Renato Bocchi / Space, Body, Architecture

Space, Body, Architecture

Towards a Difficult Balance

Renato Bocchi

1. Contrapposto

It is well known that in clas­si­cal art, lat­er tak­en up by Renais­sance and neo­clas­si­cal art—and espe­cial­ly in sculp­ture, from Polyk­leitos and Lysip­pus to Donatel­lo and Michelan­ge­lo and lat­er on Rodin—the reflec­tion on the so-called con­trap­pos­to or chi­as­mus had a large impor­tance in out­lin­ing the pos­ture of the human body and the pro­por­tion­al rules of its representation.

That reflec­tion arose from the desire to over­come the sta­t­ic and hier­at­ic vision of the pre­vi­ous Greek sculp­ture (that of the koùroi), deci­sive­ly intro­duc­ing the sen­sa­tion of move­ment and action in the human body’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion, thus deter­min­ing an evi­dent empath­ic flow on the part of the observ­er in contemplating—or rather experiencing—the work.

In the con­tem­po­rary world the same reflec­tion is revived in a sur­pris­ing and inno­v­a­tive way by the research of an artist-per­former like Bruce Nauman.

In the cat­a­logue of the recent exhi­bi­tion Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, orga­nized by the Pin­ault Foun­da­tion at Pun­ta del­la Dogana in Venice, curat­ed by Car­los Basu­al­do, Eri­ca Batlle explains: 

Con­trap­pos­to exem­pli­fied a new­found nat­u­ral­ism. Sin­u­ous, sen­su­ous bronze fig­ures of the high clas­si­cal peri­od stood with one foot plant­ed firm­ly bear­ing weight, the oth­er slight­ly lift­ed and relaxed. This coun­ter­bal­anc­ing stance, giv­en its Ital­ian name con­trap­pos­to (or coun­ter­pose) cen­turies lat­er, was exem­pli­fied most famous­ly by the sculp­tor Polykleitos’s bronze Doryphoros (or spear bear­er), cast around 450–440 BCE. The sculp­ture was remark­able not only for its exem­plary contrapposto—the fig­ure stands on the right leg with the left leg relaxed, while the left arm is flexed and the right arm at his side—but also for the sophis­ti­cat­ed math­e­mat­ics Polyk­leitos employed to arrive at an ide­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the body ".[1]

Polyk­leitos elab­o­rat­ed his pro­por­tion­al cal­cu­la­tions on the mea­sure­ments of the human body in a text known as Canon, in which he doc­u­ment­ed his "dis­cov­er­ies", accord­ing to which the height of the ide­al fig­ure should have cor­re­spond­ed to sev­en times that of the head. These ideas and ideals were then tak­en up, as is well known, in the human­is­tic prin­ci­ples explored by artists, sci­en­tists and philoso­phers in the Renaissance.

"Their renditions—emphasizes Batlle—mark the his­toric moment with which Nau­man most read­i­ly aligns his numer­i­cal ref­er­ents in the Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, which con­sist of sev­en pro­jec­tions and, at their most com­plex, par­ti­tion Nauman's body into sev­en parts".[2]

In the video Walk with Con­trap­pos­to, dat­ing back to 1968, the artist is seen walk­ing back and forth along a nar­row cor­ri­dor, which he him­self built in his stu­dio, with his hands crossed behind his head and his body sway­ing as he tries to walk straight in line while main­tain­ing a pose in con­trap­pos­to.

Damon Krukows­ki com­ments: "Nauman's painstak­ing (and prob­a­bly painful) walk down a cor­ri­dor defined by the swing of his hips from con­trap­pos­to to con­trap­pos­to is high­ly awk­ward, to the point of near immo­bil­i­ty. […] That ten­sion is what Nau­man is enact­ing for us, step by excru­ci­at­ing step […] The one we feel with our ears. The sound of Nauman’s delib­er­ate awk­ward steps in this nar­row cor­ri­dor is preter­nat­u­ral­ly loud […]. Once again, Nau­man has dis­ori­ent­ed us by skew­ing sound and image".[3]

This work is revis­it­ed years lat­er by Nau­man in his most recent Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies. [4]

The log­ic of the new works is based on three steps: rep­e­ti­tion, divi­sion and over­turn­ing of the image. These oper­a­tions take place in the con­text of a gen­er­al rever­sal of the rela­tion­ship between fig­ure and ground, as the adjust­ed focus of the video cam­era cre­ates a par­al­lax effect. […] The over­all effect is that of being con­front­ed with the appar­ent dis­in­te­gra­tion and com­ing togeth­er of the artist's body".[5]

By invert­ing the dynam­ics between the body and the sur­round­ing space in his Walk with Con­trap­pos­to, 1968, Nauman's walk now seems to make the space around him move.

