In-between Space
Fig. 1. PC Garden, Japan [2013]. Architecture: Kengo Kuma & Associates [KKAA]. Landscape Architecture: Placemedia. Photography: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka.

Dear Reader,

Please treat what you are about to read with an aspect of 'provisional faith' or 'suspended judgement,' as opposed to premature judgement, or prejudice. In practice, this means waiting until the process is complete before deciding for yourself as to the content of knowledge and truth imparted here. 

Thank you.


Chapter One


In 1960, Carl G. Jung, probably the most influential psychiatrist and psychoanalyst to have ever walked the Earth, wrote: '…the lack of meaning in life is a soul-sickness whose full extent and import our age has not yet begun to comprehend.'1 We are now experiencing the fate that Jung prophesised. What we observe in the general population today: boredom, demoralisation, low self-esteem, inferiority feelings, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism, abnormal sexual behaviour, sleep disorders, eating disorders, psychotropic and illicit drug addictions, depression, suicide, and so on;2 are the destructive symptoms of soul-sickness - and gaining a greater foothold with each passing day.

This crisis reaches back several generations, beginning with the invention of the steam-engine and of machinery for working cotton in the second half of the nineteenth century. These inventions gave rise, as is well known, to an industrial revolution: a revolution which altered the whole of civil society; one, the historical importance of which is only now beginning to be recognised.3 Theodore Kaczynski:

'The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in 'advanced' countries, but they have destabilised society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering [in the Third World to physical suffering as well] and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world ... We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of behaviour that the human race developed while living under the earlier conditions ... Among the abnormal conditions present in modern industrial society are excessive density of population, isolation of man from Nature, excessive rapidity of social change and the breakdown of natural small-scale communities such as the extended family, the village or the tribe.’4

At the same time, the masses were being taught that the universe was unintelligently designed, and randomly created in a cosmic coincidence of nothing, inexplicably becoming everything; that through millions upon millions of years of accidental 'evolution' and happenstance, the Big Bang universe began manifesting suns, moons, planets, then water, then somehow out of dead, inert elements, single-celled conscious organisms came to life, grew and multiplied and mutated into larger, different organisms which continued to grow, multiply and mutate gaining diversity and complexity [and losing credibility] to the point where amphibians crawled up on land, replaced gills with lungs, started breathing air, maturated into mammals, became bipedal, grew opposable thumbs, evolved into monkeys, then in one final fluke adaptation, a hybrid monkey-man was made and the rest is human history; that the height of stupidity and naivety was when our ignorant ancestors believed the Earth to be flat, and that if any man somehow still thinks the Earth to be the immovable [stationary] centre of the universe, that they must be the most primitive kind of ignoramus.5 Carl G. Jung:

'How totally different did the world appear to medieval man! For him the earth was eternally fixed and at rest in the centre of the universe…Men were all children of God under the loving care of the Most High, who prepared them for eternal blessedness; and all knew exactly what they should do and how they should conduct themselves in order to rise from a corruptible world to an incorruptible and joyous existence. Such a life no longer seems real to us, even in our dreams.'6


'What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism.'

- Friedrich Nietzsche


This was a tremendous event. Europe no longer needed God as the source for all morality, value, or order in the universe; philosophy and 'science' were capable of doing that for us.7 This increasing secularisation [disassociation or separation from religious or spiritual] thought in the West led the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche to announce what is perhaps his most famous and controversial aphorism: 

'God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.'8

What Nietzsche is concerned about in relating the above, is that God is dead in the hearts and minds of his own generation of modern men - killed by an indifference that was itself directly related to a pronounced cultural shift away from faith and towards 'rationalism', 'materialism' and 'science'. This same God, before becoming dead in men's hearts and minds, had provided the foundation of a 'Christian-moral' approach to life; a shared cultural set of beliefs that had defined a social and cutural outlook within which, people had lived their lives.9 Nietzsche thought that when these 'true world' theories lost their influence, individuals would be torn from the very worldviews which gave their lives meaning, and the strength to persevere in life despite sometimes miserable conditions. In short, Nietzsche understood that the death of god could potentially vault a large majority of the human race into a state of pessimism - 'a will to nothingness'

The great Walter Kaufmann, in his classic work on Nietzsche, described exactly why Nietzsche is often heralded as a modern day prophet:10 'Sometimes prophecies seem to consist in man’s ability to experience his own wretched fate so deeply that it becomes a symbol of something larger. It is in this sense that one can compare Nietzsche with the ancient prophets. He felt the agony, the suffering, and the misery of a godless world so intensely, at a time when others were yet blind to its tremendous consequence, that he was able to experience in advance, as it were, the fate of a coming generation.'11

In 1885, Nietzsche saw the specter of nihilism, or what he termed the 'radical repudiation of meaning.' looming on the horizon of Western civilisation, and he wrote: '…why has the advent of nihilism become necessary? Because the values we have had hitherto thus draw their final consequence; because nihilism represents the ultimate logical conclusion of our great values and ideals…' Nihilism is the conviction that there is no meaning to life, that the world is inhospitable to our highest hopes and values, and that there are no gods or higher purposes to justify our suffering. To be a nihilist is to flirt with despair and the sentiment that life is not worth living, and thus, the nihilist position is antithetical to life. 

The generation following Nietzsche in many ways seemed to have experienced the fate he had prophesied.12 Annette Becker:

'The Great War was a total, global tragedy: its setting, the entire world; its duration, 1914–18; its main feature, mass violence. [It] was, whether deliberately or unconsciously, a laboratory for the twentieth century: a field experiment or test site where violence could be carried out and the effectiveness of military materials to kill men measured and improved. As weapons became increasingly sophisticated, the white-coated technicians were sometimes located right at the front. When poison gas was deployed on a massive scale for the first time, [chemists were] on the battlefield to observe the consequences of their research at first hand. Psychologists set up laboratories as close as possible to the action to use war as an extended experiment, with men serving as lab rats. 
Experts like these became proselytisers of total war, a way of waging war ever more effectively in the service of their countries. The goal of the laboratory war was not universal knowledge but national victory. On the military fronts, that meant many more captured, wounded or dead.13


'Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called 'liberal' and 'progressive' elites, God has been progressively erased from our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.'

- Chris Banescu


Nobel laureate, Orthodox Christian author, and Russian dissident, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, in his Godlessness: the First Step to the Gulag address, given when he received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion on May of 1983, explained how the Russian revolution and the communist takeover were facilitated by an atheistic mentality and a long process of secularisation which alienated the people from God and traditional Christian morality and beliefs.14

'More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.15 

Bibliography and footnoes
1. C.G. Jung [1960]. The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche
2. Theodore J. Kaczynski [1995]. Industrial Society and Its Future, pp. 1 & 6.
3. Friedrich Engels [1844-45]. Condition of the Working Class in England [Panther Edition, 1969, from text provided by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, Moscow], pp. 33.
4. Theodore J. Kaczynski [1995]. Industrial Society and Its Future, pp. 1 & 6.
5. Eric Dubay [2014]. The Flat-Earth Conspiracy, pp. 8-9.
6. C.G. Jung [1933]. Modern Man in Search of a Soul.
7. Scotty Hendricks; Big Think [2022]. 'God is Dead': What Nietzsche Really Meant.
8. Friedrich Nietzsche [1882]. Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft [The Joyful Wisdom or The Joyous Science]. 
10. Academy of Ideas [2012]. Nietzsche and the Death of God.
11. Walter Kaufmann [1950]. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist.
12. Friedrich Nietzsche [1901]. The Will to Power.
13. Annette Becker [2015]. The Great War: World War, Total War. International Review of the Red Cross, pp. 1029-1030.
14. Chris Banescu [2011]. Men Have Forgotten God – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
15. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn [1983]. Men Have Forgotten God. The Templeton Address.

Fig. 2. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden [between 1800 and 1829]. Painter: Johann Wenzel Peter.[1745 - 1829].

Chapter Two

What Is Art?

We live in an age where our extensive scientific knowledge and our love of all things objective and measurable has placed religion in a precarious position. Our scientific worldview tells us that religious dogma is illusory and full of falsehoods and that as enlightened men and women we do not need it to live. But while we may not need a God to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of the natural world, does religion have nothing to teach us about our existential ['the problem of meaning'] dilemma? Are we really better off psychologically with the picture that science paints for us of an infinite, cold and random cosmos lacking in objective human values and offering us nothing but the finality of death? Or could it be that in abandoning the Christian worldview, the West placed itself in a psychological void of confusion and disorientation? 

One of the most revealing ways to grasp the significance of this transition from Christianity to the scientific worldview is to look at it through the prism of art and to examine the changes in the masterpieces produced before, during and after the fall of the Christian worldview. For great artists, in all ages, are what Carl Jung called 'the unwitting mouthpiece of the psychic secrets of [the] times.' They are men and women who are acutely sensitive to the spirit of the age, and who, through their creations, give form and expression to the underlying atmosphere of the culture in which they live.1 As Rollo May explained:

'If you wish to understand the psychological and spiritual temper of any historical period, you can do no better than to look long and searchingly at its art. For in the art the underlying spiritual meaning of the period is expressed directly in symbols.'2


'If you wish to understand the psychological and spiritual temper of any historical period, you can do no better than to look long and searchingly at its art. For in the art the underlying spiritual meaning of the period is expressed directly in symbols.'

― Rollo May


In the beginning of the 19th century, the decline of the Christian worldview reached a critical point of no return. Just a few years earlier the French Revolution had staged an all-out attack on the Christian church resulting in the 'dechristianisation of France', and throughout the West the scientific worldview was rapidly rising in stature as science continued to yield phenomenal fruits. At this same point in history, the subject matter of art underwent a curious and dramatic change. Prior to the 19th century the great artists focused on works that beautified the world and transfigured [elevated] the human being. Through their creations the human form was imbued with dignity and hope. Even paintings which depicted extreme suffering portrayed the human being as heroic.

In the 19th century art, by-and-large, still performed this life-enhancing function. But alongside paintings which depicted the human being as heroic, and the world as sublime, many artists began to portray the world in forms which elicit anxiety, confusion, and dread. Instead of fashioning works of supreme beauty which saved us from what Nietzsche called 'the horrors of the night', some modern artists started to introduce the world to them. In isolated instances these horrors were represented in the art of previous centuries, but with the fall of Christianity, for the first time in history, they gradually became the main event.3 Erich Neumann:  

'…there has never been anything similar in history. Each [modern artist] is a world in himself, endeavoring alone to ward off the chaos that menaces him or to give it form, each with his own characteristic desperation. It is no accident that we hear so much today of the void and forlornness of the individual. And the profound anxiety, the sense of insecurity, uprootedness, and world dissolution, at work in these painters also move modern composers and poets.'4 The chaos which modern artists suffered and expressed through their art assumed various forms in the works of 19th century painters. In the works of Edvard Munch, this ethos of desolation is transferred from nature to the social world. The subjects in Munch’s paintings suffer from an unbearable isolation, they are lonely souls, unbridgeable islands unto themselves, unable, in their anxiety and sorrow, to reach out to, connect with, and find solace in others. 


'It is not exactly what I would call art, namely, the imaginative transformation of lived experience.'5

― Donald Kuspit



Alongside this ethos of desolation, many other 19th century works of art are charged with a demonic force. Whether it be the chilling figures of Francisco Goya, the malevolent compositions of Franz Stuck, or James Ensor’s works including Masks Confronting Death - in 19th century art, nocturnal and chthonic [underworld] powers rise to the surface. The artists of this era confronted the monsters of the abyss, and the only thing which saved them from descending into madness was their capacity to externalise their horrific visions, to give them artistic form. But the chaos of 19th century art pales in comparison with its manifestations in first half of the 20th century. As modern art progressed, the chaos menacing it only became more explicit and pronounced.  In Picasso’s paintings, for example, the human being is broken into fragmented parts, and then pieced together again in disjointed, abstract, and often hideous forms.6 Nikolai Berdyaev:  

'Picasso’s art no longer seeks the complete human being at all. It has lost the faculty of seeing things as wholes. It tears off one cover after another in order to lay bare the structure of nature and in doing so penetrates even further into the depths, disclosing images of things truly monstrous.'7

In the movement of Surrealism the chaotic is not only represented visually, but explicitly exalted as a principle of life. Salvador Dali declared painting to be the 'coloured instantaneous photography of concrete irrationality', and the 'systematisation of confusion'. Andre Breton, in his Second Manifesto of Surrealism, declared Surrealism to have attained a point of view from which 'life and death, the real and imagined, top and bottom are no longer experienced as contradictory opposites'. When reading this latter statement one cannot help but remember Nietzsche’s warning of the existential disorientation he thought would manifest following the decline of the Christian worldview.8

'Are we not continually falling? - backwards, sideways and in all directions? Do top and bottom still remain? Are we not wandering through infinite nothingness? Is not the breath of empty space in our faces? Has it not grown colder?'9

Bibliography and footnoes
1. Academy of Ideas [2019]. Modern Art and the Decline of Civilization.
2. Rollo May [1975]. The Courage to Create.
3. Academy of Ideas [2019]. 
4. Erich Neumann [1959]. Art and the Creative Unconscious.
5. Alex Chowaniec [2016]. Donald Kuspit with Alex Chowaniec.
6. Academy of Ideas [2019]. 
7. Nikolai Berdyaev [1923]. The Meaning of History.
8. Academy of Ideas [2019]. 
9. Friedrich Nietzsche [1882]. Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft [The Joyful Wisdom or The Joyous Science]. 

Fig. 3. The Temple of the Inscriptions ['House of the Nine Sharpened Spears'], Chiapas, Mexico ['683]. 

Chapter Three

The 'Golden Age'

Like the arts, architecture - the mother of all arts - reflects a mood in which artists are reacting as much against the trends of the time as in accordance with them. 

As a start, imagine yourself somewhere in the world at an allegedly early stage in human development. Above us all and unending in every direction is the incomprehensible space of which we occupy but an infinitesimal fraction. In the ancient world, as today, the heavens displayed the mysterious presence of forces, so beyond our capacity to fathom, we had no choice but to recognise the work of [a] divine powerThis presence must be intelligent on account of the intelligence that has come from it, and the intelligence required to define it. It is wise on account of the wisdom it must have taken to create it. It is good, because the good that we can aspire to, resembles a state of being that Nature has conspired to make beautiful. This is [a] feeling intrinsic [built-in] to our nature, proclaiming the existence of great BEING, everywhere ... This is God.2

Note 1
The definition of God in the modern world has been subjected to a set of predominant viewpoints, rarely disentangled from the tropes ['stereotypes'] and thematic confinements of popular religion. Even today there are allegedly educated people who still pass off God as some sort of wise and enlarged humanoid hovering above the world, or those who become fixated on the judgment of a cruel God reminiscent of sections in the Old Testament, where specific beings are punished with suffering and yet somehow remain under the umbrella of God’s eternal love and forgiveness; Collin Conkwright; The American Esoteric [2022]. The Gods Problem.


'And God said, Let there be lights [Sun & Moon] in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs [the zodiac], and for seasons, and for days, and years: And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.'

- Genesis3


In the ancient world prior to the second millennia BCE,4 we are hardpressed to find instances of a singular God without an accompanying hierarchy of deities and subsidiary angelic entities. From the One comes the Many, and from the Many can the One be known. Born out of the ineffable first God arrives the proceeding deities who serve like functionaries across the spectrum.5 In Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology, anthropologist C. Scott Littleton, defines a deity as 'a being with powers greater than those of ordinary humans, but who interacts with humans, positively or negatively, in ways that carry humans to new levels of consciousness, beyond the grounded preoccupations of ordinary life'.6 

This is the Sun. And it is simple to understand why, as every morning the sun would rise, bringing vision, warmth, and security, saving man from the cold, blind, predator-filled darkness of night. Without it, the cultures understood, the crops would not grow, and life on the planet would not survive. These realities made the sun the most adored object of all time:Dr. Federico Mayor:

'As the bestower of light and life, ancient cultures generally identified the sun as the symbol of Truth, the all-seeing 'one eye' of justice and equality, the fountainhead of wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment, the healer of physical and spiritual maladies, and, above all, the fundamental source of fecundity, growth, and fruition, as well as of death and the renewal of life.'

Likewise, they were also very aware of the stars. Naturally, the ancient practice of 'astrotheology' incorporated reverence for not only the sun but also the moon, planets, stars and constellations. In Prehistoric Lunar Astronomy, Indian scholar Dr. S.B. Roy remarks: 'To the ancients...heaven was the land of gods and mystery. The sky...was itself living. The stars were the abode of the gods. The shining stars were indeed themselves luminous gods. Astronomy was the knowledge not of heavenly bodies, but of heavenly beings: It was the heavenly, celestial cosmic or divine knowledge - knowledge of devas - the bright luminous gods.8 

The tracking of the stars allowed them to recognise and anticipate events which occurred over long periods of time, such as eclipses and full moons. They in turn catalogued celestial groups into what we know today as constellations. This is the cross of the Zodiac, one of the oldest conceptual images in human history. It reflects the sun as it figuratively passes through the 12 major constellations over the course of a year. It also reflects the 12 months of the year, the four seasons, and the solstices and equinoxes. The term Zodiac relates to the fact that constellations were anthropomorphised, or personified, as figures, or animals i.e., zoo-diac.'9 

As we see with the Great Ziggurat of Ur in Mesopotamia [Iraq]; the Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza, Mexico; Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Borobudur on the island of Java, Indonesia; the Temple of the Sun at Machu Pichu in Peru; and the Pyramid of Khufu [The Great Pyramid of Giza], in Egypt - all around the world, the ancients encoded these solsticial and equinoctial patterns into their great ziggurats, pyramids and temples; requiring a level of patience, attention, and precision that requires us to reconsider how they interpreted their spiritual place in the cosmos. To say nothing at the moment about how some of these megalithic stones were cut, moved, and positioned, we are still left with the fact that the earliest calendars were immortalised in stone and left behind as marvels for the modern world.10 Howdie Mickoski:

There's was a past that built pyramids, which cannot be done today .... Ancients that built monuments, that a thousand years after their abandonment; still resonate with an energy unlike anything in the modern world. It was a time when sacred geometry, mathematics, astronomy and nature intermingled; creating a giant soup of knowledge, art, architecture and daily life.11 Rudolf Steiner:

'Now there is a certain reason why the responsibility of those who shared in the creation of ancient works of art, was made easier than it is for us to-day. In ancient times, human beings had at their disposal means of help which are no longer available in our epoch. The Gods let their forces stream into the unconscious or subconscious life of the soul; and in a certain sense it is an illusion to believe that in the brains or souls of the men who built the Pyramids of Egypt, the Temples of Greece and other great monuments, human thoughts alone were responsible for the impulses and aims expressed in the forms, the colours and so on. For in those times the Gods themselves were working through the hands, the heads and the hearts of men.'12

'The Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch13 already lies in the far past and our age is the first period of time in which the Gods put man's own free, spiritual activity to the test. What we ourselves have to create is essentially new — in the sense that we must work with forces differing altogether from those in operation in bygone times. We have to create out of the free activity of our own human souls. The hallmark of our age is consciousness — it is the epoch of the Consciousness Soul, the Spiritual Soul. And if the future is to receive from us such works of culture and of art as. we have received from the past, we must create out of full and clear consciousness, free from any influence arising from the subconscious life ... And now let us turn to certain fundamental ideas which can make our work fruitful — for what we have to create must be basically, and in its very essence, new.14

Bibliography and footnotes
1. 'The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilisation'; Frank Lloyd Wright.
2. Collin Conkwright; The American Esoteric [2022]. Introduction; Collin Conkwright; The American Esoteric [2022]. Astrotheology.
3. Genesis, Verse 1:1-1.2.
4. Common Era [CE] and Before the Common Era [BCE] are year notations for the Gregorian calendar [and its predecessor, the Julian calendar] the world's most widely used calendar era. Common Era and Before the Common Era are alternatives to the original Anno Domini [AD] and Before Christ [BC] notations used for the same calendar era; Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. [2003]. Anno Domini. Merriam-Webster. 
5. Collin Conkwright; The American Esoteric [2022]. The Gods Problem.
6. C. Scott Littleton [2005]. Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology. New York: Marshall Cavendish, pp. 378.
7. Peter Joseph; D.M. Murdock [2010]. The Zeitgeist Sourcebook: Part 1 - The Greatest Story Ever Told, pp.1-3.
8. Dr. S.B. Roy [1976]. Prehistoric Lunar Astronomy,
9. Peter Joseph; D.M. Murdock [2010], pp. 3-5.
10. Collin Conkwright; The American Esoteric [2022]. Astrotheology.
11. Howdie Mickoski [2019]. Falling For Truth: A Spiritual Death And Awakening, Chapter 1. 
12. Rudolf Steiner [1911]. And The Temple Becomes Man, GA 286.
13. 'You know of course that we consider the beginning of the 5th post-Atlantean epoch beginning at the start of the 15th Century, from about 1413 onward. The beginning of the 15th Century was a significant, profound, incisive point for western humanity. The creation of such an about-turn which came about didn't happen all at once, it was preparatory. In the first moments of this epoch one only sees a gradual expansion. Old patterns from the earlier epochs transform into the new one and so on. Preparations were being made for a long time which were only really being experienced as a mighty reversal at the start of the 15th Century'; Rudolf Steiner [1917]. The History of Art GA 292: XI. Fourth and Fifth Post-Atlantean Epochs, Medieval Art in the Middle, West, and South of Europe.
14. Rudolf Steiner [1911].

Fig. 4. Le Village [Paysage Cubiste, Cubist Landscape], [1911]. Painter: Jean Metzinger [1883 - 1956].

Chapter Four

The 'Cube'

We come now to our own epoch in architecture. Its origins is to be found in one of the most deadliest of artistic genocides.1

What is now today, derisively and superficially called ornament:2 small to monumental, nature-based three-dimensional stone works [statues, figurines, bas-reliefs, etc.] skillfully and sympathetically crafted, by the ancients, to not only enhance and beautify the more utilitarian elements of architectural construction; but also, and more importantly, as spiritiual symbols expressing the 'life force, the essence of spirit, the divine principle within each of us and the collective consciousness of civilisations'3 - was declared a criminal act within architecture by architect and influential polemicist Adolf Loos in his 1908 essay, Ornament and Crime

‘The urge to ornament one’s face, and everything in one’s reach, is the origin of fine art. It is the babble of painting ... The man who created it felt the same urge as Beethoven, he experienced the same joy that Beethoven felt when he created the Ninth Symphony. But the man of our day, who in response to an inner urge, smears the walls with erotic symbols is a criminal or a degenerate ... . I have made the following observation and have announced it to the world: The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects ... We have outgrown ornament; we have fought our way through to freedom of ornament. See, the time is nigh, fulfilment awaits us. Soon the streets of the city will glisten like white walls. Like Zion, the holy city, the capital of heaven. Then fulfilment will come … Freedom from ornament is a sign of spiritual strength.’4

Following the widespread dissemination of his uncompromising anti-ornament position on functional, economic and moral grounds, his radical aesthetic purism became an article of faith amongst the post-World War I European [Marxist and Scientific Materialist] avant-garde; who saw ornament as a sign of bourgeois decadence and cultural indulgence, and so accepted his claims uncritically; and somewhat naively, incorporated the essay into the canon of the modern movement in architecture.5, 6, 7


'... the square is to us what the cross was to the early Christians. The square will conquer the Cross.'

- Theo van Doesburg


At this point in mankind's freedom from superfluous ornament - a mood of ’materialistic’ optimism . . . a mood of secular optimism [1907 - 1914]8 - a new epoch was being born, in which men [all mankind in fact] were undergoing perhaps the most important and certainly the most complete and radical artistic revolution since the Renaissance.9 

Developed primarily by painters, sculptors, and iconoclasts Pablo Picasso [1881 - 1973] and Georges Braque [1882 - 1963], Cubism10 carried to an extreme the modern attack on fine art or 'high art' - a realistic, naturalistic, and lifelike pictorial style, worked out by a craftsmen over a lifetime, praising the beauties and high spiritual values of the human body, human nature, and above all, nature - with the development of an almost geometrical technique of painting in which the painter, must see in nature the cylinder, the sphere, the cone.11

Effectively replacing the Renaissance’s innovative development of three-dimensional linear perspective and illusionistic realism [the attempt to represent the effects of light and colour physical appearances precisely] with a flattened, conceptual, two-dimensional panoptic [all-embracing] perception,12 a dramatic change had occurred: the change from representational to abstract art — from an art that engaged visible physical reality to one that evoked an invisible spiritual reality. In other words, the pure artist — the unequivocally non-objective, uncompromisingly abstract artist — replaced the romance and religion of nature with the romance and religion of [anti-social] art.13 

Let me make my point by examining in detail Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon [1907], perhaps the most famous, sensational work of art produced in the first decade of the 20th century. Picasso’s painting was so avant-garde - so unpredictable, unprecedented - that it made the avant-garde art that preceded it seem quaint, indeed, obsolete. Paradoxically, Picasso was almost excommunicated from the avant-garde for painting it. In other words, Les Demoiselles was in bad taste, even to those ready and eager to accept anything avant-garde. And that is part of its point: the disavowal of what had hitherto been regarded as good taste, as though that is what art is ultimately about.

The undermining, overthrowal and dismissal of the whole idea of tasteful art is central to its message. Its lack of taste - its contradiction and refusal of taste, as though to deny that the value of a work of art resides only in its tastefulness, that only the consensus of taste, which is a social measure, makes it significant - is what makes the Les Demoiselles revolutionary. In a sense, it is truly avant-garde because it refuses to be pleasing, because it disaffliates itself from the usual measure of artistic success - to give pleasure, or to represent pleasure in a pleasurable way, It was the anti-sociality — it was much deeper than a matter of being 'tasteless' - of Les Demoiselles that Picasso’s colleagues intuitively recognised and found offensive. And that anti-sociality was rooted in the expression of painful feelings. 

It is anguish - rage and hysterical fear, one writer has said - that is responsible for the primitivised, grotesque female figures in Les Demoiselles, not Picasso’s eagerness to be different, to be formally contrarian. It is Picasso’s discovery and use of what were then alien, bizarre forms, derived from African sources, to express and suggest his personal sense of alienation, and the experience of the bizarreness of reality ... that makes Les Demoiselles the expressive and conceptual model for all subsequent 20th-century art that dares call itself avant-garde.14


'Abstract art ... is the product of diseased minds, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.'

- Al Capp


Underpinning this miserabilism - that is, the depreciation of reality instead of its exaltation15 -  was the fate that Nietzsche had prophesied - the agony, the suffering, and the misery of a godless world,16 and the disease of nihilism. As the historian Ronald Stromberg, in his book Redemption by War, explained: the turn of the 20th century marked a time when intellectuals17 in Europe were gripped by a growing sense that life was meaningless – and it was this feeling which can help to explain the now forgotten fact that the vast majority of European intellectuals were in fact pro-war in the years leading up to World War I.18 Ronald Stromberg:

'How, in the end, are we to explain this so fateful explosion of warlike ideas and sentiments among all manner of European intellectuals in 1914? Of the ingredients we have found to be pervasive, all are important: hatred of the existing society; the apocalyptic 'sense of an ending'; need for some kind of worthy cause to give meaning to one’s life; sheer thirst for adventure against the background of a dreary19 scientific materialism, its neo-Darwinian counterpart scientific naturalism, or their mutual belief system atheism. On August 3, 1914, the eve of Britain's declaration of war against Germany, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey foresaw the impending destruction of Western civilisation: 'The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.' By the war's end, Grey's dire prophecy had come true.20

For the first time in history, the whole world waged war – a war that devoured men, resources and energy; that split loyalties, reignited old fervours and generated new horrors. What began in Europe, and might have been only the 'Third Balkan War', was turned into a global catastrophe upon the whim of the great imperial powers ... Total war meant globalisation and industrialisation; modernisation and regression; atavism [degeneration], anomie [social instability] and cultural appropriation across regions, countries and continents; but the war would also leave a vivid scar on the collective memory of all involved. The world would come to mourn the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and ten million combatants, and the loss of an innocence never to be regained.'21

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Jack Dempster [2016]. The Death and Rebirth of Ornamentation in Architecture
2. The English word ornament comes from the Latin word ornamentum ... which in modern interpretation means 'to confer grace upon some object or ceremony.' The term ornament, by most accounts, originated inside the Greek term Kosmos, which meant something like 'universe,' 'order,' and 'ornament.'; Kent Bloomer [2000]. The Nature of Ornament: Rhythm and Metamorphosis in Architecture. Norton Books for Architects & Designers, pp. 15.
3. Agrippa’s Diary [2023]. There Is But One Religion In All The World - Manly P. Hall.
4. Adolf Loos [1908]. Ornament und Verbrechen ['Ornament and Crime'], pp. 19-20.
5. Miriam Gusevich [1988]. Decoration and Decorum, Adolf Loos's Critique of Kitsch. New German Critique, no. 43, pp. 97–123; William R. E. Tozier [2011]. A Theory of Making: Architecture and Art in the Practice of Adolf Loos, pp. 39.
6. Ulrich Conrads; Michael Bullock [1976]. Programs and Manifestoes on 20th Century Architecture. The MIT Press. 
7. Adrian Rennix; Nathan J. Robinson [2017]. Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture: And if you don’t, why you should
8. Reyner Banham [1957]. Ornament and Crime: The Decisive Contribution of Adolf Loos; Clement Greenberg [1965]. Art and Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, pp. 97.
9. Daniel-Henry Kahweiler, quoted in John Berger, The Moment of Cubism and Other Essays. New York: Pantheon, 1969, pp. 5; John Golding [1968]. Cubism: A History and an Analysis 1907–1914. Boston: Boston Book & Art Shop, pp. 15.
10. The style’s terminology is believed to have been first established by French art critic Louis Vauxcelles who described some of Georges Braque’s 1908 paintings as 'reducing everything to ‘geometric outlines, to cubes'. 
11. 'May I repeat what I told you here: treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, everything brought into proper perspective so that each side of an object or a plane is directed toward a central point. Lines parallel to the horizon give breadth, whether it is a section of nature or, if you prefer, of the show which the Pater Omnipotens Aeterne Deus spreads before our eyes. Lines perpendicular to this horizon give depth. But nature for us men is more depth than surface, whence the need to introduce into our light vibrations, represented by the reds and yellows, a sufficient amount of blueness to give the feel of air'; John Rewald [1976]. Paul Cézanne: Letters. New York, pp. 301.
12. Camilo Rosales [2023]. Spatial Transparency in Architecture: Light, Layering, and Porosity, pp. 2.
13. Donald B. Kuspit [2022]. Nonobjectivity as a Crisis of Subjectivity.
14. Donald B. Kuspit [2008]. A Critical History of 20th-century Art, Chapter 1, Part 1 & 2: New Forms For Old Feelings: The First Decade.
15. Ibid.
16. Walter Kaufmann [1950]. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist.
17. I use the term 'intellectual' in the broad sense penetratingly described by F. A. Hayek: that is, not merely
theorists and academicians, but also all manner of opinion-molders in society - writers, journalists, preachers, scientists, activists of all sort - what Hayek calls 'secondhand dealers in ideas'; Murray N. Rothbard [1989]. World War I as Fulfillment: Power and the Intellectuals. pp. 82.
18. Academy of Ideas [2012]. Nietzsche and the Death of God.
19. Roland N. Stromberg [1982]. Redemption by War: Intellectuals and 1914
20. Charles A. O'Connor [2012]. The Great War and the Death of God: Postwar Breakdown of Western Culture, Retreat from Reason, and Rise of Scientific Materialism. pp. v - 2.
21. Annette Becker [2015]. The Great War: World War, Total War. International Review of the Red Cross, pp. 1030 - 1032.

Fig. 5. The Barcelona Pavilion [2010]. Photography: Ashley Pomeroy.

Chapter Five

The 'Shock of the New'

The Armistice which ended the butchery of the 'total war' left Germany devastated. It was bankrupted by the reparations it was forced to make to the victorious countries. The rule of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the nobility had ended, class structures were destroyed, and millions of men killed, leading to a violent and tumultuous social and political climate in the new and ill-fated Weimar Republic [1918-33]1 - a pivotal period of German and European history and a laboratory of extreme left-wing and right-wing ideologies.

For out of the same spiritual sickness which produced Russian nihilism ['Revolutionary Socialism'] - the rejection of all art, all idealism, all conventions, because these were superficial, unnecessary [bourgeois] luxuries and therefore evil - and anarchism ['Bolshevism'] - pure political direct action of the simplest kind, in the form of assassination- emerged the National Bolshevik movement in Germany. On the other hand, National Socialism placed in the foreground of its programme a belief that Bolshevism was not merely anti-bourgeois; it was against human civilisation itself -  it signified the destruction of all the commercial, social, political and cultural achievements of Western Europe, in favour of a deracinated [alienated] and nomadic international cabal which has found its representation in Judaism.3

Conflict between tradition and experimentation on the artistic scene reflected the profound social and ideological cleavages of Weimar Germany. The efflorescence [flowering] of artistic modernism after World War I had coincided with a profound shake-up of the social relationships and economic structures that had prevailed before the war. Thus, to many Germans, artistic modernism exacerbated a more fundamental disorientation. Believing the proper function of art to be a lifting of the spirit through an emphasis on beauty and heroism, the critics of modernism condemned forms of art conceived as means for exploring new perspectives on reality and for bringing society's blemishes into sharper focus. They believed that Germany had lost its traditional bearings, and that the new art functioned as a critical and corrosive force, promoting the unraveling of the social fabric by questioning the legitimacy of prevailing attitudes and institutions.4

The head of the groups marshalled in the fight against tradition and convention was the Novembergruppe [November Group]: a cadre of revolutionary German Expressionist artists and architects, Italian Futurists, Dada artists, and important Bauhaus members. Linked less by their styles of art [hence Cubofutoexpressionism, a neologism referring to Cubism, Futurism and Expressionism], than by shared socialist impulses toward radicalism, a drive to remake the established order, and the ambition to end the 'bourgeois development' of art5 - the group campaigned for, among other things, the relationship between artists and the public, the reform of art education, state support for artists, and the possibilities of artistic influence on urban design, architecture and publicly financed housing.6  Walter Gropius:

'The ultimate goal of all art is the building! So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavoured to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.'7


'Glass brings us the new Age
Brick-culture does us nothing but harm.'8

- Bruno Taut


At the beginning of 1927, all the architects except Alfred Gellhorn left the November Group and tried to represent their interests in the architects' association Der Ring [The Ring]. One of the driving forces behind the founding of the Ring was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe [1886 - 1969], and he fulfilled this role with increasing authority as the decade grew older. That authority among his fellow architects, seems to have depended less on great force of personality or dazzling originality, than on sheer unshakeable merit as a designer. In whatever style circumstancs or inclination led him to design, he was outstanding, possible because he was, he claimed, indifferent to style: 'We reject all aesthetic speculation, all doctrine, all formalism ... we refuse to recognise problems of form; we recognise only problems of building'. The 'problems of building' that he was prepared to recognise were structural, planning disciplines, industrialisation of methods. 

Whatever the personal influences bearing on this attitude, there was a growing social pressure, that drove his ideas in this Rationalist and Functionalist direction in the middle of the Twenties. From about 1924 onwards, progressive organs of local government in different parts of Germany began to commission and build designs for large-scale, low-cost housing developments, and a surprisingly large proportion of this work went to comparatively extreme Modernists. Given the financial condition of the country at the time, these Siedlungen ['settlements'] had to be built down to the most stringent budgets, and a ruthlessly rational approach was required to extract the maximum possible performance from materials, machinery, and every square metre of built floor space and occupied site area.9  

In 1925, the Deutscher Werkbund - an organisation of artists advocating the greatest possible use of mechanical mass production and standardised design - invited Mies to take charge of the overall planning of what was to be their first major exhibition since Cologne, the Weissenhof Estate [1927] overlooking Stutgtgart. Under his artistic direction, seventeen international architects, among them Walter Gropius, Jacobus Oud, Hans Scharoun, Peter Behrens, and Le Corbusier presented thirty-three innovative and forward-looking designs for modern, healthy, affordable, and functional living.9 Mies participated with a four-storey residential block of four row houses. In the 12 rental units, which Mies had arranged and furnished by 29 interior designers, he realised the concept of a flexible floor plan for the first time, facilitated by the use of moveable dividing walls in a skeleton [frame] construction.11

The masterpiece of Mies’s European career and one of the few buildings by which the twentieth century might wish to be measured against the great ages of the past11 is the Barcelona Pavilion [Fig. 5], commissioned by Georg von Schnitzler; the aristocratic, well-to-do German industrialist and Commissar-General for the 1929 Barcelona Exposition - the first such event in which the country had participated since its defeat in World War I: 'Here you see the spirit of the new Germany; simplicity and clarity of means and intentions all open to the wind, as well as to freedom – it goes straight to our hearts. A work made honestly, without pride. Here is the peaceful house of an appeased ['pacified'] Germany!'

With only six months to design and build the structure, Mies, along with lesser-known assistant Lilly Reich, were given free rein in the conception of the space,12 leaving Mies free to pursue his most radical architectural expression:13 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao: 

'Simple, unembellished, and featuring a flat roof, Mies's structure differed greatly from the surrounding pavilions. While the extensive use of glass and the chrome-plated columns show its modern setting, the Barcelona Pavilion is a 'synthesis of classical form and modern technology,' following the Miesian belief that it was possible to reconcile new with old. The building mixed new materials, such as glass, steel, and chrome, with classical ones, such as Roman travertine, green Alpine marble, ancient green marble from Greece, and golden onyx from the Atlas Mountains. Installed near a shallow open-air pool was another nod to classicism, the allegorical sculpture by Georg Kolbe [1877—1947] titled Der Morgen [Morning[. This pairing of the classical body surrounded by clean contemporary architecture made the pavilion's 'marriage of the modern and the antique complete.'14

Most publications [at the time] emphasised the building’s simplicity and sincerity, the clarity of its lines, its asceticism, spirituality, and essentialism as a metaphor for Germany’s reformed character, its young democracy with an honest desire to be a peaceful member of the family of nations after the catastrophe of the First World War. Just like their fellow journalists, few architecture critics could escape the lure of von Schnitzler’s brilliant, if facile, link between the pavilion’s qualities and the country’s contemporary condition. One senses the delight and relief over an ostensibly modern building, beautiful and self-assured, that boldly eschewed the mantras of standardisation, rationalisation, functionalism, and much of the established formal vocabulary of the modern movement, such as brick or white stucco walls and ribbon windows. 

Soon, the pavilion was hailed as the 'most beautiful building at the entire exhibition,' a victory for 'a rebirth of the art of building,' 'a spatial work of art,' 'the manifestation of a higher spirit' and even a 'metaphysical architecture.'15


'In the conflict between the two elements of construction, solidity and open space, everything seems to show that the principle of free spaces will prevail, that the palaces and houses of the future will be flooded with air and light.'16

- Salomon Reinach


By the beginnings of the 1930s, it was possible for the discerning and selective eye to survey the productions of the previous decade and to single out a new style. From Moscow to Milan, from La Jolla to Japan, buildings of different function, size, material, meaning, and expressive power could be found which still had obvious features in common. One could speak of the shared characteristics in terms of recurrent motifs like strip windows, flat roofs, grids of supports, cantilevered horizontal planes, metal railings; or one could define the general qualities of the style by more abstract features like the recurrent tendency to use simple rectangular volumes articulated by crisply cut openings, or to emphasise hovering planes and intermediate spaces.17

The term International Style was coined in 1932 by architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock and architect Philip Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art's [MOMA] first International Exhibition of Modern Architecture. In the companion for the book produced for the exhibition they declared: 'Today a single new style has come into existence. This contemporary style, which exists throughout the world, is unified and inclusive, not fragmentary and contradictory like so much of the production of the first generation of modern architects.'18  The new style would, in short, be simple, uncluttered, repetitive and modular in order to be relevant to all men and women. To complete the prescription for a genuinely international approach, unsmirched by 'irrational' or local characteristics, ornament was condemned.19

Describing the emergence of the International Style in the 1920s, James Stevens Curl in his book Making Dystopia: The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism, writes: 'It became apparent that something very strange had occurred: an aberration, something alien to the history of humanity, something destructive aesthetically and spiritually, something ugly and unpleasant, something that was inhumane and abnormal, yet something that was almost universally accepted in architectural circles, like some fundamentalist quasi-religious cult that demanded total allegiance, obedience, and subservience.'20

Curl’s language may be immoderate, but he is not wrong. In its banning of ornament, which had characterised every epoch since the Egyptian pharaohs, the International Style was an aberration i.e., a deviation from what is normal, expected, or usual. Without ornament to provide meaning, buildings did appear inhumane. The result of enthusiastically embracing industrialisation and mass production, and especially using exposed concrete, was often ugly and unpleasant. And there was something fundamentalist about the Modern Movement’s intolerance, its rejection of the past, and its narrow-minded - not to say puritanical - insistence on adherence to a narrow set of aesthetic norms.21

Nevertheless, having therefore thrown off the tyranny of the historic styles and discarded its dead ornament, all that was now needed was a man who would spread the word internationally with authority and vigour,22 and make the world aware that a new style was being born.23

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Gerda Breuer; Magdalena Droste; Jörn Etzold; Philipp Oswalt [2010]. Bauhaus Conflicts 1919-2009: Controversies and Counterparts. pp. 6.
2. Carroll Quigley [1966]. Tragedy & Hope - A History of the World in Our Time. pp. 89.
3. Joseph Goebbels [1935]. Communism with the Mask Off
4. Alan E. Steinweis [1991]. Weimar Culture and the Rise of National Socialism: The Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur. pp. 404.
5. Taylor Dafoe [2018]. 100 Years Ago Today, Germany’s November Group Art Movement Was Founded. Here’s Why That Matters Now.
6. Marcel Bois [2016]. The Art! - That’s one Thing! When it’s there: On the History of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst in the Early Weimar Republic.
7. Walter Gropius [1919]. Program of the Staatliche Bauhaus in Weimar.
8. Reyner Banham [1960] Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. 2nd ed., pp. 266.
9. Ibid, pp. 269 - 273.
10. Weissenhof Museum [2024]. Welcome: The 1927 Exhibition.
11. Bauhaus Kooperation [2024]. Weissenhof Estate, Stuttgart: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1927.
12. Victoria Anne [2023]. Barcelona Pavilion: Techniques of Perception
13. Terence Riley, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., [2002]. Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, pp. 70.
14. Guggenheim Bilbao [2024]. The Constructors.
15. Dietrich Neumann; David Caralt [2020]. The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe: One Hundred Texts since 1929. pp. 12. 
16. Salomon Reinach [1904]. Apollo.
17. William Curtis [1987]. Modern Architecture since 1900. ‎Phaidon Press, pp. 174.
18. Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Philip Johnson [1932]. The International Style. W. W. Norton & Company, New York, pp. 35-36.
19. Patrick Nuttgens [1988]. Understanding Modern Architecture. Unwin Hyman, pp. 112 & 131. 
20. James Stevens Curl [2018]. Making Dystopia: The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism. Oxford University Press. 
21. Witold Rybczynski [2019]. Modernism and the Making of Dystopia.
22. Patrick Nuttgens [1988], pp. 113. 
23. Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Philip Johnson [1932], pp. 46.

