If architecture is a privileged site for thought, then this is because it enacts an intersection of matter, nature, meaning, economics, ecology, bio-materiality, aesthetics, subjectivity, politics, and affect in its exploration of the possibilities of materiality in inventing voids. It is not merely a cipher of culture, something to be interpreted and deciphered, but is itself a formation of culture; a series of machines forming subjectivities (as Foucault observed, though the disturbing example of the panopticon), relations between people, animals, plants, sky, earth, and the broader world, activities of life, and so on. Architecture does not merely express in the sense that those calling themselves historical materialists treat cultural artifacts as crystalized or coagulated expressions of their time; no, architecture forms and invents forms of life in its exploration of matter and the void.
Architecture is, in and of itself, an enactment of the borromean knot. Architecture is borromean. Here, of course, I take some liberties with the borromean knot, adapting it to the needs of machine-oriented ontology. It is a way of tying the borromean knot in actuality, in the enactment of a world. The tying of the knot is the formation of a world and a polis. In the order of the real, it is an exploration of the powers of matter, of the pluralism of matter, of ways of folding, twisting, bending, stacking, and weaving matter to form unheard of voids. Wood, clay, stone, steal, glass, aluminum, thatch, rubber, plaster, unheard of materials yet to be imagined, even living beings as in the case of trees grown together, intertwining with one another, to form a new void. The architects, no less than chemists, physicists, and biologists, are great explorers of the possibilities of matter and what it can do. Enclosures generative of the void must stand and abide. For that to take place there must be a discovery of the powers of matter, but that discovery is a discovery made only through working with matter. Accompanying this discovery is a discovery of the forces of the cosmos– gravity, wind, light, pressure, heat, cold, etc –for these are that with which the enclosure must contend.
Architecture in the real creates and forms voids and these voids, in their turn, channel bodies, defining sites of activity, relation, movement, and becoming. There is, however, an architecture of the real, an absolute architecture, that brackets any thought of what might transpire in the void that the edifice creates, and that suspends any question of meaning or affect. This architecture deterritorializes the edifice from meaning and function; exploring the powers of matter and void for their own sake, seeking to determine what they can do, what can exist.
At the level of the symbolic, architecture is a machine that produces meanings. In 1286 William Durandus will write of how every element of the Gothic cathedral signifies. The windows are the scripture, the lattice the prophets, the door is Christ, the piers the bishops and doctors, etc. Everywhere the matter in the real is made to signify in the symbolic, producing a series of meanings in the void; a text or writing in the void. Meaning comes to pervade the enclosure and it presents itself as a text to be read. Yet these texts do not merely ask to be read, the are machines that make meaning and that are formative of subjectivities. The symbolic is then woven with the real and the imaginary, forming systems of affect, action, perception, and the rest. More to come.