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About Arisbe and Peirce: three houses and three questions

or about watching the discussions regarding (1) the Peirce-Wittgenstein relationship and (2) the possible quality of fourthness.

(Ver. 28 de Agosto de 2000)

Fernando Lisboa

Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade do Porto

The URL for this version is:

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 highly appreciated.





Architectural 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.

1st question:

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 project);

2nd question:

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.

3rd question 

& 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?

Several 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, 1972-75.


1) Carl Gustav Jung: l’architecture parlant and the quality of 

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.

In 1935, 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.

In 1955, 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.

The 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. 

Against 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 rules.

Like if 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.

Wittgenstein 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).

These 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. 

Therefore, 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, again, transparent.

This 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

Destroying alignments: 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


Still 3rd question:

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, Stuart Harrison, The Men Without Qualities: Neutra/Loos/Musil/Wittgenstein, in, Nathan Houser, The Essential Piece - Introduction to EP Volume 1,, Peirce Edition Project.



Fernando Lisboa

Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade do Porto

(Ver. 18 de Janeiro de 2000)

The URL for this version is:




Fernando Lisboa
Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade do Porto
2nd Preliminary Ver. 16-Feb-2002 Best view with IE 5.x
The URL for this version is: