What is the Thinking Hand in Architecture (and why we, as architects, must defend the natural slowness and diversity of experience) #ilmaBlog #Discourse #Theory #Architecture #DesignPosted: October 7, 2018
In The Thinking Hand, Architect Juhani Pallasmaa reveals the miraculous potential of the human hand. He shows how the pencil in the hand of the artist or architect becomes the bridge between the imagining mind and the emerging image. The book surveys the multiple essences of the hand, its biological evolution and its role in the shaping of culture, highlighting how the hand–tool union and eye–hand–mind fusion are essential for dexterity and how ultimately the body and the senses play a crucial role in memory and creative work. Pallasmaa here continues the exploration begun in his classic work The Eyes of the Skin by further investigating the interplay of emotion and imagination, intelligence and making, theory and life, once again redefining the task of art and architecture through well-grounded human truths.
Pallasmaa notes that, “…architecture provides our most important existential icons by which we can understand both our culture and ourselves. Architecture is an art form of the eye, the hand, the head and the heart. The practice of architecture calls for the eye in the sense of requiring precise and perceptive observation. It requires the skills of the hand, which must be understood as an active instrument of processing ideas in the Heideggeran sense. As architecture is an art of constructing and physical making, its processes and origins are essential ingredients of its very expression…”
Linking art and architecture he continues, “…as today’s consumer, media and information culture increasingly manipulate the human mind through thematized environments, commercial conditioning and benumbing entertainment, art has the mission to defend the autonomy of individual experience and provide an existential ground for the human condition. One of the primary tasks of art is to safeguard the authenticity and independence of human experience.”
Pallasmaa asserts that,
“Confidence in future architecture must be based on the knowledge of its specific task; architects need to set themselves tasks that no one else knows how to imagine. Existential meanings of inhabiting space can be articulated by the art of architecture alone. Thus architecture continues to have a great human task in mediating between the world and ourselves and in providing a horizon of understanding in the human existential condition.
The task of architecture is to maintain the differentiation and hierarchical and qualitative articulation of existential space. Instead of participating in the process of further speeding up the experience of the world, architecture has to slow down experience, halt time, and defend the natural slowness and diversity of experience. Architecture must defend us against excessive exposure, noise and communication. Finally, the task of architecture is to maintain and defend silence. The duty of architecture and art is to survey ideals and new modes of perception and experience, and thus open up and widen the boundaries of our lived world.”
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I was honored to be asked to write a “Dear Destin” letter in the memory of my friend and teacher, Stephen Perrella (RIP). For a son (Destin) to know and understand his father through his legacy and the remnants of what was left behind is challenging but without memories we cannot be human. Without Architecture one cannot truly appreciate life. Great Architecture is all around us. It is important for us to celebrate it each and every day. It is important for all of us to reflect and teach the young ones around us what it means to be alive. To inhabit a great space is to love and to live. To me, great Architecture is a gift to be cherished.
February 22, 2011
Your father Stephen Perrella is a special person who was gifted in many ways. To me he was a teacher, a friend, and a colleague. Most of all he was a theorist. He formulated, devised, calculated. He manipulated, transformed, and sculpted space. He was a weaver of space.
Before I begin I have to say that your birth changed Stephen for the better. You filled a void in his soul that no one else could. You enriched his soul and thirst for life. He lived each day for you. After you were born, Stephen was at peace with himself and transformed his pursuit from theory to the built.
Architecture design left un-built is not really Architecture, but merely a lot of ideas. You must build in order for something to be considered Architecture.
Architecture is the marriage of art and science of designing and erecting buildings and other physical structures. Architecture is a style and method of design and construction of buildings and other physical structures for human use.
Although more than a decade has past since I took his class I still hold his 4 principals of Architecture/Theory/Design close to me. Not a day goes by when I do not think about what he taught me.
Sign Structure Context Program
These four simple words are the devices that I use every time I design “space.” Although the meaning of these words evolves with the passing of time, these canons have passed the test of time.
