suparc architects schweitzer song seoul/frankfurt

I     news
II    profile
        2.1  ryul song
        2.2  christian schweitzer
        2.3  office
III   work
        3.1  projects
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        3.3  theory

          3.3.1  plastic space
          3.3.2  suncheonization
          3.3.3  the black borderline
          3.3.4  liquid plans
          3.3.5  korean/german moot
          3.3.6  the ulterior dimensions of the line
          3.3.7  architecture as non-objectivity

Architecture as Non-Objectivity
by Christian Schweitzer

I. Kasimir Malevich
Malevich completes the step into pure non-objectivity between 1913 and 1915 with several versions of the picture "Black Square on White Ground", that is indisputably one of the most important works of intellectual creativity of the twentieth century.
The black square on the white ground is for him the first form of expression of the non-objectively sensation: "the square = the sensation, the white ground = the 'nothingness' outside this sensation". The "non-form", the "naked, unframed icon of our time" as Malevich himself named this picture. Here, for him, every visual or sensory association with the objectively perceived world is reduced to silence. This zero - as the "liberating nothingness" - seems to him the germ-cell of a wholly new form of painting.

In order to develop elements to form with, as he writes, theory and logic is necessary, which place the irrational of the subconscious under the control of the consciousness. However for him the conscious remains only a certain basis. The final solution, the forming itself, is always subject to the subconscious or superconscious - the emotion or the sensation.
With on the basis of theory acquired elementary and absolute forms, he attempts to make in the experience of non-objectivity resounding "unconscious emotions" recognizable on the canvas. Independent of the world of objectivity and its abstractly, figured reflexes in the inner world of the human being (in the sense of Kandinsky), he could now form colored and formal relationships which correspond to that sensation of pure non-objectivity.

II. Ad Reinhardt

Ad Reinhardt was the only one who, with inexorable resolution, thought through to end Malevich's fundamentals of non-objectivity and realized it in his pictures.
From 1954 until his death in 1967, Reinhardt exclusively paints what he calls "black" or "ultimate paintings". The rigorousness of this step and the apparent narrowing and denial of his artistic development away from abstract painting with colorful, geometrically-expressionistic patterns is astounding.
The constantly square format has mainly the same dimensions, five foot by five foot, only a few paintings are the exception. The monochrome black canvas shows a constant, unchanging symmetrical inner structure. Even the frame does not vary. A black, slightly raised wooden molding protects the painting and guarantees it its own space.
The composition arrangement appears, unchanged in all the black paintings. Nine equally-sized squares provide the image field, whereby each constitutes a ninth of the picture square and is obtained from the division into three parts of the length of the sides. Due to the fact that the vertical division in the middle third is left out, there is created the optical illusion of a cross, with the horizontal arm in front of the vertical.
The different effect of the black paintings in all the repetitions of format and inner structure is crucial. The colorfulness of the lead black diverges within the painting and is always different, from painting to painting. The same applies to the limited visibility of the cross-illusion and for the varying thickness of the mat surface, which does not show any brush structure at all.
The uncomplicated the formal analysis is, the more disquieting is the effect of the paintings. Because the realization of the geometrical inner structure does not make anything visible above and beyond it, and the picture, despite the easily definable scanning, remains alien, the mysterious and the enigmatic come into effect.
As with Malevich, the absolute form creates an autonomous reality without individual emotion. However, Malevich's mistake, that with the expression of the purely sensed the last association with the objectively perceived world is already left behind, is rectified. The pure sensation is resolutely replaced by an existentialistic and nihilistic no-sense, which cannot even justify the, according to Malevich, highest human quality. They are, for Reinhardt, "the ultimate paintings that one can produce".
There is no indication at all of Reinhardt having concerned himself with architecture: he mentions it only once. Nevertheless, in connection with the creation of non-objective architecture, his writings take on a special significance.
The key to Reinhardt's understanding of art is his longest continuous text "Twelve Rules for a NewAcademy" of 1957. This is a tabula rasa with everything that exists in art up to this point in time. Thus, as with Malevich, the principles of his art are absolute, and hence the only true ones. He puts up "six general canons", which have to be memorized:

1) No realism or existentialism. 'When the vulgar and commonplace dominate, the spirit subsides.'
2) No impressionism. 'The artist should once and forever emancipate himself from the bondage of appearance. The eye is menace to clear sight.'
3) No expressionism or surrealism. 'The laying bare of oneself, autobiographically or socially, is obscene.'
4) No fauvism, primitivism, or brute art. 'Art begins with the getting rid of nature.'
5) No constructivism, sculpture, plasticism, or graphic arts. 'No collage, paste, paper, sand, or string. Sculpture is a very mechanical exercise causing much perspiration, which, mingling with grit, turns into mud.'
6) No 'trompe-l'oeil', interior decoration, or architecture.