Fig. 6. The Swiss architect Le Corbusier reading at home [1946]. Photography: Attributed to Nina Leen [1909 - 1995]

Chapter Six

Le Corbusier

The works and ideas of Charles Edouard Jeanneret [Le Corbusier] have to be discussed in any study of modern architecture; for knowledge of his work, for good or ill, is indispensable to the Modern movement. His influence has been so colossal, so worldwide and so comprehensive that he dominates not only the world of architecture but, in effect, a great part of the world of invention and culture. He ranks with Darwin, Freud, Einstein, Wittgenstein, and Picasso among major figures who have for ever affected the world to which we belong. 

What made Le Corbusier a compulsive figure was the series of articles about architecture published in the journal L’Esprit Nouveau ['The New Spirit'], and put together in 1923 to make the book Vers une Architecture [translated as 'Towards a New Architecture'].1 The new is important in the title as it over emphasises the new in what Corbusier was proposing. He wanted a new set of technologies, and a new set of aesthetics derived from bridges, boats, cars yes but also he maintaned these were universal and fundamental design ideas that he identified went back to classical antiquity. Simple and clear geometries employed to make certain planning and visual moves.2 Le Corbusier:

'A great epoch has begun
There exists a new spirit ...
The spirit of constructing mass-production houses
The spirit of living in mass-production houses
The spirit of conceiving mass-production houses'3

And it had the most devastating clarity for those who pursued the dream of machine production; of making architecture, especially housing, into a commodity for consumption by the masses, an artifact of use to be bought and sold in accordance with prevailing principles of economic exchange. When Le Corbusier praised grain silos and factories because their pure form had been shaped by the economic rules of production, he came down in favour of engineers. For Le Corbusier, engineers, unlike architects, were not guided by preconception about appearance. Instead, they possessed a single-minded focus on purpose and economy. Le Corbusier saw great promise in the production of architecture by machines, particularly in housing where it offered a way to fulfil a social housing agenda4 - that of finding dwellings for large numbers of people in an egalitarian ['socialist-communist'] society.


'A house is a machine for living in. Baths, sun, hot-water, cold-water, warmth at will, conservation of food, hygiene, beauty in the sense of good proportion. An armchair is a machine for sitting in and so on.'

- Le Corbusier


What explains both the stature of Le Corbusier's thinking and later the unpopularity of his work is the fact that from the very start - explicitly in Towards a New Architecture - he conceived architecture and town planning as one. And the buildings he designed were ultimately components in The Ville Contemporaine [The Contemporary City]:5 a 1922 utopian, urban plan for three million inhabitants, centred upon prefabricated and identical, high-density sixty-story cruciform [shaped like a cross] skyscrapers, spread across a vast green area of  rectangular park-like spaces and arranged in a Cartesian grid, [thus] allowing the city to function as a 'living machine.' At the core of Le Corbusier’s plan stood the notion of zoning: different uses - residences, industry, commerce, office work, culture, recreation - would occupy completely different sectors of the city..6,7 Robert Fishman; Russell Walden:

Le Corbusier’s ideas began and ended with the concept that industrial society had an inherent form, an objective order derived from the nature of man and the nature of machines, an ideal structure, which - if realised - would bring prosperity, harmony, and joy. For Le Corbusier, any industrial society must be centrally controlled, hierarchically organised, administered from above, with the most qualified people in the most responsible position. He believed that the industrial era would be an age of triumphant rationality, and, as Max Weber had already observed, the rule of reason in Western society means the dominance of bureaucracy. Le Corbusier did not shrink from this conclusion: he embraced it. 

His ideal city is above all a City of Administration.8 'From its offices [occupy the place of honour at the centre] come the commands that put the world in order.'These skyscrapers are 'the brain of the city, the brain of the whole country. They embody the work of elaboration and command on which all activities depend.'10 This administrative centre is the true capital of the country, the headquarters of headquarters. It is also the natural home of the elite, the directors of the great bureaucracies. Le Corbusier emphasised that the elite includes the administrators of the intellect as well as of industry. He listed the leading occupants of the central towers as 'captains of business, of industry, of finance, of politics, masters of science, of pedagogy ['education'], of thought, the spokesmen of the heart, the artists, poets, musicians.'11

In putting forward this interpretation, Le Corbusier believed he was speaking as an objective 'technician'; [when] in fact, he was aligning himself with one of France’s most venerable political traditions, one which dates from the writings of the nineteenth-century utopian socialist Henri de Saint-Simon [1760-1825]. The future, he predicted, belonged to large-scale enterprises [who] would impose a hierarchy of authority on all workers and bring an elite of proven ability and knowledge into the commanding positions, an elite which, he claimed, was already taking the most important decisions into its hands: the exploitation of natural resources, the development of industry, and the administration of production and distribution ... The workers would have jobs and prosperity; they would feel themselves to be part of a great collective enterprise headed by their natural leaders, the industriels - who headed the largest corporations and controlled the world economy.12


'...the car would abolish the human street, and possibly the human foot. Some people would have aeroplanes too. The one thing no one would have is a place to bump into each other, walk the dog, strut, one of the hundred random things that people do ... being random was loathed by Le Corbusier ... its inhabitants surrender their freedom of movement to the omnipresent architect.'13

- Robert Hughes


The Plan Voisin, drawn between 1922 and 1925, assumed that the heads of the large corporations would take on the complete transformation and modernisation of central Paris. Acting only as businessmen, they would buy up a large tract on the Right Bank of the River Seine, medieval buildings and 19th century buildings would be erased and replaced, and erected in their place would be eighteen skyscrapers adhering to the Le Corbusian model of the Unité d'Habitation ['Unit of Habitation']: vertically integrated, reinforced concrete high-rise city where residents would live and work in one seamless unit.14 ’The ’street’ as we know it has now disappeared. All the various sporting activities take place directly outside people’s homes, in the midst of parks - trees, lawns and lakes. The city is entirely green; it’s a Green City. Not one inhabitant occupies a room without sunlight; everyone looks out on trees and sky’15

Le Corbusier’s gradual realisation that the capitalist magnates were unwilling and unable to carry out The Plan Voisin did not affect his confidence in the Plan.16 In 1930 he proposed one of the most influential and controversial urban design doctrines of European modernism,17 The Ville Radieuse ['The Radiant City'], which is subtitled Elements of a Doctrine to be used as the Basis of our Machine Age-Civilisation.'18 Lucía Burbano:

In the centre of a completely asymmetrical masterplan were 24 cruciform skyscrapers standing 200 meters tall, intended to house businesses and hotels. Around it were residential districts for the skyscraper workers, made up of apartment buildings following his concept of unité d’habitation. Each block would house 2,700 residents and would follow a mixed-use style of architecture, with a laundry, restaurant and daycare centre on the ground floor and a swimming pool on the rooftop terrace. Finally, an area was planned on the south side divided into three parts to be used for manufacturing, storage and large industries, while the north area would be used for gardens and leisure areas.19

Le Corbusier’s conception of housing in the Radiant City represents a significant departure from his earlier Contemporary City plans. In the Contemporary City, housing exactly mirrors the hierarchical structure of society: the elite live luxuriously in the center and the workers live modestly at the outskirts. In the Radiant City, however, all citizens live in the high-rise apartments at the center. This residential area is wholly egalitarian. There are no good or bad neighborhoods; apartments are not assigned on the basis of the worker’s position in the hierarchy but according to the size of his family and their needs. Everyone has equal and ready access to social services and to recreational facilities.20 'If the city were to become a human city,' Le Corbusier pointed out, 'it would be a city without classes.'21

His colleague and contemporary, Hugo Häring, argued that the Swiss-French architect's design was 'a proposal of an abhorrent future, organised like a 'Prussian military world', orderly, aligned, disciplined, but cold'.22 New urbanists such as James Howard Kunstler criticised The Ville Radieuse concept for its lack of human scale and connection to its surroundings. It is, in Lewis Mumford's phrase, 'buildings in a parking lot ... The space between the high-rises floating in a superblock became instant wastelands, shunned by the public.'23

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Patrick Nuttgens [1988]. Understanding Modern Architecture. Unwin Hyman, pp. 95 - 97. 
2. Lewis Martin [2021]. Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier: Review and Booknotes.
3. Le Corbusier [1923]. Vers une Architecture [Towards a New Architecture], pp. 6.
4. Stephen Kieran; James Timberlake [2004]. Refabricating Architecture: How Manufacturing Methodologies Are Poised to Transform Building Construction, pp. 6 - 7.
5. Patrick Nuttgens [1988], pp. 100-104.
5. Ibid, pp. 100.
6. ArchDaily [2013]. AD Classics: Ville Radieuse / Le Corbusier.
7. Architectuul [2024]. Radiant City, Paris, France: Le Corbusier.
8. Robert Fishman; Russell Walden [2021]. From the Radiant City to Vichy: Le Corbusier’s Plans and Politics, 1928-1942. MIT Press Open Architecture and Urban Studies, pp. 5-7.
9. Le Corbusier [1925]. Urbanisme, Paris, pp. 177.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid, pp. 93.
12. Robert Fishman; Russell Walden [2021].
13. Robert Hughes [1991]. The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change.
14. Art Institute Chicago [2024]. Highrise City [Hochhausstadt]: Perspective View: North-South Street.
15. Le Corbusier [1964] La Ville Radieuse. pp 94.
16. Robert Fishman; Russell Walden [2021].
17. R. W. Caves [2004]. Encyclopedia of the City. Routledge. pp. 555.
18. The American Conservative; Patrick Tomassi [2023]. The Radiant City.
19. Tomorrow City; Lucía Burbano [2021]. Ville Radieuse: Why Did Le Corbusier's Radiant City Fail?
20. Robert Fishman; Russell Walden [2021].
21. Le Corbusier [1939]. Le Lyrisme des temps nouveaux et l’urbanisme. Paris, pp. 15.
22. Tomorrow City; Lucía Burbano [2021].
23. James Howard Kunstler [1993]. The Geography of Nowhere. Simon & Schuster.

Fig. 7. Park Hill Estate, Sheffield [1961]. Photography: Architectural Press Archive | RIBA Collections.

Chapter Seven

Crimes in Concrete1

After the carnage of World War II, Le Corbusier finally got an opportunity to put some of his lofty urban design visions into practice. Drawing on ideas he had been developing for decades, he created a series of structures that helped usher in an aesthetic that came to be known as Brutalism.The most complete expression of his long and patient reflections on housing, architecture and urbanism - low cost[s]; reinforced concrete; standardisation, industrialisation, tailored mass production - was the huge 'House-Machine', built between 1945 and 1952, at Marseilles - the Unites'd Habitation de Grandeur Conforme ['Housing Unit of Standard Size'] or the Cité Radieuse de Marseille [the Radiant city of Marseille].Kenneth Easton:

After 25 years of paper planning and production of evolutionary projects, Unite'd Habitation No.1 has taken shape and is now nearing completion ... At first sight the building looks deceptively small, the seventeen storeys sitting on the truly heroic pilotis [columns] seems a masterpiece of deliberate understatement. Scale, the treatment of planes, patterns and surfaces are as magnificent as the bad finish of the precast concrete work is deplorable ['pitiful, lame, cheap, wretched, disgusting']. Both inside and out - and this includes the jeu d'espirit ['flight of fancy'] on the roof - I found a building which was always interesting and often exciting ... In addition to the 330 flats for 1600 people [at a density of 139 to the acre] it will contain a post office, a shopping centre on the 7th and 8th floors, a library and restaurant, a hotel for guests, club rooms, a clinic on the top floor and a running-track and gymnasium on the roof; while a swimming-bath and a school are sited in the 11½ acre grounds surrounding the building. 

Each [apartment] is a box, complete in itself, made up of light prefabricated panels of dry construction whose dimensions are based on the Le Modulor4 [or Modulor Man: a universal system of proportions reconciling maths, the human form, architecture and beauty into a single system].Each of the apartments of the ‘Unité’ in fact consists of a combination of mass produced cellules [‘cells’]: the kitchen cell [which includes the bathroom, toilet and storage units]; the parents’ bedroom cell; and the children’s bedroom cell ... Variety within each apartment is created by two-storey duplexes with double height living spaces and full height glazing a double-height living room at one end. Once the arrangement of the ‘cells’ is determined to create each individual apartment, the apartments are then slotted into a reinforced concrete frame supporting the entire structure of the building.6, 7 

The apartment balcony [or loggias] of each apartment are sited on the east, west and south facades of the building. As the building is a rectangular block, sited such that its length stretches from north to south, the majority of apartments are orientated east-west, with a loggia on either side. The loggias may equally be opened out onto to provide an extension of the internal living space. The sides of the loggias are painted in pure flat colours of either red, blue, white, yellow, brown or jade green: to add interest and vibrancy to the exterior of the building, and a greater means of identity for the residents, as their dwelling is differentiated from those next to it.'8 


'I think Marseilles must be one of the greatest buildings of all times ... if you don't go there too often. Under the pilottis is one hell of a place to be unless you want to pee.'9

- Philip Johnson


For the group of LCC architects assembled by Architectural Review to discuss the Unité shortly before its completion, the ‘aesthetic conception’ was ‘beyond dispute.’ It was an ‘exciting and beautiful building’, a ‘very lovely building’ by ‘a very great artist.’10 At its opening ceremony in Marseille, Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus said: 'Any architect who does not find this building beautiful had better lay down his pencil.'11 However, this judgement was made while considering this ‘man-made mountain’ from a distance.12 distance. Nicknamed by the Marseillais [locals] La Maison du Fada or rather 'the madman’s house': at close-quarters ‘the construction methods [were] almost medieval in their crudity’, displaying evident ‘poor craftsmanship.’ The finish of some of the pre-cast concrete work was ‘deplorable.’13 

For sociologist Lewis Mumford [1895-1990], ‘considered abstractly as a visual experience’ the building was impressive. ‘Open to a nearer view’ however, ‘the coarseness seems carelessness and the strength becomes brutality.’14 In his essay, The Marseille Folly, Mumford saved his most vitriolic criticism for the interior: the internal streets were merely corridors, with a ‘sinister emptiness’, ‘stressing gloom and innerness’; a ‘third of the floor space lacks daylight, view, or direct air’, an ambience accentuated by the oppressively low ceilings [seven feet] and narrow width of most of the bedrooms [six feet].14 A lack of privacy for the inhabitants was also a problem for Mumford, as was the denial of life-enriching views of the surrounding natural grandeur by concrete barriers. And the omission to provide a laundry room for the users was to backfire on Le Corbusier’s exercise in image-making: as soon as the residents arrived they immediately began to hang their washing out on the balconies, thus ruining the rhmic play of surface and texture, shadow and light.

