Dual Natured Architecture

Walter Gropius standing next to a building that would never get built.

 “With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage. In equal scale weighing delight and dole.”  William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Strikes and Gutters –  The Big Lebowski

The theory of dual natured architecture is itself a duality.  It could be criticized as being simplistic in its blind categorization of all the complexities of architecture into one single idea.  This is precisely the point.  Duality in architecture, as a law, is both simple and complex.

-It is simple in that the general thesis is a notion that anything has its opposing force.

-It is complex in that there are a nearly endless variety of these dualities.

There are also fundamental dualities in architecture and peripheral dualities in architecture.

-The fundamental duality is the tug of war between pragmatic and spiritual (aesthetic) agendas.  It is the balance between the circumstantial and the willed.  It is the ability to improvise within rigidity.

-Peripheral dualities are the many piecemeal results of built architecture.   Glass is both transparent and obfuscating.  It allows one to see through it, but reflections also distort reality.   It is the contrasting games and implicit decorum between a sculpture and a building in close proximity.

Architecture is the search for the god of the unknown and the god of the logical.  It is possible that a logical approach gives us insight into the unknown.

Of all the arts, architecture is the one most mired by reality.  The architect’s goal of expressing a spiritual notion can only be accomplished within the confines of the god of gravity, and the god of budget, and the god of client.

Duality stretches out beyond architecture.  In the largest sense, birth and death are our tethering antipodes.  On a smaller scale, we are constantly navigating the terrain between good and bad news.  One of the happiest moments of this year for me was the announcement that I got accepted into the Harvard GSD.  I was at work at the time, and saw that I had an email in my inbox. The email was from Harvard.  The previous Friday I had been rejected from Yale so I was preparing myself for more bad news.  I breathed in a disappointed sigh, although my heart was already pumping, and opened up the email.  The first word I saw was Congratulations followed by an exclamation point.  I’d gotten in!   I couldn’t believe it I, I was ecstatic.  I called my parents immediately to let them know the news.  Unfortunately, on this same day, our longtime cat, the one I grew up with, was found dead at the bottom of my parents stairs.  He had been sick for a while, so it wasn’t totally unexpected, but the news came at a strange time to say the least.  My happiness was tempered, but my sadness was also alleviated.  The result is a strange sensation.   This kind of thing happens all the time.  We live in a world of things we understand and things we do not.

Duality is a simple idea that collects the myriad complexities of life.   An architect is an interesting individual.  They have not drawn a line in the sand.  They are neither artist nor engineer.  Instead they vacillate between the conflicting desires of pure beauty and pure logic.  An architect betrays his/her own desires.

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One Response to Dual Natured Architecture

  1. Andrew-

    sorry to hear about your cat; but – i felt the same way about my gsd news too (on the back of my yale news).

    see you in august,

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