Breaking away from Praxis without Theoria
My motivation for writing this paper was my desire to clarify the origin of my own concept of architecture. This book is based on my doctoral dissertation submitted to Kyoto University. This dissertation was compiled from notes he had written on architectural theory over many years, from his student days to the present. As a student of Tadao Ando, but strongly influenced by Peter Eisenman, whose thinking is the complete opposite of Ando's, I embarked on this project partly to resolve my own long-standing struggles with my origins.
As I recall, I have not been interested in seeking practice-oriented architecture or architecture that is merely beautiful since I was a student. I can say that I have focused on thinking about important design concepts that have the potential to open up the future, building theories based on these concepts, and linking them to practice. Therefore, we view academic knowledge as the most important aspect of architecture. An approach based on random ideas and mere form design that lacks academic knowledge and theory cannot create architecture that opens the way to the future. However, I do not take a static approach as an objective observer, like a historian or researcher, but rather as a practitioner who seeks a dynamic approach in the hope that a new architecture will emerge.
Architecture is a compound of the Greek words arche and techne. Its meaning is construction based on learning to master what is the essence of technology.
Since the concept of architecture was mistranslated and introduced as "kenchiku" (architecture) during the Meiji period (1868-1912), the practical aspect of architecture, "building and construction," has been emphasized in Japan, and practice has been emphasized in Japan. As a result, Japanese architects are good at practicing, but they are unable to develop their own theories. They have accepted the theories developed by Western architects and have only put them into practice.
In Europe and the U.S., architecture is studied at the School of Architecture. The education there begins with Greek philosophy, and architecture requires deep contemplation based on knowledge of the humanities in response to philosophy. In other words, architects are required to grasp the totality of past knowledge, incarnate it as their own, and then ask what they should create. In Japan, however, the emphasis on productivity rather than humanistic education has led to a demand for superficial design, and there is a lack of awareness that architecture is created from theory. Architecture is considered a part of engineering, and most universities do not offer education based on the humanities. As a result, there is a strong tendency to grasp only a superficial overview of Western architectural thought and to interpret it in a self-serving manner. Because Japanese architects completely lack the "fundamental knowledge" of such an important part of knowledge, they do not know what to create at all.
As a result, Japanese architectural design is in the following situation, which can be described as a crisis.
In general, it is either indulging in the superficial design of form or retreating into materials, and it is trapped in the clamor of journalism and populism spread by the media.
In many organizational offices, the focus is on cost-cutting and functional solutions based on planning studies as an extension of modernism. Design is merely a camouflage or decorative consciousness of this.
Atelier firms reject existing methods as a reaction against such organizational design, but they do not take an architectural-theoretical approach and remain in the realm of planning thinking.
Regarding the materiality of architecture, there are two main directions.
The first is a return to Japanese tradition, which expands on the significance of wood and emphasizes it in a way that is consistent with Japanese populism.
The other is a superficial understanding of Western theory that has mingled with a sense of minimalism and a belief that beauty can be created by eliminating the materiality of architecture.
The most serious direction is that of those who aim to create new and beautiful forms, but because they have not developed a theory, they are unable to create the forms themselves and resort to plagiarism of others' new and beautiful forms. They admire the forms that emerge from the theories of Westerners who have created them through persistent thinking, and they end up plagiarizing these forms superficially. Plagiarism means that one's own knowledge is blank.
Japanese people try to project their knowledge onto reality too hastily, without having a blank mind to think about the base that should produce the forms. The hasty introduction of Western architectural culture during the Meiji period (1868-1912) resulted in an incomplete understanding of Western knowledge. Rather than an accurate understanding, the Japanese were too preoccupied with immediate productivity to accept an inadequate understanding. In Japan, there is no history of critical inheritance of a continuous body of past knowledge, as is the case in the West. This lack of history, combined with a tendency to disregard theory, which stems from an inadequate understanding of knowledge, has left Japanese architecture in a state of intellectual limbo. Furthermore, since the bursting of the bubble economy, there have been no publications of important translations of foreign architectural theory. Thus, Japan has become completely disconnected from Western architectural culture and is unable to commit itself to it. In other words, the core of the theory has become blank and Galapagos-like. In order to hide this, architects try to get around it by writing poems that are littered with arcane language, but the content often bears no resemblance to Western poetics. Poem derives from the Greek word poiesis (production). The counterpart of poiesis is praxis (practice). The counterpart of praxis is theoria (contemplation). In Japan, there is a lack of poiesis and only praxis without theoria (contemplation of eternal ideas through logos). Incidentally, the English word "theory" is derived from theoria. Thus, a hasty projective attitude without theory fills the world with a contentless void and hinders the steady development of culture and society. Instead of starting from a theory and persistently thinking and spinning out an internal logic, the externalities of forms and theories cited from others determine the central framework. The prevalence of architecture that is nothing more than a mere collusion between the externality from others and the externality of excessive functionality on the other side. It is a sad state of affairs that most of the architecture of Japanese architects is blank in the central part where the interiority (the logic that opens up the future and differs from others) is housed. Japanese architecture is merely an unselfconscious reference to the visual forms of others. Unless Japan breaks free from this Galapagosized situation as soon as possible, it will not be able to develop.
Hidden in this book are hints for the Japanese to break free from this current situation. This is because Eisenman shows us how to construct architecture through deep contemplation and the development of his own theory. I was attracted to Eisenman because he is an architect who takes an approach that combines theory and practice, and because he has an attitude of scrutinizing the totality of past knowledge, inheriting it, and at the same time trying to become independent from it.
Eisenman was critical of architectural criticism of the time, which was dominated by symbolic and iconic interpretations of form. As Eisenman states at the beginning of his doctoral dissertation, he dismisses Le Corbusier's perceptual considerations, i.e., aesthetic aspects such as his sophisticated treatment of light, as unimportant. What Eisenman inherited from Le Corbusier was not the aesthetic relationship between volume and light, but the logic of the volume itself, the logic of form. The logic of form is not a symbolic interpretation of form, but rather a search for the logic that is submerged in the deeper structure of form. By focusing on the pursuit of formality, he sought to create a principle of architecture that would transcend modernity, that would cut to the heart of the problem of form, that would abandon the aesthetics of surface form in favor of a deeper structure, and that would extract and focus on the fundamental core that generates architecture. He presented a new diagrammatic system, the diagram, which shows the relationship between architecture and itself, and attempted to construct architecture in this field. Eisenman's work clarified the process by which architecture is generated. When one reads Eisenman's work, it becomes clear that he sees all prior knowledge as a repression that holds back the thoughts of those who are about to create. He strives to overcome this oppression, to break free from it, and to seek his own originality. In this way, we can understand that the relationship between the past and the present is logically examined, and new things are created through persistent thinking.
In Japan, on the other hand, the opposite is true. Historically, knowledge of the past is not viewed as oppression. They unconditionally praise the achievements of their predecessors and learn by imitating them. This traditional Japanese artistic consciousness has been intertwined with the influence of postmodernism, and the abuse of the language of reference, metaphor, and allusion has increasingly confused and deranged the architectural thinking of the Japanese.
This book is not only an Eisenman study, but also a continuation of Eisenman's architectural theory and the insertion of my own next architectural concept (CHAPTER 9). However, since the center of gravity is Eisenman's research, I decided to show a glimpse of it as a map. I will develop my own detailed architectural theory in the future.
This book will help the reader understand the importance of critical inheritance while maintaining a deep knowledge of the totality of knowledge of the past. We hope that this book will provide an opportunity for Japan to break out of its Galapagosized situation.
(Automatic machine translation)