The contributors to Architectural Review also had concerns for the user, worrying that the self-contained nature of the Unité would become insular. Rather than contributing to the social welfare of man, such a self-contained community, where most needs are provided for, would lead to the impoverishment of the wider community, and, as they no longer need to leave the Unité for daily essentials, a narrowing of neighbourly contact for the inhabitants. Thus, one encounters the early criticism of Brutalism: the notion that personal artistic statement – the building as ‘an image.’ – took precedence over the needs of the user.15 With the utterance of these two words - an image - we come to a fundamental point about the malign and disastrous influence of Le Corbusier. Dr Adam Kaasa: 

There is an anecdote told about Le Corbusier’s relationship to photography, and specifically architectural photography ... Early on in his career, Le Corbusier was frustrated by the flattening of the architectural encounter to a mere photographic representation explaining that ‘the effect of photographs is always distorted and offensive to the eyes of those who have seen the originals’.16 In effect, an early Le Corbusier preferred the ‘real-life’ experience of architecture rather than its representation on photographic film. While his architecture stood out on the page as defiantly avant-garde, it still stood in real time and space – that is, the photographs of his architecture could not but represent his architecture in its context. Urban or rural, Le Corbusier’s architecture was surrounded by the mess of life.

Later, unhappy with the photographic representation of his architecture, Le Corbusier took to photographic editing and montage to better represent the way he thought his architecture should be seen. To this end, Le Corbusier would take the negatives of the photographs of his architecture, and erase the surrounding images of nature, urban life, other buildings, people, the sky, the sun, the ground. What were left were photographic representations of his buildings completely isolated, floating in white, empty space. As the architectural historian Beatriz Colomina accounts, at times he went so far as to erase all elements of context or geography, making ‘architecture into an object relatively independent of place’.17 For Le Corbusier, the process of architecture was the illusion of control; and the obstacle of architecture, was the reality of context.18

In his excellent book, Understanding Modern Architecture, Patrick Nuttgens tells us: Le Corbusier was not really a social planner. He was a painter and the colleagues of Cubist painters. He saw a social situation, a social problem - that a great architecture could be created for the working man, for the under-privileged no less than the privileged - and literally visualised a solution. And it was a vision that captured the imagination not only of himself and his colleagues but of the politicians and the potential tenants. He saw a simple house as a work of art. He saw a great housing complex - a Unite - as a work of art. He saw the whole city as a work of art and called it the Radiant City. Ultimately, the Modern Movement was a conscious style created by artists and it was a product of an industrial society with social concern. It was intended to be an expression of democracy; it became instead an expression of totalitarianism because it could not avoid expressing the paternalism of its somewhat arrogant expositors. Intended to be good for all individuals, it became good for the anonymous mass in which the individual need and aspiration is forgotten.

Its ultimate expression was therefore mass housing - its monument and its sepulchre [grave].19


'The adulation accorded to Le Corbusier ... has certain characteristics which may be summarised as follows: it is destructive; it isolates its believers; it claims superior knowledge and morality; it demands subservience, conformity, and obedience; it is adept at brainwashing; it imposes its own assertions as dogma, and will not countenance any dissent; it is self-referential; and it invents its own arcane language, incomprehensible to outsiders..'20

- James Stevens Curl


At the beginning of the sixth decade of the twentieth-century British architecture was in a ‘moment of crisis.’21 After the hiatus in wartime building and the unparalleled devastation – hundreds of thousands houses had been obliterated, rendered uninhabitable or been destroyed during the war - there was a desperate need for new homes, schools and workplaces.22 The [false] dialectic was between a softer face of modern architecture, the Scandinavian influenced New Humanism - what Alvar Aalto called 'harmonious living in a community' - and a more primitive, ‘brutal’ architecture pioneered by Le Corbusier. The brutal form of architecture was to triumph, and ‘New Brutalism’ became the lingua franca of British urban design theorists and the most conspicuous form of new architecture of the 1960s and 70s.23

In the City of Manchester, a plan was produced for the reconstruction and development of the city. Among the many issues dealt with in that plan was the question of how the city was going to address the housing needs of its citizens: 'In many respects the Manchester citizen of 1650 was in a better position to enjoy a healthy life than the present-day inhabitant of Ancoats, Beswick or Hulme. If the quality of his house was poor, and the sanitary arrangements primitive or non-existent, at least he had a fairly large strip of garden and the open country was only a few minutes’ walk away. Today about 60 per cent of Manchester’s houses are built at densities in excess of 24 to the acre. Most of these 120,000 houses are old and must in any event be rebuilt in the comparatively near future.  Over 60,000 are considered by the Medical Officer of Health to be unfit for human habitation ... Endless rows of grimy houses: no gardens, no parks, no community buildings, no hope.'24

However, over the next two decades the city encountered one problem after another in trying to implement its plans.  Attempts to build on the Cheshire fringes were opposed and abandoned, and although many people moved out of the inner city into Wythenshawe and Hattersley, it was clear that the solution would have to include clearing the existing housing stock and rebuilding. Manchester like other cities had turned to high-rise flats as a solution and had, in the 1950s and 60s, adopted many of the pre-fabricated building systems that were popular at the time. However by 1967 the Manchester Housing Committee was of the opinion that, 'dwellings must not be put into ‘office block’ arrangements.' The statement went on to say that they, 'foresaw no building higher than a six-storey maisonette.' A year later the 23 storey Ronan Point Flats in London collapsed, 'like a pack of cards', killing 5 people and injuring 80 and that event threw a huge shadow over the tower block as a housing solution.

So what happened next in Hulme was the collision of the need for a housing solution with the advent of a new style of civic building and the arrival in Manchester of the architectural partnership of Hugh Wilson and J. Lewis Womersley. In 1965 Wilson & Womersley submitted a plan for a £4 million redevelopment of Hulme which as John J. Parkinson-Bailey explains in Manchester: An Architectural History involved: 'thirteen tower blocks; low-rise concrete blocks clad in a variety of materials, and connected together by aerial walkways; and crescents - four long, curved, south facing blocks of flats and maisonettes connected by walkways and bridges.' They believed that their design for the Crescents would see the recreation in Hulme of the grand crescents of London and Bath and to reinforce this they named them after the architects Adam, Nash, Barry and Kent.

However, it didn’t take very long for things to go wrong.  Shoddy construction resulted in the Crescents leaking. The underfloor heating system proved to be expensive to use after the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and the leaking problem combined with inadequate heating resulted in extensive condensation problems. The buildings were infested by cockroaches and mice found the ducting for water and wiring their own 'streets in the sky'.25 A 1973 survey showed the estate to be the most deprived in Manchester. In 1974 a five-year old child died after falling from a top-floor balcony and matters came to a head. 643 residents signed a petition asking to be moved.26 Three years after they had moved in, 96.3 per cent of the residents wanted to leave. The lifts rarely worked and vandalism and indifference saw the Crescents become unsanitary and unkempt. The walkways provided perfect venues for crime and ideal escape routes for criminals. Residents found themselves hostages in their own homes.27 The 1978 World in Action report – a searing exposé of what it described as ‘a British Bantustan28 – estimated 60 per cent of residents were in receipt of benefit.29

In 1991, the government provided Manchester with £31 million to revive housing stock. It was decided that a tabula rasa approach was required and the entire Hulme Crescents were demolished from 1993 to 1995.

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Theodore Dalrymple [2019]. Crimes in Concrete.
2. Kurt Kohlstedt [2018]. Unite d'Habitation: Le Corbusier's Proto-Brutalist Urban Sky Villages.
3. Patrick Nuttgens [1988]. Understanding Modern Architecture. Unwin Hyman, pp. 101-104. 
4. Kenneth Easton [1951]. Views on Le Corbusier's Unite d' Habitation.
5. ICON [2009]. Modulor Man by Le Corbusier.
6. Isabelle Toland [1999]. 4 unités LC: Fragments of a Radiant Dream. pp. 36.
7. Le Corbusier referred to this arrangement as the Caisier à bouteilles [bottle rack] principle rack] prinicple [W. Boesiger [1946]. Le Corbusier et Pierre Jeanneret: Œuvre Complète 1946 – 1952, Volume 5. Les Editions d’Architectures, Zurich, Switzerland, pp. 186] -  – an expression that describes the way in which each apartment is a singular entity in itself [like a bottle], inserted into the supporting ‘rack’ that provides the framework for the unified whole.
8. Isabelle Toland [1999], pp. 38-39.
9. Patrick Nuttgens [1988], pp. 103. 
10. Kenneth Easton et al [1951]. Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation. Architectural Review, pp. 296.
11. Kurt Kohlstedt [2018]. 
12. Lewis Mumford [1964]. The Highway and the City. London: Secker & Warburg, Revised Edn., 1964), pp 70.
13. Encyclopedia of Medieval Carpentry [2024]. Beginnings: Hunstanton, pp 45.
14. Lewis Mumford [1964], pp. 72-78.
15. 13. Encyclopedia of Medieval Carpentry [2024], pp. 45-46.
16. Beatriz Colomina [1987]. Le Corbusier and Photography. Assemblage, pp. 10.
17. Ibid, pp. 12.
18. Dr. Adam Kaasa [2016]. Cohabitation: Against the Tabula Rasa and Towards a New Ethic for Cities. pp. 1.
19. Patrick Nuttgens [1988], pp. 104, 1, 105, 131. 
20. James Stevens Curl [2018]. Making Dystopia: The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism. Oxford University Press. 
21. J. M. Richards [1950]. The Next Step. Architectural Review [London], pp. 166.
22. Robert Elwall [2000]. Building a Better Tomorrow. Chichester: Wiley-Academy, pp 41. Helena
Webster [ed.] [1997]. Modernism Without Rhetoric: Essays on the Work of Alison and Peter Smithson. London: Academy Editions, pp 17.
23. Encyclpedia of Medieval Carpentry [2024], pp. 2.
24. R. Nicholas [1945]. City of Manchester Plan 1945.
25. Manchester History [1978]. The Hulme Crescents.
26. Municipal Dreams [2014]. The Hulme Crescents, Manchester: A ‘British Bantustan’.
27. Manchester History [1978].
28. Bantustan [n.] a partially self-governing area set aside during the period of apartheid for a particular indigenous African people.
29. World in Action [1978]. There’s No Place Like Hulme.

Fig. 8. The Salk Institute for Biological Studies [1960]. Architecture: Louis Kahn [1901-1974]. Photography: Joe Belcovson.

Chapter Eight

Concrete Resistance

In 1931 Walter Benjamin wrote a short piece titled The Destructive Character: ''The destructive character knows only one watchword: make room. And only one activity: clearing away. His need for fresh air and open space is stronger than any hatred ... The destructive character is always blithely at work. It is Nature that dictates his tempo, indirectly at least, for he must forestall her. Otherwise she will take over the destruction herself. The destructive character sees no image hovering before him. He has few needs, and the least of them is to know what will replace what has been destroyed. First of all, for a moment at least, empty space –the place where the thing stood or the victim lived. Someone is sure to be found who needs this space without occupying it.'

This passage introduces us to the theology and fantasy of tabula rasa urbanism in the modernist twentieth century. Every act of planned urban erasure is met with a promise, a promise of what is to come. This promise architects, urban planners ... is rarely, if ever, a contract, but rather a promise or gesture to a ‘future perfect’. Using visual technologies, an image of a site or development can be produced to such a compelling quality, that it is as if it already existed, in a perfect state, in the near-future. This image, this promise becomes the package that is carefully sold to a polity [organised society] in order to legitimate what is necessary in the present: the blank slate. It is, most often, a false promise, one which assures that all the present conditions that mark the erasure as necessary will be resolved once the erasure takes place; that the resolution of a present anxiety or decline, can only, and only ever, emerge if it starts from a fresh start: erasure, rupture, a new beginning, a clean slate.2

If this sounds like a familiar narrative, it should. Le Corbusier proposed the same violence of erasure for the then ‘slum’ of the Marais district in Paris for his Plan Voisin - massive, towering apartment blocks set apart from each other by highways and greenspace; post-war Britain was full of half-bombed damaged city areas, erasure brought on by the horrific technologies of war - explosives and bombs; and from Pruitt-Igoe in St Louis onwards - 'the day modernist architecture died'3 - erasure has been the primary mode of dealing with Le Corbusier influenced, post-war modernist utopian social housing units in many parts of the world, themselves built on the idea of tabula rasa modernist urbanism.4 And today, despite the creative world's claim that we have moved beyond modernism into a 'post-modernist' phase -  'plurality, engagement with urban context and setting, reference to older architectural traditions and communication through metaphor and symbolism'5 - the modernist myth, fallacy, and false hope that destruction is a feasible beginning for creation still rules over us.6

We see, for example, that contemporary prize-winning, so-called 'starchitects' slavishly copy the same urbanicidal ['city-killing'] model originally approved in the CIAM Declaration of 1928 - 'the most efficient method of production is that which arises from rationalisation and standardisation'7 - and the Athens Charter of 1933 - 'full use should be made of modern building techniques in constructing highrise apartments; highrise apartments placed at wide distances apart liberate ground for large open spaces'.In every case, whether we acknowledge it or not - whether we realise it or not - the most notable creators in our times, across the Earth, drive rectangular slabs or square columns into the living urban fabric at some point, in the same way one might kill a vampire by driving a stake through his or her heart.9 

As if this were not enough, most of the open public spaces surrounding the edges [walls] of many 'signature' buildings - paths, streets, walkways or channels along which people move; and nodes, public 'gardens', squares, plazas set aside for human enjoyment and recreation - are 'terraformed' with two stylistic trends which, at first look, may seem quite different from each other but which the present investigation may reveal to have common roots. On the one hand, there is what we might call ‘roadform': the urban landscape covered by surfaced roads carrying wheeled traffic and narrow pedestrian parts of the streets overwhlemingly deployed in 'brutalistic' and utilitarian materials such as asphalt concrete and tarmacadam - low minded, mass-produced 'art' made for the anonymous masses.10 Jerry Mander: 

