Gilles Deleuze transitions between the two volumes of his cinema project by identifying a crisis of movement in post-War cultural and aesthetic practices. As film liberates itself from causal logic and linear displacements, introducing a differential subjectivity to replace static identity, space and time are (re)conceptualized to accommodate incompossible worlds. In establishing these late modern dynamics, seen initially in neo-realist spaces devastated by the War, Deleuze indirectly subordinates architecture as the locus of the crisis, which only innovative, temporal practices can avert. Other post-War spatial theorists also, overtly or tacitly, inveigh against architecture as excessively striated, utopian, technocratic and teleological. They find the power of the smooth only in incidental spaces and heterotopias, as well as in the subversive and quotidian practices of strangers and flâneurs, who reappropriate the post-modern landscape despite its architecture.
An architectural model for Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of the smooth and the striated, however, serves to reinstall design practice and the intentional built environment as part of a productive image of thought. James Stirling, in particular, whose career unfolds alongside significant developments in post-war spatial thought, creates an ongoing movement between the striated and the smooth, the actual and the virtual, the sedentary and nomadic, and processes of territorialisation and deterritorialisation. He treats each of these realms as multiplicities, never dialectically opposed or synthesized, and architecture as an acentred milieu of intensities and zones of indiscernibility that mediate as traces of a deformational field. His designs act as sensual expressions of new modes of subjectivity and individuation to accompany the increasingly aleatory and lacunary nature of movement, which his spatial practices make accessible to thought.
Stirling critically understands that while potentially reductive strategies of striation (representational conventions, economic considerations, client demands, construction systems, programming, context and other design constraints) are unavoidable, striation acts as a creative force only insofar as it deterritorialises the tools of the trade, creating new strategies for mapping movement, diagramming intensities, and treating constructed buildings themselves as generative machines in which expression and content converge to constitute each other. Striation reveals discontinuities in thought, as well as points of tension, disjunctions and differentials in spatial practice, giving rise to rational and irrational gaps as loci of intensities and serial composition that reimpart smooth space. The hegemony of striation, its tendency to organize an existing reality without producing new conditions of thought, is mitigated by its ability to localize and provide context, which smoothness, despite its capacity to make connections at will, necessitates in order to affect its potential for qualitative change.
Through a sophisticated interplay of the smooth and the striated, Stirling returns to the creative genesis of modernism as an open mode of thought to recover the singularity lost to the banality of functionalism and to dismantle the unproductive dualisms that plague representational modes of thought. His mature designs posit a density of signs and an archaeological palimpsest that obfuscate the boundaries between landscape and building, natural and constructed, past, present and future, acting as a critical reflection on the nature of difference over identity, maintaining a unitary and singular concept that accommodates a multiplicity of events.
I. Movement in Crisis
The nascent crisis of action, movement and thought that Deleuze finds in mid-century cinema reflects the particularly acute discursive conundrums facing all cultural, aesthetic and creative enterprises in the decades immediately following World War II, the horrors of which gave rise to a radical questioning of truth, the modernist agenda, as well as spatial and temporal relations. Deleuze identifies the point of significant impasse from which he will develop a new image of thought when he writes:
But precisely what brings this cinema of action into question after the war is the very break-up of the sensory-motor schema: the rise of situations to which one can no longer react, of environments with which there are now only chance relations, of empty or disconnected anyspace-whatevers replacing qualified extended space. It is here that situations no longer extend into action or reaction in accordance with the requirements of the movement-image. (Deleuze 1989: 272)
The movement-image structured by the sensory-motor schema assumes a rigorous causal logic to reinforce rational continuities between images and signs as they appear, as well as vestiges of teleology. The subject who confronts limitations of thought and representation continually returns to habitual modes of recognition and maintains the possibility of a universal image of totality to confine movement. Deleuze writes, ‘The characters can act, perceive, experience, but they cannot testify to the relations which determine them’ (Deleuze 1986: 201).
