About Arisbe and Peirce: three houses and three
or about watching the discussions regarding (1) the
Peirce-Wittgenstein relationship and (2) the possible quality of fourthness.
28 de Agosto de 2000)
Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade do Porto
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The Peirce Telecommunity Project (peirce-l), managed by
Joseph Ransdell, Texas Tech University, is an e-place where ideas and thesis
are exchanged and debated with utmost lively accuracy. [peirce-l] is one of the
most interesting and stimulating e-places where to attend, today, at the
Internet: it makes us to think. What follows below is an excerpt from a e-mail
I sent to Peirce list in August 2001.
I am fully aware it contains omissions. Anyway comments are welcome and
representations encompasse diagrams, sketches, plans, sections, elevations,
views, and scale models produced before the construction of the project. This
means a not so obvious distinction between the architectural object, the
inhabited one, and the architectural project - the latter meaning a will for
taking part on the transformation of physic reality. Being a will for, the
project is not thought as a thing, but as a process involving a succession of
more and more accurate representations or, rather, a common attitude towards
the succession and multiplicity of representations transforming them in a
single assemblage meant to describe the construction of a building.
The all thing can be
seen as the relationship between the project of the object and the material
object itself or, to put it in another way, the relationship between images and
objects, mediated by the idea of project. To me, it seems to fit quite well on
the triangle of Peirce: the Sign (the image) the Referent (the object, that
does not exists but still must exist) and the Interpretant (the so-called
But how can I adopt the
notion of 'likeness', regarding the visual images, since they are images of
things that do not exist? How can I search for something that I still do not
know? These images are not an effect of reality, they affect reality and affect
me. Nelson Goodman's thesis that similarity as nothing to do with graphic
depiction becomes very attractive. On the other hand, the production of images,
during the project process, can be assumed to support an artistic method of
knowledge and, as I suppose, a method of abductive inference (?). If this is
the case, the ‘likeness’ between a sort of inner drawing and the material
drawing can be crucial, but, again, it cannot be evaluated, since I do not have
a stable reference.
the longest one:
Regarding the opposition
between image and object, I intend to demonstrate something that is not quite
clear & as to do with the notions of denotation and connotation: (1) for
the project process, representation is a method as (2) for the material object
itself, representation is a function. Can we consider, in the former case, that
representation is a language or, if you want more precision, an intersection of
languages; after all, the finality of these images is not to communicate but to
understand. Can we consider, in the latter case -- representation as a
function, just like any other function of the building – that the architectural
object stands for something else beside itself?
precedents may be of interest to this last question. Let me give you two
examples of the functional character of visual representation: 1st - the house
built by Ludwig Wittgenstein for hissister, Margaret Stonborough, Wienn,
1926-28 and 2nd - the house of C. J. Jung, in Bollingen, near Zurich, 1923-55.
I do not mention Peter Eisenman and his House VI, at Cornwall, Connecticut,
1) Carl Gustav Jung: l’architecture parlant and the quality
In 1922, Jung acquires
a terrain in Bollingen, next to Zurich, to construct a house there on the lake.
Initially, he thinks about a circular hut, organizedaround a central
fireplace. Then he decides for a circular tower, with two floors. It seems
that it represented, for Jung, the maternal uterus. But soon became evident
that the tower was not enough to state everything he wanted to express. In
1927, after adding a small lateral body he adds to this small element
one-second tower, with one room in the second floor where it can live in
solitude with himself and his inner peregrination.
he adds an exterior patio surrounded by a loggia, over the margin of the
lake: a minus space, opened to sky and nature, but, at the same time, well
delimited. The patio carries the quality of fourthness: because it is a
symbolic element that represents the perfection of the thirdness - the
trinity - at the moment of its humanization.
he adds a thirdtower to the architectural analogon of his Ego. He
could not have done it before: it would be a pretentious affirmation of the
Ego. "Today [the third tower] represents the maturity of the conscience,
that follows the oldness". The third tower, compressed between the other
three elements, is the bridge that connects, through the archetypes and the
myths, the man with the dead and the eternity.
attitude of Jung towards his house finds reply in previous or contemporary
thinkers: Goethe and the intense pages of his novel Elective Affinities
in which he travels over and over the ritual of foundation of the house and
Bachelard, with La Poétique de l'Espace, with his highly symbolic
conception about inhabiting and spatiality – which is emptiness.
time, Jung plans his house, between 1923 and 1955, like a machine: a
connotative machine, an evocative machine.
2) Ludwig Wittgenstein: building the Tractatus and the
architecture without qualities.
Let me presume that is
reasonable to think about an architectural language – that buildings speak. Suppose
an equivalence between this architectural language and the verbal language.
