We tend to think of landscapes as outer settings for our lives and architectural structures. But there is no external framework to settle into, because our perceptions and our consciousness inevitably involve an exchange; when we enter a room, the room enters us. Chronicle photos by Erieta Attali.
Mindscapes – the inner space of the world
By Juhani Pallasmaa
Physical and geographic landscapes are also mental landscapes. We do not live on a given stage because the world, in its totality in terms of its mental implications, is of our action, somehow material.
” I am the space where I am (1)”, admits Noël Arnaud, the poet, while Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the philosopher, reasons: “ The world is inside and I am outside me (2). He calls this process ” intertwined ” Where ” chiasmus » implies a simultaneous coexistence of the world and the Self in the other without causal or temporal anteriority (3).
Rainer Maria Rilke, the master poet, uses the beautiful notion of ‘Weltinnenraum’, the inner space of the world in reference to the lived, internalized and embodied world – the landscape of each in his intimate home and spirit (4).
Erieta Attali’s horizontally stretched photographs of buildings in their surroundings immediately invoke this fused unity or singularity. The format emphasizes the horizon line, even if it is not visible, and makes the landscape appear endless and boundless. Attali’s landscapes are sublime, bare and powerful, and they speak as much to the skeleton and skin as to the eyes.
His photographs record some of the most extreme places in human habitation. In these desolate landscapes of isolation and loneliness, relentless heat and cold, wind and rain, the architectural structures project a sense of arrival, destination and comfort. In the words of Martin Heidegger, they express our ” entry near the distance (5).
The house tames distance, heat and cold, it dims the light and dampens the fury of the storm. The house offers us our second skin and our recalibrated senses; the house is an instrument that adjusts our sight, our hearing and our haptic sense. We cannot think clearly in the wild and open nature. We need the focusing device of a piece constructed with its orderly geometry and intimate resonance with the body to give direction and purpose to our thoughts. An open landscape makes our thoughts wander and soar.
As Gaston Bachelard says, “ the house’s biggest advantage [est que] the house protects daydreams, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows you to dream in peace “. (6)
The buildings are integrated into the landscape, but the landscape is also reflected in the architecture. Deep architecture is always part of a respectful, humble and at the same time brave and proud dialogue with the interior design. Paradoxically, the house expresses permanence (albeit temporarily and in vain), while the landscape projects the changing seasons and times of day. The house is the static gnomon on the face of the landscape’s dynamic sundial. As Adrian Stokes notes, “ the hesitation of the water reveals the architectural mobility “. (7)
The house gives the landscape its center of gravity and orientation, while the landscape clarifies and reinforces the geometric voice of the house. It is a timeless dialogue and a double caress; the landscape embraces the house, while the house caresses the landscape.
In our frustrated and lost time, architecture is generally considered an aestheticized object. However, deep architecture is never an object because it is always relational and mediating. Architecture is a verb that frames the existing and offers a horizon of understanding.
To understand what? Understanding and internalizing the human condition, the riddle of existence and of our shared history and destiny with the world. Every deep edifice serves as an intermediary between the world and ourselves and resides within us, in ” the flesh of the world », to use the beautiful idea of Merleau-Ponty.
It is a form of existential understanding that does not depend on concepts, words or theories. As Jean-Paul Sartre points out; ” understanding is not a quality that comes outside of human reality, it is its characteristic mode of existence “. (8)
True architecture requires no explanation, let alone an apology. It connects the threads here and beyond, of matter and image, of use and uselessness, of perception and imagination, in a unity that is lived rather than understood. The true meaning of architecture is an existential meaning and an embodied wonder that directly articulates our sense of being and self. We do not live separately in the physical and material, mental and spiritual worlds. These capacities and dimensions are fully fused in the human existential experience.
We tend to think that architecture is just a tool and an instrument to deal with space. However, architectural structures are equally instruments for domesticating time. We cannot mentally exist in time without measure.