In order to address the incapacity of a logical sensory-motor schema to allow for new modes of thought, cinema had to question its own presuppositions through the creation of visual and auditory signs that break sensory-motor linkages and refuse extension into action, characterized by Deleuze as:
pure optical and sound situations, in which the character does not know how to respond, abandoned spaces in which he ceases to experience and to act so that he enters into flight, goes on a trip, comes and goes, vaguely indifferent to what happens to him, undecided as to what must be done. But he has gained in an ability to see what he has lost in action or reaction: he SEES so that the viewer’s problem becomes ‘What is there to see in the image?’ (and not now ‘What are we going to see in the next image?’). The situation no longer extends into action through the intermediary of affections. It is cut off from all its extensions, it is now important only for itself, having absorbed all its affective intensities, all its active extensions. (Deleuze 1989: 272)
Perception becomes detached from action and reattached to the performance of thought through irrational linkages that forestall movement. Deleuze writes, ‘The action-image then tended to shatter, whilst the determinate locations were blurred, letting any-space-whatevers rise up where the modern affects of fear, detachment, but also freshness, extreme speed and interminable waiting were developing’ (Deleuze 1986: 120-121). The crisis forces movement, consciousness and reality to take on increasingly stochastic tendencies, individual bodies to become centres of indetermination, and reality to exceed the limits of conscious thought, narrative and representation.
From Deleuze’s cinema project, we can extract concepts useful to a (re)consideration of the natural and built environments to address issues that arise when space and time are disjoined from representational modes of thought and attached to a new logic of sense and sensation. In the conclusions to his cinema project, Deleuze writes:
A theory of cinema is not ‘about’ cinema, but about the concepts that cinema gives rise to and which are themselves related to other concepts corresponding to other practices, the practice of concepts in general having no privilege over others, any more than one object has over others. It is at the level of the interference of many practices that things happen, beings, images, concepts, all the kinds of events. The theory of cinema does not bear on the cinema, but on the concepts of the cinema, which are no less practical, effective or existent than cinema itself. (Deleuze 1989: 280)
That is, the extraordinary development of signs and images Deleuze explores through cinema affords a means for considering the ways in which its concepts intervene in other aesthetic and cultural practices, including architecture.
Deleuze reframes modernism as a critical and exploratory tendency influenced by movement rather than prescriptive and proscriptive spatial guidelines. He posits a vital distinction between movement and space when he writes, ‘space covered is past, movement is present, the act of covering’ (Deleuze 1986: 1). In other words, space is divisible, part of a provisional set, while movement is whole and changes qualitatively with each division. As such, a subject who orients herself in terms of movement experiences pure relations of speed and intensity, while the subject who orients herself in terms of constructed space imposes a provisional totality. This distinction between movement and space can be read as an extended development of the distinction between smooth space as unfoldings that refuse to follow preconceived trajectories, and striated space, as structured, socialized, bounded and distributed. To think in terms of either concept is to enframe action, perception and affection in a fabric of relations, including extended milieus, histories and codes and to emphasize the capacity of sense and thought to address the genesis of movement as immediate experience here and now, as well as the very process of imaging space and time.
This imaging, which requires a belief in this world without need of emancipation or teleology, is destabilized by post-War architecture history and spatial theory, which confront the goals of modernism, its strategies and products, and experience a crisis similar to the one identified by Deleuze in cinema. In fact, the crisis is tied from the start to the built and natural environments. As physical infrastructure becomes fragmented and indeterminate, the subject’s affective disposition requires a complementary flexibility to productively navigate this new terrain, new strategies for mapping movement and its intensities, and for making movement thinkable. As Fredric Jameson notes:
[T]here has been a mutation in the object unaccompanied as yet by any equivalent mutation in the subject. We do not yet possess the perceptual equipment to match this new hyperspace, as I will call it, in part because our perceptual habits were formed in that older kind of space I have called the space of high modernism. The newer architecture therefore […] stands as something like an imperative to grow new organs, to expand our sensorium and our body to some new, yet unimaginable, perhaps ultimately impossible, dimensions. (Jameson 1992: 38-39)
The histories of late modern architecture generate anxiety concerning architecture’s perceived inability to refer to anything beyond the closed system of its own syntax. Spatial theorists further negate architecture and express a similar disillusionment, contending that architecture can only attain meaning through embodied and cultural use. In either case, these approaches reinforce dualisms between the built environment and lived experience. Architecture is exhausted either as an autonomous art object or as a relational system of functional signs. More important, like the movement-image, such formalism and ideology seek a new timelessness and universality rather than subtle strategies of perception, action and affect that reveal the genesis of thought and the production of the new. Viewing the crisis as an inability to forego ideological certainty and overt social gestures in favour of ongoing qualitative change, the modernist revolution’s undoing can be blamed on its continual recourse to a non-existent stable centre and eternal principles.
