2022 / Form of Resistance


Form of Resistance


Porch Notes

Charlie Hailey

Keywords: porch, place, John Dewey, aesthetics

Porches embrace paradox. More than a simple blend of opposites like open and closed and public and private, porches make room for conversation on the cusp of nature and accommodate multivalent experiences along the frontiers of built form. Which is to say a porch is dialogic in nature. It holds oppositions without dialectical mediation. To understand such places of negotiation as well as radical reflection, this essay builds on John Dewey’s idea of the active role resistance plays in experience, specifically the lived experiences on porches and similarly liminal spaces. Aesthetic experience needs resistance, just like a porch needs sun, rain, wind, strangers, neighbors, and fiberglass mesh. It is a place that hosts what Dewey called “undergoing,” with its idea of receiving, and doing, which offers a delicate balance. This essay arranges dialogic pairings into a lexicon as a nascent vocabulary of the porch. These pairings hinge on stories that oscillate between the didactic and the diaristic. If the former guides practice within a discipline, then the latter registers private ruminations sometimes made public. A porch frames as it also folds space and time, it holds secrets and opens out onto streets, it documents and daydreams. So often porches are celebrated for their combination of inside and outside, which suggests an all too easy resolution of architecture and nature and of the domestic interior with what is “out there.” Amid climate crises, post-pandemic life, and social change, no such resolution exists, and the difficult work of undergoing and doing must continue and persist.

Stretched Out
Spatializing the Pregnant Body

Elizabeth Cronin

Keywords: feminist practice, stretch, loose-fit, bodies

From corsets to girdles to spanx, women’s undergarments have a long history of structuring overgarments, creating a formal condition where an interior shell is mirrored by an exterior skin (or surface). Here, the female body is exhibited as a rigid, static form. Now, with the rise of athleisure wear, undergarments and overgarments have merged. Such stretchy clothing provides no resistance against the body. Its tight-fit streamlines an idealized form that is broadcast to the world. Like the belly band topping a pair of maternity jeans, the stretch of athleisure wear allows for movement, for growth, where the body is not shaped by clothing, clothing is structured by the body. This would seem a welcome relief to the harsh strictures of rigid undergarments, but as Jia Tolentino points out in her chapter “Always Be Optimizing”: “as undergarments play a lesser role in structuring the idealized female body, women may shape their bodies (through exercise, surgery, etc.) to forms dictated by an idealized garment.”[1] Stretchy garments may be flexible in material, but their tight-fit adherence to the body further establish women as objects, their rigid forms unable to resist.

As an alternative, this research asks: how might stretch act as a form of resistance? defy stasis? alter containment? act as a loose-fit practice of architecture? transcend body as object to explore body as infinite space? The drawings and corresponding essay respond by engaging placenta, uterus, and cervix—the interior depths of the pregnant body—to rethink biological acts of stretching, swelling, and dilating as generative material for open-ended speculations about architectural space. Thus, this work simultaneously engages feminist theory while developing a practice of architecture. It constructs a loose-fit joint between drawings and writing, at times anchored in one another, at others floating apart. For, as the pregnant body is shaped from the inside-out, her external form a resultant of internal movement and stretch, so too must feminist architectural practice stretch open the discipline to resist from within.

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    Jia Tolenti­no, Always Be Opti­miz­ing,” in Trick Mir­ror: Reflec­tions on Self Delu­sion (New York: Ran­dom House, 2019), 82–84.

Space, Body, Architecture
Towards a Difficult Balance

Renato Bocchi

Keywords: Geometry, Space, Body, Contrapposto, Chiasmus

The essay intends to investigate about the difficult conjugation between the more "classical" space-body, characterized by Euclidean-Cartesian geometry and proportional metrics, and the "phenomenological" space-body, however present in the classical heritage, characterized from movement, tensions, from the alternation of gravity and fluctuation.

This conjugation of ancient Apollonian and Dionysian ideals seems to propose a form of resistance, through the dialectic of opposites, even in contemporary artistic and architectural experiences.

