presence-emptiness | real-abstract | singular-universal | formal-informal | figure-ground | object-field | order-chaos | topdown-bottomup | birth-death | whole-aggregation | urban-rural | imposed-natural | overpowering-picturesque | more-less | additive-reductive | right-left | static-transient | facticity-fiction | everyone-one | objective-subjective | grandeur-intimacy | event-everyday | direct-detour | structured-chance | narrative-happening | consumable-intangible | image-feeling
Contemporary culture presents new, and as such relatively unexamined, ways for people to engage one another as well as their surroundings. Technology enables greater connectivity across greater distances and shorter attention spans. Yet at the same time, the face-to-face interaction remains an essential part of human life. Regardless of the mode of experience, popular culture has created a need to reassess our relationships, both to people and to our environment, through the lens of society at large.
In order to understand cultural interaction and engagement, we must understand ourselves and our environments. To begin, “absolutes” are not relevant. The human being is, like all creatures, perpetually remaking itself in every aspect: our bodies regenerate cells, our senses and organs constantly recalibrate according to varying input, and our minds are continuously adapting our understandings of self and the world around us as information is processed. Other constructions of life—from social groups the built environment—are likewise perpetually in process. A static definition will never adequately capture such entities; rather an understanding of ongoing relationships is necessary to begin to define almost any aspect of our human civilization.
Despite this, Architecture has been in the past frequently positioned in terms of dialectic relationships. This, particularly Western, dependence upon binary definitions was helpful in characterizing certain aspects of the discipline but at the same time incredibly limiting, forcing design to define itself in terms of one or another pole.
Now academia and practitioners are more often trending toward the claim that Architecture must occupy a realm “in-between,” operating at the intersection of multiple disciplines at various scales. Theories of design as “ecology” are emergent (In Art—a discipline with fewers constraints and so perhaps always a fewer steps ahead of Architecture—Sanford Kwinter suggests the emergence of a “New Synthesis.”). However, while compelling, this re-conceptualization often leaves the field in ambiguous territory, glossing over this idea of “in-between” and so failing to characterize a clear role for architecture in society.
Returning to the idea that understanding ongoing processes and relationships is integral to understanding ourselves, the “in-between” then must capture these relationships between one entity and another. If architects are trying to pursue, reveal, manifest new cultural “truths”—to continue to posit the designed built environment as fundamental and necessary—then Architecture must operate and be understood according to the interactive elements, forces, and contingencies, the limits and possibilities, that constitute contemporary life. It must explore the meeting of people and of people with the environment.
“Man’s allotted place was in any case never at the center but in a middling region, on a kind of spherical shoreline where matter and spirit met--the surface of the earth.... Anthropocentricity...had less to do with man’s geometric centrality than with his being in the middle of a nexus of communications between extreme states.”
--Robin Evans, The Projective Cast