On Space, Western Architecture and 9/11

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On Space, Western Architecture and 9/11

Journal Space 1 by amelo14
www.september11news.com/7Serie…
www.september11news.com/Attack…

1. Introduction

Perhaps the best way to surprise oneself is to look a bit more closely at what seems totally obvious. Looking at it more closely may surprise and can give us great pleasure. What was always there, suddenly appears for the very first time. For instance, if you use glasses, you know you never actually see them. Until you loose them; THEN you go into “panic” mode. One such deceptively simple reality lies behind the concept of space. We move through space as fish through water; we rarely even notice it. Again, we seem to do so only negatively, that is, specially when some object obstructs our movements and we trip. Suddenly we find ourselves cursing the thing which made us “think” about space itself!

Or you might wonder at spatial realities we take for granted; for instance, that the space in the classroom ----or in prison, or in the hospital, as Foucault points out---- must be set in such and such a form. If the classroom is simply a set of rows, then the teacher appears as all-governing; if the chairs are set out in a circle, then the teacher becomes a participant, although still a privileged one. And for sure, in many cases there may be no chairs because of poverty. But the issue concerns not simply objects out there, as in the classroom, but even the very way we relate to others. In the previous example of the classroom, the space between students and professors in North America has strict legalistic and prohibitive boundaries; meanwhile, in Latin America teachers and students require a certain closeness which sometimes even involves the comfort of benign touch.

But isn’t space just something quite easy to understand? Under a common view, a view to  which we moderns have become accustomed to, the puzzle behind space is easily “answered” by being equated to the distance between things.  Want to know the space between two things? Well,  just measure it. The measurement gives 2 meters, that’s the space between stuff.  (However, even when space is quantified, we cannot agree as to how to do it; some of us use meters, others who are more powerful use feet.)

Leaving aside the issue of how surprising it is that our bodies are fit for space (Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor marvels continuously at this taken for granted issue),  and leaving aside the very important Kantian discussion of space, it must be stressed that the relation of the artist to space is quite unique and privileged. Here in dA, specially in the area of photography,  one constantly sees amazing photographs of architectural landmarks. Architecture is THE foundational art that deals with the issue of space, in particular, modeling those lived spaces in which we humans inhabit our meaningful spatial world. In this sense, the first cavern which was inhabited was no longer simply a cavern; it had already become a primitive home affording the security of a shelter which allowed for the appearance of symbolic painting, for communal language and for a concern with the divine.

This foundational role of architecture was ironically  captured by Frank Lloyd Wright  who, while constructing the Guggenheim Museum,  had to deal with letters by renowned artists who complained about the impossibility of their art  being displayed on the curved walls and low ceilings of the, then,  very controversial museum. Wright ----exemplifying his personality----  responded: “If the paintings are too large, cut them in half!”  Such words allow us non-architects  to acknowledge that architecture has an understanding of space which most of us lack. However, to reflect on the conceptual nature of the space which is the concern of architecture, is a task not all architects may have the skills to do. For this, some philosophers are needed. It is in this respect that architects –one could even say in general those many artists interested in issues of spatiality--- and perceptive philosophers ---trained in the difficult process of clarification of conceptual realities-- must work together to get clearer on the perplexing nature of space. Perhaps in their combined efforts they might cross those spaces and boundaries which separate them. We political philosophers feel the need for such collaboration; do artists and architects?

Furthermore, it seems clear that the way we inhabit space is transformed historically and reflects our political regimes. The architecture of a democracy is not that of an aristocracy; the castle is not the place for a voting society. The architecture of a theocracy, such as that of Iran, is not that of a parliamentary regime. As our brilliant Colombian Architect Rogelio Salmona –creator of the inspiring Virgilio Barco public Library in my beloved Bogotá--- wrote: “the architectonic is the path which I followed in order to find that modernity begins with a new perception of space … he who wants to produce another system of figuration, representation and construction of space, must know its evolution and know the moments ruptures are produced.” Spatiality has a history and therefore it is traversed by temporality. In this respect one should not expect the architectural spaces of Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Modern Canada,  and that of the Inuit’s to be identical. But more primordially, the representation of  space by the modern West becomes a topic unto itself.

The political question on the nature of modern spatiality becomes all the more urgent if one attends to the events of September 11, 2001. But you might ask: “what would the way we decide to inhabit space have anything to do with politics (a common theme of all my journals)?” Well one could do an exercise in imagination. The atrocious and cowardly attacks of 9/11 on the USA specifically, and on the West in general (e.g., the later infamous attacks on Madrid in 2004) -----it seems to me---- could be seen as attacks on some of the elements of the Modern Western conception of space. In this respect, the guiding questions for this very tentative journal is: If our views of space not only have  personal or artistic values,  but more primordially political and theological ones, then: Are the attacks of 9/11, which  transformed the world radically, an attack on the very concept of space which guides the western view of spatiality? And connected to this question: Is there something that can be seen as arrogant, even hubristic, about some of our North American architecture, in particular of our financial institutions who have sought to reach the sky through the building of ever taller and taller skyscrapers? But if there is some truth to this, as the anti-globalization marches seem to portray, can we just simply let these institutions collapse without attending to the dangerous repercussions of such positions? More importantly; isn’t the emptiness we all felt after the 9/11 attacks, the very condition  which allows us to reconsider our sense of space?

