LEE YANG YANG

lee yang yang

an architect
WRITING

ARCHITECTURE OF AN ARCHITECTURE

INTRODUCTION

A ‘sketch’ writing

This is my personal thinking on architecture that has been developing and in progress for I have chosen architecture as my career pathway since young, through studying architecture in Malaysia and Australia. At times I was interested in publishing something reminiscent of a book, but like many I found little time to commit. Then again I thought of a book as rather an edited compilation, almost dishonest to the raw thought process that I wanted to write. So, rather this piece is a collection of freewriting pieces that might be changed, updated, deleted, forgotten and grow, and like a sketch rather than a concrete piece, not much attention will be paid to the legibility of the writing. It will be sort of a my manifesto on architecture; but incomplete and will always be a work in progress.

Not a definite manifesto

“Even if I knew everything, I could not know that I know everything.” – The Last Answer,  Isaac Asimov
There is no real limit to our everincreasing knowledge and as manifestoes claim to be objective and finite, will be doomed to be outdated unless they adapt and change. This is in response to many architectural manifestoes in history that claim to be the ones that will be the one for all. Including this one?

HISTORY

Hegelian History in Architecture

Hegelian – the understanding of history as if it is progressing in a direction towards a state of perfection
If all history of architecture is composed down to a chronology, we know there is changes and rises and falls from different civilizations; stylistic movements, modernity and to progress in material and technology. However this begs the question if our history of architecture is progressing forwards towards a better state of ‘perfect architecture’ ala ubermensch? Or maybe the state of ‘perfect architecture’ never did exist as architectural philosophy changes from age to age.  or we could argue modernists attempted to create ‘perfect architecture’ (refer Modernity in Architecture) and they have failed. Assuming technology will change architecture (as CAD design and steel/glass have) then how different architecture will be in the far future? – (refer Architectural Futurology)

Timelessness in Architecture

“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone…
A part of my passion to architecture is its enduring quality despite the passage of time and inhabitants. Even then only one in the original seven ancient wonders survived to this day; the Pyramids of Giza. Despite all the present arguments in architecture, the ancient monuments surpassed its challenges of age and stood to tell the story. This is particularly eminent in Louis Kahn’s influence to Brutalist architecture after his trip to the ancient ruins and his attempt towards monumentality and timelessness in architecture. While many detractors argue the lack of life in Brutalist architecture, many forgot Brutalist architecture is intended to surpass lives. (Also read about enduring spaces in Persistence in Formal Typologies, enduring forms in Memorable Forms and enduring unbuilt architecture in Unbuilt Architecture).

Vitruvian Virtues an Enduring Manifesto

firmitas, utilitas, venustas – stability, functionality, delight
The only manifesto (that I know of) that has endured time is the three Vitruvian Virtues of stability, functionality and delight, although most of the content in Ten Books on Architecture is very much outdated. Briefly speaking it means architecture should be structurally stable, functional for users and aesthetically beautiful. Although we might have contracted off our responsbility in structure to engineers (read Architect vs Engineer), building functions can change from time to time (read Building Types) and beauty in architecture is highly subjective (read AESTHETICS) the three virtues are still my dominant yardstick to judge a new building. Also I would argue that while doctors have their Hippocratic Oath, architects have our Vitruvian Virtues.

Modernity in Architecture

Towards a New Architecture – Le Corbusier
History in architecture has converged into a single global modernity led by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. Or read in a different way, they have severed architecture from history. There is a lot of argument that faults modernists for destroying traditional cities (Jane Jacobs, Leon Krier, Nikos Salingaros) but modernists attempted to create a perfect slate of architecture (read Hegelian History in Architecture) and believed they are creating healthier, efficient and affordable cities. Although accompanied with many grave mistakes, modern architecture have made the construction industry more affordable and efficient by mostly disregarding traditional construction methods and laborous ornamentation (read further in Ornamentation in Architecture). In the wake they also have created a new aesthetic; honesty in materials (refer Honesty in Architecture) and restrained forms (refer Restraint in Architecture), which are both rational architectural principles.

Continuity in Architecture

TS Elliot “The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it.” – TS Elliot
As long as time still ticks by, there will be a certain continuity in architecture, something that the modernists failed to predict. Modernists failed to predict that there comes a time that their buildings will be outdated and demolished (Pruitt-Igoe) and modernist critics seem to ignore that modern architecture are also a part of our architectural tradition.

