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the art of architecture

simon seasons
edited November 2007 in architecture
I am firstly an artist, but I had the misfortune to grow up in a house that was run by two engineers. Being an artist I was acutely aware of the odd rant coming from my parents about 'bloody architects' whose creative 'flights of fancy' had to go back to the drawing board because the engineering solutions outweighed the budget for every other aspect of the project.
Becoming a carpenter, chef, and joiner and now retraining as a building designer I have seen many things get built which I believe showed a complete lack of understanding of the ART by the architect. “It’s art man” has become a virtual pejorative for the aesthetic state where people are led to confuse what they think is their innermost thoughts as expressive of the soul. By that I mean that the universities seem to be training people to use there ego as a reference point. They give them this point, but they don't give them any spear to go behind it.

If that seems confusing, consider that ones inner most thoughts are not on the spoken level, but are played out in our dreams. If we continue to talk about what it is we feel like doing without reference to what is outside of our heads as if that is an innermost thought, then we are confusing a description of the self with what is essentially a reaction to what is not the self.
That is, our reaction to what is outside of us is what our dreams are made of and they can only ever be interpreted by the feeling that remains when we awake. The closest we can therefore get to our innermost thoughts is not by talking about ourselves, but by gauging our emotional reactions to what is outside of ourselves.

Self analysis in this sense is using your ego to gauge if your observations match your reactions. It is done in silence by looking outward and seeing inward if the internal emotional reality reflects the external physical reality.
It is not an endless exercise of prattling description formulated around fashionable yet meaningless appendages retrieved from ones memory with no reference to what the ego is actually looking at to use or seeing within when it looks.

The key to art is observing and not believing that the reference material is within oneself. The soul muse is within and we react. The materials of artistic creation are outside of us. Things such as that which came before us if we must but specifically the previous limits reached of materials and theory or looking further back, the way wind bends a tree or they way an eave is betrayed as useless by the sun or how steel shrinks and deflects under strain. Between the two realms of personal reaction and physical reality is the ego observing and relaying back to the soul muse where two and two is put together.

The ego is to the soul, like the eye is to the brain. The ego is not itself a reference point and it therefore cannot create art. It is the machine by which the soul observes and then we create. Asking the ego to create is like asking a robot to create and then congratulating it when it comes up with another robot.

When I see a 'structure' that has no proper bracing or is covered in grotesqueries or is decaying for want of properly specified materials or is going 'out of date', then I see a designer or architect or artist whose primary reference was they themselves. They have not observed what it is that makes up the components of their 'structure' to the point that they are aware of what it is they are actually manipulating. The effect they have on the material is the signifier and not the effect of the material on them. It is their ‘ego’ that held primary importance for them.

Because such creations spring out of an unreferenced ego they seem to speak a language unto themselves. They resonate both loneliness and an adolescent 'look at me' arrogance that quickly diminishes into boredom for the observer has nothing to relate to other than "This person knows not what they are handling"

Brunulleschi's Florentine dome, 530 years old and made of brick without an internal supporting scaffold, is a masterpiece because he made the effort to observe bricklayers and actually laid bricks himself in an attempt to fully understand the nature of the material he had to use. Only then, by fully understanding and observing the limitations of brickwork was he able to go beyond those limitations and create a piece of architectural brilliance the likes of which had never been seen before and has really never been seen since as far as bricklaying goes.

For too long architects have been taught a theory that references itself rather than the world around it. It suffers from this insularity by being both unsympathetic and unempathetical. This is the main symptom of egoism.
Only by understanding that there is no such thing as a self-referencing validity will egoism stop being taught in Architecture schools and only then might they get back to teaching architecture students how it is that their 'creations' must stand up. AND only then will we see students who know that limitations of structure and materials and the ego itself is indeed a virtue, the full understanding of which enables them to go beyond the limitations of architecture or to at least create structures that resonate with meaning and utility in a language that others can actually enjoy, let alone understand or even simply use.

"There is no such thing as a self-referencing validity"

The problem surrounding ego is that one needs to separate from self referencing analysis. We are not simply an isolated individual self actualizing their thoughts in an attempt to explain their ‘inner being’. This is a core obsession that diminishes the ability of architects and any artist to do their thing. It also lies as a root cause of the problem of climate change in that until this moment not many at all in the western world realised or cared if their actions based around self actualizing would affect the ability of future generations to live. This is a direct affect of mass egoism.

