|Assistant Professor in the History and Theory of Architecture, Assistant Professor Dr. Bettina Köhler|
‘We build in a moral sense, (and) we build in a physical sense, as well. The only thing common to both is that in one case or the other, we join certain things, aiming towards a particular end. Hence, in an educational construct, truths are joined with each other, in order for them to convince and be of use to us; and in corporeal structures, one joins and unites corpora, in order to attain particular aims therein.’ (Lorenz Johann Daniel Suckow, Erste Gründe der bürgerlichen Baukunst, Jena, 1798, foreword.)
‘Architecture can be proposed as an ordering of conditions ... In this sense the Maison Dom-ino is a sign system which refers to this most primitive condition of Architecture, which distinguishes it from geometry, or from geometry plus use and meaning… (and) can be seen to reflect a Modernist or self-referential condition of sign, and thus a true and seminal break from the four hundred year old tradition of Western humanist architecture’. (Peter Eisenman, ‘Aspects of Modernism: Maison Dom-ino and the Self-Referential Sign’, Oppositions 15/16, (1979): 128.
Two hundred years of distance between two positions on the relationship amongst philosophy, language and architecture. Whereas the first pragmatically distinguishes between the language of a thing and the thing itself, the second places architecture and language into one category. And whereas the first defines ‘architecture’ as the assemblage of corpora in pursuit of certain aims, the second is concerned with ‘architecture’ as an anonymous work of art, a ‘self-referential’ system of signs. Where the first sees the user, the second sees the ‘reader’. Laugier’s Primitive Hut versus Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino in Eisenman’s interpretation?
In an educational setting, the goal is to awaken an interest in the conflict-ridden relationship between ‘things’ in architecture (from abstract concept to cornerstone!) and their inherent language. Whether an autonomous work of art or an utilitarian structure, the idea, the design and the realization have need not only of the drawing, but of language as well. Indeed, drawing and language are indispensible to a building’s production as well as to its later historical interpretation. In lectures and seminars, this relationship was and is being considered through themes that communicate in a special manner the conflict between ‘utility’ and ‘art’, and between language as an instrument of legitimization and as a means of analytical comprehension. (Lectures 19961999: on the term ‘space’; on the stair as architectural element; on the history of the term ‘function’;on stage design. 19992000: the elective thesis course ‘Gestaltung und Konstruktion im Innenausbau’ (‘Design and Construction in Interior Design’), a lecture that considers the development of a conception of a ‘modern’ interior as seen in the example of the interpretation of space and image in historical and modern interiors.
The subject of on-going exploration is the relationship among form, function and comfort in architecture. The terms themselves are seldom analyzed as instruments of critique. Therefore, the continuing study closes a notable gap within the history of architectural theory. It establishes the terms‘ historical roots in the epoch of the Enlightenment within the history of the terms ‘commodity’ or ‘comfort’ respectively. From the beginning of the eighteenth to the first half of the nineteenth century, fields of meaning are conflated in this terminology, a fact that actually distinguish it as a ‘forerunner’ of the modern terms ‘function’ and ‘comfort’. Reciprocal cultural influences, sociopolitical developments and varying conceptions of corporeality and perception are considered in order to develop terminological history as a part of the cultural history of the transition from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century.
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