'If you accept the existence of automobiles, you also accept the existence of roads laid upon the landscape, oil to run the cars, and huge institutions to find the oil, pump it, and distribute it. In addition you accept a sped-up style of life and the movement of humans through the terrain at speeds that make it impossible to pay attention to whatever is growing there. Humans who use cars sit in fixed positions for long hours following a narrow strip of grey pavement, with eyes fixed forward, engaged in the task of driving ... Slowly they evolve into car-people. [Marshall] McLuhan11 told us that cars ‘extended’ the human feet, but he put it the wrong way. Cars replaced human feet.'12

The other tendency, is the avant-garde, one-of-a-kind, high-minded 'art' meant for consumption by the supposedly mindless masses or common people:13 flat, purely abstract, postmodern and deconstructivist landscapes - paved areas, retaining walls, raised walkways, stairs, water features, stretches of open, grass-covered land, etc. - characterised by: fragmented, disjointed or detached elements of a structure disrupting the conventional notion of a coherent and unified architectural composition; the distortion, disruption, and manipulation of traditional elements ... to challenge the viewers' perception and evoke a sense of instability or disorientation; non-Euclidean geometries e.g. curved surfaces, intersecting planes, and irregular shapes which defy the rules of traditional geometry and create complex spatial relationships and visual intrigue; and the employment of materials, such as titanium, steel, glass, and other composite materials to achieve the desired aesthetic and structural effects.14 Nikos A. Salingaros:

'Deconstructivism presents us with the vision of a world destroyed, of a universe reduced to fragments, shards of glass ... In design projects and in architectural texts they speak about 'chaos', 'nonlinear systems', and 'complexity' without having any idea of what these things mean. But for them, this ignorance is not a cause for shame, because it serves to promote their projects and themselves, rather than any scientific truth ['scientism'].15 The danger is this - every architectural style defines a model of the universe, and this includes human society. If we adopt the deconstructivist model, we abandon our fundamental connections - the ties among human beings, between persons and the built environment, and among the various threads that together weave the city into one urban fabric. And why? In order to make some architects rich and famous? To satisfy clients [corporations and Government) that must absolutely have the latest fashion in architecture? Or is it to subsidise those architecture journals that cater to the avant-garde?

It is something fundamentally destructive. It destroys our communion with natural structures without supplying any explanatory value to take its place. Moreover, deconstructivism is arrogant because it does not need the participation of human beings in a dialogue with our surroundings. It does not require us because it is an entirely alien construction. It is an artistic trick picked up in the search for visual novelty, but which now threatens our ability to understand the universe.'16


'Some of the same people who profess to be repelled by the monotonous rows of identical human dwellings in so-called subdivisions, seem to admire rows of identical boxes in art galleries.'17 

- Rudolf Amheim


One recent example of the 'Cult of Contemporaneity'18 is Tadao Ando's reconstruction of Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens [1854 -]. 

Until 2002, Piccadilly Gardens, which was formerly the site of Manchester Royal Infirmary and Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum,19 had been laid out as a public esplanade or promenade - an open, level area, along which people may walk for pleasure. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton [1803 - 1865], one of the pre-eminent landscape gardeners and architects of the Victorian age, and echoing private cottage gardens or garden rooms in its layout and planting - geometrically regular flower beds, a rose garden, a fountain in the centre, benches under flowering cherry trees around the perimeter, and the display of statues - by the 1970s, the sunken gardens had become a magnet for ne’er do wells and inebriation ['alcoholism'].20 It was 'The Winter of Discontent': a period between November 1978 and March 1979, in which Britain saw the most pervasive wave of industrial strikes. Garbage piled up, bodies went unburied, and snow-bound roads went uncleared.21 Foreign reporters appeared to follow this scent of economic and political putrefaction, evident in the New York Times’ editorial entitled ‘Goodbye Britain, it was nice knowing you’.22

Following the perceived failure of the 'socialist-communist' post-war consensus - nationalisation, strong trade unions, heavy regulation, high taxes, and an extensive welfare state - and neo-Keynesian economic theory23 to address the stagflation of the 1970s, neoliberalism or free-market capitalism emerged in the form of Thatcherism: a British conservative ideology described by Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1983 to 1989, as a 'mixture of free markets, financial discipline, firm control over public expenditure, tax cuts, nationalism, 'Victorian values' [of the Samuel Smiles self-help variety], privatisation and a dash of populism.'24 The promise of neoliberalism, says Stuart Sim in Insatiable: The Rise and Rise of the Greedocracy, was that the [free-] market would deliver benefits for everyone. But instead, it incentivised ['greed is good'],25 glorified competition, and concentrated wealth in fewer and fewer hands.26

One of the consequences of this was the perception of a North–South divide: a term often used to describe spatial dynamics and territorial inequalities in the post-industrial, 'left-wing' North and the rich and powerful, 'right-wing' South. That is to say, because of the economic and political geography of England, decisions to accelerate the decline of shipbuilding, steel and mining, and thus the deindustrialisation of the North; came from ministries and corporate head offices located in the South [London for the most part]. There was therefore a perception that not only was the Conservative government not addressing the problems of the North, but also that it was exacerbating disparities: Thatcherism allowed the South to get richer at the expense of the North. Against this backdrop, all the major cities of the North eventually converted to the principles of Thatcherism and turned to territorial marketing from the 1990s onwards. 

Promotional campaigns were initiated by local authorities and the business community [chambers of commerce, business associations, etc.] and orchestrated by agencies27 - aimed at attracting firms to a territory, facilitating the activities of local firms and promoting a favourable image for local development.28 Planning, like other areas of the public sector, was to be reformed and modernised as well as given a prime role in tackling national, high profile priorities such as increasing housing supply and improving economic competitiveness.29 In May 1997, the election of the 'New Labour' government - on a centrist 'Third Way' or 'New Capitalism' policy platform - heralded the start of a new trajectory for Manchester as a 'brand' and the concept of the 'brandcsape' in contemporary architectural and urban theory and practice.30


'In the twenty-first century, we must learn to look at cities not as skylines but as brandscapes and at buildings not as objects but as advertisements and destinations. In the experience economy, experience itself has become the product: we're no longer consuming objects but sensations, even lifestyles. In the new environment of brandscapes, buildings are not about where we work and live but who we imagine ourselves to be.'

- Anna Klingmann


In 2002, after two unsuccessful previous Olympic bids in 1996 and 2000, Manchester was chosen to host the XVII Commonwealth Games. In anticipation of Manchester's new 'golden age', the internationally acclaimed Japanese architect Tadao Ando worked in collaboration with landscape architects EDAW and Arup Associates on a new pavilion and green space with fountains for the redesign of the New Piccadilly Gardens - a calm and relaxing meditation space, with a Japanese touch, for all the people who come away from the hustle and the bustle of the workplace.31 Dubbed the 'Japanese Le Corbusier' and the 'concrete poet', Ando was part of the Japanese New Wave of 1978, a movement that emerged from opposition against the dying Metabolist32 modern age in Japan.33 Working primarily in simple geometry [squares, circles, triangles and rectangles] and thick ‘smooth-as-silk’  reinforced concrete [along with steel and glass], his earlier work responded to the often chaotic surroundings of urban Japan, by turning inward: 

'I create enclosed spaces mainly by means of thick concrete walls. The primary reason is to create a place for the individual, a zone for oneself within society.’ Expanding further on the subject of walls. ‘At times walls manifest a power that borders on the violent. They have the power to divide space, transfigure place, and create new domains. Walls are the most basic elements of architecture, but they can also be the most enriching.'34

Ando's response to the commission was a 130-metre-long curved wall that formed the main gateway and portal to the new garden. In keeping with Ando’s trademark 'ascetic minimalism', the wall was mostly constructed with cast-in-place concrete slabs: dimpled by small, circular indentations [sole traces of the bolts that hold the varnished wooden moulds into which the liquid stone is poured]; and polished to such perfection that it not only reflects light but is smooth, almost silky, to the touch.35 Seen from the adjacent transport interchange, a recessed opening centred within the blank concrete façade is a metaphor of a torii, the traditional Japanese wooden trilith ['gate'], found at the entrance of Shinto shrines. to mark the transition from the mundane to the sacred.36 Having passed through the 'gate' we are led down a dark 'tunnel' - a linear pathway framed by glazed 'shopfront cafés and bars representing the essence of a European plaza' and a concrete ceiling - to the destination of our journey, the actual sacred place.37, 38

From here a central flat plane of lawn, crossed by paths, unfolds. One path, surfaced in smooth sandstone, describes an arc across the lawn, orbiting a large oval fountain plaza. Straight routes, surfaced in blue Welsh slate, also cross the lawn. These straight and curved lines and shapes work to draw the eye in continuous movement through the space. This central space is bordered on all four sides by streets. To the north, Piccadilly is lined with an avenue of London planes [Platanus x hispanica] and a series of statues remaining from the old gardens, punctuated by raised planting beds faced in sandstone. To the south, the Ando pavilion embraces the central space. A grid of fastigiate native oaks [Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’] set into paving makes a permeable boundary with Mosley Street to the west. Eastwards, No 1 Piccadilly looms, with bars and restaurants occupying its ground level adjoining the gardens.39

On completion, the scheme attracted awards and publicity for Manchester, winning the Landscape Institute’s 2002 Public Design Award and the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award. In the words of the Landscape Institute’s judges, it 'drag[ged] British landscape design kicking and screaming into the twentieth century.'40 Problem was, the people of Manchester hated it. Despite the Council’s well-intentioned, well-funded, seemingly adventurous attempts to create a modern exciting space, the result is uninspired, uninteresting, uninviting, unattractive, grey and grim. A particularly hated feature is the ‘Berlin Wall’.41 The concrete, under the steady British drizzle, did not wear well: it started to stain with dark streaks, to look like the depressing and crumbling masses of postwar brutalism, exactly what Manchester was sick of.42 It was ugly. TripAdvisor called it the city's worst tourist attraction.

Fast forward to 2024, and Manchester City Council's tumultuous love affair with 'ascetic minimalism' appears to be over - the Piccadilly Gardens Pavilion in Manchester, is to be demolished as part of a large overhaul of one of the city’s foremost public spaces. The new structure, with its wavy roof, mixed cladding and glazed façades punctuated by retail signage, looks very much like the kind of retail architecture that now populates every city in the United Kingdom - pragmatic, profitable, but wholly lacking in courage. The planned transformation of Piccadilly Gardens is a truly vanilla affair that neither offends nor inspires, and constitutes the antithesis of Tadao Ando’s bold brand of minimalism.43


'Where’s the anticipated ‘Zen inner meaning’? Instead of a masterpiece, critics argue, Manchester was given an expensive set of emperor's new clothes [again], and the evidence of its recent condition reveals the naked truth that the site design is not fit for purpose.'

- Bernard Sheridan


What kind of public space has been created here? What went so wrong? Its design language can be described readily enough: Hard materials, with a few exceptions, are smooth sawn, deployed in grid based tiling patterns on horizontal and vertical surfaces. At eye level one’s gaze passes without interruption over the ground plane. The design does not hold and contain the eye, which is drawn straight to the buildings surrounding the square with nothing to intervene.  Like much contemporary architecture, the gardens’ geometric forms and surfaces have something of a ‘cut-out’, virtual look to them. The shiny, seamless surfaces of digital design and visualisation software have transferred into the real world. 

The most significant observation one can make from walking through the gardens is the absence of a strong sense of having passed through a space distinct from its surroundings – a sense of ‘here’ and ‘there’. The ground plane is open and level, the paths channel pedestrian traffic across the space with brisk efficiency. They do this so effectively [intentionally or otherwise] that they discourage lingering. There are open paved expanses around the outside of the Gardens, whose spaciousness creates a leisurely feel that encourages one to linger and walk more slowly. But the paths crossing the lawn are too narrow to allow one to stop and look around without obstructing the flow of people. They help to foster a transitory and essentially functional experience of the space. What was a ‘garden’ in the original sense of the word – an enclosure, set apart from its surroundings – has become a restless, open and transparent landscape. 

It is a highly functional scheme, in many respects Modernist: a tabula rasa approach to the site’s existing features, a conscious lack of ornament and a visibly rational problem-solving design approach in which each element has a clear function in respect of a particular design problem. Also typical is the porosity and integration of spaces, in particular between public and commercial space, making the gardens an extension of the business and shopping districts that surround it. The rationality of the design solution for a ‘movement hub’ is overlaid with a rather self-conscious geometry redolent of early twentieth-century Russian Supremacist art. Whether or not this is a conscious reference is debatable; nonetheless the parallel is instructive. What both Piccadilly Gardens and Supremacist art have in common in this context is their rejection of historical context – what Kazimir Malevich described as the 'the dead weight of the real world' – [and] replacing it with a conceived patterning of pure form in order to signify a new era. 

