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The Abbatoir Construct Complex.


This paper takes as its premise a coincidence and then expands that chance collision into a constructed framework. It attempts to make equivalent two separate ideas; the first is that of a built ruin and the second is that of a beginning. The built ruin is complete, incomplete (so far as its structure will not expand or contract past this point) and the beginning is incomplete, complete (so far as its structure contains the essential seed of what is to come). It is also an investigation across disciplines of the generic structure (the temple and the shelter) as manifesto, its changes over time (Modernism, Brutalism, the Situationists, and Post-Modernism), and the possible reasons for its organization, dispersions, and cohesions.

 

In 1931 Le Corbusier tells his fable of primitive man. Primitive man clears an area (territory), constructs a road (communication), pitches a tent (shelter / temple), and thus creates an enclosure that is centered in his clearing and connected with his road. A Path and a Volume. Order. At the Smithsons’ 1956 installation Patio and Pavilion at Whitechapel Gallery, we are given a shed, three walls, a corrugated plastic roof, and a sand patio and from 1956-58 the Situationist Constant Nieuwenhuys designs a gypsy camp, Campo Nomadi, that can be broken down, transported, and reassembled. Order + Entropy. In 1977 at Documenta 6 in Kassel, we can see the Smithsons’ shed again, now reduced, copied, skewed, massed, and split, its versions statically arranged to present the idea of a larger form (to “connect without connecting”) in Alice Aycock’s The Beginning of a Complex… Disorder + Possibility. Nine years later, in 1986, the surgeon Richard Selzer sits on a jury at the Yale School of Architecture for a group of students who have been tasked with designing a slaughterhouse. Here we have returned to a path and a volume (order), though instead of pointing to shelter, it quite literally points to danger.

 

These new Four Horseman - Order, Disorder, Entropy, and Possibility (distillable to ‘complete’ and ‘incomplete’)– are not oppositions, but continuations. Order leads to disorder, itself a symptom of entropy, which then opens order up to possibility. The circle is closed by a possibility becoming an actuality, an order establishing itself again as a beginning. This process, or continuation of form, necessarily operates within time as well as space.

 

So now, we have our terminology and our timeline of events, our archive and our keywords, roughly spanning the years from 1931 – 1986, through which we will be making large strides through. Bracketing these events are three pieces of writing that will be referenced often and throughout. The first is Alois Riegl’s “The Modern Cult of Monuments” from 1903, the second is Robert Morris’ “The Present Tense of Space” from 1978, and the third is Karsten Harries’ “Building and the Terror of Time” from 1982, all of which interrogate the permanence, experience, and function of architecture.

 

The primitive enclosure, the future shelter, the moveable camp, and the seed of an idea will be used as (constructed) evidence of the expansion and variability of shelter and space. Importantly, none of these historical designs were to be repeated. They are all singularities and thus should be thought of experiments and viewed as potential monuments. The slaughterhouse serves as a foil to this progression of shelter, creating a new beginning, by returning to the form of the primitive, unadorned, temple.

 

As scenographer Edward Craig scribbled in the margins of Vitruvius’ Treatise on Architecture (Book II),

 

The place is without form...the floor seems to be an absence - the roof a void. Nothing is before us.

 

And from that nothing shall come life - even as we watch in the very centre of that void a single atom seems to store - to rise - it ascends like the awakening of a thought in a dream… Slowly quickening, without haste, fold after fold loosens itself and clasps another, till that which was void becomes palpable.[1]

 

Which is perhaps a counterpoint to appearance of Death in Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the attempt to describe

 

The other shape, / If shape it might be called that shape had none / Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb…[2]


 

I

The coincidence that begins this exploration is in fact located at its end. Richard Selzer begins his story “How to Build a Slaughterhouse” with the modest statement that “and, for whatever reason, I have been invited to pass judgment on the final projects of a group of candidates for the degree of Master of Architecture at Yale University. But I am not an architect. I am a surgeon. Nor do I know the least thing about buildings, only that, like humans, they are testy, compliant, congenial, impertinent.”[3] He notes, with remorse, that his acceptance of the invitation “was just another example of the kind of imposturage of which otherwise honest men and women are capable.”[4] An improbable choice for a juror, Selzer was, in his own admission, not an architect and had no experience with slaughterhouses. But, if the shoe fits…

 