And going further still into very difficult and dangerous territory: does this sense of space  as radically secular come into conflict with a sense of space permeated by the presence of the divine? “What do you mean,” you might ask. Well this; a Muslim’s sense of space is radically different from that of a secular westerner. For instance, if you are a secular unbeliever you might consider: have you ever thought about having to kneel down in prayer five times a day –according to the position of the sun--- and forcing your body to direct itself towards a spatial reality which is the foundation of your faith, of your very sense of being and of your connection to the divine? www.islamicity.com/Mosque/sala… Do  we westerners ---even those who are believers--- ever stop five times to reach out for the divine through the positioning itself of our bodies? Or consider the following: a pilgrimage is the way a believers traverses worldly spaces towards a certain reconciliation with the divine. Now, each and every Muslim --–with some monetary and health related  exceptions--- must do one in his/her life? In contrast: where does our western pilgrimage head towards? Unsure of myself, I ask, can two such different views of space actually find a space to meet? Or must space be obliterated continuously by  the two parties, making it a real impossibility for us to inhabit the very same Earth which is our only spatial possibility?  

Fortunately for us, there are within our western traditions, architects who have seen the issue very clearly. Among them, Kahn, Wright, Niemeyer, and Libeskind.  In this respect perhaps it is worthwhile to remember what Wright thought of modern skyscrapers, the symbol of North American economic power: "Wherever human life is concerned, the unnatural stricture of excessive verticality cannot stand against more natural horizontality." Words by Wright that could not have foreseen the unacceptable atrocities perpetrated on 9/11 by extremists intent on simply obliterating space.

2. Some photos

That this is not simply a theoretical exercise, can be shown by looking at how  the very photographs I have tried to take of Toronto’s architecture brought about  a surprising reconsideration of how I understood the space of our modern buildings. In this respect it is not simply that one thinks an issue, but rather while thinking an issue the world shows us  the complexity of the issue, in such a way, that thinking and perceiving the issue become in a sense intertwined. Our perceptive abilities are heightened, and our thinking made sensorial.

That architecture defines our very identity, not only as individuals, but as a nation can be seen in the case of Toronto and its exhilarating architecture. The First Canadian Place is the tallest skyscraper in Canada. It is itself a building which carries in its history, the amazing story of the Reichmann family which points to the tensions signaled above: the role of the divine, the way we moderns inhabit space, and the important presence of economic success. (see the very telling documentary:  Faith and Fortune). The very complexity of Toronto generates a unique beauty which includes this architectural story:

Toronto
Toronto by amelo14
But more precisely, how do these landmarks actually define our identity? Well, here is an example I think might help. EVERYBODY knows that the CN Tower is the landmark which distinguishes Toronto from any other large city in the world. The CN Tower –the tallest free standing  structure in the world---- makes Toronto appear in the map of modern cities as unique, modern, progressive, active, challenging and, more importantly, as  THE closest to the limits of the sky. Toronto stands out seeking its own sense of immortality:  

Oh Canada
Oh Canada by amelo14
It is because of structures such as this one ---which I have been lucky enough to visit 2 times in my life--- that I  marveled at the question of space and its relation to our identity and self-understandings. There is much beauty and in some cases majestic gigantism here. And in some other cases the musical underpinnings of nature come to the fore in Toronto’s buildings. It is almost as if solid structures were actually participating in a musical dance:

Symphony:
Symphony by amelo14
It is a fluid dance which at times allows for absolutely solid materials to achieve the spatial flow of a cascading event:

Cascading
Cascading by amelo14
A dance which at times resembles sails ready to embark into the very sky which sets the spatial boundaries of our earthly existence:

Anchored:
Anchored by amelo14

But, on the other hand, I found myself more and more troubled by the reality behind 9/11 and the destruction of the World Trade Center as the financial core of our Western liberal democracies and their market economies. Hurt by the savagery of the attack, I was led to capture in my photos this tension and dramatic realization. I sought reflections of buildings as a way to reflect upon the very nature of the space we inhabit as moderns. A sort of conceptual meltdown of our own presuppositions so as to begin the process of questioning ourselves as we move about. From this decision arose a reconsideration of the apparent haughtiness of our skyscrapers:

Meltdown
Meltdown by amelo14
The process of meltdown involves, not the physical destruction of our spaces, but rather the conceptual problematizing of some of the relations which guide our North American cities. An exercise embodied in this journal which tries to generate puzzles to which architects, artists and philosophers must contribute for our very cities have become puzzling:

