For anyone who is interested, here is the text of my talk before the College of Architecture at Texas A&M (btexasa&marchitecture). In light of that event and the extraordinary work and architectural thought I witnessed there, much of what I develop here will have to be rethought. Accordingly, I’ve resolved to delve into architectural theory and history to further develop my thought. At present I’m striving to define just what sort of machine architecture is. My working definition is that architecture is a spatio-hyletic experimentation with the void. “Hyle”, of course, is the Greek word for matter. The reference to hyle, I hope, distinguishes architectural thought and invention from the mathematical disciplines of geometry and topology. These are, of course, of the greatest relevance to architectural experimentation (and here I would also add the arrow spaces of category theory), but are not yet themselves architecture. By contrast, the suggestion that architecture experiments with the void attempts to distinguish architecture from sculpture.
Following the strategy of Deleuze, I always strive to individuate arts by what is singular within their medium. For example, in his approach to cinema, Deleuze treats the narrative dimension of film as secondary as film shares this with literature, instead treating cinema as an invention of and experimentation with images. We can approach architecture in a similar way. Absolute architecture– not to be confused with Aureli’s concept –would be a pure exploration of the spatio-hyletic possibilities of space, an invention of voids, that investigates what space can do. Here it is crucial to distinguish between operations and functions. Outside of mathematics, a function is an operation subordinated to a use. An operation, by contrast, is what results from an activity upon a flow, without that activity requiring any use. All functions are operations, but not all operations are functions. We approach architecture functionally when we think it in terms of the uses to which it is to be put (dwelling, labor, educating, worship, etc). We approach architecture operationally when we explore it as a pure experimentation with the void, detached from considerations of function.
This latter approach is what I call– for the moment; I’d like a better term to avoid confusion with Aureli’s work –absolute architecture. Absolute architecture explores what the void can do and what can be done with the void. It explores a spatialization, a series of permutations, in and for itself. In this regard, absolute architecture is Riemannian. Rather than exploring architecture in terms of an embedding space (the field of functions or uses to which an enclosure is put), it seeks a metric within the creation of a void itself; a metric or logic that is intrinsic and unique to that spatio-hyletic enclosure. We can call these internal, spatio-hyletic logics “logoi“, after the Greek “logos“. The logoi are permutational logics proper to the invention of types of spatio-hyletic voids. We could thus say that every architectural style has its logos; its way of exploring space and matter to produce enclosures. Absolute architecture is not opposed to function, but rather is the moment of deterritorialization within every architecture where the logoi of a spatio-hyletic multiplicity is explored in and for itself. In this regard, the inventiveness proper to absolute architecture is mereological, exploring the logics of parts and holes, the problems that emerge from them, the resolution of these problems (the integral?), and the enclosures that thereby emerge from these explorations.
Deeply influenced by, speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, and onticology, Gabriel Esquivel, Gilles Retskin, and their students are pursuing an subjectless architecture, a non-correlationist architecture, that strives for absolute deterritorialization, foregrounding this dimension of absolute architecture that dwells within every architecture. Such an architecture would strive to be non-relational, referring only to the generative mereological principles of its own internal logic or endo-structure, and non-representational, citing no other architectural history or work. The effect of this architecture, designed by teams of students as well as computer simulations (it’s not strictly human), is often startling, sometimes disturbing, and in many instances approaches the mathematical sublime as developed by Kant. The work presents itself as something completely alien– it can’t even be called foreign –leading some, I am told, to deny that it is even architecture. Yet if we do not explore absolute architecture or the mereological possibilities of spatio-hyletic voids in and for themselves, how will we ever discover what a space can do? Deterritorialized from function, onticological architecture– what might be called “mechanology” –opens the possibility of the discovery of unheard forms of function, functions not yet imagined, potentials of subjectivization, and the genesis of entirely new forms of social relation engendered through new ways of forming the void.