Selzer has a contradictory conception of architecture (one that is both “testy, compliant…”), which is simply to say that architecture is many things, not just one thing. Connecting our threads before we’ve even begun, Selzer, in response to the emotional distance of the architects from the events they carefully created spaces for (“I have placed the killing alcove here”), takes care to remind us that “once, it was that the animals were gods. Slaughtering was…an act charged with religious import and carried out in a temple.”[5] Selzer ends his story, which begins with a visit to an active New Haven slaughterhouse off of Route 1 and passes briefly through his time on the jury, by outlining with conviction the details of what he believes to be the eidos of the slaughterhouse, calling it the “abattoir beneath the abattoir,” implying that there is something base and eternal that is part of and connects all of its iterations.[6] This unconscious abbatoir is a temple, not to the gods, but to the earth. It is elevated, but out of sight, remote, but without vistas, nestled in a valley, and hidden by trees. Constructed in its place from local clay, stone, and wood, it proudly displays the qualities of its material. Facing east to receive the morning sun, timbered ramps curve labyrinthine, passing through an arch (“it is well known that to pass through an archway is to change in some way”), into the atrium.[7] The atrium, the killing floor, has no roof, no walls, but only columns “whose capitals are carved as the homed heads of beasts.”[8]

 

While seemingly impractical and tinged by pieties, Selzer’s ideal is merely an exaggeration of a code. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN lists slight elevation, available water, and ample ventilation as three necessities of a slaughterhouses design.[9] Even in his fantasy there are underlying rules to its form that he, as not an architect, knowing nothing of buildings, attends to by chance. This is not to make a broad claim about the immutability of forms, but simply to outline this coincidence that conflicts with his prior conception of architecture: it may now be just one thing. The surgeon, undermining the architect, evokes the temple in the slaughterhouse.

 

II

And with the temple, we return to 1931 where Corbusier first describes primitive man, then quickly denies his existence to prioritize the idea of primitive resources. As he constructs his temple, creating a shelter for God, primitive man is giving form to that which is formless, making substantial that which has no substance. In order to evoke God’s image, primitive man uses his body as a unit (matter made in god’s image) and geometry, “the language of man,” to order the irregular space of nature.[10] The combination of these two tools results in the creation of “regulating lines.”[11] But this is simply organization, math, and measure. What activates these lines and shapes into architecture is akin to the code of the FAO, described by Corbusier in a more mystical fashion as “rhythms apparent to the eye and clear in their relations with one another… at the very root of human activities…[that] resound in man by an organic inevitability.”[12] What these lines and their relations contain are the mechanics by which space becomes coherent and sensable (and sensible) as a whole, as a construct. Corbusier’s temple serves as a precedent to the events to come as it is in the relation between its parts, the door, the gate, the perimeter, and the tent to the perspective of man that he finds the presence of design and the root of order. In Laugier’s hut, an alternative historical root of architecture, regulation and control is found in the building’s correlation to a natural order (an idea continued in his concept of the city as forest).

 

Read literally, Laugier’s hut is grown from the forest – originating from nature and not fully departing it. While constructed and designed (not grown or accidental), its material is not finished to the point that it removes the forest’s disorder, the connotations of impediment and paralysis that come through, to Corbusier, by the presence of “its creepers, its briars, and tree trunks.”[13] This natural origin is seen again through Ribart’s French Order whose form is born from nature and then mediated by man. However, Corbusier’s foundational story begins with the clearing of nature and the establishment of the order of man (constructed relative to his scale and purpose). It is from him that we take our premise that there is a biological rhythm, sensible and expected within a constructed environment. What is problematic for our purposes in Corbusier’s temple is that it is static. Laugier and Ribart both had imagined structures that would continue to grow as time passed. The columns of trees that formed Ribart’s temple would continue to grow upwards, with them its roof, and their branches would wrap around its lintels and beams. As their buildings were still living, time would only increase their (bio)mass while time would only erode the material of Corbusier’s.

 

Corbusier does not seem worried by, and importantly does not refute, the claim that with these regulating lines, the imposition of order “you kill imagination, you make a god of a recipe,” stating that they are instead assurances against capriciousness, volatility, and change.[14]

 

III

Later, others would not see it so simply. While indebted to Le Corbusier and the legacy of Modernism, Alison and Peter Smithson were critical of their predecessors (having a ‘distate for the simulated’), attempting with Patio and Pavilion to re-introduce a nomadic element, something capricious, into the machinations of Le Corbusier’s ordered systems. The Smithsons identify two fundamental necessities for the human habitat that are opposed to each other and defined (like the greek khora) by their opposition. “The first necessity is for a piece of the world: the patio. The second necessity is for an enclosed space: the pavilion.”[15] While the ‘piece of the world’ was essential for Le Corbusier, found in the clearing of space for his temple, it was ordered and regulated to the extent that it no longer communicated anything further than the enclosure that was constructed on it.[16]

 

