Toward an Architecture of Suspension: Promiscuous Collisions of Transient Cartographies by Farzam Yazdanseta is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
This thesis would not have been realized without the help of my great friend John W. Bryant
I am grateful to the following individuals for their support and enthusiasm:
Filippo Caprioglio, KEA Distinguished Professor
Elizabeth “Libby” Babcock
Assistant Professor Sonja Duempelmann
for volunteering her time and her tremendous help throughout my thesis
Many political experts argue that we have tried too hard to fully resolve international and geopolitical conflicts by trying to negotiate full and lasting resolutions. International crises are dangerous episodes that are destabilizing not only to those directly involved but also to the entire international community. Long and exhaustive methods aimed at negotiating conflicts to end crisis have not been effective and have resulted in deaths and human suffering that may not have been necessary. What is evident is that international conflict is increasing and has rendered the world as a more dangerous place to live and has exposed future generations to greater peril. A growing number of experts in the United Nations diplomatic community contend that the best and the most expeditious way to end deadly violence in the world is to suspend conflict, to promote and extend a suspension of conflict, rather than seeking to overcome it. This thesis will investigate and explore the ways in which qualities of architecture can assist the suspension of deadly conflict. I am interested in discovering how architecture can help diminish the intensity and scale of conflict by creating a place where constructive talks between conflicting parties can be best carried out. How can architecture help to achieve a greater comfort between conflicted parties when searching for a less threatening ground? Can architecture foster greater empathy between adversaries?
my thesis committee
I am very fortunate to have the two most influential people in my life as my committee members. Without their mentorship and guidance I would not have graduated to this level today. I am grateful for all their efforts in shaping my education in the right direction. My committee chair Dean and Professor Garth Rockcastle and Professor Michael Ambrose.
“…Peace among men, it is important to note, is not the object of desire, not by any stretch of the historical, political, or sociological imagination. Nothing unites a community, with all the good fellowship and cooperation one can imagine, like the external threat of a common enemy. But the threat is originally internal; it is the violent threat of all against all. It is the annihilating threat of this internal difference, or difference, that we have rematerialized in the postwar, postmodern era; with the world itself at stake all differences would by definition be “internal” differences…war is a state of order, a classic state of lines and of columns, of maps and of strategies. It is a remedy to the violence of the furious, raging multitude…a society makes war to avoid at all costs a return to that state. Peace, then, is not the object of desire, but its by-product, the calm to which the deferred appropriation of the victim gives rise. It is a calm logically-that is, necessarily-attributed to the miraculous agency of the victim, thanks to whom for the first time something like a before (war) and after (peace), an outside (sacred) and inside (community), is marked-marked-, above all, as remarked, for its experience is necessarily mimetic and collective…” Andrew J, McKenna, Violence and Difference, Girard, Derrida and Deconstruction
Architecture can help suspend conflict. In order to do that it needs to be rarified and move beyond the normative expression employed in our typical surrounding world. This architecture needs to create a space and represent ideas to help compel us to act otherwise. Architecture of suspension can help critically awakens an otherwise passive and complacent public by stirring our imaginations and challenging our assumptions. It can thereby help us awaken empathy in other human beings and their circumstances or plights. It appears that 60 years of United Nations effort and agency has failed to resolve deadly global conflict. Conflict is a necessary byproduct of tensions and differences but conflict escalates to destructive levels when parties fail to see or accept differences in each other and come to abuse or transgress each other’s fundamental rights to exist. The ultimate goal for the new complementary United Nations Conflict Suspension Center on Roosevelt Island is not to try to eliminate conflict but to help suspend it. Architecture of suspension begins with a sharing of a presentation or choreography of the “others” strife. At first, in Isolation, adversaries need to learn more of the other, their pain, their dreams and their needs. They prepare to open themselves to others. My thesis takes the position that this best happens on an Island that even though removed, is not isolated for it exists in close visual and spatial proximity to Manhattan and Queens. This simultaneous separation and connection will be part of the architectural language of my thesis, a new United Nations Center. I am proposing that by the means of art, theatre and exhibitions prepare adversaries to better understand each other. Divergent cultural values and perspectives along with utilizing more abstract, less conventional images and spatial qualities will be embraced in this thesis to help me set alternative design parameters and discover new ideas for spaces that I believe can help bring the adversaries together. These will become spaces of sharing, healing and common ground. Spaces that facilitate building trust and empathy. In addition, housing, another component of the program, will be designed to help brings adversaries closer together.