These new works have an evi­dent mon­u­men­tal­i­ty, pro­ject­ed as they are in large dimen­sions in the vast halls of the Dogana, that fur­ther under­line the clas­sic ref­er­ences of the afore­men­tioned works.

"Nau­man intends to rein­state and to mind the con­cep­tu­al scaf­fold­ing that sup­ports the very def­i­n­i­tion of sculp­ture and pos­si­bly, by exten­sion, of art itself".[6]

Already in the clas­si­cal expe­ri­ence, the con­trap­pos­to intro­duced the sense of dynam­ic action in an artis­tic expres­sion such as that of sculp­ture — born of neces­si­ty as a sta­t­ic, objec­tu­al, stat­u­ary rep­re­sen­ta­tion. This fact involved the space around it and aroused an emo­tion­al and empath­ic reac­tion in the observer.

The per­cep­tion of the work already tends to immerse the observ­er in a phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal "flow" of inter­ac­tions among his own body, the body of the work and the sur­round­ing space.

This process is enor­mous­ly ampli­fied when the "sculp­ture in the expand­ed field" of con­tem­po­rary art—as Ros­alind Krauss[7] defined it—merges with the spa­tial­i­ty of archi­tec­ture and the per­for­ma­tiv­i­ty of dance or the­atre, rec­i­p­ro­cal and estab­lish­es intense rela­tion­ship with all those enti­ties, i.e. either the bod­ies of the work and the view­er or the space that sur­rounds them, intro­duc­ing force­ful­ly also the time fac­tor and there­fore the process of the artis­tic action. The work is no longer an object but an event. 

Nauman's work thus trans­lates the clas­si­cal con­trap­pos­to into a com­plex reflec­tion on knowl­edge and art, but also nec­es­sar­i­ly ques­tions the spa­tial dimen­sion of the scene or archi­tec­ture in which the event takes place.[8]

The nar­row cor­ri­dor in which Nau­man forced him­self to walk in 1968 was already part of the work, as well as his sway­ing body. And the stu­dio where he cre­at­ed and still car­ries out his per­for­mances (and which in the lat­est expe­ri­ences lit­er­al­ly becomes the the­atre of a "3D vir­tu­al vis­it")[9] is an inte­gral part of the work. Just as impor­tant is the aur­al dimen­sion that accom­pa­nies the action and in some way reads the space of the work.

There­fore, in his work there is a close involve­ment of the archi­tec­tur­al space in the artis­tic event: an archi­tec­tur­al space, lit­er­al­ly mea­sured and shaped by the artist's body movements.

Bruce Nauman, Walk with Contrapposto, 1968

Bruce Nauman, Walk with Contrapposto, 1968

Bruce Nauman, Contrapposto Studies I through VII, 2015-2016

Bruce Nauman, Contrapposto Studies I through VII, 2015-2016

Bruce Nauman, Diagonal Sound Wall (Acoustic Wall), 1970

Bruce Nauman, Diagonal Sound Wall (Acoustic Wall), 1970

2. Tadao Ando’s Museum Spaces

I ven­ture here—beyond the spe­cif­ic inten­tions of the artist and of the curator—a pos­si­ble role of affin­i­ty and sup­port, with­in this process, of the muse­um archi­tec­ture itself that hous­es the works’ instal­la­tion, fur­ther empha­sized through the exhi­bi­tion design project.

In the case of the Venet­ian exhi­bi­tion, it seems inter­est­ing to me to inves­ti­gate the rela­tion­ship that implic­it­ly is estab­lished between Nauman's works and the spaces of the Dogana, restored and revis­it­ed some years ago by Tadao Ando.

In fact, Ando's spa­tial con­cep­tion of archi­tec­ture has var­i­ous points of con­tact with the reflec­tion on the dialec­tic between tra­di­tion and inno­va­tion that we have seen in a cer­tain way as the sub­ject of Nauman's work and with the phenomenological/perceptive out­comes that sub­stan­ti­ate his own research.