City puzzles  
City Puzzles by amelo14
Moreover, this very tentative exercise is a call for an understanding of the memory of the city, of the memory which our modern architecture has been many times intent on destroying (compare the role of older buildings in North America with those in Europe and the need many North Americans have to always inhabit a NEW place as symbol of social success and status). It is a search for memories which I thought could be expressed  by trying to point, at least in a very inadequate and preliminary way, to something like Gaudi’s own vision of architecture which populates his Barcelona:

City Memoirs:
City Memoirs by amelo14
Memories, besides, which can lead us to the safeguarding of a plural memory in which there remains the richness of the presence of simultaneous ways of inhabiting spaces  in our complex modern cities:

The old and the new
The old and the new by amelo14

And finally, a radical questioning of my very own history as having been lucky enough to have lived on the last floor of a very tall building inquiring into the political and architectural relations of  my cherished Bogotá, overseeing daily  the whole of the city affairs while reconsidering the role of space in our highly inegalitarian societies; overseeing  the beautiful city of Bogotá where these questions on space first began to develop both practically and theoretically.

Aqueous:
Aqueous by amelo14

3. The philosophy of western spatiality; our maps.

So, how could one go about seeing what is behind these different concepts of space, if in fact we move through our spaces as fish move through water? I once asked a young boy how fish took a shower if there were already in water. He was puzzled. I laughed a bit, but I feel the same way with regards to our notion of space. In this respect I laugh a bit at myself. If we are “immersed” in our spatial being in the world, how to find a way to surprise ourselves? Here, recourse to history is one fundamental possibility.

If our understandings of space have a history, then ours is the history of the radical and, hardly questioned, compression of time and space. If previously  the distance between us and others we loved was mediated by letters which took long periods of time  to reach their destination ----think of how difficult it was to arrange battles as the succumbing of the Spanish Armada shows----, now the instantaneous connection of those near to us is easily achieved via email, internet messenger, blogging and SMS. Cyberspace complicates the picture even more given  that the space of truly realistic video games further deepens our puzzles. The amazing spaces “within” such games, and the spaces shared by those playing on-line is non-existent. Even money and financial transactions have lost their spatial touchability; e-commerce allows virtual reality to guide our everyday transactions. Many of our work relations are likewise mediated by cyberspace, a strange kind of space which we know is nowhere. Just puzzle a bit about our own dA;  it allows for the instantaneous communication through thousands of kilometers with fellow deviants who share paintings and photographs that are “spaceless” images repeated constantly and instantaneously (well, almost!)

All in all,  it seems as though the reality of spatiality becomes obliterated in our virtual world. I firmly believe this is why, in a world guided by images,  the fall of the Twin Towers was perceived by many as a “movie”; which it CERTAINLY WAS NOT. No wonder it is harder and harder for us to even think the question itself. As David Harvey in his amazing The Condition of Postmodernity puts it:

“As space appears to shrink to a 'global village’ of telecommunications and a 'spaceship earth' of economic and ecological interdependencies ---to use just two familiar and everyday images ---- and as time horizons shorten to the point where the present is all there is (the world of the schizophrenic), so we have to learn how to cope with an overwhelming sense of compression  of our spatial and temporal worlds.”

For many this tendency began historically with the emergence of science which required a quantifiable view of space as providing the basis for the certainty of objective data needed to develop a scientific understanding of the world. . But I cannot deal with this issue here (though many,  including Taylor,  have dealt with the issue extensively; see his “Overcoming epistemology”.)

But,  how to get at this problematic if one is not a “trained” philosopher or architect? Well, I will try to show you a way to do it. I will tell you where I live. Goggle maps provide us with the possibility of pinpointing the very exact space which we inhabit. So here is where I live; approximately, just in case any deviant wants to get back at me for having to read such long journals!   
Journal Space 2 by amelo14

You look and find everything all too familiar. THAT is part of the problem. But  do you have a sense that there is something very limiting about this representation of space? “Well, “ you could reply, “how else can one go around places then?” And I wonder worried, “so you do not see it”. Well, I must not give up and try to allow you to see what is so strange here. Take a look at another period in time in which other types of relations to space existed. Take a look at some early medieval maps:

Paris Map 1250
Journal Space 3 by amelo14
www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/EMweb…

Chronicles of St. Denis  1364-1372
Journal Space 4 by amelo14
www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/LMweb…

Now you at least see that OUR maps are profoundly different. You look a bit startled. And of course you laugh a bit and say to yourself: “Poor people they were so ignorant then, they just simply did not have the technology to map out correctly their maps.” And I agree, in part: I mean, look at those little houses, well, was that drawn by children? Did Klee draw these maps?  