Quoting György Lukács, Manfredo Tafuri sums up the conundrum of architectural modernism, arguing that ‘a form that preserves and is open to life, does not occur’ (Tafuri 1987: 274), adding, ‘the space of life, of time as it is actually experienced, excludes the space of form or, at least, holds it constantly in check’ (Tafuri 1987: 276). Tafuri’s criticism here is aimed at two responses to the crisis of movement: flexible objects and mobile subjects. Tafuri finds the latter in ‘the aloof flâneur, deluded into thinking he can pose as a “new Baudelaire,” or to the man who would “save himself” by making his own stream of consciousness into the object of his own voyeurism’ (Tafuri 1987: 277). This is a clear reference to Walter Benjamin’s study of fin-de-siècle arcades and urban flâneurs as new strategies for mapping movement and tracing points of intensity (Benjamin 2002), which the Situationists develop further through their psychogeographcial strategies for exploring urban spaces and resisting habitual trajectories of motion. To address the flexible objects, Tafuri denounces ‘the caustic irony of the “architects without architecture”’ (Tafuri 1987: 275), an allusion to the influence of Martin Heidegger’s condemnation of institutional architecture in favour of vernacular bauen (Heidegger 1971). Finally, Tafuri laments the surrendering of ideology to the perceived flux of information and mass media being extracted from the environment by image-obsessed designs, including Archigram’s provisional and flexible structures aimed at addressing the temporal and spatial flux of the city, the ephemeral nature of urbanity, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown’s treatment of movement as a datum against which to measure the origins, development and relational dynamics of new cities (Venturi, Izenour and Scott Brown 1977).
Throughout “L’architecture dans le boudoir,” Tafuri characterizes contemporary architecture as restrained and solipsistic, producing a self-enclosed language without external referent and a regressive utopia struggling against institutional forms of language, contending that ‘the elements of the modern architectural tradition are all at once reduced to enigmatic fragments—to mute signals of a language whose code has been lost—shoved away haphazardly in the desert of history’ (Tafuri 1987: 267). He summarizes:
[M]uch more than Stirling, these architects attempt to convert into discourse the indeterminacy of the technological world: they attempt to saturate the entire physical environment with excessive amounts of revved-up information in an effort to reunite “words and things” and impart to commonplace existence an autonomous structure of communication. It is no accident, then, that the already outmoded images of Archigram and the artificial and deliberate ironies of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown or of Hans Hollein simultaneously expand and restrict the sphere of architectural intervention. They expand it insofar as they introduce the theme of dominating visible space in its entirety; they restrict it insofar as they interpret that space solely as a network of superstructures. (Tafuri 1987: 285)
And Tafuri was not the first to express scepticism about modern architecture. Jameson’s call for a new organ echoes Georg Simmel’s earlier argument that the constantly changing dynamics of physical and mental movement in the urban environment requires buffering via what he terms a “protective organ” to shield the modern individual from society, human bodies from nature, and ‘the resistance of the individual to being levelled, swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism’ (Simmel 1971: 324). Similarly, Siegfried Kracauer finds in modern phenomena, such as urban gatherings, line dances and the hotel lobby, a world in transformation to which he is unable to ascribe definitive meaning, and views as gaps without purpose, meaning without referents (Kracauer 2005: 176).
These figures share a concern with the aleatory nature of spatial practices following the crisis, and the modernism to which they are responding is comprised of architectural master narratives serving as prescriptive guidelines of correctness for judging ensuing works rather than philosophies of production that return to the creative genesis of spatial practices and the creative flows from which these dynamics emerge. However, through Michel Foucault, a spatial theorist whose study of heterotopias and “otherness” addresses aberrant action, the conflation of mental and physical space, and whose studies of asylums, hospitals, schools and prisons developed a sympathetic if unorthodox approach to architecture, Deleuze finds a means for embracing the flux of existence and gaps of meaning in the spatiotemporal environment. He writes:
But [Foucault] soon reaches another solution. If different examples of architecture, for example, are visibilities, places of visibilities, this is because they are not just figures of stone, assemblages of things and combinations of qualities, but first and foremost forms of light that distribute light and dark, opaque and transparent, seen and non-seen, etc. (Deleuze 1988: 57)
In other words, architecture operates via intensities before it ever materializes. Stirling’s work operates similarly through intensities, which cannot be forced into an antiquated formalist or modernist discursive structure, or neatly into the post-modernist paradigm of pastiche and irony. The intensities of his designs mediate what Deleuze and Guattari conceptualize as the smooth and the striated.