The landscape scheme seems designed to replace the old image of the drab, industrial city of Manchester with the clean, simplified forms of the post-industrial era. All the key elements of this new Manchester are represented: business [No 1 Piccadilly], leisure [the lawn with its cafés and bars] and urban European living [the fountain plaza and Boulevard]. Despite this quasi-modern aesthetic, the gardens are perhaps better described as postmodern in spirit - an aesthetic of fragmentation - and also relate to what has been termed ‘Euro-urbanism’, a strain of postmodern historicism based on a nostalgia for the public life represented by continental models of public space, in particular those found in France and Italy. But despite the designers’ attempts to conjure up visions of the sunny café-lined streets of France and Italy ... what has been created is a competent, if uninspired, work of technocratic planning, articulated in a global corporate design language. It signifies the erosion of the notion of public space as a part of the body politic and its replacement by space as tabula rasa, one site amongst many competing as the location for ever more mobile capital.44 

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Walter Benjamin [1931]. Het Destructieve Karakter [The Destructive Character]. 
2. Dr. Adam Kaasa [2016]. Cohabitation: Against the Tabula Rasa and Towards a New Ethic for Cities. pp. 2.
3. Charles Jencks [1977]. The Language of Post-Modern Architecture.
4. Dr. Adam Kaasa [2016], pp. 3. 
5. Historic England [2017]. Post-Modern Architecture: Introductions to Heritage Assets, pp. ii.
6. Dr. Adam Kaasa [2016], pp. 3. 
7. The International Congresses of Modern Architecture [1928]. La Sarraz Declaration. Translated by Michael Bullock [1971]Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century ArchitectureThe MIT Press.  Cambridge, MA.
8. IV International Congress for Modern Architecture [1933]. Charter of Athens; Translated by J. Tyrwhitt [1943]. La Charte d'Athenes Paris
9. Mark Anthony Signorelli; Nikos A. Salingaros [2012]. The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism. New English Review, pp. 3. Nikos A. Salingaros [2014]. A Future Without Starchitects. pp. 1. 
10. Whitehot Magazine; Donald Kuspit [2020]. Donald Kuspit on Avant-Garde And Kitsch: Re-Thinking An Old Distinction And Its Fate.
11. Herbert Marshall McLuhan [1911 – 1980], known as the 'father of media studies', coined the expression 'the medium is the message' i.e., the message [the media] of a medium [the television] is 'a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind'; Marshall McLuhan [1964]. Understanding Media, Routledge, London. 'This means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time. As society's values, norms, and ways of doing things change because of the technology, it is then we realize the social implications of the medium. These range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions that we are not aware of'; M. Federman [2004]. What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message?.
12. Jerry Mander [1978]. Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television. HarperCollins Imprint: William Morrow Paperbacks, pp. 44.
13. Whitehot Magazine; Donald Kuspit [2020].
14. Chaz G. T. Patto [2023]. Deconstructivism.
15. Scientism [n.] The improper use of science or scientific claims, such as when the topic is perceived as beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, and includes an excessive deference to the claims of scientists or an uncritical eagerness to accept any result described as scientific i.e, appeals to authority; and the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognised in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry - with a concomitant elimination of the psychological [and spiritual] dimensions of experience. Wikipedia [2024]. Scientism.
16. Nikos A. Salingaros [2012]. Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction. Fourth Edition, pp. 40 - 41.
17. Rudolf Amheim [1971]. Entropy and Art.
18. Nikos A. Salingaros [2012]. Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction. Fourth Edition, pp. 43.
19. It had been built on land purchased from Sir Oswald Mosley, 2nd Baronet, of Rolleston, Lord of the Manor of Manchester. The Mosley family stipulated that the land in front, which was partly the Daube Holes - the area from which the clay had been extracted to make the wattle and daub houses of mediaeval Manchester - and partly fields, should be used to create a pond surrounded by a walk on the sole condition that it should be open to the burgesses [inhabitants of a town or borough with full rights of citizenship] forever'; Manchester Evening News, 19 May 1914.
20. Iryna Isachenko [2020]. The Modernist Fallacy: Manchester vs. Tadao Ando; David Blake [2016]. Piccadilly Gardens: Is More Grass Really The Answer?
21. Gary Younhe [2023]. Britain’s Winter of Discontent.
22. Alice O’Driscoll; Rob Russell [Ed.] [2012]. Glorious Britain? Revisiting the Politics of the 1970s.
23. 'The main plank of British economist John Maynard Keynes's theory, which has come to bear his name, is the assertion that aggregate demand - measured as the sum of spending by households, businesses, and the government - is the most important driving force in an economy. Keynes further asserted that free markets have no self-balancing mechanisms that lead to full employment. Keynesian economists justify government intervention through public policies that aim to achieve full employment and price stability'; International Monetary Fund [2014]. What Is Keynesian Economics?.
24. Nigel Lawson, [1992]. The View from No. 11: Memoirs of a Tory Radical. Bantam Press, pp. 64.
25. 'Greed is good': a catchphrase based on Gordon Gekko's quote 'greed, for lack of a better word, is good' from the 1987 film Wall Street.
26. Sean Illing [2017]. Greed is not Good: Social Critic Stuart Sim on the Indignities of Neoliberal Capitalism.
27. Mark Bailoni; Oliver Waine [Transl.] [2014]. The Effects of Thatcherism in the Urban North of England.
28. L. Texier; J.P. Valla [1992]. Le marketing territorial et ses enjeux. Revue Francaise de Gestion n°87; quoted in Laurence Texier [1991]. Territorial Marketing: An Approach to the Location Offer, pp. 3.
29. Phil Allmendinger [2011]. New Labour and Planning: From New Right to New Left.
30. Anna Klingmann [2010]. Brandscapes: Architecture in the Experience Economy. The MIT Press.
31. Journal of Landscape & Art [2002]. Tadao Ando in Manchester - the New Piccadilly Gardens
32. Kenneth Frampton [1978]. The Japanese New Wave: New Wave of Japanese Architecture. New York: The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, pp. 2; quoted in Xianghua Wu [2006]. Concrete Resistance - Ando in the Context of Critical Regionalism., pp. 5.
33. 'Led by Kisho Kurokawa and Kenzo Tange, Metabolism was a movement in the 1960s which proposed a new urbanism based on the city as an organism requiring change and renewal. The movement saw technology as an extension to humanity and advocated the use of pre-fabricated plug-in units or capsules, which could be arranged interchangeably on a core mega structure, facilitating the changing needs of the city'; Ibid, pp. 5 - 6.
34. The Pritzker Architecture Prize [2022]. Biography: Tadao Ando
35. Warren Singh-Bartlett [2012]. A Closer Look at Tadao Ando's Brutalist Concrete Masterpiece of a House in Sri Lanka
36. JAANUS [2001]. Torii
37. Kyoto Journal; Gunter Nitschke [2015]. Space Tunnels: Rites of Passage to Places of Stillness
38. Journal of Landscape Architecture' Rowland Byass [2010]. From Public Garden to Corporate Plaza:
Piccadilly Gardens and the New Civic Landscape
, pp. 82.
39. Ibid, pp. 74.
40. Ibid, pp. 72.
41. Russell Smith [2016]. Tadao Ando, and the Problem of Architecture That's Too Good.
42. Bernard Sheridan [2017]. Manchester Piccadilly Gardens – The Perils of Place-Making!
43. Paul Keskeys [2024]. The Demolition of Tadao Ando’s Only UK Building Is the Architectural Tragedy of Our Time.
44. Journal of Landscape Architecture' Rowland Byass [2010], pp. 83.

Fig. 9 CH07 Shell Chair [1963]. Furniture Designer: Hans J. Wegner [1914 - 2007].

Chapter Nine

The Walling of Awareness

I have been speaking mainly of the tyranny of artistic modernism in mass social housing, city planning, and rebuilding. This has only been because its ruinous effects are most obvious for those who have eyes to see, but I don’t want to create the impression that the suburb - a residential area outside the city centre - and the like offer any greater access to a wider range of what urbanist Jan Gehl calls Life Between Buildings. These places do have lines of large trees or shrubs running along each side of a path or road, for example, and more small animals, such as foxes, squirrels, and birds. The sky is more visible, without giant buildings to alter the view. But in most ways, the modernist fantasy of tabula rasa urbanism - that the resolution of a present anxiety or decline, can only, and only ever, emerge if it starts from a blank slate1 - is alive and well in the mind of the twentieth-century suburbanite. 

This is shown in the millions of semiprivate front yards, the portion of land between the street and the front of the house, that do not flow seamlessly with the heart of the dwelling - the inner and most intimate living and dining rooms. In such outdoor spaces one sees: flat, agoraphobic planes of overly manicured lawns or bleak grey concrete paving punctuated by either a tangle of bushes or, wretched attempts to crowd as many different kinds of flowers as possible into a given area; one or two cars parked at the entrance; and the preternaturally ugly 'wheelie bin' and its orbit of domestic waste - but few people, if any, because the physical conditions for outdoor stays [the key word is staying] and outdoor activities, are more or less missing.2 All that is left is uninspired, uninteresting, uninviting, unattractive pockets of empty, lifeless, and 'dead' space. Under these conditions most residents prefer to remain indoors in front of the television3 - the greatest mind control tool ever created.4 Jerry Mander:

'Most of us spend our lives within environments created by human beings. This is less the case if you live in the countryside, where there are fields, forests etc. than if you live in a town or city, but it is true to some extent all over the country. Natural environments have largely given way to human-created environments. What we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, feel and understand about the world has been processed for us. Our experiences of the world can no longer be called direct, or primary. They are secondary, mediated experiences.5

For example, when we are walking in a forest, we practice something called in Japan, shinrin-yoku or forest bathing [shinrin in Japanese means 'forest,' and yoku means 'bath']. This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature - the sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air - and connecting with it directly through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. When we listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees; look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches; smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides6 -   we can count on the experience being directly between us and the planet. It is not mediated, interpreted, or altered.

On the other hand, when we live in cities, no experience is directly between us, the heavens and the earth. Virtually all of our experiences are mediated in some way.7 Pedestrian routes, automobile routes, and public space, deployed in 'brutalist' concrete, cover forest and woodland which once supported hundreds of varieties of plant, animal and bird life. Geometrical, abstract solids of glass cubes and rectangular slabs block the natural vistas, views and prospects. The water we drink comes from a tap, not from a stream or the sky. All foliage has been confined by human considerations and redesigned according to human tastes. There are no wild animals, there are no rocky terrains, there is no cycle of bloom and decline. There is not even night and day ... There is always light, and it is always the same, controlled by an automatic switch somewhere. The stars are obscured by the city glow. The moon is washed out by a filter of light. It becomes a semimoon and our awareness of it inevitably dims. Faced with real darkness, we become frightened, overreact, like a child whose parents have always left the light on. In three generations since Edison, we have become creatures of light alone.'8


'As humans have moved into totally artificial environments, our direct contact with and knowledge of the planet has been snapped. Disconnected, like astronauts floating in space, we cannot know up from down or truth from fiction. Conditions are appropriate for the implantation of arbitrary realities. Television is one recent example of this, a serious one, since it greatly accelerates the problem.'9

- Jerry Mander


The modern home is the archetypal example of the mediated environment. It contains nothing that did not first exist as a design plan in a human mind.10 The 'interiors' consist of boxes beside or inside other boxes, called rooms. All boxes inside a complicated boxing. Each domestic 'function' was properly box to box.11 In this cellular sequestration, the spaces are square, flat and small, eliminating a sense of height, depth, and irregularity. The 'minimalist' decor is rigidly controlled to a bland uniformity from room to room and floor to floor. The effect is to dampen all interest in the space one inhabits. Most have hermetically sealed [i.e. air tight] windows . The air is processed, the temperature regulated. It is always the same. The body’s largest sense organ, the skin, feels no wind, no changes in temperature, and is dulled.

False light e.g. domestic lighting and LED backlit devices such as smartphones, tablets, e-readers, computer monitors and television screens remains constant from morning through night, from room to room until our awareness of natural light - direct sunlight, daylight from multiple angles, diurnal and seasonal light, firelight, moonlight and star light - and the impacts of artificial lighting on circadian system functioning or the natural biological clock is as dulled as our awareness of temperature. Most of us give little importance to this change in human experience of the world, if we even notice it at all; but when reduce an aspect of environment from varied and multidimensional to fixed, we also change the human being who lives within it. Humans give up the capacity to adjust, just as the person who only walks cannot so easily handle the experience of running. The lungs, the heart and other muscles have not been exercised. The human being then becomes a creature with a narrower range of abilities and fewer feelings about the loss. We become grosser, simpler, less varied, like the environment.12

In recent decades, scientific investigations into man’s interaction with his environment have discovered that there are upper and lower limits to the rate of input of environmental stimuli for the healthy functioning of the human organism. If input is too low, the human being will automatically try to increase it by either moving faster through an impoverished environment or by creating additional stimuli [mental activity] from within himself to substitute for the outer deprivation.13 But after a while, these images become disoriented and can be frightening. Disconnected from the world outside the mind, the subject is rootless and ungrounded. If the experience goes on long enough, a kind of madness develops which can be allayed only by reintroducing sensory stimuli, direct contact with the world outside the subject’s mind.

Before total disorientation occurs, a second effect takes place. That is a dramatic increase in focus on any stimulus at all that is introduced. In such a deprived environment, one single stimulus acquires extraordinary power and importance. In the most literal sense, the subject loses perspective and ... can be programmed to believe and do things they would not have done in a fully functional condition. The technique could be called brainwashing. It would be going too far to call our modern [interiors] sensory-deprivation chambers, but they are most certainly sensory-reduction chambers. They may not brainwash, but the elimination of multisensory stimuli - shadows or dappled light that change with movement or time, cloud movement, breezes, plant life rustling, insect and animal movement, birdsong, fragrant flowers, trees and herbs - definitely increases focus on the task at hand, the work to be done, to the exclusion of all else. Modern offices were designed for that very purpose by people who knew what they were doing.14


'Thus man was compelled to invent architecture in order to become man. By means of it he surrounded himself with a new environment, tailored to his specifications; a 'third' environment interposed between himself and the world. Architecture, is thus an instrument whose central function is to intervene in man's favour.'15

- James Marston Fitch


There are differences of opinion about what the critical moments were that led human beings away from the primary forms of experience - between person and planet - into secondary, mediated environments. 

Some, like esotericist16 Michael A. Hoffman II go back as far as '...the first revolution of Olympus ... presided over by Chronos-Saturn or as the Greeks called it, Demiurgos, the operating engineer of the universe as opposed to the Creator of that universe. In the reign of Chronos-Saturn we see exorbitant building and modeling activities reflected in the various stone megalithic structures all around the world. The construction of the megaliths, heralded by New Age types as marvels of ancient ingenuity and cooperation with nature are actually the first physical evidence of the end of Eden, of that period on earth when humanity lived as the servants and friends of God's natural creation, as nomads and hunter-gatherers.17 In my opinion, however, the most significant recent moment came with The Prize - the extraction, production, distribution, and consumption of hydrocarbons, such as crude oil, gas, and coal to heat, light and cool buildings - and the era of Hydrocarbon Man. Daniel Yergin:

Whatever the twists and turns in global politics, whatever the ebb of imperial power and the flow of national pride, one trend in the decades following World War II progressed in a straight and rapidly ascending line- the consumption of oil. If it can be said, in the abstract, that the sun energises the planet, it was oil that now powered its human population, both in its familiar forms as fuel and in the proliferation of new petrochemical products. Oil emerged triumphant, the undisputed King, a monarch garbed in a dazzling array of plastics. He was generous to his loyal subjects, sharing his wealth to, and even beyond, the point of waste. His reign was a time of confidence, of growth, of expansion, of astonishing economic performance. His largesse transformed his kingdom, ushering in a new drive-in civilisation. It was the Age of Hydrocarbon Man.