The si(gh)te, Southpoint Park, with its mythical history is charged for hosting such an event. Southpoint has had a history of shifting. Over its various incarnations, the outline of the islands southern tip has expanded dramatically, mainly as a result of manmade efforts and human impacts on the earth. At the time of its construction, the Smallpox Hospital sat overlooking the edge of the island. 1975, the site had repositioned itself in such a manner that the building laid almost 900 feet from the islands southernmost edge. The island’s original boundaries are is now impossible to discern without a map. Design inspirations could be drawn from forces at work in and around the island, both visible and invisible. A fundamental question might be how is this “new ground” that is being added (and lost?) in the river corridor become an asset to the thesis? And how might the phenomena of that shifting ground become a part of the conceptual thinking about the project in this location? Some of these influences include the subway tunnel which transverses the island, the harsh tides of the East River with their diurnal swing in direction and sight lines to other natural and manmade New York phenomena.
“…The traditional sense of space is only produced in the very gesture of its subordination. To interfere with that gesture is to produce a very different sense of space, a sense that at once disturbs and produces the tradition. It is to mark this sense that Derrida uses the word “spacing” a word that carries some of the connotations that the tradition attaches to space in its attempt to dismiss it but also caries senses that cannot be recognized by the tradition. To disturb the tradition involves subverting its attempt to detach itself from space by identifying that attempt as a form of institutional resistance that attempts to conceal the convoluted structure of the tradition that makes it The exclusion and subordination of space produces an orderly façade, or, rather the façade of order, to mask an internal disorder. The traditional anxiety about space marks a forbidden desire that threatens to collapse the edifice of philosophy from within.”
Andrew J, McKenna, Violence and Difference, Girard, Derrida and Deconstruction
Traditional Modern architecture, the language used to signify the United Nations identity, on the edge of East River in New York, I believe is now showing its limits. A new and more rare architecture could disrupt and the boundaries of this tradition by the means of spacing. Spacing is not about literal space (a noun) but what Derrida describes as becoming space (a verb) or that which is meant to become without space (presence, speech, spirit, ideas, and so on). It is that which opens up a space, both in the sense of fissuring an established structure, dividing it or complicating its limits, but also in the sense of producing space itself as an opening in the tradition. Spacing is at once splintering and productive. As Derrida puts it, “spacing is a concept which also, but not exclusively, carries the meaning of a productive, positive, generative, force…it carries along with it a genetic motif: it is not only the interval, the space constituted between two things (which is the usual sense of spacing) but also spacing, the operation, or in any event, the movement of setting aside.” As an Iranian American, raised in Iran during the eight-year deadly conflict between Iran and Iraq, I am motivated to bring my personal emotions and recollections into this architectural language of this thesis project. For me architecture is a form of expression that helps me release my personal and emotional feelings about my surrounding world. Iran has been a prime subject of international politics and major party of numerous heightened conflicts since the creation of United Nations. Architecture of the United Nations Center seeks to foster greater empathy between adversaries in order to suspend deadly conflict. The success of projects like the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum Complex in Israel, by Moshie Safdie, the Memorial for Murdered Jews in Berlin, by Peter Eisenman, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin, by Daniel Libeskind lies in the fact that their designs were conceived and realized by architects sympathetic to the Holocaust issue. Libeskind, Safdie and Peter Eisenman are all Jewish, not to mention that Daniel Libeskind’s mother was a Holocaust survivor.
These architects have successfully created buildings and commemorative sites that have been very strident and evocative about an awakening process. These commemorative projects make us aware of the past, make us open ourselves to others and open the path for a better and peaceful future.