This seems to be true both in the devices Ando adopt­ed to com­bine the restora­tion of the pre-exist­ing build­ing with his own archi­tec­tur­al-spa­tial inven­tion (see in par­tic­u­lar the incor­po­ra­tion of the cen­tral "cube" in exposed con­crete into the brick body of the ancient ser­i­al "ware­hous­es") and above all in the con­ju­ga­tion of abstrac­tion and fig­u­ra­tion, of West­ern tra­di­tion and ori­en­tal sen­si­bil­i­ty, which is the basis of all his archi­tec­tur­al work, reflect­ed in a rar­efied spa­tial­i­ty of absolute sobri­ety and intense emo­tion­al empathy. 

In many of Ando's works, in fact, the abstract/geometric ele­ments of archi­tec­ture rein­ter­pret the forms of nature, delim­it them, enclose them, con­tain them, to the point of extract­ing a ratio­nal order, in a tight dialec­tic between abstrac­tion and corporeality.

The recov­ery of forms and pro­ce­dures typ­i­cal of abstract art, and of Josef Albers in par­tic­u­lar, is strong­ly present in his design imagery and gives shape to an orig­i­nal way of design­ing architecture.

Andō writes: "The result is the tran­si­tion from an abstract archi­tec­ture, devel­oped accord­ing to strict geo­met­ric rules, to anoth­er con­crete one, which cov­ers the appear­ance of the human body. I think the key to this trans­for­ma­tion is the labyrinthine nature of my work. Artic­u­lat­ing sim­ple geo­met­ric shapes in a labyrinth is equiv­a­lent to merg­ing an imag­i­nary Pirane­sian labyrinth with­in an Albers-style paint­ing. My main goal is thus to make pos­si­ble the joint expres­sion of the con­crete and the abstract in archi­tec­ture".[10]

Mind­ful of the art of Japan­ese gar­dens, but not far from Mies van der Rohe’s mod­ern mas­tery, the artic­u­la­tion of space by means of walls cre­at­ed by Andō allows to trace guid­ed paths for the visitor's gaze, to design sequences of spaces and inter­vals (almost sound-silences), thus offer­ing the vis­i­tor the pos­si­bil­i­ty of pro­gres­sive­ly expe­ri­enc­ing the landscape.

The avant-garde abstract geome­tries of art and archi­tec­ture can thus be com­bined with an atten­tion, which again we could say is "phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal", to the forms of archi­tec­ture and land­scape. The "spa­tial" tra­di­tion of Japan­ese archi­tec­ture inter­venes to "human­ize" the abstract and ratio­nal con­tri­bu­tion of mod­ern West­ern architecture.

Fur­ther­more, in all Tadao Andō’s works, the wall—with an unusu­al thick­ness and body—has a fun­da­men­tal and in some respects autonomous pres­ence: it not only has an envelop­ing, delim­it­ing func­tion, but it is often a free ele­ment with its own auton­o­my and becomes a screen upon which light and shad­ows are pro­ject­ed: a vibrant and vital sur­face.[11]

Geom­e­try is then re-eval­u­at­ed, but no longer as an instru­ment of cold, abstract ratio­nal­iza­tion of forms, rather as a tool capa­ble of mak­ing peo­ple to react pos­i­tive­ly and enhance the expres­sive poten­tial of nat­ur­al spaces and shapes, includ­ing the human bod­ies inter­act­ing with those spaces.

Geom­e­try, despite its non-ran­dom char­ac­ter, con­cen­trates mul­ti­ple mean­ings […] — explains Andō [12] — iso­lates land­scapes, struc­tures them, high­lights them, induces people's move­ments, makes them walk, stop, go up or down. It also manip­u­lates the inten­si­ty of light and, by iso­lat­ing and col­lect­ing the shad­ows in the back­ground, cre­ates light waves in space. The geom­e­try applied to the archi­tec­ture high­lights the speci­fici­ty of the site and, by sub­ject­ing it to a vio­lent dia­logue, sub­li­mates it and gives it a new existence”.

If this is the spir­it with which Ando designs his spaces, in direct rela­tion­ship with the per­cep­tions aroused in the peo­ple who live there and tak­ing into account the needs of the move­ment of such peo­ple the sounds of their steps, the lights and shad­ows that are drawn on the sur­faces, the tem­per­a­ture with which they can touch or lean against the walls …), we under­stand how a per­for­ma­tive art based on body move­ments such that of Nau­man can find inter­est­ing cor­re­spon­dences with the spa­tial­i­ty of Ando's muse­um. This is true either in sit­u­a­tions in which he him­self adds spa­tial and tac­tile devices to the rooms[13] or in the sit­u­a­tions in which he orga­nizes real phys­i­cal per­for­mances or where he orga­nizes pure­ly sound events, as well as where the walls become mon­u­men­tal pro­jec­tion screens of "vir­tu­al" performances. 