But maybe, you might just start to ponder whether it is YOU who does not see what those maps take for granted. A bit worried, you start to realize that the medieval maps were not guided by the x-y coordinates of the Cartesian grid. In contrast, early medieval maps  represent the world in terms of the world’s significance to the inhabitants of these spaces. What mattered was not the distance between the houses, but the houses; and if a given place had  a special significance, well, it was actually drawn to stand out. The church, the castle, Prince Amelo’s retreat, were much larger than they actually were in reality. And besides, you might just start to see how your modern eyes are connected to a secular way of seeing the world. The Chronicle of St. Denis is a mapping  which involves the stages of the life of a Saint.  Remember what we said at the start of the Muslim pilgrimage? Our maps certainly have no sense of any pilgrimage whatsoever; their function is to get us around as quickly and efficiently as possible. Harvey summarizes well the issue: “Maps stripped of all fantasy and religious belief, as well as any sign of the experiences involved in their production, had become abstract and strictly functional systems for the factual pondering of phenomena in space” (249). Charles Taylor, the architectonic foundation of my Ph.D. thesis, adds:  “A way is essentially something you go through in time. The map on the other hand, lays out everything simultaneously, and relates every point to every point without discrimination”. (176)  

And we wonder how come we have never seen this before. What else might we not be seeing? What else might we not even want to open ourselves to seeing? A firm conviction of the Socratic uneasiness which sets itself up against those who simply know they know, motivates me to write this journal, to face up to my own ignorance of myself and of the spatial world I inhabit daily.

4. The Cartesian model of spatiality in modern architecture: Le Corbusier
and the city of Brasilia.


But, what does this have to do at all with architecture as the privileged art dealing with space? A lot. The Cartesian gird which informed our maps, itself informed the construction of architectural reality. Even Descartes understood that his method, set out in his Discourse on Method  -----the pillar of early modernity----- implied that cities should be ordered rationally by truly rational city planners: “..and the way they make  the street twisted and irregular, one would say that it was chance that placed them so, not the will of men who had the use of reason.” (Part II). And what is most intriguing about this whole story, and to be as brief as possible,  is that architects like Le Corbusier, in their defense of modernity,  tried to implement in their works the presuppositions of this type of rationality based on an overconfident sense of technological progress which would, allegedly, allow for the realization of noble social projects. The rational and efficient use of space is seen clearly in Le Corbusier’s plans for Paris:
Journal Space 5 by amelo14
www.fondationlecorbusier.asso.…

It is a spatial layout which reminds us of images in the famous documentary Koyaanistqatsi, and of images of the inner city projects in North America which later decayed progressively in contrast to the initial intentions of their creators.  

But perhaps the single most impressive attempt to instantiate this model is the creation of a capital city itself where nothing stood before. Such is the case of the absolutely amazing example of Brasilia,  capital of Brazil, which was built from scratch. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brasilia… It was built during 4 years, starting in 1956,  and followed Le Corbusier’s ideals  of modernism. As a modernist project,  it was built as a totally new beginning, so as to point how modernity is a radical new start which sees previous ages with a bit of disdain. Medieval maps of course appear a bit inferior, they appear as the products of dark ages. Furthermore, to emphasize the radical importance of political space,  the capital was built in the very centre of colossal Brazil, in order to ensure the unity of the Nation as was established in the constitution itself.

Brasilia under construction
Journal Space 6 by amelo14
www.geocities.com/TheTropics/3…
www.geocities.com/TheTropics/3…

But as with our modern maps, the meaningfulness of those inhabiting Brasilia itself  took second place. This is why today nobody can go to places in Brasilia without having to deal with excessively long walking distances for the city was designed with an unquestioned  and naïve view of the role of automobiles in our modern city streets. As citizens in Brasilia put it in a popular saying that points out the deficiencies of this model of spatiality: “(in Brasilia) the inhabitants are born with wheels instead of feet.”  (Turning further North for a second, we are dismayed as 6 smog alerts have already covered the space which is our Toronto this year; precisely, in part, because of the excessive use of cars. This is a stark reminder that the way we decide to inhabit our space has everything to do with our day to day quality of life. My dear Bogota is ahead in this respect with its car-free days, model public transportation and famous limiting of cars by their license plates.)

And to have a better grasp for what was on the mind of the architects of the time, their utter optimism with regards to technology, Brasilia  itself was made to be seen from above as resembling a modern airplane!

Brasilia: City Plan
Journal Space 7 by amelo14
www.geocities.com/TheTropics/3…

This is certainly an extremely cruel irony when one thinks of the disastrous outcome which resulted from the hijacking of the US airplanes on 9/11. It showed the world the possibility of using aircraft as destructive weapons of the very space which embodies some of the very important ideals of the West.

5. Deconstructing our modernist spatiality

So how can this perception of space be transformed? It has actually already been done for many years by postmodernists architects and their critiques of modernist architects such as Le Corbusier; as well as by well-known architects such as Wright (see his Fallingwater house, www.geocities.com/SoHo/Worksho… ), Kahn (see his National Assembly in Dacca Bangladesh, www.designmuseum.org/design/in… ),  Gaudi (see his Sagrada Familia, www.greatbuildings.com/buildin… )  and Niemeyer (see his Niteroi Museum in Rio, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Ni… ). Harvey once again provides a good summary of some of the broad differences: “Above all, postmodernists depart radically from modernist conceptions of how to regard space. Whereas the modernists see space as something to be shaped for social purposes and therefore always subservient to the construction of a special project, the postmodernists see space as something independent and autonomous, to be shaped according to the  aesthetic aims and principles which have nothing necessarily to do with any overarching objective, save, perhaps, the achievement of timelessness and ‘disinterested’ beauty as an objective in itself”. (66) Another way to put is as Wright does:  "Beautiful buildings are more than scientific. They are true organisms, spiritually  conceived; works of art, using the best technology by inspiration rather than the idiosyncrasies of mere taste or any averaging by the committee mind." Or elsewhere: “Organic buildings are of the strength and lightness of the spider’s spinning, buildings qualified by light, bred by native character to environment, married to the ground.” Positions which are beautifully captured in the most famous house in the world:

Fallingwater
Journal Space 8 by amelo14
www.geocities.com/SoHo/Worksho…

But given that my concern is to bridge the space constantly separating artists and philosophers, I will briefly look indirectly at the work of Martin Heidegger who, of all philosophers, stands only second to Nietzsche on his writings on modern art. In his very difficult Being and Time, using his very complex language, he dedicates numerals *22-*24 to the issue of a reconsideration of Cartesian spatiality. There he says some truly odd and difficult things to understand. For example, Heidegger says: “In Dasein there lies an essential tendency towards closeness. All the ways in which we speed up things, as we are more or less compelled to do today, push us towards the conquest of remoteness.“ *23, (106)

What might Heidegger be getting at? Well, primary and negatively, he is all for  an intelligent critique of our conception of space as being guided by the Cartesian framework in which space is what can be simply measured; a methodological framework  which presents the world as something out THERE to be objectively considered. Instead, for Heidegger in our everyday going about spatially in the world, we are ALREADY moving in space in a primary way which is rarely questioned.  This is why Heidegger speaks of our primordially already “being-in-the-world”.  Heidegger loves to use examples of everyday utensils to bring out what is obvious, but has been lost from sight.

Those utensils we actually use  in our dally lives are never found in independent spaces, but rather are found in a network of spaces which  interconnects them. Things occupy a space in this web of significance which is never questioned except when something goes wrong. We all remember our mom “freaking out” when she found  the basketball in the living room. “THAT is not its place,” she constantly reminded us. This normal affair partly reveals how the spaces we humans inhabit are set up in ways which provide meaning to our surroundings Or think of what happens when your remote control is nowhere to be found. We rarely pause to think about it, but not finding the remote upsets our moving about in the world in such a way that, for the most neurotic of us, we just can’t go on. We can’t even continue watching the movie, or even pause to turn on the TV ourselves!

The multiplicity of spaces in which we move about daily conforms a network of meaning  which goes unquestioned just as we saw with our modern understanding of space itself. We could not even question the maps we use daily; it is for this very same reason that we cannot see anything strange or deforming about them. For while we move in space, we cannot think about the issue; we just move. We simply use the map, and that of course, is what they are there for. Can you imagine trying to get to the CN Tower and suddenly some philosopher starts to talk about the x-y grid! We would never get anywhere!

I fear I have lost some of you in mapping out this last section which I have compressed beyond what is acceptable. So because we are all artists here, let me try another example from literature. The work of Albert Camus allows us to get a better grasp for what Heidegger might mean. If we remember spaces  which we inhabited once and no longer do ---- the houses of our childhood,  the countries we have left, the parks we used to play in, the farm we used to  visit, our first apartment---,  if we try hard to imagine them, we might see what is so odd about a Cartesian view of spatiality. Remembering them, the network of signification stares us directly. Camus allows us this return in his Return to Tipasa:

“Yet I persisted  without very well knowing what I was waiting for, unless perhaps the moment to go back to Tipasa.  To be sure, it is sheer madness, almost  always punished  to return to the sites of one’s youth, to  relive at forty  what one loved or keenly enjoyed at twenty . But I was forewarned of that madness … I hoped, I think, to recapture there a freedom I could not forget” Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays, “Return to Tipasa, pg. 196. Vintage Books, 1983.)

Revisiting the spaces which formed us, requires revisiting ourselves as we once were. This is not easy, for the places might no longer be the networks of significance they once were. The old family house is now simply a broken-down store;  the park where we played, condominiums surrounded by pavement; the farm, a guerrilla outpost. But as Camus writes, we are simultaneously reminded of the very freedom which allowed us to leave these places in the first place. For in some cases -----more than just “some cases” I fear is more accurate for the lives of artists and philosophers----- these places might have become a bit like caverns or cages. According to Camus, we remember through this exercise in imaginary revival the courage it took to embark ourselves towards new spatial possibilities. This, some immigrants, specially those who have thought through their courage a bit, know all too well. It is this same courage we need to undertake in order to reconsider our own modern spatiality which came radically into question after the horrifying collapse of the World Trade Center Towers; now, their space can no longer be filled by anything except a memorial of what once was, and is no longer there.