The ordinary qualities and common sensitivities of these activities lie outside free and intellectual art.
In that he mentions architecture (and interior design) in connection with styles of art, he accepts and adopts Malevich's definition of architecture as art. In the same breath he immediately revokes its general legitimization as such.
He criticizes the architecture of his time as a style being trompe-l'oeil, i.e. a visual illusion. Architecture employs a form of expression in which one can no longer differentiate between imagination and reality. Exactly what his criticism aims at, remains speculation. However, it is possible, here also, he follows Malevich's analysis of architecture as a compromise between engineering and 'false' art.
For architecture that follows the concept of non-objectivity, it means, however, that Reinhardt's rules for a new art are, at the same time, to be applied to architecture. These "twelve technical rules" to be followed are:

1. No texture. Texture is naturalistic or mechanical and is a vulgar quality, ... No accidents or automatism.
2. No brushwork or calligraphy. Handwriting, hand-working and hand-jerking are personal and in poor taste. No signature or trademarking. ...
3. No sketching or drawing. Everything, where to begin and where to end, should be worked out in the mind beforehand. ... No line or outline. ... No shading or streaking.
4. No forms. 'The finest has no shape.' No figure or fore- or background. No volume or mass, no cylinder, sphere or cone, or cube or boogie-woogie. No push or pull. 'No shape or substance.'
5. No design. 'Design is everywhere.'
6. No colors. 'Color blinds.' 'Colors are an aspect of appearance and so only of the surface.' Colors are barbaric, unstable, suggest life, 'cannot be completely controlled,' and 'should be concealed.' Colors are a 'distracting embellishment.' No white. 'White is a color and all colors.' White is 'antiseptic and not artistic'... White on white is 'a transition from pigment to light' and 'a screen for the projection of light' and 'moving' pictures.
7. No light. No bright or direct light in or over the painting. Dim, late afternoon absorbent twilight is best outside. ...
8. No space. Space should be empty, should not project, and should not be flat. ... The frame should isolate and protect the painting from its surroundings. Space divisions within the painting should not be seen.
9. No time. 'Clock-time or man's time is inconsequential.' There is no ancient or modern, no past or future in art. 'A work of art is always present.' The present is the future of the past, not the past of the future. 'Now and long ago are one.'
10. No size or scale. Breadth and depth of thought and feeling in art have no relation to physical size. Large sizes are aggressive, positivist, intemperate, venal, and graceless.
11. No movement. 'Everything else is on the move. Art should be still.'
12. No object, no subject no matter. No symbols, images, or signs. Neither pleasure nor pain. No mindless working or mindless non-working. No chess-playing.

These rules are radical. Many of them appear at first glance to be unrealizable in architecture. But even non-objective painting cannot free itself from its objective medium of the canvas drawn over the frame and covered with paint. Non-objective paintings will always have a shape and a size, and therefore can never be non-objective. From a philosophical point of view they are nevertheless non-objective if they have originated in the consciousness to be non-objective and find the means of application which depicts this.
From this aspect architecture can take the step into non-objectivity. To do this, architecture has to be created with the intention of being non-objective, with the consciously developed means, to express it. The matter of the built must become the canvas which disappears behind the expression of non-objectivity. This means that the technical and structural necessities lose their meaning for the content and that which is represented. They become obsolete in terms of reason and legitimization of architecture.

III. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

In architecture, in the first half of the twentieth century, the ideas of functionalism in the "International Style" prevailed over expressionist and cubist tendencies. The classic Modernism, through its close connection with art, whether it was at the Bauhaus or in the De Stijl Group, acquired an importance as a pendant to abstract art. Even though it possesses formal features of this, such as the reduction of the shape of the buildings to elementary forms and the replacement of figurative ornament in favor of an elementary aesthetic, it nevertheless still remains, in terms of subject matter, far behind the philosophical methods of abstraction. It did not fulfil the demand to remove the concrete reality as a layer of deception from the real essence of a thing in order to expose the sole, valid order of its being. Architecture owed the necessity to not longer represent the reality of function and technology through a new aesthetic, but to create a new reality.
The dominant position of a no longer questioned functionalism hindered every attempt of an abstract or non-objective architecture. Each utterance, that sought to overstep the boundaries of the objectively perceived world, could be reduced to absurdity by alluding to its afunctionality.
During the thirties the leading figures of Modernism recognized that the pure functionalism, which they had developed themselves, was a blind alley. That the idealistic value of a building, as Le Corbusier calls it the "excitation and emotion of man", simply is not created on account of practicality and rationality. A need arose to go above and beyond this.
After the Second World War architects such as Le Corbusier began to link their rationalistic architecture with an emotionally-charged expressive language of form and materiality. Yet, just as Le Corbusier's paintings remained objective, these attempts did not, in subject matter, reach beyond expressionistic architecture.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe solves this conflict for himself in that he achieves an abstract architecture, and above and beyond that intuitively approaches the non-objective way of thinking.
With his emigration to the United States in 1938, Mies turns his priorities in the search for idealistic values ultimately towards the absoluta of pure construction and pure space.
He regards the attempt to renew architecture in terms of form, as a failure. The discovery of form leads nowhere and does not rise above the "duration of a vogue", is therefore transient and according to Malevich without value. Absolute, everlasting values arise only there where the construction is the bearer of "the Gestalt of space" and thus the bearer of "the sense of the spiritual substance". Exemplary of this for Mies are the Romanesque period and the Gothic. Accordingly, a renewal of architecture
can only result from the construction and not through arbitrarily supplied motives. Building and sense are one. The method of building is of decisive and witness-bearing significance. The construction not only determines the form, it is the form itself.
Mies is the first to take the step into a truly abstract architecture. In his pursuit of the absolute, the pure construction and the pure space, he achieves a complete abstraction of the expression of the built. Nevertheless, this concept remains questionable. The construction is subject to engineering and thereby a continuous development. Mies recourses to principles of construction that have already been applied in industrial buildings for decades. At what point in the development, therefore, is the construction "pure" and thereby absolute? Mies did not recognize that the construction, in the way he used it, only had the importance of an abstract representation of construction and with that its significance reduced into the background, in favor of the concept of pure space.
In this circumstance his buildings approach a non-objective architecture in which the construction is not the means as such but an auxiliary means. For completely non-objective architecture one would have to, in a reformulation of Mies' assertion, claim: Neither form nor construction is the objective, but the result of the work.

IV. Jean Nouvel

In the sixties concepts of abstraction and non-objectivity play only a minor role. Constant developed, in 1960, his "New Babylon", that was based on an illusory "new social organization" and an impossible "change in morals and thought". His visions would have called for a restructuring of human psyche into an abstract being and remain therefore a Utopia, that, contrary to his opinion, could never become reality.
In 1962 Hans Hollein and Walter Pichler proclaimed an "absolute architecture" that "freed from its actual object, the human being", should attain non-objectivity. Architecture should be created for its own sake, be without purpose, "not serve but rule". "The human being is only tolerated in its domain, he will suffocate or live therein." This claim is one of the most radical theses in the manifesto on architecture and never went beyond the stage of a statement of intention.
Further development in architecture manifested itself in Brutalism, Neo-Modernism, Postmodernism, Deconstructivism, Minimalism, Sculpturalism, Post-Postmodernism, etc. Everything is possible, nothing has durability, copies of copies, short-lived vogues, already obsolete at the moment of creation. New subject matter is processed through new forms of expression, extended through new technical developments, and new arrangements of old concepts. These, however, do not further the principles of architecture. Only isolated examples of interesting aspects can be found with regard to non-objective architecture.

Jean Nouvel acquires a special meaning here. His work reflects the attempt to make architecture immaterial, to abstract and dissolve it in substance and in form. Nouvel says very little regarding his fundamental concept of architecture, however, strong parallels can be made to the observations of the media and technology theorists McLuhan, Virilio and Baudrillard. Thus Paul Virilio writes:
City planning is running into trouble, architecture is always changing, the abode is left only as the anamorphosis of a threshold. Apart from historical nostalgia, Rome is not longer in Rome, and architecture is no longer architecture but in the geometry and time-space of the vectors. The aesthetics of the building disappear in the special effects of the communications and traffic machine, in its transport and transmission apparatus. ... After architecture as sculpture, comes the artificiality of cinematography, in reality as well as figuratively: architecture has itself become a film. The city is superseded by an unusual motor activity, a gigantic, dark projection room to enthuse the masses, where the light of (audio-visual and automobile) speed replaces the sunlight. ... The speed of motion reinforces its absence.