“Because of media the body has been cut off from the mind and the eye. In other words we become so accustomed to sitting, watching TV, watching video, watching film, we become a sedentary culture. What this building tries to do is to bring the body back into the mind-eye relationship. Because you are constantly being thrown off our guard. You are brushed up against things. Things are too small, too narrow; they are too wide; you feel a sense of your body in the space. Everybody can see everybody. You see bits of pieces fragments. You see people in ways you have never seen before. The building frames and reframes the body and activity and motion and that’s what is exciting. I did not want to make a static building. I wanted to throw off. The walls tip and curve and move.”
Peter Eisenman in conversation with Charlie Rose about Aronoff Center for Art and Design, Cincinnati, Ohio
Architects give shape to the physical world and shape our mental world by choosing how to guide our minds eye. Architecture sets parameters on consciousness by holding the minds eye to certain capabilities of apprehension. Architecture both reflects and shapes how perceive ourselves and our communites. 9/11 abruptly changed the conditions of the culture around the world and the conditions of architecture. The September 11 terrorists were about terror and the spectacle. The planes were calibrated half an hour apart precisely so after the first tower was hit everybody would be watching the second tower be hit. Those spectacular images of media have brought an end to postmodernism and also an end to the society of the spectacle. What is eroding the civility and culture of the western world is the fact we are turned into spectators and standing by and gradually watching things rather than participating in things. New Yorkers on September 11th experienced what it meant to be there unlike the world that watched the events unfold on TV. Dust, chaos and massacre at war zone, something United States had not experienced since the civil war, the most American deaths in one day. What this meant for architecture is that suddenly being there became important. Not watching something happen but being where it happened. Can architecture come back to a situation were we are no longer attempting to become media darlings and try to produce images that conflict with media but in fact try to produce spaces that cause people to be somewhere and feel that they are there. Architecture has been the one discipline that combines the mind, the eye, and the body unlike any other because it produces spaces that are important to the mind, eye, and the body and now architecture is experiencing a return to thinking about being there and with thinking about place and being there in relationship to a social constituency. You cannot make place for an individual. You cannot make places of assembly unless it is about a political will. In United States we do not care about public space and spaces of assembly and how these spaces can help in the political and social process of bringing people together because we continue to be a country undermined by the media and spectatorship. The following precedents are of significant importance to this thesis. They heighten the significance of context and historical and physical attributes as a generator of the architectural space and form. Additionally these precedents reinforce the fact that projects with significant commemorative values have been designed by architects sympathetic to those values. The first three precedents, The Memorial for Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum Complex in Jerusalem and the Jewish Museum in Berlin are used the demonstrate the importance of the context and the authority of the architect and his or her personal sympathy and sensibility towards the subject and program. The next two precedents, The Imperial Museum of War in Manchester, England and the Nunotani office building in Tokyo, Japan are nested well within their context and are site/context driven. The next precedent, Tadashi Kawamata’s installation on Roosevelt Island, uses architecture as a vehicle for social and political commentary. Lastly, I introduce the work of Joesph Kosuth, a New York artist. His work, One and Three Chairs, 1965 has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.Four of these projects are examples of the work of architects Peter Eisenman and Daniel Libeskind. The reason I use these two architects is due to the fact of their expertise in deconstructing the core values of the subject matter in a project and their ability to synthesize those findings into architecture. While the Memorial for Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, by Peter Eisenman, and Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum Complex in Jerusalem, by Moshe Safdie, both memorialize the Holocaust, each approach the problem in different ways. Both engage the topography of the site, leading the visitors through a variety of sensory and kinesthetic experiences.
“In Berlin’s case, the abstracted, sculptural field is charged by repetition and number, its subliminal language expressed through hundreds of steles, flung at the heart of Berlin like and unspoken indictment. In Jerusalem, the architect directly incised a sculptural form like a gash into the hillside, providing a partially buried setting for the reflection and remembrance. Neither looks like the other. In both cases, material and form constitute the means to enriching larger cultural settings, each speaking silently to visitors clearly as if in a known, civilized language.”