6. Conclusion

What is obvious has the tendency to surprise us the most because it is the most hidden from us. Because it is so “obvious”,  we rarely  have the courage to confront it. Something similar happens within families. But thanks to the combined work of artists and philosophers we can start to move towards reconciling ourselves,  not only with ourselves,  but with other cultures by means of a critical dialogue in which both parties argue intelligently about their unquestioned presuppositions. For this task, the help of philosophers, specially artistically-inclined philosophers,  is required. For this task, the help of artists/architects, specially philosophically-inclined artists, is required.  For it is clear we do not want to become the inhabitants of the deadly space which surrounds the doomed panther in  Rilke’s famous poem :

“His tired gaze -from passing endless bars-
has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
and out beyond these bars exists no world.”

For this is the world of those who perpetrated 9/11 and left for thousands of unsuspecting victims only the reality of  collapsing space and timeless grief.

Libeskind’s plans for WTC: “Memory Foundations”
Journal Space 9 by amelo14
www.september11news.com/1_Libe…

Appendix: secular and/or divine spaces?
Briefly in what follows I put forward, as a result of the previous exercise, some tentative parallels on some plausible differences between a space guided by secular reason, and one founded upon the faith of the divine, particularly, though not exclusively,  as seen in Islam:

Secular
1. Notion of immediacy and compression of space through continuous technological encounters via cell-phones, email, messengers.
2. The space of the individual as the paramount foundation of meaningfulness; giving authentic meaning to my spaces is done through my direct participation.
3. The skyscraper as the outstanding achievement  of western architecture,  symbolizing  the economic strength and political unity of the most powerful reaching, as high as materials can, to a secular sky above.
4. A Cartesian model of spatiality conforming to Euclidian geometry which makes of reality something detached and scientifically observable.
5.  Earth as the unique and sole spatial abode which requires of our human care.
6. Architecture as the art which dignifies our secular presence in a world which famous architects transform in the search for a certain kind of immortality, that of creation. As Philip Johnson said: . "All architects want to live beyond their deaths." en.thinkexist.com/quotes/phili…

Divine
1. Notion of space mediated though the presence of the divine as can be seen in the importance and lay out, for instance, of the Mosque and the parts which conform its architecture, including the Mihrab and the Minbar. www.islamicarchitecture.org/ar…
2. The space of the individual takes a secondary role, overshadowed by the divine moral commands  which include specific roles for the body; kneeling, fasting, preparing for pilgrimage, among many others.
3. The temple as the architectural summit: the Mosque as the greatest architectural achievement in praise of Allah.
4. Marveling at the possibility of geometry by including geometric patterns repeating themselves infinitely in great architectural works. These attempt to lead us through perception itself to the unity of the infinite in God: “Driven  by the religious passion  for abstraction and the related doctrine of unity, the Muslim intellectuals recognized in geometry the unifying intermediary between they material and the spiritual world” www.islamicarchitecture.org/ar…
5. God as the unique reality beyond any spatial finitude. God as spaceless and yet the sole creator of space.
6. The only true architect is God as exemplified by the poetic psalms of impressive King David: Psalm 31: 1-3 ”In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.; Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for a house of defense to save me.; For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.”

Published:
© 2005 - 2021 amelo14
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aes-unleashed's avatar
Interesting view of 9/11 and the world trade centre, and the idea of attack on the very principles of priority in space politics.

However it is sad to think that if on reverse, that the equivalent attrocity for the United Sates to attack would be the Kaaba, and that the World Trade Centre could then perhaps be portrayed as America's symbol of salvation?

These institutions, monuments of economic status, for the everyday people are nothing but a symbol, of political and economic power on the world stage. The CN Tower, world's tallest free standing structure. However, it probably be the last thing that comes to mind when I think about Torronto. These mere symbols, what personal gain does any Canadian recieve, what does it truly symbolize for the Canadian people? The World Trade Centres, during one point in history, tallest buildings in the world, but what does that truly mean for the American people? Expression of freedom? Perhaps if anything, a reminder of the materialistic world we live in. The space it created was not a space for every Amercian, but for the wealthy, and nothing more but a symbol for the remaining. It does not shelter the poor nor religious salvation, but a mere exlusive institution.

Artistic integration and functionality perhaps does not fully mix as much as we dreamed of. It is perhaps more like oil and water. This day and age, we seem to be searching constantly for logic, rationale, but where does that leave artistic values? Personal significance? The logic plannings LeCorbusier does not allow for personal development of their own selfishh needs or reflections of economic power.


Perhaps people on this planet were never meant to be communities of this scale in the 21st century, or perhaps the last 1000-2000 years. As consumers on the top of the food chain, such scale of population would simply cause the demise of a majority of the world's inhabitants. As for incooporation of space, and understandings of space, perhaps we need to open our minds and extend our acceptance for basketballs in living rooms or for muslims to pray 5 times a day.

quite the challenge for our modern day society
gocccce's avatar
thanks for sharing, i really enjoyed reading this :hug:
amelo14's avatar
I am glad you enjoyed it "di cioccolato". I would appreciate it very much if you could tell me a bit more why you liked it. Are you into architecture a lot? :-)
gocccce's avatar
i like the way you critise and associate with other things and (and the toronto part) :) i have an architecture degree, ive always enjoyed it :aww:
amelo14's avatar
Such kind words. :-) Two of my close family members are architects. This is one of the reasons why your absolutely beautiful career interests me so much "di cioccolato". What is your favorite building? :-)
gocccce's avatar
:) this is a really hard question... but i think my favourite is Tate Modern building. i love the style and concepts of Herzog+deMeuron... thanks, it is a really beautiful and enjoyable career for me too, im currently trying to catch something in that career... :)

take care :heart:
amelo14's avatar
Looked at the Tate Modern building. It is simply breathtaking. Wish I could visit it. Have you? What you find appealing is the recovery of the past and its connection to the present? Here in Toronto, the Distillery District has a certain similarity. I see you live in Canada, have you visited it? Love chocolate. :D
gocccce's avatar
yeah i visited Distillery and loved so much. I liked the way how they put all those factories put together to create a community. all the galleries, cafes... just great :aww: and it is also close to downtown, getting there is really easy.

[I :heart: chocolate] :)
matthewedwardcornish's avatar
Quite a read, though I kept feeling as though you left out a lot of the explination which, in accompment with your views, could have lead to greater understanding and accesability to most people. Perhaps as you research more into this area of architecture, you'll try letting more realistic ideologies into the mix and balance off your arguements with matters such as inner city regeneration, planning authorities & city plan objectives, cost, time, function and the overbearing desires of a client. Then come to a more solid conclusion because to be frank, I'm really not sure what your overal point of view is on space and western architecture.
amelo14's avatar
Thank you Matthew for taking up the challenge and reading this long journal. I really appreciate it. You make some interesting points, but do so TOO quickly. Of course, much more could be said, but I think I would be thrown out of dA if I wrote even longer journals. I am pushing my luck here. Of course, there are multiple tendencies in the West which have moderated this initial modernist tendency. I think inner regeneration is particularly important. But this would not take the journal in a different direction, it would be instead an extension. I think you could have made a MUCH more powerful point by pointing out that the West has its own type of construction related to the divine, the Christian temple. That would have been a stronger point.

As to the language, I can only say that philosophers will tell me it is NOT technical enough and non-philosophers will complain it is TOO technical. This is just part of the problem with building bridges. Everyone wants to be pleased, but in bridging hardly anyone is pleased. It is the same when you learn other languages.

But the most important and clear difference between what you expect from a journal and what I intend from a journal ---following Socrates---- comes out clearly in your last sentence which reads:

"Then come to a more solid conclusion because to be frank, I'm really not sure what your overal point of view is on space and western architecture."

To be frank, I am not sure what to tell you. Not sure what you mean. I find it all too vague. But I will try. Some journals seek primordially to conclude, others seek primordially to make the reader question. Following Socrates (have you ever read any of his dialogues?), this is a journal which seeks to open the reader to a questioning stance. But this is extremely difficult, because we have a tendency to want conclusions rather than good questions. Some people think that these types of exercise are not realistic enough. But I am far less concerned with the buildings than with the minds of those who construct them. Changing our minds is actually the most realistic endeavor one can dedicate oneself to in one's life. If we move in space as fish do through water, the issue is almost impossible to see. Besides, the pull in our society towards instrumental reason ("cost", "time", ...) is quite overpowering. This journal seeks to counteract this lack of balance in our modern conception of space. Of course, this little journal will not change much, but too many architects themselves have called this stance into question radically (Wright, Gaudi ….) Much more could be said.

Finally, as I learned from Aristotle, some political conclusions cannot and SHOULD not be stated directly because of the dangerous consequences they can have.

Thanks once again for taking up the challenge. Good luck to you.

Andres
matthewedwardcornish's avatar
I'm sorry if I offended you, or if my use of the English language is too vague for you.

I just wanted you to know that no matter how brilliant your thinking and writing may be to other well read philosiphers, folks like myself and my partners found it to be inaccessable... and we're architects... but obviously you're aiming at other philosiphers so again, I'm sorry for treading on your turf with my inferior thoughts.
amelo14's avatar
I did not take any offense whatsoever. It seems you are quite offended. "Inferior thoughts", that is a VERY odd way to put it. Good luck to you.
matthewedwardcornish's avatar
Heck, excuse the terrible spelling errors :blushes: I forgot to read through before submitting :shakefist:
nrgizrbuni's avatar
This, indeed, is very comprehensive! I enjoyed very much the rich history and commentary. As one who believes furvently in the divine inspiration of architecture I really appreciated that section. Great work!