Looking back on their installation from 1991, the Smithsons wrote that their recent thinking on pavilions had resulted in the idea of the “fragment of an enclave” which they proceeded to define through the relations between the idea of the study and of the desert, concluding that perhaps the “only easily defensible enclave is again the desert.[17] To make this retroactively applicable to Patio and Pavilion is not a difficult task. The eponymous Pavilion “was a three walled ‘shed’, or shanty house, with a corrugated plastic roof.”[18] It was, importantly, not fully enclosed. It existed as a permanently fractured structure, a ‘fragment of an enclave.’  The Patiowas sand… surrounded by a wall of semi-reflective aluminum-clad plywood with a doorway that allowed for visitor access.”[19] Easily, the Pavilion is the study and the Patio the desert, if not for more than their material similarities. Confusing boundaries between the two were the semi-transparent roof of the pavilion and the semi-reflective aluminum fencing of the patio.

 

In the Smithsons’ words from 1980 (moving again from end to beginning), capriciousness was introduced through the these permeable and refractive elements (the plastic pavilion roof and the sand patio) which allowed for the interventions by their collaborators, artists Nigel Henderson and Eduardo Paolozzi, to be embedded and seen through.[20] Additionally, the reflective walls were said to “include every visitor as an inhabitant.”[21] While collaborator is an apt description, the Smithsons refer to Henderson and Paolozzi as inhabitants (1980) and occupants (2000) both. The first term implies a normative use of the building as a shelter, while the second is unorthodox and points to a subjugation, and potential misuse, of the built environment by a human element. Further, seeing as the pair constructed the installation, we can extend their role to that of contractors as well, which skews the meanings of both ‘inhabitant’ and ‘occupant’.[22] The choice of objects (both constructed and found) and their implications deserve more attention than can be offered here, but what they contributed to the installation was a sense of disjunction. While the objects were described as being “symbols for the things we need,” ranging from bicycle wheels, a rusted pistol, an image of a lobster, tile arrangements, to a rock covered with ideograms, their utility and signification were unclear; this was a deliberate choice to force associations, the creation of order, from its observers.[23] While these relationships are related to Le Corbusier’s objective order of man, created by ‘rhythms apparent to the eye and clear in their relations with one another,’ in their operations they are innately subjective and purposefully obtuse.

 

On Henderson and Paolozzi’s construction and subsequent inhabitation, one that created the evidence of occupation, Patio and Pavilion became, as described by the Smithsons, “complete in the sense of walking into a house abandoned by the owners during the course of the evening meal, or into a ruined mine shut down by impending disaster and never re-opened.” This experience is echoed in Reyner Banham’s description of the site, feeling as if it “had been excavated after the atomic holocaust, and discovered to be part of European tradition of site planning that went back to archaic Greece and beyond.”[24] Their structure, like Selzer’s slaughterhouse, exists as an idyll of the future that is rooted deeply in the past. In this fashion it assumes the form of the built ruin, described by Karsten Harries in Building and the Terror of Time as “the most obvious counterimage to an architecture that seeks to defeat the terror of time with comforting images of permanence. The decision to build a ruin or to give buildings a ruinous look [fragment of an enclave] betrays a crisis of confidence in the architect’s ability to provide shelter. Such ruins offer occasions for reflections on the vanity of human building and the sublime power of nature.”[25]

 

IV

We can locate the reference of a ruin to that which is temporally behind and spatially below. Both evoke the idea of a foundation, which we can take in our context as the foundational myths of origins as well as the base identity that all constructs possess (either as a divine thread that connects or a simple structural trope that repeats). The ruin is something that had existed in the past and, due to its continuation (age-value), affects the present. Harries takes the idea of repetition, the re-occurrence of form that carries with it the residue of its past and contains its essential identity, as a mechanism by which man can live permanently in the present. Each construction is figured as a rite that signifies an “absolute beginning.”[26] Through the renewal of built form, the rehabilitation and expansion of shelters, man can stave of his mortality. There is a paradox here in that through the stasis of repetition there can be no momentum, no movement, and no growth. It is also therefore that there can be no regression, or death. The ‘reflection’ that these ruins offer is then merely that of the mirror.