From this consciousness Nouvel develops, among other things, concepts and aesthetics, which would fulfil Ad Reinhardt's rules with regard to non-objective architecture. This becomes particularly clear in the Onyx Cultural Center in Sant-Herblain of 1987-88.
The site of the center is defined by a ten-hectare, triangular parking lot serving a supermarket and a department store. The parking area leads towards a small artificial lake, around which a park is to be created. Thus the site is defined by cars and commerce, busy in daylight, dead at night. Nouvel's solution is a perfect, all black half-cube, set at an angle to the lines of parking spaces, at the apex of the triangle but off-center.
The facade of black concrete and two large-size window surfaces is screened at a small distance by a black all-surrounding grating. In this way no light can be reflected from the black concrete, it is completely swallowed up. The effect is confusing since there is an impression of an all-light-absorbing object, a black hole.
The auditorium and the other interior spaces are strictly rectilinear, following the defining grid of the exterior. They are finished in corroded galvanized metal plates, the floors are polished concrete, light is provided by arrays of red lamps under grey metal lighting gantries - gloomy, disorientating nowhere-spaces, making the theatre stage all important. In the basement underneath the foyer is a huge empty hall without any function accessible only through hidden entrances. This space, empty of meaning, is forming a counterpoint to the spectacle to be presented above. It negates the spectacle, it absorbs it like the light is absorbed outside and therefore even withdraws the function of the spectacle.

Onyx originated from a reaction to the context, the periphery, in connection with Nouvel's fundamental theme of immateriality, which, as a result of computer age, has taken on a special meaning. Olivier Boissière compares Onyx with the enigmatic, non-objective monolith from Stanley Kubrick's film "2001", and Conway Lloyd Morgan states, that the building predates cyberspace, and that it is the first virtual building. The building, however, is not developed in the consciousness of achieving non-objectivity. Since here the themes virtuality and periphery allow a formally almost non-objective architecture to be created, it shows the relevance of non-objective architecture for the present in the reverse conclusion.

V. Non-objective architecture

There remains the question of why. Why produce non-objective architecture? Just because it could be done? Because it would have relevance for the present?
That non-objectivity would have a fundamental effect on architecture is indisputable. For all disciplines, in which it found entry, such as art, classical music or philosophy, the consequences have been irreversible.
With "the ultimate pictures of the twentieth century", to those the philosophical concept of non-objectivity gave birth, changed the understanding of painting and art in itself. These paintings convey neither substance nor statement. Their legitimization relates only to their mere existence, art is just art. It has thereby, discarded its traditional function. Today, art must neither be good nor beautiful, neither edifying nor educative, not even be visionary, to have relevance.
In classical painting, traditionally the highest form of art, new subject matter was always made conveyable through the development of new media of expression, be it through new painting techniques or new forms of representation. Because painting, in non-objectivity, no longer imparts any subject matter or any statement, because in these paintings "Nothing" is depicted, there is not anything that can ever again be depicted through the medium of painting that goes above and beyond that. With that, painting has reduced itself to absurdity, has worn itself out. Lucio Fontana expresses this conflict in 1962 with the shredding of an empty canvas.
Painting has lost its position as the highest form of art. Certainly new subject matter continues to be expressed through the medium of painting, however, new tendencies in art no longer derive from painting. And even nothing has been created that painting itself would have developed further. Art, in the search for means of expression, has abandoned painting and taken possession of other media.

Architecture never effected the inclusion of non-objectivity, as one of the most important intellectual potentials in the twentieth century. It therefore, in its basic structure and mechanisms, in contrast to all the other creative disciplines, continues to remain rooted in the past. The effect of this can already be noticed, since the answers repeat themselves and exhaust themselves in an 'all-is-possible'. Architecture is in danger of losing its position as a philosophical and artistic concept. Architects have come to a point at which they can no longer gloss over their intellectual deficit. Subject matter will continue to be conveyed by means of form, material, construction and texture. The building as the ultimate reality is no longer be asked after.
As with art, with the abandonment of painting, architecture will only, by means of the intellectual concept of non-objectivity, be able to develop new possibilities of expression, which go above and beyond the imparting of subject matter through that which is built. Even when the buildings as means of expressing architecture should be reduced to the absurd. Just as art has changed so will architecture change and no longer be that which we understand by it today.
The "ultimate buildings of the twentieth century" will yet have to be designed, built and discussed, so that the potential of non-objectivity can be absorbed and intellectually digested in the knowledge and thinking of architects, in order to effect the connection with our time and it's about time.

