Rather than focusing on how their buildings look, deconstructive architects are concerned about how their feel, through reinscripting the architectural elements.
“As for architecture, I think that Deconstruction comes about – let us carry on using this word to save time – when you have deconstructed some architectural philosophy, some architectural assumptions – for instance the hegemony of the aesthetic, of beauty, the hegemony of usefulness, of functionality, of dwelling but then you have to reinscribe these motifs within the work. You can’t (or you shouldn’t) simply dismiss those values of dwelling, functionality, beauty and so on. You have to construct, so to speak, a new space and a new form, to shape a new way of building in which these motifs or values are reinscribed, having meanwhile lost their external hegemony. The inventiveness of powerful architects consists I think in this reinscription, the economy of this reinscription, which involves also some respect for tradition, for memory.”
[Jacqes Derrida on page 9 of Deconstruction in Architecture]
The other aspect characterising deconstructive architecture in the theoretical aspect depicted by Derrida is the one of reinscription, identifying it as the key to producing genuine architecture and highly esteemed architecture.
Architectural language in the Modernist vocabulary has been strictly technical and technological, relying on lines, numbers and text that generally served the purpose of specifying the materials, generating spaces without much consideration to poetry, music, wind or rain.
The modernists were obedient to the codes and principles of the stencil produced buildings, which actually did not respond to whatever event it housed or location it occupied, as long as they delivered a building true to the aesthetics of their style.
The language of aesthetics was the only means of communication in the past architectural ideologies, reliant upon their knowledge of the manufacturers and contractors.
Materials and their composition were the only languages through which architecture communicated in the past, and there were no in-between means of exploring the alternative potentials of a space.
Coop Himmelblau has acknowledged this issue of a mute architecture speaking only through materials, by comparing the difficulties in the modernist architecture, where the language is detached from the building to the absence of reinforced concrete in building the Tower of Babel.
Coop Himmelblau considers the language as an inseparable part of an architectural creativity.
“The builders of the Tower of Babel were missing the material reinforced concrete. We are missing the material of the confusion of languages which we need to complete it”
[Prix & Swiczinsky on page 15 of The End of Innovation in Architecture]
Coop Himmelblau identifies the problems that architecture of the past has had and considers the language as a constructive material in its own right.
Peter Eisenman has embraced the factor of describing the building as a paramount element to his work.
To Eisenman, the text applied to a building holds more value than the actual spatial outcome of the building, and he uses the text to lead him to what he refers to as traces, which have no objective but actually provide a tool to conceive an idea.
This process of constructing the text, which reflects the aim of the proposal, is beneficial to Eisenman as well as to the client because writing presents a useful tool in defining his objectives necessary to complete his design.
“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 the be read literally since they have no other value than to signal the idea that three is a reading event and that reading should take place; trace signals the idea to read. Thus a trace is a partial or fragmentary signal; it has no objecthood.”
[Peter Eisenman on page 533 of Architecture Theory Since 1968]
Eisenman has reinscribed the use of diagram in architecture, used to communicate an accomplished idea.
“…Separate form from function, form from meaning and the architect from the process of design”
[Peter Eisenman on page 214 of Diagram Diaries]
To Eisenman, the diagrams serve as a tool that is applied in the early stages of the design process since they provide the means of detaching an image from an idea.
In his design of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Daniel Libeskind has actually reinscribed the term void, which he applied in the Jewish Museum in Berlin they become a central part of a building.
The void is not used to accommodate mechanical utilities, and whereas in the past it was generally perceived as a meaningless or empty space, Libeskind used it to communicate a message which relates to the reason for which the Jewish Museum has been built.
The void according to Libeskind has a purpose to convey and represent the actual absence of the resident Jews killed or gone missing throughout the Holocaust years.
The Void does is stripped of heating, air-conditioning and is not brightened by internal electrical lights in order to present the emptiness that the Holocaust has inflicted on the Jewish history of Berlin.
“The void is a space you enter in the museum which organises the museum, and yet it is not really a part of the museum. It is not heated, it is not air conditioned, furthermore, it is not really a museum space. Yet ‘Die leere’ is something else which is very much a part of the space for an exhibition, space-space it is the space of Berlin, because it refers to that which can never be exhibited when it comes to the Jewish Berlin history. It has been reduced to ashes.”
[Daniel Libeskind on page 30 of Jewish Museum Berlin]
The other reinscription traced in the Jewish Museum in Berlin is the actual footprint of the building. Libeskind confined the parameter of the building by joining the intersections of the lines that were connecting the addresses, where contributing Jewish citizens of Berlin used to live prior to the Holocaust.
Therefore, The Jewish Museum walls are reinscribed in the way that not only they serve as means of sheltering but also as means of direction to the history of Jewish activity of Berlin’s past.
“Libeskind derived its zigzag contours in part from imaginary lines on the city map which connect the site with the addresses of great figures in Berlin Jewish cultural history – Heinrich von Kleist, Heinrich Heine, Mies van der Rohe, Rahel Varnhage, Walter Benjamin, Arnold Schönberg.”
[Bernhard Schneider on page 36 of Daniel Libeskind Jewish Museum Berlin]
Another reinscription can be found at Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette to which he refers to as an “urban park”. Tschumi redefines the notion of the park by not following the utopian approach to creating a place in a city for the Parisians to escape to.
In his proposal, Tschumi proposed the construction of architectural elements that do not serve a particular function yet they are intended to remind the visitor of their adjacent urban environment.
[Bernard Tschumi on page 175 of Architectural Paradox]
Zaha Hadid in the Cincinnati Arts Centre implied a new term to the building, which is the “urban carpet”. The architect’s intention was to create a continuous and unobstructed movement from the outside to the inner spaces of the Arts Centre. [Zaha Hadid on page 68 of Icon, June issue, 2003]
In his project proposal for the Seattle Public Library, Ren Koolhaas has reinscribed the notion of a staircase. Whereas the staircase in the past constituted a vertical element of circulation in the building he designed it also serves a purpose of storing the books.
Therefore, the staircase becomes the means of getting from one floor to another and at the same time from one book to another. [Rem Koolhaas on page 77 of Icon, June issue, 2004]
In response to the Hegelian interpretation of architecture being merely an artistic supplement to a building, Tschumi uses the successful examples of the Pyramid and the Labyrinth whose qualities are not to be found in their artistic supplements but in activities and experience surrounding them.
In his book, Architecture and Disjunction, Tschumi underlines two fundamental qualities interrelated with two architectural icons in the self-evident chapters:
“The Pyramid: Stating the Nature of Space (or The Dematerialization of Architecture)”
“The Labyrinth: Making Space Distinct (or The Experience of Space)”
Bernard Tschumi invites the reader to review the qualities of the established construction icons, such as the Pyramid and the Labyrinth, which are equally powerful and engraved as outstanding in mind of individuals to which they were exposed.
Above are presented a few of the examples of reinscription occurring in architecture, and they constitute a supplement added to a building that gives new dimensions to architectural elements and spaces by introducing specific connotations responding to the events it houses.
However, according to Christina Lodder, this reinscription is not new in architecture and could be traced to the 1930s Suprematists, who were also preoccupied with the fourth dimension of a building the one which explores the experience that involves the observer/ user.
“The spiritual dimension of such works adds credence to the hypothesis that the development of Suprematism owed a debt to Malevich’s metaphysical pursuit of the fourth dimension”
[Christina Lodder on page 20 of Russian Avant-Garde Art and Architecture]
Therefore, rather than focusing on how their buildings look, deconstructivist architects are concerned about how their feel.