Physical space and natural time must be scaled to human dimensions to be captured by our perceptions and understanding. Architecture’s most beautiful products create a specific center of gravity and meaning, a focus from which ” the world appears complete and just “, to use the moving description with which Pierre Teilhard de Chardin characterizes the magical place of perfection which he calls” Omega “. (9)
There is an unconscious correspondence between the landscape and the human body, in the same way that the house and the body are reversible metaphors. We exist in the landscape as embodied beings, sharing its flesh with it. ” Our human landscape is our autobiography, reflecting our tastes, our values, our hopes and even our fears, in tangible and visible form. We rarely think of landscape in this way, and so the cultural records we have written in landscape are probably more truthful than most autobiographies because we are less conscious of how we describe ourselves. writes Pierce F. Lewis. (10)
In addition to being a testimony to the deepest qualities of culture, or lack thereof, ordinary landscapes expose and externalize our inner mental landscapes, the landscapes of our souls. ” In the fusion of place and soul, soul is as much a container of place as place is a container of soul, and both are susceptible to the same forces of destruction. says Robert Pogue Harrison, the literary scholar.
Indeed, every act of construction contains an element of destruction; terrain and vegetation are attacked, daylight and viewing conditions change, and the virginity of the natural landscape is lost forever. As Paul Valéry rightly reminds us, “ Destruction and construction are equally important and you need souls for both. […] “. (11)
Irresponsible construction creates irreparable wounds and scars on Mother Earth’s face, while responsible and sensitive architecture caresses her features and emphasizes her dynamics and characteristics. Sensitive architecture even has the power to repair and heal landscapes, natural and man-made, that have been violated by the thoughtless and senseless actions of our fellow human beings.
Encountering a scene of raw power, ruthlessness and lack of aesthetic sensibility in the man-made landscape is a moment of profound exploration of the troubled soul of man. When a culture loses its meaning and its desire for beauty, it has already lost its zest for life and its sense of optimism. This culture has lost its ethical judgment and is already heading for self-destruction.
Architecture creates constructed and lived metaphors about the world and human existence. Like all profound works of art, significant architectural works are complete and autonomous microcosms, constructed and abstract worlds. Great buildings are universes, worlds within worlds. However, they maintain a respectful and empowering dialogue with their surroundings; with their frame they create a symphonic relationship. ” Have you not noticed, as you pass through this city, that among the buildings with which it is peopled, some are silent; others speak; and others, finally—and these are the rarest—sing? asks Paul Valéry (12).
A true work of architecture always highlights, celebrates, clarifies and reinforces the reading of the landscape and gives it specific meanings. The two are connected; the landscape frames the architecture from the outside, while the architectural structure frames the landscape from the inside.
Erieta Attali’s photographs convincingly and poetically translate this essential intertwining and inner dialogue. In his pictures, the landscape reinforces the architectural structure, while the building emphasizes the sublime beauty of the surroundings. This relationship between landscape and architecture is erotic. As in a romantic relationship, the other’s autonomy and separateness is respected, while protecting them and supporting their vulnerability.
In Extremis: Landscape into Architecture (2010)
Juhani Pallasmaa is a Finnish architect, former professor of architecture at Helsinki University of Technology and former director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture
All Erieta Attali’s photo chronicle
(1) Gaston Bachelard, Poetics of Space (1958)
(2) Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception
(3) Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Intertwining – The Chiasma”, The Visible and the Invisible
(4) As mentioned in Liisa Enwald, editor, “Lukijalle” [To the Reader]Rainer Maria Rilke
(5) in John Berger, Hold Everything Dear; Broadcasts or survival and resistance
(6) Bachelard, op. cited
(7) Adrian Stokes, “Prologue: at Venice”, The Critical Writings of Adrian Stokes, vol II
(8) Jean-Paul Sartre, The Emotions: An Outline of a Theory (1939)
(9) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The phenomenon of man
(10) Peirce F. Lewis, “Axioms for Reading the Landscape”
(11) Paul Valéry, “Eupalinos, or the Architect”, Paul Valéry: Dialogues
(12) Paul Valéry, op. cited