Architectural Futurology

artificial intelligence in architecture, artificial architecture, self-propagating architecture and automatic architecture
Looking past the recent history of architecture (with the advent and revolution of CAD computer-aided design) it is reasonable to assume parametric modelling (read Parametricism in Architecture) and eventually artificial intelligence will change the processes of architecture, looking not into decades in the future, but centuries from now. As parametric architecture reduces architects into programmers that writes code to generate architecture and eventually artificially intelligent self-generating and self-building automatic architecture, does this mean the future means the death of the architectural profession (read Dying Architectural Profession) e.g. technological singularity? Is that the state of  That is; assuming artificial intelligence is possible in the first place (Noam Chomsky’s mental causation problem).

 

Future subtopics:
transhumanism – improvement of technology that overcomes human biological limitations (example: immortality)
How does architecture anticipate and receive the advances in transhumanism?
robotic architecture, 3d printing
Architecture that builds with the aid of mechanically automated robots, 3d printing machines that prints buildings.
architecture in space
Architecture of spaceships and space colonies.

ARCHITECTURE

Memorable Forms
Aldo Rossi

Building Typology
Aldo Rossi – typologies are forever, functions/programs are temporary

Unbuilt Architecture
Raimund Abraham

URBANISM

PROFESSION

Architecture as Personality

Jean Paul Sautre – waiter behaving, pretending to be a waiter (bad faith)
There exists an egoistic personality of architects that they are architects first, and everything else second. This is a dangerous chasm that divides architects and the public and also the reinforcement for worse employment environment and justification of unethical practices. Architects should remember they have a prior spatial history (Leon van Schaik’s theory of spatial intelligence) prior to an architectural education that contributes as much to their creative intuition.

The legal title ‘Architect’

Architect vs Engineer

Dying Architectural Profession

Social Architecture
Jeremy Till, Shigeru Ban

ORDER

Persistence in Formal Typologies
Alexander Purves – centric and linear

Christopher Alexander – nature of order
denseness and sparseness
Stan Allen & Francis Ching  – points and lines
flatness and depth

Nature of Scale
Louis Kahn – monumentality, primal architectural quality as physical mass
bigness, unignorable. shall require a careful consideration.

Preoccupation with Illusions
“art is the lie that tells the truth” – Pablo Picasso
Understanding our preoccupation with illusions? Cantilevers, trompe l’oeil

Individuality and the Whole
the flipping condition; how big of a distance / difference do we perceive before we read units in a whole as individuals

Innate Geometry
Noam Chomsky, Plato – circle, square, triangle. dialogue with Meno’s slave

Assymetry
Mies van der Rohe

AESTHETICS

Delight in Architecture
Le Corbusier – architecture that moves us
highly subjective. dependent on cultural sensitivity

Sublime in Architecture
rooted in Romanticism

Atmospheres in Architecture
Peter Zumthor – atmospheres

Ornamentation in Architecture
Antoni Gaudi
Gaudi argues for ornamentation as a kind of surface treatment and altering perception. traditional ornamentation a laborous approach. ornamentation righfully relegated to crafted details and materials finishes in architecture as per modernist principles.

Restraint in Architecture
John Pawson

Details in Architecture
John Ruskin – venetian sketches – drawing isolated details
Carlo Scarpa, Tom Kundig

Aging in Architecture

MANIFESTO

Existential Architecture

We know architecture as the physical manifestation of human activity will exist and span thousands of years to the future, what would we as traditional architects play a role in our limited time span other than being futurist architects that advocate advanced computing processes.
In Tim Urban’s Religion for the Nonreligious, he refers to whoa moments as moments of awe, elation, sadness and wonder that breach personal levels of consciousness that inspire optimism and kindness – exactly the same as sublime moments (read Sublime in Architecture). In my personal architectural endeavour, as small as that maybe – is to induce these experiences through architecture. In addition to that, I am introducing the idea of existential moments in architecture, where an experience in space that makes you aware that your personal body exists in this befitting location and time; moments that are similar to being in a space that you personally remembered fondly, or standing in alignment to the main street axis of a city.