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Günter Figal - Ando: Space Architecture Modernity

Günter Figal - Ando: Space Architecture Modernity

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Günter Figal - Ando: Space Architecture Modernity

142 pagine
1 ora
May 28, 2020


The fact that discussions of architecture are largely unchartered
territory in philosophy leads the phenomenological and
hermeneutical philosopher Günter Figal onto its unexplored
paths. After previously surveying the work of Frank Lloyd
Wright and Peter Zumthor, Figal turns his attention to Tadao
Ando’s buildings in this book. Figal’s philosophical considerations
include refl ections on space, modernity, but also—in
light of the fact that many of Ando’s buildings are museums
or house works of art—on art.
Figal explores Ando’s buildings—simple and reduced in their
sparing use of only a few materials—as manifestations of the
architect’s sense for what is possible. Ando’s buildings determine
and change their locations; through their passageways,
staircases, and transitional areas, they infl uence how visitors
behave in them, and also communicate a sense of tradition
without being traditional. Figal’s book steps away from the
beaten track of architectural discourse.
May 28, 2020

Informazioni sull'autore

Günter Figal * 1949, professor of philosophy at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

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Günter Figal - Ando - Günter Figal


The Age of Space

When Michel Foucault, in a text from 1976 that has since become a classic, speculated that the nineteenth century, as the age of time and history, would be replaced by the age of space,¹ he could barely have guessed just how true this prediction would turn out to be. Historical categories that Foucault mentions, such as development and stagnation, crisis and circuit, and the accumulation of the past, are of scant importance for an actual understanding of the world. We are no longer bound to historical categories; neither do we feel the abundance of tradition as a burden or regard future as more important than the present. This becomes especially clear when contrasted with the period in which Foucault wrote his text, the time shortly before the fiercest eruption of historical and philosophical convictions concerning history after the Second World War, when many placed all bets on the future, and, in doing so, forgot how much this futurism was connected to the past, especially the nineteenth century. That has since changed radically. Orientation to time and history has faded to the extent that the possibility of new orientation has emerged. Who would seriously still doubt that the world is a spatial one, namely the space to which all continents of the earth belong and in which they belong together? The world is thus, as Foucault says, determined by nearness and remoteness, by distance and juxtaposition, by coexistence and separateness. These spatial tensions should be lived, if possible, free of conflict, because the conflicts of this world are not examples of the struggle of ‘progress’ against ‘reaction’, but rather contentions of powers competing, expanding, or self-isolating, following their interests – without philosophical legitimation, and in opposition to other convictions, without the promise of a ‘better future’.

Along with the idea of history as a progression towards a final aim, also comes the strange conviction according to which cultures, as stages of human development, might be arranged in a sequence. Cultures, one begins to understand, exist side by side, and if they want to do so for any length of time, they have to find out how this coexistence – which can only be achieved to varying degrees - can be lived. Accordingly, it is not the slowing down or stagnation of expected development that is to be feared, but rather that cultures and states are not learning how to tolerate each other, or, if nothing else is possible, are at least putting up with one another’s otherness.

Foucault did not intend his considerations to only be specific to his own time. Neither did he wish to declare the experience of space as something new – as if one had just recently noticed that life takes place in space. If it nevertheless makes sense to follow Foucault and designate the present as the age of space, this must mean that the experience of space has now become more conscious, more attentive and, as Foucault indicates, also more exigent. For instance, in order to answer to the question of how to recognize the diversity of coexisting cultures and traditions, considerations concerning the notion of ‘side by side’ as determination of space should be helpful – admittedly without guarantee of success, but at least as a contribution to clarifying how it might be possible to live alongside one another.

One could assume that considerations of this kind have been put forward for quite some time, or even that they dominate current discussions. If the present age really is the age of space, then it should also be an age of the experiencing of space that is particularly intense and reflected, and one in which recent philosophy should have strived towards in its understanding of space in an especially thorough manner. This, however, is obviously not the case. There are only a few thinkers Foucault refers to, and still fewer he could call on to support or justify his considerations. In regarding the world as space, Foucault seems to be quite isolated, although perhaps not completely.

As a result, Foucault’s considerations are tentative initial explorations, which are nonetheless substantiated by an overruling idea. As Foucault states, we do not live in empty let alone homogenous space, but rather in space entirely charged with qualities, amidst an ensemble of relations that define placements and are irreducible to each other. Space, if this were so, would be determined by related and connected places that, in turn, could be understood with reference to whatever has found, is finding, or can find its place within them. Space, then, would be the space of places, and places are what they are because someone or something was found or can be found there. First and foremost, Foucault concretizes his understanding of spaces by referring to ‘counter placements’ (contre-emplacement) that receive something which, for whatever reason, could not find a place in the normal space of everyday life. Foucault calls these places ‘heterotopies’ (heterotopies), thinking of places that in the normal web of relations and placements are like islands – barracks, prisons, cemeteries, gardens, libraries, museums, or holiday camps. As with places in general, the ‘other spaces’ that give Foucault’s essay its title, are also solely determined by their quality of meaning. However, in contrast to the meaning of normal spaces, the meaning of these spaces is ‘exclusive’ in a literal sense, because it is defined by not being included in the meaning of normal places. It is very likely that Foucault regards heterotopies as the clearest manifestations of space, namely of the interior and exterior, and of closedness as opposed to openness.

Foucault’s conception of space has been widely effective, probably not least because it is easy to understand. In seeking to understand and to explain what space is, one will almost automatically think of places. Whereas space is difficult to comprehend, places are simple to grasp. They are concretely determined, especially if they are, like Foucault’s heterotopies, special, i.e., exclusive places in a literal sense. Places, it may be repeated, are places for something or for someone. One can refer to them by saying what they are places for, and by determining where this ‘something’ is or can be – a vase on a table, a book on a bookshelf, or in a briefcase. Places can also be determined by indicating whom or what they are or could be intended for. Either way, places are factually or possibly related to something other than themselves. Something, for instance, a table, a bookshelf, or a briefcase, is only a place inasmuch as it can receive something in its own particular way. So places are different from the featureless indeterminacy that Foucault associates with the idea of empty space. Places are concrete. They are not emptiness in which living beings and things would levitate like stars or space stations in outer space.

Foucault is not the only one to have reservations concerning the idea of space as emptiness. Aristotle, too, took exception to the idea of emptiness and made attempts to prove the idea nonsensical. Neither is Foucault’s conception of space as a web of relations something new. Leibniz, as he wrote in a letter to Samuel Clarke on August 18,

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