:D
amelo14's avatar
Hi Jennifer, :wave:

Thanks for the read. Glad that you found it enjoyable. The whole issue of spatiality is of great interest to me. Will continue my research in this area during the following years! :-)

Andres
sleurope's avatar
well dude I'm tired of all this.......thats too much...but is a great text!

well I have so many things to say to you right know......but the first one is....are you a jew? I think so.


let me intruduce to you, I'm an admin of ~archiffect and a architecture student, so I realize what you mean with the different topics that architecture needs to answer. the place, the geometry, the program and the personal imaginary (other buildings or squares).

about the FLW houses, well today no one buys it, because they don't fit our life style, but the ones projected by Mies or Le Corbusier still are efective.

i live in a nice place, were muslim architecture meets the western, and in my classes we debate a lot this matter, only about this topic I could speak a lot, where the religion defines the architecture, between this two civilizations if I could call that.

~archiffect will feature this journal, because its a great question, the space we live in.


I wanted to say a lot more, but my english isn't that good, and I know I'm forgetting some things. =)


stay cool
amelo14's avatar
Hi Alexandre, :wave: First of all I really apologize for such a long journal. I have to control my writing impulses much more! I leave the journal for about a month or so -----if I come up with new ideas for new journals! :D --- so that those who are interested can take their time to look at it if they find it interesting. I am totally fascinated by what you tell me about the place you live in. Have you uploaded photographs? What an amazing coincidence. I truly appreciate your featuring this journal at ~archiffect , it is truly an honor. I hope other people interested in architecture help me understand these issues more clearly as I am not an architect myself. Muchas gracias amigo. :-)
sleurope's avatar
de nada =)

well I have some photos from Marocco, but not very useful in the context of your journal.


fica bem =)
keystone045's avatar
Very intuitive my friend! One such issue I would like to see you touch on with this however, is the New Urbanism trend, which sounds to me much like old Europe before cars, only now adding the benefit of trains for interconnectivity. If I had the money to start a project like this I would. It fasinates me, even as automotive-ly fetished as I am (read: car nut) I would love to see this community mindedness reopen the closed mind of the western world.

As someone directed me into thinking once. I am a nuclear thinker. I feel that when I have my parts in place, I will affect those around me to do the same, and they; those around them. The "pay it forward" effect. Before long we have caused openness and a strong community spirit. Not bound by sports icons and actors in movies. And it could eventually crush the outdated political/monetary systems we now have in place. We have to get out of our mechanical state.

Someone else put it to me like this: The fall of modern society happend when we instituted a forced schooling system. Instead of voluntary schooling. The first industrial movements started happening and the farmers didn't want to work in factories. So they forced the children to be mindless blue collars. Which needed white collars to fuel the upper echelon, so higher learning became important. New things, New homes, new factories... before long the blue collars are building machine to take thier own jobs. So higher learning still to program these machines. And onward it spirals until we need to make more room in our 100 person capacity office spaces for 50 more people...

I could let this get rather long.

Anyway, New Urbanism hit me like a ton of bricks. I have always been a slight to the innovator. I'm always looking for something to improve something else. Constantly reinventing myself. Like for instance I am currently embarking on moving my mobile home (hehe yeah me....trailer trash ;) with GAS :rofl: ) to a new location where I will be a bit more free to finally get my licence from the ATF to distill my own methanol for use in my cars. And also, to produce small amounts of bio-diesel for similar reasons. I also have been working out a way to build my own tire shredder (a really interesting use of a semi-renewable resource that is VERY abundant!) to feed a furnace to heat my buildings on the property, water, possibly the pool that I will be building, and the scrubber system I am currently hitting the drawing board with can also be used to make electricity when used with turbines because the water from the stack will be steam for a while, and the left over ashes should be useful for paving my driveway, without too much fear of water contamination. I haven't started experiments yet, and I know there are going to be set backs and even things that I can't do with the system, but...


Man, My response will be as long as your journal if I don't be quiet!

The link for the site that I'm drawing my inspiration from is [link]
Please tell me if the link doesn't work. I'd love to hear you rebuttal for this idea. It is a very in depth site, ranging from economy, transportation, psychological impact of urban sprawl.... Very interesting

-Aric
keystone045's avatar
Oh, and one quote I'd like to leave you with just to pique your interest...

"The project of suburbia is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. America has squandered its wealth in a living arrangement that has no future." -James Howard Kunstler, The End of Suburbia
archiffect's avatar
i'm still reading the introduction. but i'll try to finish it soon...

~cansrox
amelo14's avatar
Thank you so much. I hope it interests you. I would truly appreciate your commentaries as I have not seen many architecture-related groups here at dA. Getting to talk about space seems to me to be a crucial question for artists in general.
paintertk's avatar
Thanks for possibility reading your lessons on space and western architecture... :thanks:I admire of depth your intellect, ability judge of phenomena from various angles, with quotations and examples, references, that are articles give of extraordinary cognitive worth. Really courageous! Still is hopefulness, as far as will be world endowed and protected your penetrating of perception. I have got about what think. :meditate::idea:
paintertk's avatar
I think, that DA is good place for conference about such serious theme. Problem is only in knowing, because channels towards them are here enough complicated. The worst is, that doesn't work searching.:)
anonymous's avatar
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