But how many daydreams we should have to analyze under the simple heading of Doors! For the door is an entire cosmos of the Half-open.
Gaston Bachelard (1969 p222)
The theoretical consideration of architecture is a rich vein of cultural thought, but like so many other branches of contemporary thought it is too readily considered the territory of dis-embodied and abstract as distinct from the material world, usually interpreted through text in the cognitive realm of conceptual generalisation. This paper suggests that we reconsider the relationship of the theoretical and the architectural by observing how architecture manipulates intrinsically material ideas, originating in the physical inhabitation of the spatially constructed. These made-thoughts open up spatial conceptions, as for instance in Bachelard’s study of the spatial in the poetic imagination. While other disciplines and practices undoubtedly contribute to an expanded field of architectural theory, the theoretical-of-the-architectural originates in these tangible-thoughts. An architectural idea might be considered as an emergent property of the inhabited spatial-material construction, and hence architectural making can be viewed as an origin of distinctly architectural ideas not as instrumentalized ideas external to making.
Susanne Langer (1953) contended that the arts investigate the making of sensual ideas symbolic of human feeling. Such sensual ideas resist interpretation or translation, but resonate empathetically through haptic perception. This notion might be applied to architecture as sensual idea, suggesting possible material explorations of architectural theory other than the literary and independent of the conventionally architectural object. One example can be found in the work of artist Siah Armajani (b.1939), whose sculptural models, “Dictionary for Building”, and full scale inhabited constructions explore the manipulation of material architectural ideas. These works are not narrative analysis but phenomenological investigations. As such these works challenge the conventional bifurcation of theory from practice or thinking from making. These works are spatial speculations that articulate architectural ideas and yet are not works of architecture. Armajani allows the made-thing and made-thought to co-exist in a state of reverie. Through making he reveals the half-open door to architectural ideas for contemplation.
All Architecture course lecture Friday 15th January 2016
Ardalan, Z. 2013. Siah Armajani: An Ingenious World. London; Parasol Unit.
Armajani, S., Bernard, C.1994. Siah Armajani: Anarchistics Contributions 1962-1994. Nice; Villa Arson.
Bachelard, G. 1969. The Poetics of Space. Boston; Beacon Press.
Langer, S. 1953. Feeling and Form. New York; Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Simon Beeson’s research explores relationships between sculpture, ideas of play and architectural pedagogy, particularly as applied to the first year design studio. His practice meanders between architecture, public art and sculpture. In 2002 was a Henry Moore Institute Research Fellow. Since 2007 he has been Course Leader for BA(Hons)Architecture at Arts University Bournemouth.