Adolf Loos fiercely condemned in his famous Streitschrift “Ornament and Crime” the décor of buildings as a “waste of time and resources” his main argument was that the laborious manual production of ornamentation stole the lifetime away of the craftsman involved in the production. What was lost in designed ornamentation was replaced by the visually rich qualities of stone striations, polished brass and undulating architectural garments. Loos was enormously successful in inducing fear of articulation in the architectural discipline. Dismissing any form of spatial articulation was quick at hand in any architectural discussion, and it only was reborn in the ironic, o rather cynical, techniques applied by an entire generation of postmodern architects.
What if we leave behind the fear of mood? What if we intentionally work with aspects of atmosphere? Chromatic effects, dissolved walls, flirting ceilings, firm symmetries, adventurous illuminations, a staccato of floors, multitudes of hairpin columns and awe inspiring naves?
Current philosophy explores the possibility to work with mood, albeit in a literal approach, just to mention one example: Harman’s H.P. Lovecraft and philosophy scrutinize the Lovecraftian literary universe of weird objects, fear-inducing meteorites, sailor swallowing corners, ancient arctic beings, and alien voices vomited by humans. All of which evoke atmospheres of horror, the uncanny, unfamiliar and weird. At the same time, these deformations, or speculations, on the nature of objects allow for superb architectural speculations. The before mentioned qualities of the unfamiliar and the weird include the possibility to speculate about alternative can of aesthetics. The only reason why any object can be considered strange, weird, or even ugly is that it challenges preconceived, culturally imprinted, notions of beauty2. Once those shackles fall, it opens alternative ways to explore other aesthetic conditions. It allows to openly discuss how design can evoke a response. Not necessarily in a human observer, as this once more would imply an anthropo-centristic universe. (This needs further explanation) but rather the evocation or even provocation per se becomes the condition sine qua non.
A Posthuman Condition
Early 19th century romanticism was fascinated by the possibility to utilize emotion as a source of inspiration for works of art. Disciplines such as the visual arts as well as literature where quick to embrace the opportunities inherent in an empiric approach to artistic production. Even if it was only to produce a fantasized result (exemplified in the works of the pre-Raphaelites and literary works such as Frankenstein and Alice in Wonderland)
Can Mood be a disciplinary problem in Architecture?
Evoking through design. Is it possible to quantify the atmosphere of a building or is it rather as Schopenhauer stated – a matter of the sublime condition – Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. The projects in these pages serve as illustrations for a formative phase in the design world of SPAN. The main argument being the secession from digital design purely explicated by its technological qualities, and abandoning arguments that emphasize the tool over the cultural potentialities, the material culture over the symbolic culture, and the utilitarian qualities over philosophical potentialities. Rather these projects embrace the possibility of a post-human design condition in which the raw, the coarse, the chiaroscuro of automated figurations, the fine-grained, and qualities of spatial articulation are embraced as a disciplinary problem.
The projects on these pages oscillate between autonomous objects and disciplinary provocations. Ore un-shelves one of main disciplinary problems: turning the corner. The corner becomes the main provocateur, oscillating in a different frequency. To tie the projects to an architectural tradition, the projects deal with specific disciplinary problems, such as the corner (Ore) the nine square grid (More) and symmetry (Barcelona Recursion, et al)