Architecture can only be understood in situ, which necessitates an extension of site and situatedness to incorporate movement and time, as well as percept, affect and action. The smooth and the striated are conceptually adept at negotiating these dynamics, treating architecture as assemblages linking content and expression, concrete without being functionally reductive and expressive without being naively utopian. Intensities posit architecture as metastable entities which can be lessened or augmented but cannot be divided, subtracted from or added to without qualitatively changing. Three Deleuzian ontological registers – the virtual, the actual and the intensive – are structured to evade a simple dialectical logic or oppositional reversal, fictioning new relationships between territorialisation and deterritorialisation, entropy and negentropy, the smooth and the striated, formed only by the desiring-production of the assemblage.
II. Stirling and the Striation of the Smooth
James Stirling is seminal in conceiving of the crisis in movement and for understanding its complexity, because his career unfolds alongside the development of post- or late-modernism and suggests a new material and discursive image of architecture. For Raphael Moneo, ‘the evolution of contemporary architecture begins with [Stirling]’ (Moneo 2004: 3), because his work references the myriad influences on modernism but also presages new notions of complexity. He recognizes early in his career that the popularization of the functional avant-garde rendered it banal, blind to its connection to the development of cities and societies. He continually returns to the genesis of modernism as a creative uprising to produce the eternal return of difference, rather than accepting its tenets as a dogmatic or historical certainty. He focuses on the force of events acting as organizational intensities that afford the capacity to think time, space and their potential from within a material place, recovering the singular and specific that was lost in modernism’s focus on universal construction and normative strategies.
Stirling has rewritten the “words” of modern architecture, constructing an authentic “archaeology of the present” […] that, as in his most recent works, can very well reach the point of deforming language, of exhausting it. But it always remains an exhaustion that stops short of a complete shattering of language. The works of Stirling are “texts,” not explosions of an imaginary utopia. […] The “scandal” of Stirling’s architecture is constituted by man, as he is forced to ricochet between architecture as pure object and the redundancy of hermetic messages, deranged by a “rhetoric of interruption” (Tafuri 1987: 268-269, 273).
However, this “scandal” is actually a carefully articulated interplay between machinic assemblage and collective assemblage of enunciation, or what Deleuze and Guattari define as ‘two constantly intersecting multiplicities, “discursive multiplicities” of expression and “nondiscursive multiplicities” of content” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 67). Any redundancy is strategic to avoid didacticism and posit architecture as a virtual part of a larger cultural system. The strategies of interruption productively constitute rational and irrational gaps as locus of intensities that allows for the conjunction of serial composition. That is, within a system, space and time can be organized in any fashion rather than in concert with strict, linear causality. The variability of these gaps is vital because space and time must be created to operate at different speeds and with variable rhythms. The exhaustion Tafuri finds in Stirling’s work is better conceptualized as a constant passage between the smooth and the striated, fictioning zones of indiscernibility that allow the virtual to emerge from the actual and the actual from the virtual, as well as events to emerge through smoothing but undergo analysis following striation.
In Plateau 14 of A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari posit two types of space – the smooth and the striated – which act as processes that resist a strict binary or dialectic, existing ‘only in mixture: smooth space is constantly being translated, transversed into a striated space; striated space is constantly being reversed, returned to a smooth space’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 474). The relationship between the smooth and the striated elucidates the thought and creation of space, as well as the process of subject formation and individuation that occurs through it. While each type of space can be distinguished and studied separately via de jure abstraction, the inextricable linkage of the two concepts constitutes an important element of assemblage. Assemblages are tetravalent, Deleuze and Guattari tell us, with two sides – one of material bodies, the other of semiotic expressions – both of which are constantly being pulled in two directions – one toward a molar stabilization of striation, or an articulation of a code with a milieu, and simultaneously toward its dissolution or mutation through smooth and molecular decoding or deterritorialisation that detaches and unhinges the code from its milieu. Relative deterritorialisation is counterbalanced and offset by reterritorialisation through a back-and-forth process, but in absolute deterritorialisation, the assemblage dissipates along with the subject position it enables.
