Final Year Thesis, Bachelor of Architecture
NSTITUTIONS : UN/MASK
The revelations and enactments of a (dysfunctional) world built upon conditions
Institutions regulate human existence, setting up boundaries that shield us from the stark realities of life. Without these adjustments, we are brought face to face with the death, corruption and filth which are an integral part of human life, but that we prefer to mask and deny.
The architectural constructions manifest as a set of institutions, now termed (re)institutions, which derive from the dysfunctions of the body and the home. Instead of providing solutions, the (re)institutions reveal the rituals, relationships, actions and encounters that if not willingly or deliberately masked are subsumed by functions, both of architecture and life itself.
While the institution progressively effaces the messiness of diverse and varied projections of life by embracing stabilising modes of operations, the architecture of the (re)institutions seeks otherwise – by predicating itself on conditions. The specificity of varied conditions of life is a departure from the abstract system of a functional reality into possible worlds of human conditions.
The reality that these (re)institutions emanate is a lurking reality.
This work evolves through an operative text, one to replace the loss of centrality when architecture no longer assumes a protagonist role in its own production in the fulfilment of shelter/utility/image/structure. Architecture is bounded by solid referential powers, which also defines it. To traverse a vast discourse is to leave behind this heavily in/vested body of architecture and move through a spatio-temporal dimension (body of text). While this text becomes the supposition of the architectural project, it is not a reified presence. In dispelling the objective function of architecture, the mode of operation is that of becoming.
We are drawn instead to the very processes of living in the house: to the use of a tool, to a role undertaken, a relationship enacted and sustained - by extension, to a way of life, to a mode of being.
(Lily Chi, Narration and the Architectural Program: The ‘Mythical’ Status of Architectural Fictions)
While current architectural practices operate within a framework that continually affirms and reaffirms, the work disrupts the terms of approaching architecture through the redeployment and counter-production of architectural knowledge, culture and ultimately pleasure. Here, architecture begins to construct – or critically re-constructs – a reality rather than serving it.
The drawing entitled Asylum also insists on centrality, while implying that in the institution such as this, despite its seeming purpose, communication among individuals is impossible, because while they may live in proximity, they are inexorably isolated. While considering the form his buildings must take, the architect cannot ignore this profound vision of institutions.
(Rafael Moneo, Ciphered Messages, in Bovisa)
In Kafka, the institution is a mechanism that obeys its own laws; no one knows now who programmed those laws or when; they have nothing to do with human concerns and are thus unintelligible.
(Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel)
Kafka who saw the poetic potential contained in the phantasmic nature of institutions, was able to transform the everyday, anti-poetical material of a bureaucratised society into the poetry of the novel.
The institution of power/the power of the institution as a mechanism that propagates Architecture as instrumental production and consumption. Institutions do not speculate their own constitution and hence cannot engage in speculative discourse beyond established boundaries. Dominant architectural discourse stabilises and eventually perpetuates its institutional status. To be critical and speculative, architecture must continuously dislocate itself from the stronghold of the real and productive. Architecture must dislocate institutions, and to that end must dislocate its own institutions.
Society sets up boundaries to regulate lives. For certain realities which are too stark, too erratic, to hard to bear, the institution intervenes to smooth out these irregularities. In a certain way, these boundaries keep us ‘safe’. The carnival is that transgressive occurrence in a regulated society, it is that blind spot which disrupts and disturbs with its raw, unmediated energies.
As opposed to the official feast, one might say that carnival celebrated temporary liberation from the prevailing truth and from the established order; it marked the suspension of all hierarchical rank, privilege norms and prohibitions. Carnival was the true feast of time, of becoming, change and renewal. It was hostile to all that was immortalised and completed.
(Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His world)
The works of both Rabelais and Bakhtin spring from an age of revolution, and each reflects a particularly open sense of the literary text. Rabelais’ carnival with its emphasis on the earthy and grotesque signified the symbolic destruction of official culture and assertion of popular renewal. Resounding with the laughter of the common folks, the spirit prevailing at carnival time is one of irreverence, that which is an open instigator of rebellion against authority.
This work takes on the carnivalesque development as a transgressive discourse in protest of official culture, a revolt against the institution.
Society sets up boundaries to compartmentalise human existence, in doing so regulates the dis/array of energies that constitute life. Institutions, in order to maintain its functional role and public image inevitably mask these varied conditions of life.
The body carries out its process of living within the framework which has come to be defined as the home, a domestic entity, then extending into the greater sphere of the external complex network of the societal world, in which is located the institution. The cause and effect of the dysfunctional body, resonates in the home, now one of dysfunction. The architectural contents derived from dysfunctions of the body/home are a set of institutions, now termed (re)institutions
The programs of the (re)institutions are derived from the dysfunctions of the body/home.Instead of proposing solutions, each of the (re)institution seeks to reveal the conditions of the dysfunctional self that have been masked. As such the programmatic content does not serve a functional reality, but is a respond to conditions of existence, these which are hidden, unspoken or assimilated by the functionality of the institution. This seeming departure from reality does in effect bring the subjects to a close encounter between the self and the aspects of life.
The subjects occupy an enacted space of architectures where their private realities, masked behind the public image of the institution, are revealed. In an act of ‘disempowering’ the institution, the subjects return to the ‘centrestage’. Though they are seemingly liberated from the mask of the institution, the subjects are far from free, instead, they speak to us of an existence that is doomed.The conditions of dys/functions begin to enact the architecture
This reality cannot accommodate the programmatic intentions of the (re)institutions because not only does it not serve a functional reality in providing solutions for the dysfunctions and for society, it surfaces and and enacts the endless parade of conditions that society tries to regulate through institutions. It is in a state of suspension only because this reality does not acknowledge its existence. In exposing what has been denied by the stronghold of this functional reality, the architecture of the (re)institution is borne of its own reality, this which is a lurking reality.
Architecture stages this lurking reality through the very vehicle that has masked it, denying it existence, rendering it capable only of lurking, the institution itself.
When architecture is predicated on conditions and not functions, it enacts life itself. Conditions - rituals, relationships, actions - of life. The endless array of conditions that constitutes life originates new forms - as rituals, relationships, encounters, actions - enacts architecture. When architecture forms manifest from conditions, this gives rise to a highly differentiated world unlike function derived forms (which tend to regulate and homogenise differences). This not only arrives at architectural types originating from life itself but also increases the wealth of ‘actual’ forms - the matter of architecture.
In The Garden of Forking Paths, Borges wrote of a ‘ramified time in which every present forks out into two futures’ (Calvino). Reality as a manifold totality is a springboard from which realities other than this one can occur. This work invents a methodology for making the architectures of a possible world.
But I felt that the game had a meaning only if governed by iron clad rules; an established framework of construction was required, conditioning the insertion of one story in the others. Without it, the whole thing was gratuitous.
(Italo Calvino, The Castle of Crossed Destinies)
The methodology originates architectural program/architectural object/architectural type from conditions, in doing so releases architecture from the limits of functional programming into a wealth of original architectural types. This method of making architecture could build a possible other world.