The emo­tion­al­ly charged "geome­tries" of Ando's archi­tec­ture can thus pos­i­tive­ly host Nauman's provo­ca­tions; the manip­u­la­tion of the clas­si­cal prin­ci­ples of geom­e­try, pro­por­tion, con­trap­pos­to, in a con­tem­po­rary mode, seems to find a cer­tain cor­re­spon­dence in the work of Ando as in that of Nau­man, albeit act­ing with obvi­ous­ly dif­fer­ing tools and techniques.

Tadao Ando, Museum of Punta della Dogana, Venice

Tadao Ando, Museum of Punta della Dogana, Venice

3. Kiasma

An inter­est­ing rela­tion­ship with Nauman's reflec­tions on the sub­ject of "con­trap­pos­to" can also be estab­lished inci­sive­ly with anoth­er par­a­dig­mat­ic work of con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture: Steven Holl's Kias­ma Muse­um in Helsinki.

The con­cept of con­trap­pos­to in clas­si­cal and Renais­sance art is compared–as pre­vi­ous­ly mentioned—to the anal­o­gous con­cept of "chi­as­mus", a rhetor­i­cal fig­ure which takes its name from the Greek let­ter "chi" (X) and which arranges the words in a cross accord­ing to ABBA scheme.

This con­cept is explic­it­ly used by Holl to set up the project of the muse­um; it is even sug­gest­ed by its epony­mous name.[14]

This approach of "inter­twin­ing dif­fer­ent lines of rela­tion­ship with the con­text", which decides the over­all shape of the build­ing by giv­ing it a tor­sion that can actu­al­ly cor­re­spond to the coun­ter­bal­anced pose of the stat­ues in con­trap­pos­to, is equal­ly and more deci­sive in shap­ing the inte­ri­or spaces of the hall and the exhi­bi­tion rooms accord­ing to a sort of con­trolled defor­ma­tion such to give a dynam­ic sense to museum’s expe­ri­en­tial itin­er­ary. Thus, vis­i­tors are offered a great vari­ety of spa­tial and per­cep­tive expe­ri­ences, albeit accord­ing to a some­what con­trolled posture.

Holl explains that "The gen­er­al char­ac­ter of the rooms, which are almost rec­tan­gu­lar with one wall curved allows for a silent yet dra­mat­ic back­drop for the exhi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary art exhi­bi­tion. The slight vari­a­tion in room shape and size is due to the gen­tly curved sec­tion of the build­ing which allows the hor­i­zon­tal nat­ur­al light to enter in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent ways. These rooms are meant to be silent, but not sta­t­ic; they are dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed through their irreg­u­lar­i­ty. […] The con­tin­u­ous unfold­ing of chang­ing per­spec­tives con­nects the inter­nal expe­ri­ence to the over­all con­cept of inter­twin­ing or Kias­ma. […] The geom­e­try has an inte­ri­or mys­tery and an exte­ri­or hori­zon which, like two hands clasp­ing each oth­er, form the archi­tec­tur­al equiv­a­lent of a pub­lic invi­ta­tion".[15]

Hence, even Holl's Kias­ma can be described with some prop­er­ties as a con­trap­pos­to archi­tec­ture, capa­ble of introducing—akin to clas­si­cal systems—those con­trolled vari­a­tions that make it an inno­v­a­tive episode in the field of muse­um archi­tec­ture and, above all, pre­dis­posed to a free and vari­able use and per­cep­tion both in rela­tion to the visitor’s sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence and to the flex­i­bil­i­ty in wel­com­ing the very dif­fer­ent, and often inter­ac­tive, forms of art found in con­tem­po­rary artist production.