The role of the material object is as important here as the process by which it is created and inhabited. Optical distance allows for striated views of the whole and the stasis of entities, while a haptic proximity allows for the smooth experience of intensities and movement. Striated space reveals context and the background against which space emerges, while smooth space, which lacks a context, allows for connections to be made freely. In addition, space traversed can be measured and studied only after it has been striated into a provisional separation or closure of a part from its durational whole, constituted by smooth space. The former process is necessary to operate in a quotidian fashion, to provide equivalences of exchange and communication, while the latter reminds us of the spatiotemporal duration of which our selective perception only affords a small portion at any time. Deleuze and Guattari write, ‘smooth space allows itself to be striated, and striated space reimparts a smooth space, with potentially very different values, scope, and signs. Perhaps we must say that all progress is made by and in striated space, but all becoming occurs in smooth space’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 486).
The process of striating the smooth is evident in Stirling’s Engineering Building at the University of Leicester (1959-1963). Leicester constitutes a complex assemblage of masses and forms to accommodate auditoriums and theatres, one- and two-story workshops covered by diamond-shaped glass, installed on the bias to capture northern light, punctuated by a vertical ensemble of towers containing offices, laboratories, lifts and stairs, as well as an exhaust chimney. Here, the autonomy of the parts reflects an acute awareness of an open whole and creates a series of events as a critical reflection on the nature of difference. Stirling employs utility to his advantage, treating stairs, rails, windows, corners as opportunities to unify the site through the creation of events at a variety of scales and to superimpose the one and the many. The drawings for the building, especially the sections and axonometrics, are expressive rather than representational, affective tools for experimenting with relations, connections, autonomy and sensations.
Tafuri reductively focuses on what he sees as the building’s linguistic solipsism, ‘based on the interweaving of complex syntactic valences and ambiguous semantic references, and also includes the “function,” the existential dimension of the work. The problem is that it deals only with a “virtual function” and not an effective function’ (Tafuri 1987: 270). That is, in reducing virtuality to what does not exist or only exists in thought or representation, Tafuri isolates the building from the world, arguing that, as text and pretext, it signifies but does not actualise utopia. The building represents the space of community and integration but has no power to act or forge tangible connections to an actual space of lived experience. Kenneth Frampton echoes these sentiments in referring to the building’s ship-like appearance as “A dream with maritime associations” (reprinted in Tafuri 1987: 269), or in Tafuri’s own words, “a virtual iceberg that navigates in the sea of the park in which it is casually placed, according to a mysterious course” (Tafuri 1987: 269).
Tafuri and Frampton, unlike Stirling, fail to associate the building as machinic assemblage and collective assemblage of enunciation, which can never be separated. Stirling’s mature work should rather be treated as a series of abstract machines in which plans, sections, elevations and perspectives operate transformatively, allowing expression and content to converge. Diagrams in this sense are neither representations of a building nor formal tools for corralling contextual complexity, but rather generative devices that guide but never dictate an open process that avoids foreclosing the building to the virtual potential of a life after completion of construction. The edifice itself, as opposed to idealistic representations of it, operates as a diagram of intensity negotiating the virtual and actual, the smooth and the striated. Deleuze and Guattari write:
A true abstract machine has no way of making a distinction within itself between a plane of expression and a plane of content . . . [It] is neither an infrastructure that is determining in the last instance nor a transcendental Idea that is determining in the supreme instance. Rather, it plays a piloting role. The diagrammatic or abstract machine does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality. Thus . . . it does not stand outside history, but is instead always “prior to” history (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 142).
At Leicester, Stirling takes modernism in a new direction that eschews the sleek finishes and empty formalism of earlier modernism in favour of affective intensities that deterritorialise the banal and reductivist strategies of modernism. For Stirling, autonomy is less a means of exploring individual expression than it is a way of allowing for the singular to subvert the universal. Materially, the building actually responds to a rather tight site on a university campus, and, despite its iconic appearance, is anything but floating in space.
