Anda di halaman 1dari 6

MethodsofEscapingMythologizationinArchitecturalTheoryandProcess

ScottCrismanSwortsandPatrickMichaelDey

"Mythwasnotconcernedwithpracticalmatters,butwithmeaning.Unlesswefindsome
significanceinourlives,wemortalmenandwomenfallveryeasilyintodespair.Themythosofa
societyprovidedpeoplewithacontextthatmadesenseoftheirdaytodaylives;itdirectedtheir
attentiontotheeternalandtheuniversal.Itwasalsorootedinwhatwewouldcallthe
unconsciousmind."
KarenArmstrong,TheBattleforGod

Throughouthistory,architecturehasbuiltfromamythologizedlanguageandatit'score,itexistsasan
inheritoroftheancientartofstorytelling.TodrawfromKarenArmstrong,architecturehasalways
concerneditselfwithmeaninganditisthatmeaningthatgrantsarchitectureauthenticity.Architecture
divorcedfrommeaningisthoughttobeastorywithoutaplot,arandomcollectionofshapesandforms.

Becauseofthisfact,inarchitecturaltheoryanddiscoursethereisalwayspresentalayerof
mythologizedlanguage,ametalanguage,thatgivesaddedmeaningtothedesign.Thismythologization
ofarchitecturehasbeenastruggleforsomearchitectsastheytrytoresistordenyitspresence,while
forothersithasbeenamythiccover,alayerofimitationthatleavesthearchitecturewithafalse
identity.Sincearchitecturecannotseemtoescapemythologization,inevitablythequestionarises:why
cannotarchitecturaltheoryandprocessofdesignescapemyth?

Itisanimportantquestion,asarchitecturesincetheendofWorldWarOnehasfixatedontheissueof
architectureasaculturalcontainer.BeginningwithAdolphLoos,architecturehasbeenconsumedwith
theideathatforittoevolveproperly,itcannolongerbeconfinedbythechainsofcultureorbythe
mythologizationofbuiltform.

Architectshaveattemptedtoapproachthisprobleminanumberofways.However,thetwomainways
fordealingwiththemythologizationofarchitectureistoescapetoandtoescapefromit.Theseterms
werecreatedbyErichFromminhisbook,EscapefromFreedom.WhileFrommdealtwithsocialissues
andultimatelyusedhisexplorationtodelveintowhypeopleaccepttotalitarianstates,theconceptshe
developedarehighlyapplicabletootheraspectsofsociety.

Thefirsttypeoffreedom,escapefromisnegativefreedom,ortheactionofemancipation.Itdoesnot
defineboundariesandisdefinedasfreedomfrom.Inotherwords,innegativefreedom,all
boundariesareremovedandthepersonislefttocharttheirowncourse.Intermsofarchitecture,it
meansthatallnormativesandtheoreticalconstructsareremoved,therebyfreeingthearchitectto
devisetheirownsystemofdesign.Further,thisapproachremovesanyideasofRightnessor
Correctness,andinsteadplacesabsolutevalueoncreativity.Itisalso,accordingtoFromm,ultimately
adestructivetypeoffreedomunlessitisproperlyintegratedintothecreativeforce.Thisisbecause
boundarylessfreedomisactuallynottypicallysustainablefortheaverageperson.

Thesecondtypeoffreedom,escapetoispositivefreedom,ortheactionofjoiningwithsociety.This
sortoffreedomisthefreedomto,andultimatelyimpliesastrongsocietalframeworkinwhichto
operate.Itfunctionsonanideaofauthenticity,butcanultimatelyleadtosubmissionto
authoritarianism.Whenthisconceptisappliedtoarchitecture,itmeansthatthearchitectisfacedwith
achoiceofcreatingtheirownmythologythatstillfitsintothesocietalframework,orthearchitectmust
embracethepredeterminedlanguageofthepast.Inthis,Frommstatesthateveniftheoutwardforms
aredifferent,theultimateconstraintsleviedareactuallyfunctionallynodifferentthantheoldorder.

Architecture,beingaculturalartifact,hasalwaysembodiedthemythic.Forseveralthousandyears,
architecturewasexpectedtoreflectandrepresentthezeitgeist.Eventhoughstylesandapproachesto
designchanged,therewasstillacertainbasicexpectationforarchitecture,thatitwouldrepresentthe
thingsweknow;thatonsomelevelitwouldrespondtotheboundariesofTruthandKnowledge.

Thischangedduetoasuccessionofphilosophicaldevelopments,fromHegel,toKanttoHeidegger.
Throughthisevolution,oldTruthswereexamined,andfoundtobepotentiallyempty.Throughthese
philosophicaldevelopments,architecturewasnolongerexpectedtojustrespondtoculture,itwas
expectedtobeadriverofit.ThisconceptwasmoststronglyexemplifiedintheBauhaus,whichdrove
Germandesignphilosophy,andultimately,deeplyimpactedintellectualismworldwide.Onanironic
sidenote,accordingtoFromm,theideasespousedbytheBauhauswerepartofthemovementthat
destabilizedGermanyandledtotheriseofTotalitarianism.

