The End of the Classical: the End of the End, the End of the Beginning

The Not-Classical: Architecture as Fiction

What can be the model for architecture when the essence of what was effective in the classical model - the presumed rational value of structure, representations, methodologies of origins and ends, and deductive processes - has been shown to be a simulation?

It is not possible to answer such a question with an alternative model. But a series of characteristics can be proposed that typify this aporia, this loss in our capacity to conceptualize a new model for architecture. These characteristics, out­lined below, arise from that which can not be, they form a structure of absences. The purpose in proposing them is not to reconstitute what has just been dismissed, a model for a theory of architecture - for all such models are ultimately futile. Rather what is being proposed is an expansion beyond the limitations presented by the classical model to the realization of architecture as an independent discourse, free of external values - classical or any other; that is, the intersection of the meaning-free, the arbitrary, and the timeless in the artificial.

The meaning-free, arbitrary, and timeless creation of artificiality in this sense must be distinguished from what Baudrillard has called 'simulation': it is not an attempt to erase the classical distinction between reality and representation - thus again making architecture a set of conventions simulating the real; it is, rather, more like a simulation. Whereas simulation attempts to obliterate the difference between real and imaginary, dissimulation leaves untouched the difference between reality and illusion. The relationship between dissimulation and reality is similar to the signification embodied in the mask: the sign of pretending to be not what one is - that is, a sign which seems not to signify anything besides itself (the sign of a sign, or the negation of what is behind it). Such a dissimulation in architecture can be given the provisional title of the not-classical. As dissimulation is not the inverse, negative, or opposite of simulation, a 'not-classical' architecture is not the inverse, negative, or opposite of classical architecture; it is merely different from or other than. A 'not-classical1 architecture is no longer a certification of experience or a simulation of history, reason or reality in the present. Instead, it may more appro­priately be described as an other manifestation, an architecture as is, now as a fiction. It is a representation of itself, of its own values and internal experience .. .

The End of the Beginning

While classical origins were thought to have their source in a divine or natural order and modern origins were held to derive their value from deductive reason, 'not-classical' origins can be strictly arbitrary, simply starting points, without value. They can be artificial and relative, as opposed to natural, divine, or universal. Such artificially determined beginnings can be free of universal values because they are merely arbitrary points in time, when the architectural process commences. One example of an artificial origin is a graft, as in the genetic insertion of an alien body into a host to provide a new result . . .

A graft is not in itself genetically arbitrary. Its arbitrariness is in its freedom from a value system of non-arbitrariness (that is, the classical). It is arbitrary in its provision of a choice of reading which brings no external value to the process. . .

The End of the End

Along with the end of the origin, the second basic characteristic of a 'not-classical' architecture, therefore, is its freedom from a priori goals or ends - the end of the end . . .

With the end of the end, what was formerly the process of composition or transformation ceases to be a causal strategy, a process of addition or subtraction from an origin. Instead the process becomes one of modification - the invention of a non-dialectical, non-directional, non-goal oriented process . . .

This suggests the idea of architecture as 'writing' as opposed to architecture as image. What is being 'written' is not the object itself- its mass and volume - but the act of massing. This idea gives a metaphoric body to the act of architecture. It then signals its reading through another system of signs, called traces. Traces are not to be read literally, since they have no other value than to signal the idea that there is a reading event and that the reading should take place; trace signals the idea to read . . .

But further, knowing how to decode is no longer important; simply, language in this context is no longer a code to assign meanings (that this means that). The activity of reading is first and foremost in the recognition of something as a language (that it is). Reading, in this sense, makes available a level of indication rather than a level of meaning or expression.

Therefore, to propose the end of the beginning and the end of the end is to propose the end of beginnings and ends of value - to propose an other 'timeless' space of invention. It is a 'timeless' space in the present without a determining relation to an ideal future or to an idealized past. Architecture in the present is seen as a process of inventing an artificial past and a futureless present. It remembers a no-longer future. (ppl54-172)

Extracts. Source: Perspecta; the Yale Architectural Journal, vol 21. 1984.

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