Steven Holl, Kiasma Museum, Helsinki; photo Jani-Matti Salo

Steven Holl, Kiasma Museum, Helsinki; photo Jani-Matti Salo

4. Atlas of Gesture

Explor­ing again the rela­tion­ship between archi­tec­ture and per­form­ing arts in the "tac­tile" or "cor­po­re­al" def­i­n­i­tion of spaces (in par­tic­u­lar those relat­ed to the world of chore­og­ra­phy), I think it is equal­ly inter­est­ing to ana­lyze an expe­ri­ence con­duct­ed in 2015 by Vir­gilio Sieni at the Pra­da Foun­da­tion in Milan in direct con­nec­tion with the open­ing exhi­bi­tion of that cul­tur­al cen­ter, enti­tled Ser­i­al Clas­sic, curat­ed by Sal­va­tore Set­tis, once again focus­ing on clas­si­cal statuary. 

In this case, too, I am intrigued by the pos­si­bil­i­ty of inves­ti­gat­ing how these per­for­ma­tive artis­tic expe­ri­ences have dia­logued, more or less explic­it­ly, with archi­tec­tur­al spaces, designed in this case by a guru of con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture such as Rem Koolhaas.

In the two lev­els of the so-called Podi­um designed by Kool­haas, where the Ser­i­al Classic ancient art exhi­bi­tion had just end­ed, Vir­gilio Sieni's project titled Atlante del gesto (Atlas of Ges­ture) explic­it­ly dia­logued with the traces of that exhi­bi­tion and with the instal­la­tion cre­at­ed by OMA stu­dio. The chore­o­graph­ic project was pro­gram­mat­i­cal­ly planned to replace the sta­t­ic nature of clas­si­cal works with the dynamism and vital­i­ty of the bod­ies of the per­sons involved in the chore­o­graph­ic actions, trans­form­ing the exhi­bi­tion space into a land­scape of ges­tures”. Fur­ther­more, the door in the cen­ter of one of the glass walls of the Podi­um and an inclined plat­form, also designed by OMA, allowed the numer­ous dancers (pro­fes­sion­als and non-pro­fes­sion­als) and even the pub­lic to move freely between the inter­nal and exter­nal spaces.[16]

In his research enti­tled Atlas of Ges­turelySieni works pre­cise­ly on bod­i­ly expres­sion look­ing for a fusion of body and space, or — in his own words — estab­lish­es a "rela­tion­ship of anato­my with the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment". Pre­cise­ly Sieni declares that "start­ing from this con­di­tion it is pos­si­ble to define a space".[17]

This space mea­sure­ment” through pos­ture and body move­ments seems to me to be a very inter­est­ing tool for the ana­lyt­ic per­cep­tion, and there­fore for the design, of an archi­tec­tur­al space. And it is inter­est­ing to note that even Sieni—as pre­vi­ous­ly not­ed for Nauman—considers bod­i­ly expres­sions in a way—although based on "slowed" and some­times "frozen" dynamics—that ques­tions clas­si­cal statuary’s sta­tic­i­ty by pur­su­ing a phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal dimen­sion of space which can be assim­i­lat­ed to the themes raised by the prob­lem­at­ic of con­trap­pos­to: it is not a coin­ci­dence that Sieni speaks of the con­cept of arche­ol­o­gy of gesture”.

"Com­pos­ing is the act of orga­niz­ing a space by relat­ing a series of ele­ments to be bro­ken up and then mod­eled, in order to inhab­it "dif­fi­cult" exis­ten­tial regions and thus define an envi­ron­ment of mean­ing. … (Look­ing for) a place that is not sym­met­ri­cal, where the chore­o­graph­ic design actu­al­ly enhances the asym­me­tries, lead­ing the dancers towards the edge of space, […] the move­ment of the bod­ies pro­duces a mass, chan­nels ener­gies, (estab­lish­es) vol­umes that inhab­it bod­ies ".[18]

Sieni explains that "The work of the acad­e­my on the art of ges­ture aims to pos­i­tive­ly inter­vene on the liv­abil­i­ty of places and cities, help­ing to define a sense of belong­ing: a field of action on which to graft a renew­al of the rela­tion­ship between the body of indi­vid­ual cit­i­zens and the con­for­ma­tion of their ter­ri­to­ries to which they belong, the cul­tur­al prac­tices in which they ori­ent their lives. […] Through the cre­ation of vir­tu­ous cir­cles between prac­tices, visions and the redis­cov­ery of places, the var­i­ous projects, which have grad­u­al­ly been cre­at­ed, have led to the devel­op­ment of maps and paths capa­ble of express­ing a new vision of art and the city".[19]

"I always say: the shape must be the con­se­quence of a whole inter­nal dynam­ics, the way in which the organ press­es on the spine and acti­vates the joint sys­tem, thus allow­ing the pro­duc­tion of a vis­i­ble shape out­side. Con­verse­ly, the form is also under­stood in the oppo­site sense, that is to say some­thing that comes from out­side and is ori­ent­ed with respect to the body ".[20]

