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The Fragmentation Of Architectural Elements

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Rather than conceiving buildings by assembling their functional spaces together, Deconstructive Architecture fragments the elements of the functional spaces and reassembles them towards conceiving an architectural concept.

“This is not a new style; the projects do not simply share an aesthetic.” [Mark Wigley on page 10 of Deconstructivist Architecture]

Mark Wigleyclassified the projects featured in “Deconstructivist Architecture” to be the ones which they do not share a common aesthetic, yet he endorsed it with the Constructivist influence.

During the lecture “On the Edge”, Prix praised the work by the engineer Oskar Graf, responsible for the structure of the Open House in Malibu as Deconstructivist, because Graf approached the complex proposal by breaking up the structure into elements to in order to calculate them separately.

“Our statistics expert, Oscar Graf, always says that we build things that are a cross between a bridge and an aircraft. Actually, he is the deconstructivist; he dissects the complicated and complex systems into systems into separate parts in order to do the calculations.” [Wolf D. Prix on page 23 of Architecture in Transition]

In the introduction to his book Form Follows Form, dedicated to exposing Constructivism, Kestusis Paul Zygas attempts to draw a distinction between the Soviet movement of the twenties and the International Style applied in western Europe, focused on the components of a building rather than its volume.

“The Soviet modernists were convinced that they had made a clean break with traditional forms, and that their innovations were truly radical because their architectural language was based on disconnected components rather than the geometrical absolutes still belaboured by and still enthralling the International Stylists of Western Europe”. [Kestusis Paul Zygas on page XX of Form Follows Function]

The Constructivist process consists of not conceiving the building as a whole but rather as an assemblage of components, which are non-dependant in their spatial quality, shape or form and are reassembled to create one building.

Although the same process of displacing has occurred in the 1920’s, where Modern and Constructivist Architecture did question the values of Classical Architecture, deconstruction differs in the sense that the ideology behind it is not determined.

Peter Noeber also emphasised the similarity between the aesthetics Deconstructive Architecture to the Constructivist architecture of the 1920s.

In the preface titled On Architecture Today, he classifies the Deconstructive architecture as the implementing version of the Constructivism considering the fact that the Soviet modern architecture was never applied in construction.

The analogy Noeber’s uses in his argument remain the severing, separating, breaking, fragmenting process, which is followed by their reassembly.

“Historiography knows but ignores the fact that the Constructivist framework, with its new way of seeing, its transformed Weltanschawng, had already based itself in the final analysis on a Deconstructivist idea, an idea regarding art and architecture that separates, surveyors, breaks, fragments, but at the same time as reconstituted the bits and pieces gained in the process into comprehensive principle, causing them to become the essential characteristic of modern twentieth – century art”.[Peter Noeber on page 7 of Architecture in Transition]

Furthermore, the same term of fragmentation has appeared in the vocabulary of Zaha Hadid in a lecture named “Recent Work”, claiming that her inspiration originates from Suprematist art and architecture, specifically on the notion of fragmentation.

“Thus begun the understanding of the whole notion of Suprematism and how it was to be integrated into architecture, how its degree of dynamic could be interpreted in architecture, how the plan could be developed in a new way. The whole notion of and architectural student were no longer valid”. [Zaha Hadid on page 47 of Architecture in Transition]

Throughout most of the Zaha Hadid’s work fragmentation is apparent, and if one looks at the Cincinnati Art Centre from the outside the building appears to be made out of different levels where volumes differ at each level in volumetric and material terms.

In the interior, the escalators give the impression that they are not a part of this building and reflect a temporary presence.

Another focus on distinguishing the architectural elements is apparent in Parc de la Villette whereby Tschumi has assembled three independent elements such as lines, points and surfaces.

Although these three elements lines, points and surfaces are not new in the architectural practice, in Parc de la Villette their use is unconventional since they have been separated and reassembled independently from one another.