 

With this frame, the power of both Le Corbusier and the Smithson’s constructs is neutralized. They are both reproductions of a form that is forever temporally behind and spatially below, each attempting to figure an absolute beginning, but that beginning is an end in and of itself. Further, the temple excises nature, and with it time; it is a similar move to that which Kafka describes in Der Bau (“The Building”) where the animal “unable to possess the world…tries to withdraw into its artificial environment. It intends to replace nature with artful construction.”[27] If we were to imagine Le Corbusier’s response to dealing with the variables of time, his answer would be ‘more order!’ ‘Extend the regulating lines!’ This was the essence of the ‘New Pragmatism.’ The only outcome of these actions would be the inevitable Borgesian collapse that quickly follows such grand attempts at artifice and order. Patio and Pavilion accepted nature but already anticipated its effects in its assumed form of a fragmented enclosure. The prefigured collapse is the “crisis of confidence in the architect’s ability to provide shelter.” That the built ruin, the beginning, reflects only itself in an eternal present is further reinforced through the operation of the mirrored aluminum fencing that defined the borders of the installation.

 

But the implication of this mirror is a dynamic one and, if we look past its denial of time, it’s possible to imagine it as an intentional move that expands space through recursive reflection. In this, we provide ourselves with a method and a metaphor to repeat without invoking a permanent present, without the rites of beginnings.

 

V

Constant Nieuwenhuys’ design for Campo Nomadi (Gypsy Camp) was an attempt to create shelter that was both temporary and enduring, repetitive and variable. With Campo Nomadi, the influences on its design are of more import than the design itself. In 1956, Constant was invited to Alba to participate in the conference “Industry and the Fine Arts” as part of the First World Congress of Free Artists (one result of which was the founding of the Situationist International). In it he describes Modernism, its “steel and glass, enabling clear and apparent construction,” as symptomatic of the onset of Architecture’s transformation into “the most complete of all the arts, at once lyrical in its means and social in its very nature.”[28] After the conference, Constant and his family stayed for two months at the house of the painter Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio.[29] During these two months their neighbors are a group of gypsies (Roma) who had also been invited to stay on Gallizio’s property after being run out of Alba for occupying the meat market where they had created improvised shelters. The reason for their banishment was simply that they had not kept their space clear. At the meat market, the Roma hung tents from rafters to create partitions of private spaces and improvised further shelters from the boxes and planks left by the traders.”[30] On Gallizio’s grounds, the Roma continued their ad-hoc arrangements, creating enclosures between “caravans with planks and petrol cans” in an arrangement that references the laager, or the wagon fort.[31] It’s important to note that the process of camping, a stereotypically temporary one, involves both a setting of camp, and a subsequent clearing. The delay of the latter is a way in which a camp can become a city through accumulation and be able to express its permanence simply by passing through time without being reduced, instead increasing in density or expanding through space.

 

The connection to the laager is not just a superficial one. Campo Nomadi, as a monument, experiment, and singularity (like our previous examples) did not take a specific site and was never constructed, instead expressing itself as a potential foundational framework for the future. While Patio and Pavilion and the Primitive Temple took rectangular plots, Campo Nomadi grew out of a circle and took the form of a spiral. This decision may have been influenced by the cyclical nature of camping and clearing or, more concretely, it may have been made to reflect the elasticity of the structure. The structure itself contained flexible and movable partitions by which, through habitation (personalization) and re-organization by the occupier would create a shape defined by its variability, its flows (the Nomadi and the nomad), instead of its fixity. This conception of architectural space owes much to both Banham and Lefebvre. In the developement of his theory of Other Architecture, Banham proposed that environments were configured “by a fluid and playful selection of objects, services, and technologies.”[32] Lefebvre, who developed his ideas in parallel with the Situationists, compared in his first volume of The Critique of Everyday Life  (1947) the town, which represented a “decomposition of community” and the country, which showed a “dislocation of primitive communities,” two results of entropy on social groups defined by, respectively, an abundance and dearth of constructed environments.[33] He argues that the festival (fete) was a moment where these two deficiencies (specifically of social structures and spaces) were able to reform. Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but Constant, Lefebvre, and, to a lesser extent, Banham were committed to reverting the spatial and architectural trends of de- to ones of re-.

 

Campo Nomadi was an architecture that was engaged with movement through space and time but that did not predict a form, though it did contain a center, or a focus. Structurally, this becomes evident through its unfolding in space, its use of ramps (in earlier designs) and floating walls of variable heights, all connected through a network of wire that allowed the suspension of partitions while creating if not a social community, then a material one. Campo Nomadi created a space, but did not prescribe any discrete places within it. By mitigating the oppositions produced by creating a physical space for a social group that demanded mobility, Campo Nomadi can be seen as a proposal that enabled the balance of order and entropy. It made the camp a city and the city a camp.

 

VI

The sculptor Robert Morris, in his 1982 article “The Present Tense of Space,” provides a way of thinking about the distinction between order and entropy by looking at the methods by which we experience the constructed world through objects (‘sculpture’), architecture, and ruins. He argues that the experiential difference between an object and architecture is that “in the first case, one surrounds; in the second, one is surrounded.”[34] With this taxonomy, when an object can encompass you it is an architecture, and when the architecture can be encompassed (in the case of a model) it is an object. Not only are these categories defined by scale, but also by placement. An object small enough to be surrounded can be embedded in an architecture large enough to surround, becoming part of a whole while possessing a potential energy, an agency, that figures it as a tense object hung in a precarious balance wanting to slide into space.[35]

 

Further, Morris notes that anytime an object becomes specific and self-contained it has isolated itself from space, possessing only visual qualities. This an arguable point, but his next conjecture is an important one; this containment can be breached if the object is disposed in a certain way to the space that it surrounds, turning its “fact of placement to one of ‘occupation’”[36] This is a point similar to Lefebvre’s acknowledgment of the reduction of ‘inhabit’ to ‘habitat’, which allows us to transpose Morris’ critique from the inanimate to the social.[37] In this, the habitat is isolated from space (specific and self-contained as an object) while the act of inhabitation, one that necessarily introduces entropy through use, also brings in the ‘precarious balance’ (a result of play) as occupation over time can pull objects out from architecture by making them ‘disposed’ (characterized) towards their environment. This is the effect of occupation on placement.

 

When occupation is removed, when a site is vacated, there is a re-alignment between the relationship of objects and architecture. The ongoing actions that provided the two their balance, the way in which they became together, have ceased and what was a complex homogeneity (an object-architecture) now recedes into its two separate camps. The vacated site is, of course, our ruin. As it is foolish to experience a ruin as a de-activated and de-constituted state, it is always “considered for what it was rather than what it is.”[38] To Morris, this retrospection does not arise from a mental image but is instead generated by the product of time and effort required to move through the ruin: saying that the knowledge of its space is “less visual and more temporal-kinesthetic” than for that of a building that is present and complete.[39] Here we can draw a line between the ruin and Campo Nomadi, and extend this to all other constructs since that created space through the construction of frameworks without specifically prescribing their internal functions – this perhaps being the logic behind a pavilion (but not the Pavilion). Morris uses this to illustrate his titular concept of presentness, rooting it “in [the] behavior facilitated by certain spaces that bind time more than images”[40]

 

Despite its management of the two, the ruin is “neither a collection of objects or an architectural space” in that it has been and is still acted upon by the function of time. This is further apparent in that the ruin is not functional as it now stands, as it was meant to be as a building without an intervention (retrospection). That it cannot be figured as complete in and of itself without further markers, here generated through exposure, requires, as we’ve said, a reference that is both temporally behind and spatially below. The ruin is a remnant root (that which is behind and below) and thus provides a temporal and spatial foundation in the present to create an image of what had once existed. Importantly, Morris’ ruin is very much not the built ruin that Harries discussed. Morris’ ruin is organic, created over time and experienced with the weight of that time, while Harries’ is distinguished by the intention to “build a ruin, or to give buildings a ruinous look.” Similarly, presentness is not the ‘permanent present’ by which Harries’ built ruins bind images (their ruinous look) more than time with their completeness (their “clear gestalts as exterior and interior shapes.”)[41]

 

VII

On the twenty-ninth page of “The Present Tense of Space,” Morris includes an image of Alice Aycock’s 1977 installation The Beginnings of a Complex… as it was installed at Documenta 6 in Kassell. While not directly remarking on Aycock, Morris notes earlier in the article that visible within many of the included images is a distinction between two spatial drives which can, on occasion, be found in a single work. He calls the result of these two drives “‘noun’ and ‘verb’ type spaces” which is a logical extension of his previous assumptions about the variable experience of an object and an architecture.[42] A ‘noun’ space is “articulated with contained structures” while a ‘verb’ space operates in “open field type situations”[43] His naming is clue enough as to how they should be approached: the former as an object, the second as an action.

 

Aycock described the role of structure in her work as constituting a “set of directions for a performance, that is structure is structuring.”[44] From this, and in a terminology similar to Morris’, she extracts her concept of “the necessary structure and the contingent event.” For Aycock, the two (object and action or structure and event) are reflexive and mutually constitutive. In her work, a collection of objects is an architectural space. For our purposes, this structure is a seed or a beginning; the contingent event that it enables is structured by its structure. This is an echo of Alois Reigl’s assumption that “physical life is a precondition for all psychic life and is therefore more important.”[45] It is from this perspective that a space can be created that binds both time and image – but to do so the space must be both a part of and apart from the world, borrowing its structure while simultaneously structuring itself. Positioning herself within this dialogue, in her work Aycock attempts to create structures that are both embedded and distinct, to allow for a recursive modeling of a larger system. While Complex would never be inhabited, as our previous examples could have been, it was important that as a model, it would exist within the system that it modeled without sacrificing “the risks that acting in the world involve.”[46] In a way, Aycock may have sought to solve the quandary posed by Don Handelman by introducing “into the model…the continuously emerging dynamics that make social life uncontrollable” despite his warnings that to do so would make the model become the world and thus incapable of acting on it.[47]