In fact, the proposed interpretative key intends to operate a comparative juxtaposition between artistic experiences - such as the "Contrapposto studies" by Bruce Nauman nowadays on display at Punta della Dogana in Venice or the interpretation of classical statuary through a choreographic and bodily expression performance by the stage director Virgilio Sieni, exhibited some years ago at the Prada Foundation in Milan - and the space research in architecture traceable in the museum halls themselves hosting those exhibitions, designed by Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas, or in seminal architectural works such as Steven Holl's Kiasma Museum in Helsinki.

Aesthetics of Resistance

Fabio Quici

Keywords: aesthetic, resistance, gravity, opposition, self-determination

The representations of the tensions induced by forms of resistance can transform solicitations, constraints, oppositions and limitations into occasions of emancipation and opening towards new forms of awareness. Can real aesthetics of resistance be identified? Photography, dance, art and architecture provide examples in this sense and suggest, with different forms but sometimes with similar purposes, different ways to interpret some manifestations of physical and social resistance. Resistance to gravity, considered as a natural condition at the origin of the development of architectural forms, represents a challenge also taken up by other artistic expressions that have always interacted with architecture. The mise-en-scene of the stresses induced by gravitational force can then create spaces for creativity and amplify the perception of the tensions that we unconsciously experience in everyday life. In this sense we speak of "fatal attractions”. Resistance can also be interpreted as a form of political and social opposition. The opposition of the individual or the community can counteract both the inexorable dynamics of urban transformation and the violence of political repression. This type of resistance manifests itself in the form of actions and forms of communication in which the resulting images become social acts. These are images that circulate in different media, images that speak to us from the walls of our streets, images that struggle to become architectural bodies but also ‘disobedient objects’. In some forms of resistance one can also recognize in the opposition the desire for self-determination of the individual and of the peoples. As expressions of the 'positive freedom of man', self-determination manifests itself through actions and artifacts that speak of the aspirations of peoples and their willingness to participate in the transformation of the places they inhabit. Between the plots of the informal city and the constantly adapting housing structures even in the consolidated city, both the artist and the architect can recognize forms of self-determination in which improvisation becomes an aesthetic category and a compositional strategy. In satisfying a condition of necessity, the individual always finds the opportunity to affirm his individuality as well, giving shape and image to his inhabiting. Only an accomplice look can recognize in the forms of resistance, often ‘weak’, all the strength they contain in their most intimate substance.

Arcangelo Sassolino and the Italian School of Engineering

Tullia Iori

Keywords: Arcangelo Sassolino, engineer, futurism, materials, coaction

Arcangelo Sassolino, now one of his generation's most important Italian artists, works as an engineer but as no engineer ever could.

Sassolino was born in 1967 in Vicenza, Italy, where he lives and works. In the late 1980s he enrolled in a degree program in engineering at the University of Padua; however, life took him elsewhere: first to the United States, as a toy designer, after his 1989 patent "Compounded polyhedron for ability games" piqued the curiosity of a New York-based Japanese company. It was here that Sassolino discovered his inclination for art and trained at the School of Visual Arts and then returned to Italy and moved to Pietrasanta, near Massa, where he began sculpting marble, and finally back home, where he started a full-fledged workshop within which he generated his artistic engineering works.

Sassolino's sculptures and installations explore the behavior of materials and their natural physical properties, applying forces and coactions that stress materials (concrete, wood, steel, rubber, glass, marble) to the limits of their strength. In this way, the artist examines the very meaning of life and its transience.

Sassolino's works are carefully designed, resulting in sophisticated constructions with high structural engineering content. Seemingly risky but utterly devoid of danger, calculated with a wide margin of safety, they are nevertheless capable of arousing increasingly strong emotions: concern, doubt, fear, emotion, and empathy; also complicit is the skillfully sound involved in the installation. Tension, anticipation, and the feeling of risk—along with the peculiar beauty of the works—play a key role in the viewer's experience.