“The principle of super imposition of three autonomous systems of points, lines and surfaces was developed by rejecting the totalising synthesis of the objective constraints evident in the majority of large scale projects.”
[Bernard Tschumi on page 198 of Architecture in Disjunction]

So one may consider that Tschumi has used these three conventional tools to define a space but in this case, they are completely independent of one another. The fragmentation is traced also in the diagrammatic analysis, whereby the constructive area is fragmented and spread around across the site.

Peter Eisenman’s buildings where the walls of the building are set off from the columns and therefore the architectural elements act independently from one another. This fragmentation is present in the Wexner Centre for the Visual Arts designed by Peter Eisenman for Ohio State University.

This fragmentation of architectural elements yet again appears on House III, which is evident from the diagram studies carried out.

Charles Jencks confirms that the fragmentation is also present in the work of Frank Gehry whilst stating that his method of using deconstruction is very obvious since he manages to smash existing buildings into parts. [Charles Jencks on page 18 of Deconstruction in Architecture]

Presented above are a few examples of the elemental architecture where the components are designed individually and reassembled.

However, Iakov Chernikov has theorised to a great extent about this Lego-like approach since 1931, in a book named Fantasy and Construction, revealing new concepts about how architecture could evolve.

He objects to the visionless architecture where geometrical volumes are applied and appeals for them to be perceived as a machine, which is composed of components and dynamic forces, rather than unified or static entities.

In what is believed to be the most inspiring and authentic publication of its time which is currently applied in architecture, Chernikov could be considered as the instigator of the aesthetics in deconstructivist architecture.

The book written by Chernikov Fantasy and Construction is without a doubt the deconstructive architect’s bible. The book has been so well written that it would be impossible to just speak about a particular strategy or approach to architectural design pinpointing new directions in the architectural design.

“…Classical aesthetics as historically developed were based upon:
1 enforced symmetry of structure
2 The rhythm of simple repetition
3 combination of different component elements on universally ‘beautiful’ principles
The first two of these compositional principles are two partial to serve as a basis for us. We have to look to other sources of formal harmony. Many such principles were present in classical work, but hidden. Their elucidation is amongst the most interesting of our present tasks, the main ones being;
1 free asymmetries in the assembly of the elements of the functional principles
2 The minimum use of simple repetitive rhythms and their replacement by the rhythm of dynamic diversified combinations
3 the harmonic interrelationship of the component element by the subtle proportions of their vertical and horizontal dimensions
4 adjustment of the tonal force of component elements in accordance with the impressions sought of the viewer
5 maximally expressive use of colour effects to manifest the constructive and other characteristics of the planes and surfaces being treated
These are the rules which must be the basis of the new harmonies.”
[Iakov Chernikov on page 30 of Fantasy and Construction]

“The wealth of form in general and the diversity of possible combinations of different elements make the range of possible constructive solutions infinitely great. This does not at all ease the task of classifying constructions by types, given the lack of precision pervading this whole issue.”
“However, we can classify constructive solutions according to their generally dominating properties. On these bases we can distinguish the following general types
1 Amalgamation
2 Combination
3 Assemblage
4 Conjugation’
[Iakov Chernikov on page 30 of Fantasy and Construction]

Having mentioned the notion of displacement in the previous chapter, deconstructivist architecture tends to treat the building as a self-contained city.

The fragmentation of a building and the reassembly of the components is equal to the ways the cities are built, as no city in the world has been built all at once.

From the aesthetical point the UFA Cinema Centre in Dresden which was designed by Coop Himenblau it resembles a perimeter walled medieval town with an internal covered courtyard before actually entering the cinema building.

Therefore a visitor to the cinema enters the building and finds himself in the courtyard just as the one would do when entering the gates of the medieval town.

This strategy in designing a building similar to a way a city is built can be found in the Berlin ‘City Edge’ proposal by Daniel Libeskind. His proposal consists of fragmented blocks reassembled.

The same principle of assembling components of the building are present in the Bio-Centrum in Frankfurt-am-Main, designed by Peter Eisenman where individual blocks are reassembled back together.

Therefore, rather than conceiving buildings by assembling their functional spaces together, Deconstructive Architecture fragments the elements of the functional spaces and reassembles them towards conceiving an architectural concept.

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