Learning From The Master #22 Bernard Tschumi

Between 1975 to 1991, Bernard Tschumi actively wrote essays on his views on architecture. They are compiled in the book Architecture and Disjunction, published by MIT Press (first edition in 1996). Tschumi divided the book onto 3 main chapters: space (1975-1976), program (1981-1983), and disjunction (1984-1991). Architecture and Disjunction is comprised by 2 definitionsl; first architecture, which according to Tschumi inseparable with spaces, events, and movements; and disjunction, which relates to condition of being disjoined, separation, and disunion.

Bernard Tschumi was born in Switzerland, January 25th 1944, son of a senior architect in his homeland, Jean Tschumi. Incidentally, being an offspring of architect bored him until the day he really swam on it. In his youth, he was more appealed by philosophy, mathematics, and movies, rather than architecture. From then on, he decided to be a theorist before being an architect, spending 6 years writing down his views. Afterwards, he developed his phenomenal first project, Parc de la Villete.

In his essay, Tschumi coined the term export and import in architecture, stating how the study naturally is not only influenced by culture, but has become the producer of culture itself. Development of architecture has always gone inline with the advancement of spatial definition, especially in the late 20th century; when many fields of study were divided due to incoming gaps of economic improvement and social complexion. Hence, conversation regarding architectural field focused only on fundamentals: questions of space. Tschumi dissected the spatial definition into 3 parts: paradox in architecture, the pyramid, and the labyrinth.

Paradox in architecture

Defining architecture means framing architecture as a particular activities in one’s mind or imagining in relation with previous work. For that, first, it could be seen as dematerialisation or conceptual discipline with all varied shapes and grammar (Tschumi calls it as the pyramid). Second, as an experience and relationship between space and praxis of architecture 9Tschumi calls it as the the labyrinth). Third, as a contradictory meeting point between those two characteristics (the pyramid and the labyrinth).

Etymologically, defining space means differentiating space from its surrounding contexts, then stating the characteristic of the space precisely. In architecture, art, mathematics, and physics, space is viewed as a matter where matter is placed; something subjective which is categorized by human mind. Generally, philosophers refer to a definition similarity, which is cosa mentale, an order of written space, ideal space, and psychoanalytic space. Architecturally, defining space means “setting boundary”.

Tschumi stated that this study comes from the disagreement between ideal space (coming from thinking process) and real space (part of social praxis). Hegel said that architecture is no other than a building which was given “artistic supplement.” Another following question is that if architecture is merely an artistic supplement, do only functional and technical characteristics separate a house and a temple? When will a warehouse stop being called a warehouse and become an architecture? Production process and thinking creation are what shape architecture , which can also be defined as art to produce any building to achieve perfection.

Violence in Architecture
There is no architecture without event, action, program, and violence. Violence in architecture is there daily. There are three types:

  1. Space does violence to the body
    The example is anechoic chamber, inaudible space in which human can only hear their breathing sound if placed in a long time, and may cause depression for people inside. Or a small corridor which makes people unable to pass through.
  2. Space does violence to the body
    The relationship happens when the presence of a human dominates the space, with human order takes over the balance of spatial order. Each door reflects somebody’s movement in the middle of the sill, each corridor illustrates its covering movement, each architectural element displays (and wants for) disturbance of inhabiting existence.
  3. Ritualized violence
    Circulatory spaces, dance floor, soccer field, are examples of how violence in architecture is repeated by the violence within. Ritual displays a frozen relationship between event and space. Ritual pops a new order after the order is randomized from its original event.

By being aware of the reciprocating relationship between man and the space, the design process may find new possibilities outside of general typologies and coming out of the arguments of style. Violence in architecture is inevitable but what needs to be thought over is how event and space becomes symmetrical, by putting oppositely men and their spaces.