Sincethisevolutionorrevolution,architecturehasmaintainedanuneasytrucewiththepast,andthis
hascausedarchitectstoeitherembrace(escapeto)orreject(escapefrom)theculturalaspectsofdesign
andultimatelythecontainedmythologies.Tofurtherdelveintothisprocess;bothmethodshavetwo
furthersubmethodsfordealingwiththisescapeofmyth.

Oneofthetwowaysofescapingtomythinarchitectureistheactivecontrivanceofthetheorytocreate
amythicarchitecture,andtheotherisactiveembraceofthemyth,whichisalayerofculturalimitation
thatdoesnotbelongtothearchitecture(i.e.drag).Ineithercase,theescapetostillrecognizesthe
existence,andpossiblytheimportanceof,themythologizationofarchitecture.

Theactivecontrivancemethodisthearchitectsdeliberatemanipulationoftheorytocreateamythfor
thebuilding,andcanbeseenintheworksofPeterZumthor,CoopHimmelb(l)au,andBjarkeIngles
Group.Throughthismethod,thearchitectdeliberatelyenframesthemythandguidestheinhabitantor
viewersunderstandingofthebuilding.Often,thisprocessuseswellknownculturalcuestocausea
specificreaction.

Oftheseexamples,oneofthebestrecentprojectsisthePeoplesBuildinginShanghai,designedby
B.I.G.ThisbuildingisaliteraltransfigurationoftheChinesecharacterforPeople,aswouldbeseenin
writingthenamethePeoplesRepublicofChina.Further,thebuildingiscompletelydesignedaround
fengshuiprinciples,sothattheentirebuildingwillpresentastorytothepeopleofthecity,ina
symboliclanguagetheyunderstand.WhilenothingaboutthebuildingistraditionallyChinese,the
mythologizationisactivelycontrivedtospeaktotheintendedaudience.

AnotherformofactivecontrivancerelatestotheClassicalRevival,VernacularandTraditionalEthnic
stylesthathavecontinuedinanunbrokenlinetothepresent.Eventhoughthesestylesarebasedina
formallanguagethatcouldseemtomakethebuildingsembraceratherthancontrivetheir
mythologization,itshouldbenotedthatinmostcases,thehistoriclanguageisbeingusedtowrite
completelynewstories.ThisconceptcanbeseeninLeonKrier'sNewTownofPoundbury.Itisalso
seeninAlbertSpeersdesignsfortheThirdReichwhichwereindentedtotakeClassicismtoexultthe
gloryofGermany,whichcanbeanexpectedresponsebasedonclosereadingofFromm.

Activeembrace,asopposedtoactivecontrivance,doesnotaddanythingnewtothedialog,butrather
usesthelanguageofthepasttocreateitsmythologization.Thisformofescapetotakeswellknow,
preexistingimageryandadaptsittothearchitectsends.Theactiveembraceapproachisultimatelya
joke,atrickstermasqueradingasarchitectureintheculturaldressofpastarchitecturalstyles.This
approachcreatesamaskthatwearsthemythsofpastarchitecture,butitisjokeuponitsown
decadence.

Thisgivesrisetoanadditionallayerofmythiclanguagethatspeakstothetricksterbeneaththemask,
whichmakesitaparadox.Bymakingdeliberatereferencetothestylisticreferencesbeingnothingbuta
joke,theentiremythicconstructdisintegrates.ThislattermethodisprevalentinPostModernism,
particularlyintheworksofMichaelGraves,RobertVenturi,andPhilipJohnson.Thisactiveembrace
methodishighlyprescriptive,oftenbeinglittlemorethanslappingadressonthebuilding,orinthe
caseofPhilipJohnson,stickingahatonthebuilding.

ThisismostvisibleinRobertVenturisideaoftheduckandthedecoratedshed.Theduckisabuilding
thatiswhatitsaysitis,(andisalsoaproductofactivecontrivance)whilethedecoratedsheduses
appliedsymbolsinaformofarchitecturaldragtotellitsstory.Adecoratedshed,accordingtoVenturi,
musthavesignageandothermarkersinordertohaveitspurposeidentified.Thiscanbeseenexplicitly
inVenturisSeattleArtMuseum,wherethearchitectliterallycarvedthewordsSeattleArtMuseum
ontothefaade.

Whileeitherofthetwomethodsofescapingtoultimatelyuse,insomeform,knownarchitectural
language,thisisnotthecaseintheothermethodologies.Thesearegrownoutofanideathat
architectureisnotaculturalartifact,butisinsteadaformofartthatdeniesandrejectscategorization.

Thetwomethodsforescapingfrommythareeitherbyactivedenialorresistancetothemetalanguage,
orbypassiveresistancetothemyth.Bothoftheseapproachesdenythevalidityofculture,timeor
place,butinsteadattempttoeithercompletelyremovethatlanguageoratminimumignoreits
existence.