Sassolino calls himself a futurist and feels deeply connected to that artistic avant-garde. One of the most obvious similarities with the protagonists of the Italian School of Structural Engineering can be found in this poetics: all our engineers, in fact, in their humanistic approach to structures, identifiable and unique in the world, have matured from that artistic experience of the beginning of the century in two ways: according to a naturalist approach, like Pier Luigi Nervi or Sergio Musmeci, or a positivist approach, like Riccardo Morandi and Silvano Zorzi. Probably these two only seemingly contradictory souls are now part of our DNA: because Sassolino, with his talent as an artist-engineer, cultivates both: first the naturalist one, with his beautiful Cements, shaped to resist by form, shiny, silky, made with a technique that strongly resembles the one adopted by Nervi for his ferroconcrete; and then the positivist one, with the more recent use in his installations of coactions, pre-stressing, balancing, thrusts and counterthrusts, which so closely resemble Morandi's ways of designing his bridges.

Sassolino, at this time, synthesizes, better than any engineer, the identity of Italian structural engineering, its magic, strength, and character. He was awarded an honorary degree in Construction Engineering-Architecture by the University of Rome Tor Vergata, where the lessons of the masters of Italian engineering would have found their place.

Warped Versus Regular Surfaces
A Form of Resistance to Canonical Shapes, from Reims Cathedral to Le Corbusier

José Calvo-López, Enrique Rabasa-Díaz

Keywords: Warped surfaces; descriptive geometry; École Polytechnique; Antoni Gaudí; Le Corbusier

We usually take for granted that descriptive geometry deals with surfaces in a neutral, scientific, aseptic way. However, the construction of the notion of surface as presented by descriptive geometry is the result of a long historical process that took place along the frontier between artisanal practices and learned science. First, there is not much about the general notion of surface in classical geometry, in particular in Euclid, although problems about the volume enclosed by particular surfaces, such as spheres, cones and cylinders are dealt with by Archimedes and other scientists in Antiquity. This led to the formation of a branch of practical geometry, known as Cosmimetry, in the Late Middle Ages. However, this science deals only with a relatively small number of surfaces, including at most some semiregular polyhedra, known as Archimedean. At the same time, a key development arose in the geometrical vocabulary of medieval architecture. While Romanesque architecture uses, generally speaking, simple regular surfaces such as cylinders, cones, half- or quarter-spheres, the surfaces of Gothic vaulting, leaning on transverse and diagonal arches, are warped surfaces; that its, their generatrixes are neither parallel nor convergent.

A more general concept of surface arose in the Renaissance, but the distinction between developable and warped surface appeared first in the practical manuscripts and manuals of stonecutters, who understood empirically that the surfaces whose generatrixes are neither parallel nor concurrent cannot be controlled by means of templates. However, other masons endeavoured to use templates even in warped surfaces, although they are fully aware of their warped or gauche nature. That is, they opposed resistance to the canonical conception of regular surface. This debate permeated stonecutting literature of the 16th and 17th centuries. In the first stages of the Enlightenment, Amedée-Francois Frézier showed a strong preference for “regular” surfaces in his sterotomy treatise. However, the concept of “regular” surface encloses both developable ruled surfaces – such as the cone and the cylinder - and double-curvature surfaces, such as the sphere, while excluding warped ruled surfaces. Later on, other scientists dealt with this matter, in particular Leonhard Euler and Gaspard Monge. While the former was interested in the geodesic applications of this issue, the later was more concerned with its use in stonecutting technique, a subject he taught at the Military Engineering school at Mézières. In fact, he went as far as imposing the condition that the bed joints of ellipsoidal vaults, which he proposed as the roof of the National Assembly of the French Revolution, should be developable surfaces. This is useful, since these joints can be controlled by means of flexible templates, but it is not necessary on any accounts. Thus, we may surmise that Monge was enforcing here the same concept of orthodoxy than Frézier and excluding all forms of resistance to “regular” surfaces.

However, the interest in the geometry of ruled surfaces led Monge’s disciples, in particular Jean-Nicholas Hachette, to put forward a theorem about the continuity of warped surface portions, giving a disproportionate importance in descriptive geometry manuals to the Arrière-Voussure de Marseille, a door or window covering materialised with these surfaces. All this led to a remarkable interest in ruled surfaces in the École Polytechnique, an institution founded by Monge that exerted enormous influence in many technical schools in Continental Europe. Traces of this interest can be detected in the work of Antoni Gaudí, Eduardo Torroja, Le Corbusier and, of course, Félix Candela. The use of ruled surfaces such as hyperbolic paraboloids in the former’s work is well known; not so well known is the fact that the detail that Le Corbusier admired most in the whole Sagrada Familia building was the roof of a small provisional school building covered with warped surfaces. Le Corbusier’s interest in the Polytechnic heritage, which runs parallel to his disdain for the Beaux-Arts tradition, can be seen as a chain in this long process.

