Mark Jack returns for another look into those simple parts of our world and everyday existence that we tend to overlook. You won't believe what he found this week.
3.4 If a space is a representation of an idea or a thought that is signified, does a space achieve its meaning through its relation to all the other spaces in a context, or through all the spaces for which this space has become metaphorical?
3.41 If there are different modes and uses of language, can space thus be
classified into scientific, mythical, technological, logico-mathematical, fictive, poetic, rhetorical, critical spaces?
- Bernard Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996)
My favorite pizza maker in Berkeley, a transplant from New York, says New York and Chicago are the only true cities in America. If the place you live in doesn’t have buildings eighty stories and taller, casting their shadows over you, it just isn’t a city.
Let’s not begin with landscape, however. Let us, instead, begin with the point, vaguely defined, with all it’s specificity and near impossibility. This humble god, nonexistent, yet constitutive of geometry. It is not possible to respond to such a thing. When we indicate its place in space it quivers away, shrinks and expands as a probability, a wave, a fuzzy, broken bit of ink on the draftsman’s paper. Let’s expand the point, give it verticality; make it architectural. Let us allow the point to define and be defined by the geometry around it. Constituent impossibility of Euclidean, the point, for our discussion, will expand vertically and be located by the axis of horizontal line, stacked as walls.
The corner. What shall we do with this ubiquitous space? place a lamp? a table for keys and unread mail? What about a table to sit at, in the corner, to talk in private? Or perhaps we leave it bare and offer a space for hasty meetings, our heads bowed together, considering our next move while warily eying the group of in the center.
What is the geometry of the corner conversation?
I think there is certain urgency in corner conversations, related to the space’s simultaneous and dichotomous nature as point of convergence and divergence. We see the corner in old noir films as the meeting place of detective and informant. That other classic meeting place of intrigue, the cinema, also acts, in its own way as a corner, with the force of action and light resolving itself cone-like into our eyes. The cinematic meeting place provides a clear example of the tendency to gaze out with oneself as locus while in a corner. If we were to accept the corner as necessary meeting place, as place of conjunction, then we would expect such sturdy surety as to constitute corners as the great locus of power. From such meeting points all things expand. However all things collapse at the corner, as well, and if we follow the lines onwards and outside the building than we find the inside corner as simply a moment of tension, that, outside will flip, and move on, dissipating exponentially. Thus we sit off in the corner for private talks and are overcome by the tension and look out at the rest of the room, less darkly shaded, lit as it is on all sides, from the corners, perhaps, and we begin, perhaps, to be paranoid, or haughty, depending.
The lines extend outwards, the point (corner) marks a place but isn’t such a place itself.
The criminal exchange occurs on the corner. We send cabs to corners, and we meet friends on corners near bars that they’ve never been to. It’s near the corner of x and y streets, we say, I’ll just meet you there. The corner is a place to meet, and once there, to quickly desert.
The corner is static and mobile. It is defined as the place to meet, as I’ve said, and thus defined by our walking towards it. It is also the point of origin, as might be intimated by the notion of planning in corners, and thus must be seen as giving rise to movement.
Conversation, then, cannot properly take place in the corner. I feel conversation to be properly open and ambiguous. If conversation is to take any interesting direction, it must be able to take any at all. The corners of buildings of streets of books and movies provide so perfect an influence on how we will speak and what about, that the freedom to converse is inhibited. The contradiction of divergence and convergence is too readily mobilized to allow for such an influence to take part, as influencer in it’s own right. Instead this interesting contradiction runs away from itself.
I had a friend in high school that lived in a house that was built as an octagon. The primary space, which was subtlety divided into living room, dinning room, kitchen, etc, by weak dividers, was left octagonal. The corners, then were numerous and yet almost not corners at all. It was a strangely uncomfortable house to be in. It had no originary point from which to think the space.
One of the great aspects of much modernist architecture, it that its insistence on clean lines, resulted in clean corners from when the skilled photographer could provide heroic images of the building suggesting solidity and movement. In other words, it made for good media. The image of architecture is such that it sometimes it is more architectural than the building itself.