This research path is often linked to the abil­i­ty to subtract—to "make emptiness"—rather than to the accu­mu­la­tion of ele­ments. Each archi­tec­ture of the body is a rede­f­i­n­i­tion of what is left in space, as a form that man­i­fests itself by degrees, planes and lev­els. […] The body thus becomes a dia­gram, an ele­ment that con­nects all things togeth­er, so con­tem­po­rary that it becomes an inter­me­di­ary with the past”.[21]

As was said for Nau­man, the exer­cise that repeats and trans­mits ges­tures inspired by works of ancient art becomes revealing.

Serial Classic exhibition, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Serial Classic exhibition, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Annuncio, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Annuncio, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Rituale, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Rituale, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

5. The Podium

It is not easy to estab­lish an imme­di­ate rela­tion­ship of these per­for­mances with Kool­haas' spa­tial work as design­er of the Pra­da Foun­da­tion. What is cer­tain is that the spe­cif­ic build­ing involved (the Podi­um) is a sort of glass case—a flu­id space of evi­dent Miesian tra­di­tion, pro­ject­ed towards the vision of the out­side yet char­ac­ter­ized by move­ments of the deck that enhance its func­tion as a podi­um and atten­u­ates its pos­si­ble sta­t­ic nature, instead encour­ag­ing flu­id dynam­ics, which are absolute­ly not sym­met­ri­cal. It there­fore lends itself to being defined as a plat­form-stage or an open log­gia that pre­pares itself to accom­mo­date the stat­ue-objects as well as the mov­ing bod­ies and that 

induces and favors direct rela­tion­ships with the exter­nal space. Japan­ese lan­guage would define in this regard of a space ma or an engawa, that is, in fact, an emp­ty space of tran­si­tion between inside and outside.

In these types of flu­id spaces, as well as in urban open spaces, the space-body rela­tion­ship is nec­es­sar­i­ly defined by a dimen­sion­al flow with­in which it is the very move­ment of the bod­ies. Those move­ments direct­ly gov­ern spa­tial­i­ty, much more than the envelop­ing walls, and almost as in a the­atre stage, the parterre—the deck­ing sur­face and its modulations—as well as the wings, the free walls that divide the space into dif­fer­ent but not com­plet­ed fields, play a fun­da­men­tal role. Again, in this sense, the mas­tery of Mies van der Rohe appears to be the piv­otal point of reference. 

More­over, the whole work by Kool­haas at the Pra­da Foun­da­tion large­ly focus­es on the preva­lence of urban open space as the main ele­ment in the com­po­si­tion of a series of sep­a­rate and dif­fer­ent build­ing frag­ments, some pre-exist­ing and some new.[22]

This will­ing­ness to cre­ate a col­lec­tive open space, not strict­ly for­mal­ized, like an ancient ago­ra, obvi­ous­ly favors the pro­tag­o­nism of the move­ment of bod­ies in space and there­fore the appro­pri­a­tion of space by users, in a per­for­ma­tive dimension.

For this rea­son, the com­po­si­tion­al phi­los­o­phy adopt­ed by Kool­haas finds a cer­tain affin­i­ty with the ways of mea­sur­ing and dom­i­nat­ing the space typ­i­cal of chore­o­graph­ic or the­atre per­for­mances rep­re­sent­ed, in this case, by the expe­ri­ence of Vir­gilio Sieni.

6. Forms of Resistance

In con­clu­sion, these two exam­ples of the rela­tion­ship between artis­tic per­for­mance and the con­for­ma­tion of archi­tec­tur­al space con­vinc­ing­ly illus­trate the con­tri­bu­tion that an interaction/ inter­fer­ence between the art of the body and the art of space can pro­vide to an archi­tec­tur­al design approach in the con­fig­u­ra­tion of hap­tic space. This also pro­vides mate­r­i­al for a phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal­ly per­cep­tive and immer­sive evo­lu­tion of design process­es, capa­ble of estab­lish­ing an impor­tant empath­ic rela­tion­ship between the user and the archi­tec­tur­al space itself.