 

As the structure and event, physical life and psychic life, objects and actions, are all similar in that the latter are contingent on the former, it is possible to better understand the impulses at play in Aycock’s work by analyzing the concepts behind her structural framework. If we look back at our progression, in reductive terms we have moved through an enclosure, an enclosure that includes a piece the world, a piece of the world that can be figured as multiple enclosures, and now have reached a series of multiple enclosures that, together, figure a larger structure. It is in this final, and first, reversal, that we now have the introduction of possibility through the creation of an ordered entropy.

 

Aycock remarks that while constructing her work, she wears down a path to and from it. On this she muses that “combining a simple enclosed structure like a hut with the notion of a path seems to lead almost inevitably to the beginnings of a complex.” While this would seem to be, at first, the logic of Le Corbusier (an order imbued by the relations and regulations between parts), Aycock seeks to deny the shelter, the path, and, more importantly, the grid their day. First, her idea of a complex is one composed of heterogeneous structures. Then, viewing the grid as “an ideological aesthetic…imposed from the outside and no longer directly connected to immediate empirical needs,” she proposes a system of organization that is itself unorganized, developed out of the “labyrinth of human behavior patterns.”[48] Importantly she is not specific here, using this description to illustrate the variety of ways in which space is created and places are accentuated, noting medieval towns, amusement parks, and the nomadic camps of the Mbuti pygmies as varying examples. Here the intent is to produce, through arrangement, a competition or tension between discrete parts that generates the same haphazardness with which she brands the world at large. To do this, instead of using the simple form of the enclosure (the shelter/the temple/the hut), Aycock plays with a “vocabulary of disjunction,” using forms that instead signify the cellar and the attic.[49] These are the tunnels and shafts that compose the Complex. In her words, they are the “most non-functional aspects of the house” and, fittingly are what Gaston Bachelard, in The Poetics of Space, calls markers of irrationality and rationality respectively.

 

To give a brief image of the structure of The Beginnings of a Complex…, it is a grouping of walls and towers, containing platforms, ledges, and bridges, connected by a network of underground tunnels. While each elevated structure is unique, they are all genetically similar, connected by the repeated use of specific structural elements. She likens the movement between the shafts and tunnels to a continuum “from claustrophobia to claustrophilia, from acrophobia to acrophilia… a movement from disorientation to orientation and back to disorientation.”[50] The experience can be segmented into two poles: being “lost when underground and imprisoned in towers or stranded on platforms/ledges when above ground.”[51] Further, the highest point is also the most dangerous as, moving higher in the towers “the bridges become progressively more open and precarious.”[52]

 

Interestingly, the ellipses in the work’s title textually inscribe a possibility for becoming, a possibility which she roots in her conception of the structure itself, “which exists in the world as a thing in itself, generating the conditions of its own becoming.” If we understand ‘complex’ as a psychological term, we know that a structure of related ideas and impulses in the unconscious can elicit specific behaviors in a subject. Complex understood in terms of both of its standard definitions as “a whole comprised of parts” and “a connected group of repressed ideas” under the auspices of her statement of the “necessary structure and the contingent event.” It is important that the Complex was not an archetype, in a sculptural, architectural, and psychological sense. Her focus was on the creation of a unique experience, that drew from its relational to more general experiences, but was not  itself a universal one. The Complex existed not simply “in the world as a thing in itself” but also “apart from the world as a model for it… as a complex which undercuts its own logic [its unconscious operation] by exposing the premise on which it was built.”[53] This premise is one of artifice; it is not only a complex, but a construct as well. Here she more strongly demonstrates her affinity with Le Corbusier, filtered through the words of Joseph Rykwert that “every act of building is necessarily an act against nature…When you choose a site you set it apart from nature.”[54] She condenses her accord with Rykwert into an acceptance of the “inherent artifice behind every act of building.”

 

Unlike Constant who took the social structure of the Roma as a model for his design, Aycock found her inspiration in highway infrastructure. This is clearly reflected in the designs through the clear division between the development of structure from event (Campo Nomadi) and that of event from structure (The Beginnings of a Complex…). While this is a seemingly simple operation, a reversal of priorities, that Aycock’s work can be seen as a combination of the two, as an object-architecture that binds both time and images, implies that it had introduced a new variable into the equation. This variable is found in her introduction of a precarious instability through the removal of the core of the house, the sinking of the cellar, and the floating of the attic. Perhaps this would have been the result of Ribart’s French Order, though still tied to its growing columns it would have only expanded space, vaulting the ceilings, never truly fragmenting it. Even if the core, the ground floor, was to remain after its structure had been exploded in this way, it would resemble only what Bachelard called, and Aycock must have imagined, the “conventional hole.”[55] This instability is found within the modification of the familiar form. While the Complex was an abstract assemblage, it used a humble structural and material language composed of base and banal shapes that signaled domestic identities and light, inviting, and democratic balloon-frame construction methods. It is with this common and shared language that Complex existed in the world, and through the creation of a “vocabulary of disjunction” that it was able to exist “apart from the world as a model for it.”[56]

 

VIII

Insofar as each of the structures we have touched on has stood for something and has been created to stand for that thing, they become, through Reigl’s 1903 essay “The Modern Cult of Monuments,” identified as intentional monuments. We look to Reigl not for his study and classification of monuments, though it, and his analysis of art-value, is of great import, but for the few passages where he discusses the ruin and its substitutes. However, it is important to note that Reigl begins by greatly expanding the definition of a monument. It is now “any artifact, regardless of its original significance and purpose… as long as it reveals the passage of a considerable period of time.”[57] The critical aspect of the monument is found as much (if not more) in its relation to the present as to the past, and I would argue for a further expansion by the removal of the qualifier ‘considerable,’ so that a monument reveals simply the passage of time. As Antonio says in The Tempest: “what’s past is prologue,” giving us more authority to say again that the built ruin, itself the product (like all history) of development, is the beginning.[58] Reigl divides this difference into two separate values, that of age and history. Age-value, linked to time, is regarded as pure while historical-value can often be applied as ‘deliberate commemorations’ that, by attempting to arrest the passage of time on the monument, make “a claim for immortality, an eternal present, an unceasing state of becoming” by perpetually fighting off the effects of time.[59] Due to his expansion of what a monument is, Reigl ends up having to pit history against time.

 

The ruin is of concern for Reigl as it represents a monument whose age-value is made less extensive, and more intensive by its ongoing reduction. Further, the application of use-value (or commemoration, as we’ve seen) to the ruin negates the quality of age-value in that it arrests its natural decay. This is further complicated by the fact that “if the extensive effect of age value is lost completely, no substance remains for intensive effect.”[60] Here, the cult of age-value, his modifier that turns positions into causes, works directly against the preservation of the monument. Interestingly, Reigl’s formulation of an eternal present is proven through the object which has passed through time and becomes stalled, while to Harries it is in the object which has been newly built to appear as such. Reigl says as much noting that “signs of decay (premature aging) in new works disturb us just as much as signs of new production (conspicuous restorations) in old work.”[61] Conversely, he proposes that to allow monuments to succumb to their natural fate would only be acceptable if “one intended to produce substitutions of at least equal quality.”[62] Of what value would this quality be? For Reigl, it would be to make intentional that which was perhaps unintentional. Would not this be a new creation that has a ruinous look, as Harries would put it? How would the substitute operate, possessing a reference that is not behind and below, but present and aligned, and without the variables that Aycock introduces to mitigate such a paradox?  Time is bound, as we are now given credence to say, by that which impacts the production of age-value, which is not, as would be assumed, simply time itself, but also the ways in which its effects are registered on an object and how those effects are received by its public.

 

IX

Moving his focus from age-value to newness-value, Reigl evokes the image of the “unbroken form,” which can be read as ‘completeness.’ We have related this attribute to the possession of “clear gestalts as exterior and interior shapes,” “the sense of walking into a house abandoned by the owners during the course of the evening meal,” being “lyrical in its means and social in its very nature,” and possessing a continuity with what precedes it. Overwhelmingly, the unbroken form is expressed spatially. However, as we have shown, space, image, and time, are firmly coiled around each other – each imposing its parameters on the others. The cyclical temporal function of order and disorder is itself an unbroken form that contains within it processes of dispersion and cohesion. It is essential to recognize that completeness, as visible spatially through The Smithson’s Patio, Constant’s Campo, and Aycock’s Complex can contain within itself that which is incomplete (fragmented enclosures, mobile sections, exploded structures). Le Corbusier’s only fault was that his order did not take into account entropy.

 

Further, as Morris acknowledged, “no temporal encoding exists in plans or elevations.”[63] Every time we look at a plan, a maquette, or a proposal, or even a structure, we are seeing it only two dimensionally in respect to the expanse of time. Understood this way, the built ruin is the ruin, the beginning is the end, and the two are the same While all representations of time must be first spatialized to be represented, how can we physically express that there is a mile a minute? This is an idea distilled from Aycock’s inspiration by the highway, how its design predicts perceptual situations (“for example, at 25 m.p.h. the area of focus is 600' ahead and the angle of vision is 100°”) that for us are grounded in Morris’ presentness (binding time more than images). Aycock’s structure and event are our space and time.[64] We can thus only express these correlations by engineering for specific temporalites. The highway exists on a scale that mandates a minimum speed to be legible which is precisely why Ian Sinclair in London Orbital, in fine psychogeographic fashion, ascends into an orgasmic frenzy over its misuse. Excusing my dérive there, this is the structure and its contingent event. It is no wonder that when approached laterally, structure loses its integrity. There is a reflexive anamorphism operating between the two.

 

Though space has been expanded, its regulating lines corrupted and corrected, complicated, displaced, and made complex, there have been moments where we have seen space come together at a time and it is here that we must give credence to the social and the ritual acts that consecrate and enact our structures. Lefebvre’s fête, taken from the first volume of Critique of Everyday Life, undergoes its own transformation, scaling its space and time, becoming his formulation of the ‘moment,’ which appears for the first time in the second volume of Critique, published 14 years after the fête. Within this moment is “the attempt to achieve the total realization of a possibility.”[65] While we have moments in time, derivative of the fête, we also have moments in space, though we would refer to these as positions.

 

X

As this meditation has been about space and time and their complications, their complexes, it is fitting that here we should reach the beginning, again, at the end and return to the abbatoir. Selzer’s coincidental conclusion of the temple beneath the slaughterhouse points to a more universal truth, one explicated by Rykwert in On Adam’s House in Paradise, that every enclosure is a temple, always was, and will continue to be.  Looking to the slaughterhouse, we begin to see this more clearly. As Brian Hatton writes in his article “Strategic Architecture,” the words spoken by the ghost of Walter Rathenau in Gravity’s Rainbow, “You must ask two questions: First, What is the real nature of synthesis? And then: What is the real nature of control?” can be easily transformed into: “‘what is the real nature of religion?' And then 'what is the real nature of worship?’”[66] We can ground this even further through George Bataille’s definitions, in the “Critical Dictionary” of Documents, of slaughterhouse and museum, both of which, as Denis Hollier shows, are identified as modifications of temples. Their synthesis and control of their structure and its contingent events are directly relatable to religion and worship. The religion of the slaughterhouse is one of repulsion while that of the museum is one of attraction. They operate like Aycock’s continuum of -phobia and -philia, the slaughterhouse are her tunnels and the museums her shafts. As Hollier illustrated, “those who could not bear the image of decomposition reflected to them by the slaughterhouses go to museums to compose themselves again. They flee the unredeeming ugliness of slaughterhouses for the beauty of museums.”[67] Programmatically, and again we owe this to Selzer’s coincidence, this is simply a division and dispersion of what was once offered as complete in the temple. Hollier also notes the pattern by which museums take the spaces previously occupied by slaughterhouses. This may be a simple matter of geography but it is also the moment in which their purposes intersect as the space, and its histories, left by the slaughterhouse are imparted to the museum. As Hollier remarks, “at the heart of beauty lies a murder… (no beauty without blood).” The division of the space and program of the temple becomes temporally inscribed as what was temporally behind now becomes spatially below, or more compellingly, within.

 

Edward Craig’s notion of the slowly unfolding structure that, at its own pace “without haste,” makes palpable what was once void, is the temporal response to the immediacy, in Milton, of the attempt to ascribe a shape to that which has none. As both attempt to describe the unconscious, the cellar, which is unknowable and irrational, that shape will never resolve into a form. The passive solution to this situation is that if we wait long enough our structures will become visible as built ruins and will become beginnings. But we are interested in the active and exigent answer and should look for a position or moment from which to view the built ruin as a beginning in the same way we would view the object constructed yesterday as a monument today. This involves a convergence of the references of the built ruin and beginning (making what was behind and below present and correct), and a meeting of their dualities (incomplete, complete and complete, incomplete). How can we bind both image and time in discrete space while still allowing for their latitude, the ability to appear as both structure and seed? I would propose that if we continue to prioritize coherence over completion we will come closer to an answer.

 

The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.
1 - Abbatoir - Construct - Complex
The Abbatoir Construct Complex.

© Gregory Cartelli 2016