In the third precedent, The Jewish Museum in Berlin, by Daniel Libeskind, the building itself, sits as an abstracted object of display in the context of Berlin. This project like the previous two is tasked to commemorate the Holocaust. Designing memorials for the Holocaust is usually fraught with dilemmas peculiar to this unusually sensitive topic. Such philosophical questions as aesthetics, memory, memorialization, the nature of mourning and the passage of time persistently confront the designer, and if left unresolved can subvert his or her original intention. The next two precedents, The Nunotani Headquarters building in Tokyo, by Peter Eisenman and the Imperial Museum of War by Daniel Libeskind are context specific. The Nunotani project is a tribute to victims of earthquakes and natural disasters, while the Imperial Museum of War in Manchester by Daniel Libeskind is about the conflict of the globe and war.
"911 Abruptly changed the conditions of the culture around the world and also the conditions of the culture of architecture."
Peter Eisenman, "Architecture Matters" Chancellor's Lecture Series, Vanderbilt University
“By making a series of buildings that question place even while they must, of necessity, embody it, the work of architect Peter Eisenman, whose Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe occupies a significant space in the center of Berlin, has made the material the Derridian questioning of the metaphysics of presence. Peter Eisenman’s interest in deconstruction demonstrates that while he has been charged with creating a memorial designed specifically to commemorate the murdered Jews of Europe, he employs forms that have been generated through a series of reflections of place and placelessness in postmodern life, and he is not therefore forging an aesthetics specific to the Holocaust.”
Peter Eisenman’s initial solution to the paradox of Holocaust representation relied on empathy because his idea was to produce fear in order to induce a visceral understanding in the viewer. That this empathic-fear aesthetic is not “original” to Holocaust representation can be further demonstrated by looking at some of Eisenman’s earlier works, specifically the Nunotani Office Building. Exactly like the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, both buildings elicit a feeling of the sudden and imminent possibility of toppling, and both strive to produce to the user of the space a sense of empathy for victims of earthquakes, bombs, and other forces of destruction. The outer appearance of these earlier works conveys the sense that the building at any moment would tumble down. Yet this sense of imminent destruction functions as a metaphor for the dislocation of place that characterizes postmodern business practices, which decentralize workers to such an extent that most interactions can happen via cyberspace rather that geographical space. The aesthetic production of fear through empathic memory of destructive trauma turns out to have been a well-trodden architectural feature. Eisenman has therefore taken a formal architectural and historical idea and recycled it for a Holocaust memorial to indicate that aesthetic forms cannot be attached to single political histories. According to the fear of aesthetic pollution that drives much Holocaust representation, Eisenman should have come up with an aesthetic uniquely appropriate to the unique event of the Holocaust, but his appropriation of other aesthetic forms has produced and interesting and effective commemorative sight. Abstract forms, gridded plan and the rolling terrain, adhere to the overriding theme of repetition with displacement to crate an immensely powerful kinesthetic, tactile visual experience. The whole project was modeled on the notion of “not quite perfection”. When reason is taken into extreme it turns into madness and of course the whole Nazi movement was reason taken into extreme and into madness so this is a warning for the 21st century that do not believe to much in reason.
The architect uses different means to deconstruct (the meaning of) conflict and to demonstrate that to the visitor. The museum is filled with abstract and non-abstract representation of conflict. Paintings that deal with war, exhibitions weaponry in war, women in war and children in war.
One large project, designed by sculptor Tadashi Kawamata, was an enormous land sculpture that encompassed the Small Pox hospital. For Tadashi Kawamata, however, this was a private piece as much as a vehicle for social and political commentary. Temporality and the dialectic of construction and deconstruction are recurrent issues in his work - a response to the rapid changes, the growth and decay that take place in so many cities.
