of correction; it is work, psychical and physical work.

In order to put buildings in relation to the human subject that inhabits them, we draw on philosophy and psychoanalysis because these are the two discourses that treat the human subject in its capacity as a thinking being and a speaking being. These capacities are so essentially human that research relevant to architecture always ignores them. One of the challenges of writing about architecture is how to bring the human subject as a thinking and speaking being in line with the human subject as a spatial being. This capacity to be spatial is not exhausted by the material fact that we have a body; nor indeed, is the capacity to inhabit architecture exhausted by the fact of the body. The relation between thinking, speaking, and spacing needs to be explored. How does architecture reflect the fact that the human subject who inhabits space, inhabits it as a speaking being and a thinking being? How does this fact change our thinking on the social political economic historical material aesthetic efficacy of architecture? The immediate and inherent intelligibility of a project for a palazzo that addresses the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, witnessed by the Colosseum, is architectural evidence that the spatial subject exists.

If spatial subjects did not exist, this architectural project would not be intelligible as a project, or, if intelligible, not poignant.

Guiseppe Terragni, with A. Carminati, P. Lingeri, M. Nizzoli, E. Saliva, M. Sironi, & L. Vietti, Competition entry for Palazzo Littorio, Rome, project A, 1934. Littorio addresses Maxentius, witnessed by Il Colosseo, on a triangular site. Note also Il Duce’s podium and the curved facade decorated with stress fractures.

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