Activeresistancerejectsmythandstrivestoresisttheemergenceofmythologization.Thisisusually
attemptedbyfocusingontheprocessofthedesign,theprescriptivenaturefordesigningabuilding,and
isstronglyevidentintheworksofLeCorbusier,MiesvanderRohe,WalterGropius,andPeterEisenman.
Thesearchitectsattemptedtoremoveallculturaltracesfromtheirarchitecture,strippingitofany
specificculturalreferences.

LeCorbusiersUniversalSolutionisthisconcepttakentoitsfurthestends.Heenvisionsanarchitecture
thatiscompletelyuniversal,whetheritislocatedinFrance,IndiaorBrazil,itremainsstylistically
unchanged.Noaccommodationisgiventoanylocalculturalinfluences,oreventothebasicsofthesite.
Theuncompromisingabsolutenessofrejectingthelocalconditionsbecomesthecornerstoneofthe
style.

However,thisactivedenialisparadoxical;itattemptstonegatethemythiclanguageofarchitecture
withoutculturalenframement,whichinherentlygivesrisetoanothermetalanguage,andthus,a
mythologizationofthearchitecture.Thereisnothingmoreculturallyenframedthanabuildingthat
rejectsculturalenframementasthisapproachisgroundedintheintellectualmovementsthatswept
acrossEuropeinthefirstfewdecadesofthe20
th
century.

Thelattermethodofpassiveresistancedoesnotattempttopushmythoutofthearchitectural
language,butallowsitariseonitsownwithoutanyintensiononthepartofthearchitect.Thismethod
simplyallowsthemythiclanguagetoberead,notthroughthearchitectsmythicframes,butthrough
theinhabitantandviewersownpersonalframesfrompastexperienceofreadingspaces.Itisthe
Bachelardianoneiricismparexcellenceitisthesensationofspacesthroughthebodyviatheformsof
memory.

PassiveresistanceseemstobetheprimaryapproachofDeconstructivstarchitecture.Ittearsapartthe
oldforms,butvaluescreativityastheprimarydriverofthenew.Itisnotframingthearchitecturebased
onwhatitisnot,aswouldbeintheworldofactiveresistance,itismerelysayingthatinnovationisthe
onlythingthatisimportant.Ifanysortofmythologizationarisesoutofthedesign,itbecomesa
personalizedexperiencethatnottwoindividualswillevercompletelyshare.

ThiscanbeclearlydemonstratedinDanielLibeskindsHamiltonWingoftheDenverArtMuseum.He
toreaparttheideaofastaircase,notasasimplerejectionofpreconceptions,butinordertoinspire
absolutecreativity.Thedownsideofthisisthatitrendersthestaircasenonfunctionalforanyonewith
balancesensitivity.Althoughthevisitorsrecognizetheobjectasastaircase,eachofthemlayersontop
ofittheirownpersonalonericism.

Takentogether,escapefromandescapetocanframetheentiretyofarchitecturaltheorytoday,and
highlightthedifferencesinthemaincurrentarchitecturalstyles,stilltherearesimilaritiesbetweenthe
endresultsofthetwopaths.Twoofthepathsendinparadox,andtwoofthepathsleadtotheoneiric.

WhilethetypeofmethodofescapesplitsModernismandPostModernismintoseparatepaths,both
ultimatelyendinparadox,andbotharesubjecttoprocessastheoryindesign.Theultimateissueofthe
paradoxinbothapproachesisthatitbecomesadestabilizingforceinthemovements.TheTrickster
layerinPostModernismultimatelyrenderstheentiremovementasajoke,andassuch,notaworthy
architecturalstyle.Thefactthatunenframedarchitectureisframingarchitectureinacertainformof
midcenturyEuropeanworldview,renderstheentiretheoreticalconstructunsupportableintheend.

Ontheotherhand,theothertwoapproachesfallintotherealmsoftheoneiric,orthedreamlikestate
thatconnectsthepersontothemythicmetalanguage.Activecontrivanceleadstooneiricismbythe
architect,whilepassiveresistanceleadstooneiricismbytheviewer,butbothmethodologiesstill
connecttheoryandprocesstothemetalanguage.Itdoesnotmatterwhocontrolstheaccess,bothof
thesemethodologiescontinuetorenderarchitectureasaculturalartifact,andrecognizethefactthatit
cannotultimatelyescapemyth.

Bibliography:
Barthes,Roland.MythToday,Mythologies.NewYork,NY:Farrar,StrausandGiroux.1972.
Butler,Judith.ImitationandGenderInsubordination,TheJudithButlerReader.Malden,MA:Blackwell
Publishing.2004.
DeMan,Paul.TheResistancetoTheory(Minneapolis,MN:UniversityofMinnesotaPress.1986.
Gandelsonas,MarioandDavidMorton.OnReadingArchitecture,Signs,Symbols,andArchitecture.
NewYork,NY:JohnWileyInc.1980.
Orwell,George.ThePrinciplesofNewspeak,1984.NewYork,NY:SignetClassic.1950.
Rowe,ColinandFredKoetter.CollageCity.Cambridge,MA:MITPress.1978.
Saussure,Ferdinandde.CourseinGeneralLinguistics.NewYork,NY:PhilosophicalLibrary.1959.