In old Gaelic 'weird' meant 'one who controls their own fate'. As in those Pagans who worshipped 'the weird sisters' whom Shakespeare eventually immortalized as the witches of Macbeth.
For us today too much fate is bound up in a Gordian knot that has no top, bottom, beginning and end. In reality fate has no other aspect besides being endlessly in our own hands. That is not the same as egoistically interpreting fate because we must also believe that this fate is in the hands of everyone else, yet to be born, here with us or long since dead. Self possession is, in this understanding, a communal act of selflessness as our fate is also intrinsically bound up with the fate of others.

This is the true meaning of the mythological Gordian knot. Alexander's cut was the historical moment when his patriarchy overthrew the Greek matriarchs whose knot was simply an aid for teaching initiates of the infinite variability possible in tying ones ego to the fate of others. That is, relinquishing ego in favour of a more universal understanding of self possession.

Since however, many now believe in an omnipotent God above us we seem to ascribe multi potent nature as beneath us. Since we believe this God owns our spirit, by extension of the logic, we seem to believe that we own nature. In a similar hierarchical mechanism we must strive for our sense of self in the following of elders or the leading of initiates. That is patronized or patronizing. Though these are important functions of society teaching itself, by definition they should not be the function by which we arrive at a sense of self. That is, we cannot validate our ego via subjugating or being subjugated either with personalities or ideas.

But therein lays a definition of patriarchal 'self possession'. One is more comfortable with either or one is distinctly uncomfortable with both. There is no in-between within patriarchy and it is via the ego that we are expected to decide where we stand within the patriarchal society. That is we are either extravert or introvert. Within 'weirdness' the distinction doesn't exist and so the ego doesn't come into the question. Only our reaction to external stimulus matters, and not the constant effort to stamp our ego onto the world of external stimuli around us. This is in direct contrast to the generally perceived importance of knowing yourself via our egos

With our own emotional wisdoms (reactions to external stimuli) replaced by glib guidance (received assertions of correctness), we come to believe, for our sense of self, in the possession of those who come after us (our children) and our own possession by those who came before us (our parents or Gods). We believe in this progression of possession because it is all there is to give credence to the false ascension of the personal ego above the universal and unidirectional soul.

We are therefore dismembered from our actual non-lineal nature of self. A nature that is as infinitely expandable in all directions of time as 'now' is. Who so ever is divided is spiritually excluded from a major part of themselves, which is our connectedness to all else and all others. This leaves us vaguely unsure of whom and what we are. In this condition a fascination with the self develops to a scale where ones life has an imagined relevance beyond your own existence.

At worst, you writhe in that dreadful conceit of the suicide bomber of believing that your own death has more importance than that of others. At the least, the adult ego, if not given up in capitulation to others, is consequently thrust upon others in a constant effort of death defiance, which for some manifests in the happy abandonment of social safety and the miserable indulgence of personal carelessness. For others its effect can be seen in art and architecture that doesn't work and doesn't speak to us. It instead looks as if an effort to immortalize oneself took precedence over the utilitarian production of something useful to others.

For children it is essential to live in a state where egoism is possible for how else would they learn of their own reactive possibilities, but for adults, who must not think only of themselves, it is essential to learn and actualize the lessons of connectedness and physical limitations. If egoism is not contained by the souls interactions and empathetic responses to ‘environment’ by the time that children become youth, they are left as junior patriarchs who must follow or lead and be either fearful of or yearning for death to know that they exist. 'Divide and rule' in this context is the division of the soul from its source and subsequently the division of people from each other into those who are subjugated and those who subjugate.

Divide and rule in hierarchical patriarchies (which care virtually nothing about the environment) both rely on an accentuated relevance of the ego and create a reliance on the ego, to the point that "I think therefore I am" is a foundation philosophy of our egotistical culture when really "I am" should suffice in an undivided knowledge of the self.
Architecture (and indeed art and politics) that comes from someone who has already settled the question and has arrived at a place where 'I am" is not something they have to 'think about' produces great architecture because they actually can see and feel what it is they designing with. Their vision of what they want is not obscured by their vision of what they want to be.

I deleted the two previous entries and have substituted this which is a marginally edited version with a heap more clarity. Spot the philisophical joke.
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