Kasimir Malewitsch, 'Die Gegenstandslose Welt', Bauhausbücher Nr. 11, Albert Langen Verlag, Munich, 1927
Stephan v. Wiese, 'Zwei Standpunkte: Kasimir Malewitsch und das Bauhaus', in Kasimir Malewitsch, 'Die Gegenstandslose Welt', Neue Bauhausbücher, Florian Kupferberg Verlag, Mainz, 1980, VIII
Ernst Kállai, 'Kasimir Malewitsch', in Das Kunstblatt, 11. Jg., Potsdam, 1927
Kasimir Malewitsch, 'Die Gegenstandslose Welt', Bauhausbücher Nr. 11
Max Bill, 'Concrete Art', in Zeitprobleme in der Schweizer Malerei und Plastik, 1936, reprinted in Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, ed., 'Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art', University of California Press, Berkley/Los Angeles, 1996
Werner Haftmann, 'Kasimir Malewitsch', in Kasimir Malewitsch, 'Suprematismus - Die gegenstandslose Welt', DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne, 1962
Walter Gropius, 'Brevier für Bauhäusler (Entwurf)', spring 1924, and 'Grundsätze der Bauhausproduktion', 1926, published in Hans M. Wingler, 'Das Bauhaus 1919-1933', Verlag Gebrüder Rasch und M. DuMont Schauberg, Bramsche / Cologne, 1962, p. 90 and p. 120
Gudrun Inboden, 'Die schwarzen (quadratischen) Bilder von Ad Reinhardt', in Ad Reinhardt, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 1985
Thomas Kellein, 'Schreibender Engel oder perfider Satan?', in Ad Reinhardt, 'Schriften und Gespräche', Verlag Silke Schreiber, Munich, 1984
Ad Reinhardt, 'Twelve Rules for a New Academy', 1953, in Art News, vol. 56, no. 3, New York, May 1957, pp. 37 - 38, 56, reprinted in Ad Reinhardt, 'Art-as-Art, The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt', The Viking Press, New York, 1975
Ad Reinhardt, 'The Black-Square Paintings', 1961, published as 'Autocritique de Reinhardt', in Iris-Time (Paris newsletter of the Iris Clert Galery), Paris, June 10, 1963
Mark Wigley, 'Designer Dresses: The Fashioning of Modern Architecture', The MIT Press, Cambridge, 1995
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, lecture, Chicago, ca. 1950, published in Fritz Neumeyer, 'Mies van der Rohe, Das kunstlose Wort', Siedler Verlag, Berlin, 1986
Philip C. Johnson, 'Mies van der Rohe', The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1953
Fritz Neumeyer, 'Mies van der Rohe, Das kunstlose Wort', Siedler Verlag, Berlin, 1986
Neil Levine, 'The Significance of Facts: Mies's Collages Up Close and Personal', in Assemblage, no. 37, MIT Press Journals, Cambridge, December 1998
Jean Baudrillard, 'Der symbolische Tausch und der Tod', Matthes & Seitz Verlag, Munich, 1982, original edition 'L'échange symbolique et la mort', Éditions Gallimard, Paris, 1976
"The form is not the objective, but the result of our work", excerpt from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 'Bauen', in G, no. 2, Berlin, September 1923
Constant, 'Neu Babylon', published in Constant - Amsterdam, Städtische Kunstgalerie Bochum, Bochum, March/April 1961
Hans Hollein, Walter Pichler, 'Absolute Architektur', in Hollein-Pichler, exhibition-catalog, Vienna, 1963, reprinted in Programme und Manifeste zur Architektur des 20. Jahrhunderts, Bauwelt Fundamente no. 1, Ullstein Verlag, Frankfurt / Berlin, 1964
Paul Virilio, 'Ästhetik des Verschwindens', Merve Verlag, Berlin, 1986, original edition 'Esthétique de la disparition', Éditions Balland, Paris, 1980
Olivier Boissière, 'Jean Nouvel', Éditions Pierre Terrail, Paris, 1996, p. 75, and Conway Lloyd Morgan, 'Jean Nouvel, The Elements of Architecture', Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1998

published in show your hand, pp. 90-93

(english) (german)

Kasimir Malevich

Kasimir Malevich, 'Black Square', 1915

Kasimir Malevich

Kasimir Malevich, 'Architection', 1924-26

Ad Reinhardt

Ad Reinhardt, 'Black Painting', 1960-66

Mies van der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe, 'Crown Hall', 1952-56

Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel, 'Onyx', 1987-88

          3.3.8  die tür zum garten
          3.3.9  setup for an electrotectural experiment
          3.3.10 zur psychologie des sexus
IV    exhibitions
        4.1  installations
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        4.3  curation
V   publications
VI    teaching
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        6.2  theory classes
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VII   contact

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