If (1) architectural elements match the words and (2) rules of the
composition match the syntax, an architecture without words is an
architecture transparency: the semantics are paralysed and the syntactical
assumes boundless weight – the architecture’s language is reduced to pure
form, to pure configuration: the only statement is about its own syntactic
an analogon ofRobert Musil’s novel,The Man Without Qualities,
could be found in the architecture of Ludwig Wittgenstein.
In 1926, the Wittgenstein’s
sister, Margaret Stonborough had given assignment to Paul Engelmann for the
project of her own house, at Wienn, in Kundmangasse 19, and decides to
involve Ludwig in the enterprise. Ludwig already had disclosed a propensity for the architecture: in
1914 he had collaborated in the array of the interior spaces of the house of
its friend Eccles; after that, projects almost all the furniture of its
apartment in Cambridge and, finally, projects the mountain shelter in the
Norway, that he used as a refugee in the most difficult moments. According to
Stuart Harrison “Wittgenstein’s house for his sister came to the philosopher
when experiencing a very depressed period in this life, and was to a large
extent an act of charity by his sister to give him something productive to
occupy his mind. Paul Engelmann, who was then to work with Wittgenstein on
the house, had done sketches for the house (…)” and, indeed, its project.
seems to appreciate the common job with Engelmann. The ancient acquaintance
and commune passion towards Adolf Loos’s architecture (1870-1933) from which
the latter is disciple and the former is admirer guarantee a ground of
understanding between the philosopher and the architect. However, “(…) the
obsessive philosopher took over design roles completely. Wittgenstein’s
principal operation on Engelman’s house was to remove from its exterior
decoration and to refine the location of size of the openings. The basic
planning was maintained, but the refinements introduced a precise
proportional system” (idem).
imperceptible modifications demanded to Ludwig immense energies and an
enormous intellectual effort: after a day on the yard, he felt exhausted. The
every issue, the most banal one, demands a constant and compulsive attention.
Wittgenstein employs, moreover, no little efforts to break geometric
symmetries, to smash alignments -- i.e. placing the entrance door outside the
axis of the overhanging windows -- to differentiate and to disarticulate the
parts devising, for example, various windows for every façade.
we have an absolute refusal of pre-constituted formal systems can be
explained with the fact that, for a philosopher attached to the pure
essentiality of facts, the architectonic object must be purified from every
connotation and reduced to their most simple denotative values – it must be,
house thoroughly logical is, like Puglisi’s text put it, ”the point of
arrival of one ascetic and mystical vision of Wittgenstein: the transparency”
of the object. But transparency is not the only effort of conceptualism:
Wittgenstein asserts that "My ideal is based upon a certain coldness. A
temple that hosts the passions, without interfering with these" (idem).
Also according to Puglisi, “ifwe replace ‘architectonic objects’ by‘facts’
and ‘architectonic space’ by‘logics’, we will have ( in the Stonborough house) the philosophy of the Tractatus: the facts must become such
transparent like the architectonic object, while the logic, like space, must
shelter facts, without changing them”
Final Plan by Wittgenstein, 1926
View from the Hall towards
main entrance: columns and beams infatuate composition
the entrance door is outside the axis of the overhanging windows
The three volumes and
its different heights are (also) due to different heights of interior rooms,
like Loos’s Raumplan
The third case is the relationship between the
house called Arisbe and the man called Peirce; the latter inhabited the former:
somehow he did saw it, he decided to buy it, he worked on it, he worried about
it, he lived on it. According to Nathan Houser, “Max Fisch has divided Peirce's
philosophical activity into three periods. (1) The Cambridge period
(1851-1870), from his reading of Whately's Logic to his memoir on the logic of
relatives; (2) the cosmopolitan period (1870-1887), the time of his most
important scientific work, when he travelled extensively in Europe, as well as
in the United States and Canada; and (3) the Arisbe period (1887-1914), from
his move to Milford, Pennsylvania, until his death—the longest and
philosophically most productive period”. At the end, perhaps Arisbe became to Peirce not an
escape or a runaway from the world but an edge facing the world. The house and
his owner, how did related each other? At the end, did Arisbe belonged to
Peirce?, was Arisbe from Peirce?, or was Arisbe about Peirce? In general: how
can be presumed to be the relationship between 1) a man who thinks the world
and 2) his own private world, that is, his house? Is this question relevant to
Peirce and Arisbe case?
Cf. Luigi Puglisi´s Hyperarchitettura,
Turim, Italy, 1996, for general reference about Jung ‘s Wittgenstein’s houses. But also
Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Frieda Fordham’s Jung on
Himself: A Biographical Sketch, in http://www.cgjungpage.org/fordhambio.html,
Stuart Harrison, The Men Without Qualities:
Neutra/Loos/Musil/Wittgenstein, in http://www.websurf.net.au/~sharris/index.htm,
Nathan Houser, The Essential Piece - Introduction to EP Volume 1, http://www.iupui.edu/~peirce/web/index.htm,
Peirce Edition Project.
Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade do Porto
(Ver. 18 de Janeiro de 2000)
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