The general (abbreviated) definitions are as follows:
In true Venturian spirit (1), our first lesson in Stephen’s studio was to examine signs along the roadway. The “image,” “face,” “aesthetic,” “look” of something created is the “Sign,” a modern day façade.
Like Filippo Brunelleschi before him, Stephen was interested in spatial theory. The Florentine Architect and Engineer Brunelleschi was the first to carry out a series of optical experiments that led to a mathematical theory of perspective.
When I design, and I think of Signage, I think of what one will see. How the Architectural object will be seen and remembered. It is important to consider this since Architecture is often considered an object someone looks at from the outside.
After that examination was complete, Stephen asked us to look at how the signage was structured.The structure itself becomes integral to the design of space and what I remember most was Stephen’s passion for the great philosophers like Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (2). In particular I remember reading “The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque,” but Stephen got me so excited that I bought every philosophy book I could get my hands on.
As important as what something look likes or how it stands is to know how it is placed in it’s surrounding. This became the third study in Stephen’s studio.
I remember looking at information and flow of information from a theoretical standpoint and my view of what context could be. In today’s world, context changes (telecommunications for example). We studied Bernard Tschumi’s “Architecture and Disjunction” and learned about how program, context, image could be interchanged so that the design would be altered. For example, take an existing cathedral and adapt it as a parking garage. To think of Architecture as an object and then transform it’s context changes how the object is perceived, which leads me to Stephen’s final principle.
By the chronological placement of this final study I have to assume that your father believed in “Function FOLLOWS Form” (3) although I can be wrong. At the time of teaching this class Stephen was not only “competing” with himself but with other Architects like Reiser and Umemoto. As you may know by now Stephen coined the term, “Hypersurface,” which was an archetype or typology of architectural production.
Once you put these four parts together to develop a system a unique theoretical work of Architecture can be created.
The system that is created to produce the design changes each time and the result is always different. This is a fantastic attribute in a world that longs for uniqueness and creativity. I have not fully realized everything that I want to realize in my young career yet, but I know that armed with the education your father gave me I can use these principals to produce wonderful Architecture.
I hope this brief recap is only the beginning and we can share more ideas on Stephen’s life one day soon.
Frank Cunha III, AIA, NCARB
(1) Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977
(1) Gilles Deleuze (18 January 1925 – 4 November 1995) was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), both co- written with Félix Guattari. His metaphysical treatise Difference and Repetition (1968) is considered by scholars to be his magnum opus.
(3) “Form follows function” is a principle associated with modern Architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.
Some images of my third year studio project with Stephen (Spring of 1996 at NJIT SOA):
The shape of the movement of the Architectural form is informed by the mountains surrounding Las Vegas, NV.
The human Body and the Folds were examined for this project.
The elegance of the ballerina versus the vulgarity of the LV Strippers was analyzed.
Perhaps the Show Girl fits someplace in the middle?
If Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In existed, this project would emulate the feeling
of “plugging” into something greater than oneself. The Architectural space produced by
“the object” is informed by moving/experiencing the city following the rhythm of its context.
Can Show Girls and Strippers inform great Arhcitecture and spaces? Sure why not?
Architecture can be sexy and smart.
I guess there was a collective consciousness arising about social awareness and a social
consciousness because the idea here was that the occupants of the city of the future would all
contribute to the overall Architectural object. The building itself was comprised of the people who
inhabited it (kinda like those smart vechicles that plug in and chain up on the road to create
super-trains that create hierarchical domination over the less efficient vehicles on the road).
Does the Architecture inhabit the occupant or vice-versa?
The whole idea is that Architecture is NOT static. It moves with the flow of energy/information
and engulfs the occupants within it as it speeds through the city, plugging in from one space to another.
natural landscape of the mountains surrounding the Strip all inform the Architecture of the
City and inform the shape of the Hotel of the Future.
The hotel of the future exchanges information by moving throughout the Strip.The cyclone / tonado / hurricane that is “the process” of creating the design can
cease to exist and what is left over becomes the Architecture of the City.
Occupants “plug” into the Architecture by communicating with others. (Back then there was no