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Introducing Arch Theory-01-c 7/12/11 13:24 Page 158

DIALECTICAL READINGS IN ARCHITECTURE: USE

suggests a critical statement about institutions. When an industrial loft in Manhattan is


turned into a residence, a similar shift occurs, a shift that is undoubtedly less dramatic.
Spaces are qualified by actions just as actions are qualified by spaces. One does not trigger
the other; they exist independently. Only when they intersect do they affect one another.
Remember Kuleshov’s experiment where the same shot of the actor’s impassive face is
introduced into a variety of situations, and the audience reads different expressions into
each successive juxtaposition. The same occurs in architecture: the event is altered by
each new space. And vice versa: by ascribing to a given, supposedly “autonomous” space
a contradictory program, the space attains new levels of meaning. Event and space do
not merge but affect one another. Similarly if the Sistine Chapel were used for pole-vaulting
events, architecture would then cease to yield to its customary good intentions. For a while
the transgression would be real and all powerful. Yet the transgression of cultural expec-
tations soon becomes accepted. Just as violent surrealist collages inspire advertising
rhetoric, the broken rule is integrated into everyday life, whether through symbolic or
technological motivations.
If violence is the key metaphor for the intensity of a relationship, then the very
physicality of architecture transcends the metaphor. There is a deep sensuality, an unremit-
tent eroticism in architecture. Its underlying violence varies according to the forces that
are put into play—rational forces, irrational forces. They can be deficient or excessive.
Little activity—hypoactivity—in a house can be as disturbing as hyperactivity. Asceticism
and orgiastic excesses are closer than architectural theorists have admitted, and the
asceticism of Gerrit Rietveld’s or Ludwig Wittgenstein’s house inevitably implies the most
extreme bacchanals. (Cultural expectations merely affect the perception of violence, but
do not alter its nature: slapping your lover’s face is perceived differently from culture to
culture.)
Architecture and events constantly transgress each other’s rules, whether explicitly
or implicitly. These rules, these organized compositions, may be questioned, but they
always remain points of reference. A building is a point of reference for the activities set
to negate it. A theory of architecture is a theory of order threatened by the very use it
permits. And vice versa.
The integration of the concept of violence into the architectural mechanism—the
purpose of my argument—is ultimately aimed at a new pleasure of architecture. Like
any form of violence, the violence of architecture also contains the possibility of change,
of renewal. Like any violence, the violence of architecture is deeply Dionysian. It should
be understood, and its contradictions maintained in a dynamic manner, with their conflicts
and complementarity.
In passing, two types of partial violence should be distinguished, types which are
not specifically architectural. The first is formal violence, which deals with the conflicts
between objects. Such is the violence of form versus form, the violence of Giovanni Battista
Piranesi’s juxtapositions, Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau collages, and other architectural colli-
sions. Distortions, ruptures, compressions, fragmentations, and disjunctions are inherent

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