Lastly, I introduce, One and Three Chairs, the work of Joseph Kosuth, known to be the Father of Conceptual Art. In this work of art, a chair sits next to a photograph of a chair and a dictionary definition of the word chair. Maybe all three are chairs, or codes for one: a visual code, a verbal code, and a code in the language of objects, that is, a chair of wood. But isn't this last chair simply . . . a chair? Prodded to ask such questions, the viewer embarks on the basic processes demanded by Conceptual art. "The art I call conceptual is such because it is based on an inquiry into the nature of art, Thus, it is . . . a working out, a thinking out, of all the implications of all aspects of the concept 'art,'” Chasing a chair through three different registers, Kosuth asks us to try to decipher the subliminal sentences in which we phrase our experience of art.The work of Joseph Kosuth is of significance and relevance to me since just like the proceeding examples he attempts to deconstructs the values and meaning within the subject of the design and communicate in literal and abstract languages to the viewers.
In most cases design challenges are approached started with existing contexts that are almost orthogonal and proportioned around basic and functional programmatic rules. Our cities and the built environment around us have gotten their performance and appearance through economical and practical factors.
In a lot of scenarios an inherent potential for a meaningful solution is replaced by a rational and common one.
This project seeks to move beyond the rationalistic ordering system. The potentials for these rational frameworks such as the human scale, clarity and versatility will be capitalized and used as design parameters in this process.
Using these frameworks, the design will unfold by activating geometries that are informed by political, social and environmental conditions.Orientation, religious iconographies that create biases, evolvement of site through natural and manmade violations of the earth and diurnal river flows of East River will be used as design parameters.As shown in figure X, Roosevelt Island’s south tip is unique due to the fact that a circle drawn on the globe will intersect Roosevelt Island at its southern tip, the World Trade Center site and Mecca is Saudi Arabia. This condition will be used as an orienting device in this design process.
Lean more about Chico Macmurtrie
"In recent history, the most graphic and politically important instance of deliberately manipulating the shape and symbolism of a table occurred in 1968 to 1969 peace negotiations between the United States and South Vietnam on one side, and North Vietnam and Vietcong on the other. North Vietnam was intent on establishing the equal status of the Vietcong even at the price of doing the same for South Vietnam, while South Vietnam vehemently opposed giving Vietcong any legitimacy, even at the price of merging its identity with the United States, so long as the two pairs of allies were clearly distinct from each other. Hence, North Vietnam and the Vietcong proposed a square table and the United States and South Vietnam a long rectangular one. Evidently each side was aware of the inherent formal properties and correlative political meaning of each shape and rejected the opponent’s proposal for precisely that reason. In their second proposal North Vietnam and the Vietcong were willing to talk around a circular table, thereby figuratively eliminating the identity of all participants. The Americans and South Vietnam still insisted on recognition of each pair of adversaries and therefore proposed, after many variations were rejected out of hand, two semicircles with a neutral zone in between. This was also rejected by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong because it still did not express the equal status of the Vietcong either by articulation (square) or submersion (circle). After weeks of further haggling a compromise was designed: a solid circle with two secretarial circles opposite each other across the round table. Finally it got to be the matter of inches. Eighteen magical inches separating the circular table from its rectangular satellites brought the agreement to sit down.
What is clear in this example is that the parties never disagreed about the meaning of a given form, and that both recognized and cherished the political symbolism implied in form. The circle with its rectangular satellites eighteen inches removed was apparently the exact configuration, which accommodated the North Vietnamese/Vietcong intention of interpreting the circle as unbroken. At the same time the United States and South Vietnamese could claim, because of the rectangular table’ alignment and closeness to the round table, that there really existed two distinct areas divided by a middle zone marked by the side tables. In short, a dual interpretation was made possible by deliberately creating a multivalent form, allowing the coexistence of two fundamentally opposed political positions.
A table being the field on or across which untold human interactions take place-from a writer’s solitary ruminations to portentous political meetings-its shape, its intrinsic geometric properties, are crucial to its effective use, and thus it is a classic example of formal structure “at work”. The principles governing the formal structure of a table, expanded to encompass the space or room in which a table is placed, the relationships among spaces in a building, and a setting of a building itself will be applied in critiques in the following chapter."
b4_thesis meeting_October 7_2008_6pm
building facing manhattan