The Resilience of Small Numbers
From Self-Construction to Symbol

Aldo Aymonino

Keywords: Solitude, Adriatic Room, Water Gates, Venice, Lagoon, Thresholds

At the end of summer 2022 we will cross the threshold of eight billion human beings on earth. The staggering increase in inhabitants, joined with increasing consumption and travel, decreasing mortality and dominant urbanization, implies a vision of the space in which we act ruled by the unlimited numbers of mass society. However, for the past 20 years or so, a opposite trend has been gaining ground, especially in the most crowded places on the planet. Starting with examples from minor, vernacular history, the essay attempts to investigate the human need for solitude, the gaze, and the thought of the sacred and the permanent through projects that are modest in scale but no less necessary.

Forests of Resistance
Memorial Strategies in Forested Landscapes of Socialist Yugoslavia

Vida Rucli

Keywords: forested landscape, memorial strategies, Yugoslavia

The article explores the memorial strategies and monument production of Socialist Yugoslavia in relation to forested landscape, a specific type of landscape where events related to WW2 needed to be marked. Forests, in the creative minds of Yugoslav artists and architects who proposed monuments to recall specific WW2 events, became sources of extremely poetic solutions, where the forests themselves, with their vertical geometries, fragmented lights and irregular grounds, played a central role in the monument’s design.

The article first analyzes the relation between WW2 monuments of Socialist Yugoslavia and different natural landscapes where the war was fought and where site-specific monuments were built, exploring concepts as the sitedness of monuments and the authenticity of memorial sites. Secondly the text presents in depth four different examples of monuments built in forested landscapes: from more classical ones, with a central body and a wider landscape organization, to living monuments (živi spomenici) where natural elements have the central role, to participatory green monuments.

Outlining theoretical debates from the 1950s to the 1980s published in art and architecture magazines and exploring built production from the same years, the article aims to give an overview of the extremely complex and composite landscape of theories and practices which testifies to the modernity and radicality of Yugoslav memorial practices.

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    In Slovene: Goz­dovi odpo­ra. The title is a ref­er­ence to the beau­ti­ful film by Mar­ta Popivo­da and Ana Vujanović Kra­jine odpo­ra (Land­scapes of Resis­tance) from 2021, which nar­rates the sto­ry of the par­ti­san Son­ja Vujanović. I had the plea­sure to col­lab­o­rate with the two direc­tors in 2019, on the the­atre piece Kra­jine svo­bode (Land­scapes of Free­dom) at the Sloven­sko mladin­sko gledal­išče the­atre in Ljubljana.

House in Tateshina
Kazuo Shinohara's Transformational Space

Giorgia Cesaro

Keywords: Shinohara, Tateshina, kiai, randomness, space

House in Tateshina (1985-2006), Kazuo Shinohara’s latest bequest and (unrealized) project, is a small space (46 msq) developed over a very long time (21 years). Its long-studied composition is of a disarming simplicity. Yet, this simplicity encloses and secretes an interlocking play of one room within another, of a space within another, of a point of view that encompasses other points of view. As clear and linear as the system is, in fact, inside it lines of movement complicate the compositional aspects, as to remember that the architect’s main concern was to investigate the degree of complexity, chaos or randomness compatible with the apparent simplicity of the form. Indeed, House in Tateshina speaks of a world without hierarchies, where different spaces come together, each with their own inclinations, each playing their role while participating in the unity of the whole.

Through the analysis of the preparatory sketches and the final drawing of House in Tateshina, the Japanese aesthetic principle of kiai [気合], composed of ai [合] (‘one-tenth of the way from the base to the summit of a mountain’, or ‘mutual understanding’, ‘union’, ‘coming together’) and ki [気] (‘life energy’, ‘lifeforce’, or ‘energy flow’) emerges. Kiai is therefore ‘ensemble of the breath’, ‘harmony’, ‘attention’, and ‘sensation’. In an artistic sense, kiai involves the ability to harmonize the artistic gesture with the changing, random, irregular and unpredictable rhythm of the existing (mono-no-aware).