How­ev­er, I find it sig­nif­i­cant that this type of sen­si­tiv­i­ty can be traced back to an inno­v­a­tive reflec­tion on artis­tic prin­ci­ples root­ed in the clas­si­cal artis­tic tra­di­tion such as chi­as­mus or con­trap­pos­to, in the con­text of an intense rela­tion­ship between tra­di­tion and innovation.

I won­der, then, how such research can be placed in the con­text of those "forms of resis­tance" to what this issue of AR is con­cerned, also recall­ing the famous appeal that Ken­neth Framp­ton addressed to archi­tects in 1983 by trac­ing his Six Points for an Archi­tec­ture of Resis­tance, recent­ly cel­e­brat­ed and com­ment­ed on in Ljubl­jana, forty years lat­er.[23]

  1. 1

    Eri­ca F. Batlle, Bruce Nau­man: bod­ies at work,” in Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do (Venice: Mar­silio, 2021), 135.

  2. 2


  3. 3

    Damon Krukows­ki, Fol­low­ing the Sound”, in Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do (Venice: Mar­silio, 2021), 105.

  4. 4

    See: Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies I through VII, 2015–2016; Con­trap­pos­to Split, 2017; Walk­ing a Line, 2019; Nature Morte, 2020.

  5. 5

    Car­los Basu­al­do, Volver sobre sus pas­sos”, in Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do (Venice: Mar­silio, 2021), 96.

  6. 6


  7. 7

    See: Ros­alind Krauss, Sculp­ture in the Expand­ed Field”, Octo­ber 8 (1979), 30–44.

  8. 8

    "Reflex­ive action is very dif­fer­ent from reflex­ive thought […]. To quote Nau­man, "an aware­ness of your­self comes from a cer­tain amount of activ­i­ty and you can’t get it from just think­ing about your­self "[…] Nau­man thus exper­i­ments with the way in which a pure­ly men­tal act can affect the cor­po­re­al expe­ri­ence. […] This mobi­liza­tion of con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion in rela­tion to expe­ri­ence revers­es the usu­al hier­ar­chy between thought and expe­ri­ence, which is no longer addressed as a way of under­stand­ing, but as a way of feel­ing, at the ser­vice of a per­son­al expe­ri­ence. The hier­ar­chy that tra­di­tion­al­ly places thought above sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence is reversed, and the process is ori­ent­ed towards the sen­so­ry and affec­tive expe­ri­ence of the sit­u­a­tion ". See: Noè Souli­er, Action as a work”, in Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do (Venice: Mar­silio, 2021), 109–114.

  9. 9

    See Nature Morte, 2020.

  10. 10

    Tadao Ando, “​Une super­po­si­tion de couch­es abstraites et con­crétes”, in Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume (Paris: Arlea, 1999), 93–95.

  11. 11

    I like to imag­ine — remarks Tadao Andō, Lumière, ombre et forme” in Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume (Paris: Arlea, 1999), 132 — puri­fied spaces, delim­it­ed by attics, walls and ceil­ings (often of a sin­gle mate­r­i­al) […]. When man comes into con­tact with this type of space, the lat­ter — an impris­oned sol­id vol­ume — is enhanced under the effect of the rays of light and nat­ur­al ele­ments such as the wind, trans­form­ing into a liv­ing, more flu­id space which it forms a body with man him­self”. See: Tadao Andō, D'une archi­tec­ture mod­erne …”, in Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume (Paris: Arlea, 1999), 52.

  12. 12

    Ibid, 163.

  13. 13

    See Diag­o­nal Sound Wall, 1970, installed into one of the halls at Pun­ta del­la Dogana.

  14. 14

    "The con­cept of Kias­ma , explains Holl, involves the building’s mass inter­twin­ing with the geom­e­try of the city and land­scape, which are reflect­ed in the shape of the build­ing. An implic­it cul­tur­al line curves to link the build­ing to Fin­lan­dia Hall while it also engages a "nat­ur­al line" con­nect­ing to the back land­scape in the back­ground and to Too­lo Bay". See: Steven Holl, Kias­ma, (Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art: Helsin­ki, 1998), 16.

  15. 15

    Holl, Kias­ma, 16–19.

  16. 16

    The project con­sist­ed of five actions — Ori­gin, Rit­u­al, Announce­ment, Grav­i­ty and Nudi­ty — which, in the inten­tion of Vir­gilio Sieni, "always gen­er­ate new res­o­nances between the tables of the Atlas, where the study of the frag­ment and the details of the body unfolds an archae­o­log­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tion that faces the present. At the heart of Ori­gin, there is the ges­ture that unites a moth­er to her child in a spe­cif­ic form of inti­ma­cy, emo­tion and beau­ty. In Rit­u­al the bod­ies cre­at­ed an unfold­ed chore­og­ra­phy accord­ing to the pas­sage and trans­mis­sion of ges­tures and dynam­ics in con­tin­u­ous vari­a­tion. Announce­ment pre­sent­ed a hor­i­zon­tal chore­og­ra­phy in which very slow migra­tions of "angels" com­bined imper­fec­tion and sus­pen­sion through the ges­tures of non-pro­fes­sion­al per­form­ers and dancers. At the cen­ter of Grav­i­ty was the body act­ed upon by oth­er bod­ies and which in turn infus­es move­ment in the oth­er bod­ies. Dance embod­ies the bal­ance between forces, devel­op­ing a dic­tio­nary of exer­cis­es on grav­i­ty. In Nudi­ty com­mon pos­tures and ges­tures, such as kneel­ing, sit­ting or stand­ing up, made up an archive of the sim­plest move­ments, of the infi­nite chore­o­gra­phies inscribed in the shapes and artic­u­la­tions of naked bodies”.

  17. 17

    Enri­co Pitozzi Anato­mia del gesto. Con­ver­sazione con Vir­gilio Sieni”, in Mate­ria cor­po. Anatomie, scon­fi­na­men­ti, visioni, ed. Malv­ina Borgheri­ni, (Mac­er­a­ta: Quodli­bet, 2019), 19.

  18. 18


  19. 19

    Ibid., 28. Sieni then adds: "The start­ing point — he notes, explain­ing his exper­i­men­ta­tion — is gen­er­al­ly linked to the knowl­edge of some tech­ni­cal-com­po­si­tion­al aspects: it is nec­es­sary to bring the body to mar­gin­al­ize thanks to a knowl­edge linked to the exer­cise and its qual­i­ty of exe­cu­tion. All that is sought-after move­ment, sequence, chore­o­graph­ic phrase, is mate­r­i­al that it becomes essen­tial to know for pro­fes­sion­al and non-pro­fes­sion­al dancers" (Ibid., 32).

  20. 20

    Ibid., 34.

  21. 21

    Ibid., 38–39.

  22. 22

    Kool­haas does not seek a uni­tary image for his project but prefers to think about the idea of​a piece of city com­posed of dif­fer­ent units and aggre­gat­ed pre­cise­ly by inter­sti­tial space. "The new, the old, the hor­i­zon­tal, the ver­ti­cal, the wide, the nar­row, the white, the black, the open, the enclosed — all these con­trasts estab­lish the range of oppo­sites that define the project" (Rem Kool­haas, OMA Office Work Search, Sep­tem­ber 21, 2022).

  23. 23

    See the sem­i­nar curat­ed by Janko Roz­ic, Insight in Site. Glob­al­iza­tion, cri­sis and crit­i­cal region­al­ism, Ljubl­jana, May 26th 2022, with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Juhani Pallasmaa. 


Andō, Tadao, “​Une super­po­si­tion de couch­es abstraites et con­crétes”. In Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume, 93–96. Paris: Arlea, 1999. 

Andō, Tadao, D'une archi­tec­ture mod­erne fer­mée sur elle-même à l’universalité”. In Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume, 52–66. Paris: Arlea, 1999.

Basu­al­do, Car­los, Volver sobre sus pas­sos”. In Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do, 95–99. Venice: Mar­silio, 2021.

Batlle, Eri­ca F., Bruce Nau­man: bod­ies at work”. In Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do, 132–142. Venice: Mar­silio, 2021.

Holl, Steven, Kias­ma, Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art: Helsin­ki, 1998.

Krauss, Ros­alind, Sculp­ture in the Expand­ed Field”, Octo­ber 8 (1979): 30–44.

Krukows­ki, Damon, Fol­low­ing the Sound”. In Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do, 101–106. Venice: Mar­silio, 2021.

OMA Office Work Search, Sep­tem­ber 21, 2022.…

Pitozzi, Enri­co, Anato­mia del gesto. Con­ver­sazione con Vir­gilio Sieni”. In Mate­ria cor­po. Anatomie, scon­fi­na­men­ti, visioni, ed. Malv­ina Borgheri­ni, 19–39. Mac­er­a­ta: Quodli­bet, 2019.

Souli­er, Noè, Action as a work”. In Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do, 107–116. Venice: Mar­silio, 2021.