The design’s “quotations” – references to nineteenth-century British structural engineering, Paxton’s Crystal Palace, Russian constructivism, Italian Futurism, as well as the heroic modernism of Le Corbusier – do not emerge as easy witticisms or obvious references. Rather, they acknowledge that, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, ‘information and communication, and even signifiance and subjectification, are subordinate to redundancy’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 79). That is, language, as well as building details, is repeated within a social field and does not emerge from individual minds or objects. Stirling’s forms repeat and reference to situate themselves within flows of language and meaning that precede subjectivity. The building, as such, neither stands outside the system of cultural production nor merely repeats without difference a message ad nauseam. Rather it situates itself within a material and discursive flow that performatively enacts incorporeal transformations. This is a radically different experience from the supposed “conceptual destruction” referenced by Tafuri, who writes, ‘Stirling reduces the solid volume to a paper-thin surface; where the glass would seem to suggest a dematerialization—the block of sheds or the office tower—he treats the glass as a prism, thereby making it contradict its ‘natural’ evanescence’ (Tafuri 1987: 271). The inversion of mass and void, solid and transparency, strong and weak materials is more appropriately treated as Stirling’s creative capacity to highlight the virtual potential of materials. The building decodifies materials and decentres tectonic expectations, dispersing its communicative and informational function.
III. Stirling and the Smoothing of the Striated
This process of deterritorialisation and striation also provides a new milieu, which enables striated space to be resmoothed through differentials of speed, delays, accelerations, variations, dis- and re-orientations. This smooth space is needed to implement qualitative change within our environments, since stratification only organizes an existing reality in stasis. As Brian Massumi writes, ‘The originality of a cultural process is measured by the complexity and productiveness of the new problems it creates, not the neatness of its creative solutions; for in complexity there is life’ (Massumi 2001: 1072). In this sense, the actual emerges from the virtual, which is a non-metric continuum, a state of constant creation, part of this world of becoming and a world yet to come, repeatedly defined by Deleuze as ‘real without being actual, ideal without being abstract.’[i] Such smooth space is comprised of forces and sensations in which dwelling is subordinated to the journey, interior and exterior are integrated along with the intensive and extensive, and in which connections can be made at will to create a provisional whole arising from the fragments of the city. According to Deleuze and Guattari, if the sea was increasingly striated by the sky above and its derivative measurements, the developments of commercial cities, especially by the State, soon followed suit, acting as a territorialising force. They elaborate, ‘In contrast to the sea, the city is the striated space par excellence; the sea is a smooth space fundamentally open to striation, and the city is the force of striation that reimparts smooth space, puts it back into operation everywhere, on earth and in the other elements, outside but also inside itself’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 481). The city accomplishes this re-smoothing by developing points of tension and intensity through sprawl and disjunction, which also adds a third, spatial dimension to the smooth and striated, which remain two-dimensional systems of points, lines and vectors in A Thousand Plateaus.[ii]
The most critical and productive architecture for Stirling emerges through the development of three urban museums designed for German cities: the Nordrhein-Westfalen in Dusseldorf (1975), the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne (1975), and the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart (1977-1983), only the latter of which was constructed. The process of the Neue Staatsgalerie’s creation is revealed as one of intensities beginning with drawings – sketches of widely disparate elements progressing down the urban hillside, staging episodes and engaging the physical and historical landscape in a critical discourse. As Moneo writes, “This is architecture where the accidental predominates, and where the guiding thread is movement” (Moneo 2004: 41). However, movement becomes a sculptural event, superseding the conventional promenade architecturale. Movement is tied as much to the staging of sensation, instilling a lack of repose or closure to the elements in the design by always referring to something yet to come. The architect’s capacity to create, fuse together and obfuscate the boundaries between archaeological layers is a robust strategy for moving beyond the crisis of movement.
Of this archaeological process, Tafuri writes that its ‘reassemblage follows two seemingly divergent laws: on the one hand, it imitates the mechanical world; on the other, it reduces the formal assemblages, obtained by the accumulation of forms, to a succession of “event”’ (Tafuri 1987: 271). However, such event architecture is what distinguishes it from high modernism and allows the building to address the flux of change. This architecture is never merely discursive. This archaeology, like that at Leicester, is temporal and spatial, productively mining the remains of modernism rather than desperately lamenting its downfall or nostalgically rescuing souvenirs from a more idealistic modernism. While Colin Rowe, Stirling’s teacher and foil, lamented the lack of facades in the project, this can be read as symptomatic of Rowe’s inability to move beyond historical precedent and overarching structures for representational or symbolic design. Anthony Vidler writes, ‘Without a face or façade, Rowe believed a building lost any frontality, and thus any “metaphorical plane of intersection between the eyes of the observer and what one might dare to call the soul of the building (its condition of internal animation)”’ (Vidler 2008: 103). Rowe’s concept of movement, in other words, remains picturesque and classical, while Stirling’s incorporates more subtle forms of animation and duration.