Through the comparison with eminent cases of Japanese artistic forms actualized by means of the kiai aesthetic principle, the proposed essay aims to demonstrates how the composition of House in Tateshina, with its agitation of the form, had as its purpose the elevation of our consciousness, the awakening in us of latent emotions or sensations, keeping our attention and vigilance awake, even in the obsessive repetition of daily gestures, to compose and reassemble our innermost space, that of the house, the space of order and disorder, of creation and re-creation: the space of transformation.

For Kazuo Shinohara, indeed, more than a ‘making of space’, as Louis Kahn wrote,[1] the architectural quest was a problem of ‘transformation of space’ [空間創造, kūkan sōzō],[2] which he had defined as a ‘thing’ [何, nani] “colorless, transparent and impersonal”, where the impersonal quality is to be understood in the Deleuzian sense of the term, that is ‘virtually multiple’, ‘holder of possibilities’; a concept very close to the Buddhist idea of śūnyatā [शून्यता], ‘emptiness’, whose Japanese translation is kokū [虚空], ‘where everything can be anything without obstacles’.

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    Archi­tec­ture is the thought­ful mak­ing of spaces. The con­tin­u­al renew­al of archi­tec­ture comes from chang­ing con­cepts of space”: Kahn, Louis. Archi­tec­ture Is the Thought­ful Mak­ing of Spaces.” Per­spec­ta 4 (1957): 2–3. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1566850.

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    The lit­er­al trans­la­tion of the Japan­ese word sōzō [創造] is to tend to’, to pro­ceed towards’ [造, ] the ori­gin’, the begin­ning’ [創, ]. How­ev­er, the prin­ci­ple’ should not be under­stood as a first cause’: in the Far East the idea of a cre­ation of some­thing oth­er than one­self is com­plete­ly absent, whether it is the shap­ing of a shape­less mate­r­i­al already giv­en (as Plato’s demi­urge does) or whether it is a cre­atio ex nihi­lo on God’s part (as in the Judeo-Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion). In Chi­na and in Japan cre­ation is seen as a process, a spon­ta­neous and free becom­ing by virtue of itself. To suite this idea of a con­tin­u­ous process with­out ori­gin and with­out end, it was pre­ferred to trans­late sōzō [創造] into trans­for­ma­tion’ rather than into cre­ation’. For an in-depth analy­sis see: François Jul­lien, Procès ou créa­tion: une intro­duc­tion à la pen­sée des let­trés chi­nois, (Paris: Édi­tions du Seuil, 1989).

The Resistant Capacity of Architecture

Petra Čeferin

Keywords: Architectural capacity, Cause of architecture, Architectural act, Subjectivation, Creative thinking

We live and work in highly problematic times, a time of burning issues such as the environmental crisis, the weakening of democracy, housing injustices, and mass migrations, to list just a few of the ongoing developments of our time. A critical awareness of this time is reflected in the field of architecture; it shows itself as a call to action – to pursue architecture as an active co-creator of society, a co-bearer of much needed social change today.

But for such attempts to be effective – and this is the central thesis of this article – the following is essential: to tap into the full potential of architecture the issues and challenges that architecture and thus we as architects confront today have to be thought in the way of architecture; they have to be thought architecturally. More precisely, we have to think them as problems and challenges that architecture confronts as a creative thinking practice.

When architecture is practiced as a creative thinking practice, it responds to a given task such that it constructs that particular object that it seeks to make as an object specific to architecture – as an architectural object. And this is an object of a special kind because it is a subjectified object. In other words: at the same time architecture constructs its objects--subjectified objects--it also co-constructs, co-creates a human being as their specific producer, spectator, user. It co-creates him or her as a subjectified human being. And here, in my view, lies the resistant capacity of architecture. Architecture can realise this capacity if it activates its creative capacity. My position, therefore, holds that the act which is necessary today – and not only for us architects – is the act of insistence on architecture as a creative thinking practice. This is what I will develop in my article.