reading: The Complex and the Singular by Sanford Kwinter

Sanford Kwinter’s essay The Complex and the Singular lays out an interesting criticism of modernism and an approach for architecture, reinserting time as a dominant dimensional consideration over space. He is interested in the novelty, “a politics of form based on the productive, the positive, the mobile, the new,” and moving away from the static. By emphasizing time, Kwinter is reckoning with volitility, as he states that “all change is change over time.” He lays out four requirements, which I find to be rather fascinating within the context of my own trajectory. These requirements include: “redefine the traditional concept of the object; reintroduce and radicalize the theory of time; conceive of “movement” as a first principle and not merely a special, dismissable case; and embed these latter three within an all-encompassing theory of the event.” These principles ring true for me as principles for this project, in de-emphasizing the architectural product (or building) and rather focusing on radical systems of interaction between people.

Another quote further into the text also seems particularly poignant relative to my trajectory. He writes,

“Architecture’s proper and primary function, it could be said–at least in the modern era–is the instrumental application of mastery, not only to an external, nonhuman nature, but to a human–social, psychological–nature as well. This method in no way excludes a guerilla architecture of subversion and resistance, such as the active “resingularizing” of the familiar and precoded, amplifying the transformative power of the contingent through an ethics of flexible, or “opportunistic” vigilance, or tapping the history-producing forces of the emergent and untimely. On the contrary, this vision of the technical world as a constellation of active agencies (rather than fixed or sedimented constructs) invites intervention as a detournement of moving, flexible processes.”

With this quote, I see many connections back to the urban ideals of Lefebvre and the situationists. Again, this emphasis of change and flexibility within design is advocating for a user-determined concept for the city which changes just as people’s patterns of use change. The event and use are primary concerns of architecture within the fields of space and time.

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