Neue Staatsgalerie was primarily designed in plan and given a relatively modest section measured against its surroundings, a strategy that allows the building to read as a topographical extension of the city rather than an object in it. The collage of forms and details expressively unites as it makes the building’s relations productively indiscernible. Formally, the unbalanced symmetry is reinforced by the irregular, elemental forms of the rotunda and cubic gallery spaces on either side of the dynamic entrance. The most overt historical reference is to Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Berlin Altes Museum, which is here fragmented, then reconnected with a pronounced promenade and embedded into the urban environment of Stuttgart. Elements of the recent past appear in the form of an exact copy of Le Corbusier’s detailing, as well as references to Stirling’s own Olivetti building at Hazelmere. Virtual duration emerges through actual haptic and optical experiences in which contextual background alternatively submerges and re-emerges to allow for intensities of experience, connections and colours to counterpoise the stretches of classical stone revetment.
The smooth and striated mark a division between intensive and extensive space and resituate embodiment, the subject’s relationship to shelter, how she segregates herself from, or forms an assemblage with, the environment. For Deleuze and Guattari, the creation of materials and activities constitute technology as a process that imbricates humans, tools and matter (e.g. woman-needle-fabric). Striated space is given a function, which is imparted on a subject, while smooth space allows subjects to distribute themselves within and throughout space to form a new assemblage (human-building-environment). In striated space, the house separates the body from its surroundings and demarcates a boundary between interior and exterior. That is, the striated annexes and segregates through immobile shelter. Smooth strategies, on the other hand, integrate interior and exterior, emphasize the journey and act to filter the environment. Nomadic tents are constructed for constant assembly, disassembly, adaptation and movement along heterogeneous trajectories.
In this light, Neue Staatsgalerie can be seen as a spatial and temporal palimpsest that smooths the striated city, creating a new structure while connecting disparate elements of its environment. It stands as a singular assemblage containing a multiplicity of events, an material envelope addressing a multiplicity of complex social, institutional and technical demands. Figure and ground, system and environment, architecture and landscape all oscillate, preventing the structure from being read as an autonomous object. Stirling’s true accomplishment here is to install complexity through a density of signs that release history, memory and time and resist a reductive formal clarity. The building operates like Bartleby, ‘the man without references, without possessions, without properties, without qualities, without particularities: he is too smooth for anyone to be able to hang any particularity on him. Without past or future, he is instantaneous’ (Deleuze 1998: 74).
Architecture as a professional practice is heavily striated through economics, client demands, programming, functional and other constraints, as well as through conventional representational tools (plans, sections, perspectives, diagrams) legible by clients, contractors, consultants and builders. Striation allows for certain predictability and workability within space, which can only be measured via translation into metric space. That is, a building as actual and material operates to make the virtual visible. Striation assures we are working within a system, not from outside it, and allows us to divide and measure space, while smooth space, measured only in terms of force, guards against territorialising hegemony and cannot be divided without qualitatively changing. Striation reveals a provisional process of selection from a purview of reality, while smoothing reminds us of the durational whole of which our selection only reveals a part, a process of negotiation Bergson termed intuition.
Tafuri fears that symbolism as external to life is all that speaks through architecture in the form of either the monument as ‘the artificial creation of a collective memory’ or the tomb as ‘the illusion of a universe beyond death’ (Tafuri 1987: 275). That is, by reifying aspects of the lifeworld, architecture renders them impotent and precludes the human element of chance along with ‘that expression par excellence of change, human behavior’ (Tafuri 1987: 273). However, Stirling reveals an excess of reality that supplants conscious thought, narrative, and representation and reveals the virtual as real, not opposed to it or as illusory. That is, any architectural resolution is provisional, understanding that the life of a building continues long after the design process. Perhaps, most importantly, this is a ceaseless process in which ‘Nothing is ever done with’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 486).
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