What drove this worldwide surge in oil use? First and foremost was the rapid and intense economic growth and the rising incomes that went with it. By the end of the 1960s, the populations of all the industrial nations were enjoying a standard of living that would have seemed far beyond their reach just twenty years before. People had money to spend, and they spent it buying houses, as well as the electrical appliances to go inside those houses and the central heating systems to warm them and the air conditioning to cool them. Families bought one car and then a second ... To produce the cars and appliances and package goods, to satisfy directly and indirectly the needs and wants of consumers, factories had to turn out ever-increasing supplies, and those factories were increasingly fueled by oil. The new petrochemical industry transformed oil and natural gas into plastics and a host of chemicals, and in every kind of application, plastics began to replace traditional materials.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the price of oil fell until it became very cheap, which also contributed mightily to the swelling of consumption. Many governments encouraged its use to power economic growth and industrial modernisation, as well as to meet social and environmental objectives. There was one final reason that the market for oil grew so rapidly. Each oil-exporting country wanted higher volumes of its oil sold in order to gain higher revenues. Using various mixtures of incentives and threats, many of these countries put continuing pressure on their concessionaires to produce more, and that, in turn, gave the companies powerful impetus to push oil aggressively into whatever new markets they could find. Bigger is better - that was the dominant theme in the oil industry. 'Bigger is better' also enthralled the consumers of oil.18


'We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of behavior that the human race developed while living under the earlier conditions.'19

- Theodore Kaczynski


In less than four generations out of an estimated one hundred thousand, we have fundamentally changed the nature of our interaction with the planet. Our environment no longer grows on its own, by its own design, in its own time. The environment in which we live has been totally reconstructed solely by human intention and creation ... We go through life believing we are experiencing the world when actually our experiences are confined within entirely human conceptions. Our world has been thought up. Our environment itself is the manifestation of the mental processes of other humans. Of all the species of the planet, and all the cultures of the human species, we, the hydocarbon people have become the first in history to live predominantly inside projections of our own minds.

We live in a kind of maelstrom, going ever deeper into our own thought processes, into subterranean caverns, where nonhuman reality is up, up, away somewhere. We are within a system of ever smaller, ever deeper concentric circles, and we consider each new depth that we reach greater progress and greater knowledge. Our environment itself becomes an editor, filter, and medium between ourselves and an alternative nonhuman, unedited, organic planetary reality. We ask the child to understand nature and care about it, to know the difference between what humans create and what the planet does, but how can the child know these things? The child lives with us in a room inside a room inside another room. The child sees an apple in a store and assumes that the apple and the store are organically connected. How can the child assume otherwise? That is the obvious conclusion in a world in which all reality is created by humans. As adults, we assume we are not so vulnerable to this mistake.20 The puppet-masters say we are the smartest, the most advanced and 'highly educated' individuals to ever strut the planet, the most relatively liberated beings in history. Puffed up on the idea that we are the crown of creation, demi-gods too smart to be deceived or distracted,21 we believe we 'know' the difference between natural and artificial. And yet, we have no greater contact with the wider world than the child has. 

Most people still give little importance to any of this. Those who take note of these changes usually speak of them in esoteric, aesthetic or philosophical terms. It makes good discussion at parties and in philosophy classes. As we go, however, I hope it will become apparent that the most compelling outcome of these sudden changes in the way we experience life is the inevitable spiritual one. Living within artificial, reconstructed, arbitrary environments that are strictly the products of human conception, we have no way to be sure that we know what is true and what is not. We have lost context and perspective. What we know is what other humans tell us. Therefore, whoever controls the processes of re-creation, effectively redefines reality for everyone else, and creates the entire world of human experience, our field of knowledge. We become subject to them. The confinement of our experience becomes the basis of their control of us. The role of the media in all this is to confirm the validity of the arbitrary world in which we live. The role of television is to project that world, via images, into our heads, all of us at the same time.22


'The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.'23

- Edward Bernays


Only blind wishful thinking can permit us to believe that our own society is free from the insidious influences and various aspects of political and non-political strategy - advertising, propaganda, psychological warfare - used to change the feelings and thoughts of the masses as well as encourage certain forms of thinking and acting from its citizens.24 When we inquire into the sources of this mental manipulation, we come upon eight psychological themes, which may be grouped under the general heading of ideological totalism. Each has a totalistic quality; each depends upon an equally absolute philosophical assumption; and each mobilises certain individual emotional tendencies, mostly of a polarising nature. In combination they create an atmosphere which may temporarily energise or exhilarate, but which at the same time poses the gravest of human threats - 'thought reform'.

The most basic feature of thought reform, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication. Through this milieu [social environmental] control the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual's communication with the outside [all that he sees and hears, reads and writes, experiences, and expresses], but also - in its penetration of his inner life - over what we may speak of as his communication with himself. It creates an atmosphere uncomfortably reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984.25 The language of the totalist environment is characterised by the thought-terminating cliche.

The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorised and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis. In thought reform, for instance, the phrase 'conspiracy theorist' is used to encompass and critically dismiss ordinarily troublesome concerns like the quest for individual expression, the exploration of alternative ideas, and the search for perspective and balance in political, social, and cultural judgments. Totalist language, then, is repetitiously centered on all-encompassing jargon, prematurely abstract, highly categorical, relentlessly judging, and to anyone but its most devoted advocate, deadly dull: in Lionel Trilling's phrase, 'the language of nonthought.'26

The inevitable next step in the thought reform milieu, is the experiential world is sharply divided into the pure and the impure, into the absolutely good and the absolutely evil. The good and the pure are of course those ideas, feelings, and actions which are consistent with the prevailing vision among plutocrats, corporations and their retainers ['lackeys'] in the government and pseudo-scientific communities; anything else is apt to be relegated to the bad and the impure. Nothing human is immune from the flood of stern moral judgments. All 'taints' and 'poisons' which contribute to the existing state of impurity must be searched out and eliminated.27 

This is the equivalent of what psychologists term splitting [or binary thinking, black-and-white thinking, all-or-nothing thinking, or thinking in extremes] - an inability to deal with complexity or contradiction in the world, and so splitting the world into absolutes of good and evil, black and white choices, when the world might be 'shades of gray'.28 The spatial effect of splitting in the residential dwelling of today might be best represented by the treatment of what is generally referred to as a threshold - a zone of movement or pause between two spaces that acknowledges that the character or spatial status of any two adjacent spaces are rarely identical - for example, from the inside to the outside or from a very public to a very private space. Alas, the manner of connecting the house physically or spatially with the atmospheric qualities of the garden, street and city is too often and too quickly resolved by nothing more than a door.29 


'Western societies have two dimensional cultures [interior and exterior], while Japanese society has a three- or multi-dimensional culture [interior, intermediate, and exterior].'30

- Kisho Kurokawa


Under the influence of the 17th to 18th Baroque period, with its emphasis on chiaroscuro, the contrast of light [chiar] and dark [oscuro] to model three-dimensional form; Romanticism - an early 19th century movement in art and literature distinguished by a new interest in the natural world; the large scale switch from metal to wood as the constructional material in windows; the ability to produce progressively larger sheets of flat clear glass relatively cheaply, the repealing of the Window Tax in 1851; and the French-inspired craze for ostentatious living amongst the wealthy in England - attitudes to fenestration [the arrangement of windows] in this country encouraged the fashion of large-paned 'picture windows'31 as a metaphysical architectural location - the eye that allows us to see out into the world and the world to look back in at us.32

Apart from satisfying our basic needs for natural light, ventilation [fresh air], orientation, nothing may interrupt our view - line of sight extending from a viewer to some object or landscape. All the intermediate elements [paths of movement] between indoors and outdoors are suppressed. The parapet and lintel conceal the closer-lying parts of the landscape and the line of the sky, so that the field of vision is restricted to the far distance. The outer world appears to be at a distance, like a pitcure on the wall;33 and this has resulted in a severing of the connection between people and nature, making nature something that was very far away, something 'out there'.34 At the same time, threshold sequences or flow between one space and another, between inside and outside, between one reality and another - became overly articulated to the point that it seperated more than it connected.35 Jan Gehl:

'The fact that it is tiring to walk makes people naturally very conscious of their choice of routes. Despite the fact that it can be tiring to walk when the entire distance to a far destination is in sight, it is still more tiring and unacceptable to be forced to use routes other than the direct one when the destination is in sight - that is to say, whenever people walk, they prefer direct routes and the shortest distance between the natural destinations within an area. Like detours, differences in level [steps, stairs] represent a very real problem for people walking. All large movements upward or downward require more effort, additional muscular activity, and an interruption in the walking rhythm. As a result people tend to circumvent or avoid the problems of changing levels. Those with walking problems are particularly inconvenienced under such circumstances.36

Furthermore, with a consciously created detour, the beginning and the end of our journey are set experientially farther apart. Moving through a zig-zag of furniture in the living and dining spaces, and having passed through a series of doors, we enter a narrow enclosed circulation space - typically a private entrance hall and 'galley' kitchen - which is simply blocked at the end with entrance doors finished in solid wood or uPVC; small fanlights [half circle windows on the top of door] or sidelights [vertical windows on the side of door]; and an efficient locking system.37 This implementation of a 'movable barrier' that defines modern residential living is of course born from the social values of security and comfort and the balance of exposure and seclusion but at what cost?38 Sharply demarcated borders – where one is either in a completely private territory indoors or in a completely public area outside – will make it difficult in many situations to move into the public environment if it is not necessary to do so. In othe words, all activities that are more or less compulsory – going to work, shopping, buying a paper, running errands, emptying the bins, and so forth.39

Nevertheless, by passing through this symbolic 'hole', we find ourselves in the semi-private realm under the open sky; and we do what all wild animals and all good naturalists, wild boars, leopards, hunters and zoologists would do under similar circumstances: we reconnoiter [survey], seeking, before we leave our cover, to gain from it the advantage which it can offer alike to hunter and hunted - namely to see without being seen.40

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Dr. Adam Kaasa [2016]. Cohabitation: Against the Tabula Rasa and Towards a New Ethic for Cities. pp.2.
2. Jan Gehl [2011]. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Spaces. Island Press, pp. 31.
3. Ibid.
4. Wayne McRoy [2023]. 9/11 - 22 Years Later: The Devil In The Details.
5. Jerry Mander [1978]. Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television. HarperCollins Imprint: William Morrow Paperbacks, pp. 55. 
6. Dr. Qing Li [2018]. Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. Time Magazine.
7. Jerry Mander [1978], pp. 55.
8. Ibid, pp. 55-58.
9. Ibid, pp. 52.
10. Ibid, pp. 61.
11. Kevin Nute [2019]. Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan. The Center for East Asian Studies [CEAS], University of Wisconsin-Madison, pp. 23.
12. Jerry Mander [1978], pp. 61-62.
13. A.E. Parr [1966]. Psychological Aspects of Urbanity, The Journal of Social Issues; J.M. Fitch [1965]. The Aesthetics of Function. Annals of the New York Academy of Science. Quoted in Gunter Nitschke [2015]. Space Tunnels: Rites of Passage to Places of Stillness. Kyoto Journal.
14. Jerry Mander [1978], pp. 63-64.
15. James Marston Fitch [1965], pp. 709.
16. Western esotericism, also known as the Western mystery tradition, is a term scholars use to classify a wide range of Western traditions and philosophies that embrace an 'enchanted' worldview in the face of increasing disenchantment; and Western culture's 'rejected knowledge' that is accepted neither by the scientific establishment nor orthodox religious authorities.
17. Michael A. Hoffman II [1989]. Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare [Previously titled: Secrets of Masonic Mind Control]. Wiswell Ruffin House, pp. 11-12.
18. Daniel Yergin [2009]. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, pp. 541-542.
19, Theodore J. Kaczynski [1995]. Industrial Society and Its Future, pp. 6.
20. Jerry Mander [1978], pp. 67-68.
21. Michael A. Hoffman II [1989], pp. 9-11.
22. Jerry Mander [1978], pp. 67-68.
23. Edward Bernays [1928]. Propaganda
24. A. M. Meerloo [1956]. The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing, pp.65.
25. Newspeak - simplified grammar and limited vocabulary designed to limit a person's ability for critical thinking. In the appendix to the novel, The Principles of Newspeak, Orwell explains that Newspeak follows most rules of English grammar, yet is a language characterised by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts are reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning. George Orwell [1949]. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Secker and Warburg, pp. 310–318.
26. Robert J. Lifton, M.D. [1961]. Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of ‘Brainwashing’ in China. Originally published by W. W. Norton & Co, pp. 419-20 & 429.  
27. Robert J. Lifton, M.D. [1961], pp. 423.
28. Dr. Adam Kaasa [2016], pp. 2.
29. The Sleep of Rigour [2013]. Threshold: Link and Separator.
30. Kisho Kurokawa [1988]. Rediscovering Japanese Space, pp. 53.
31. Hentie Louw [1991]. Construction History; Window-Glass Making in Britain c.1660-c.1860 and its Architectural Impact, pp. 47 & 61.
32. Anette Hochberg; Jan-Henrik Hafke; Joachim Raab [2009]. Open | Close: Windows, Doors, Gates, Loggias, Filter. Birkhauser, pp. 10.
33. Ibid, pp. 17.
34. Philip Jodidio; Kengo Kuma [2022]. Kuma. Complete Works 1988 – TodayKisho Kurokawa [1994]. Philosophy of Symbiosis
35. The Sleep of Rigour [2013]. 
36. Jan Gehl [2011]. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Spaces. Island Press, pp. 137-142.
37. Gunter Nitschke [2015]. Space Tunnels: Rites of Passage to Places of Stillness. Kyoto Journal; Nato Giorgadze [2008]. The Greater Reality Behind Doors, pp. 22.
38. Angus Mortimer [2015]. The Impact of Threshold on Phenomenological Architecture.
39. Jan Gehl [2011], pp. 113-115.
40. Konrad Lorenz [1952]. King Solomon's Ring. pp. 181.

Fig. 10. Shisen-do ['Hall of Immortal Poets'], Kyoto, Japan [1641]. Landscape Architect: Ishikawa Jōzan [1583–1672]. Photography: Sskmsnr.

Chapter Ten

The 'Edge'

From 1975 to 1995, British geographer, poet and academic Jay Appleton produced several
publications of which The Experience of Landscape [1975]) is probably the most well-known. In this work he examines the questions, 'what we like about landscapes and why do we like it?'1 In answer to this questions, Appleton borrows Konrad Lorenz’s phrase, 'to see without being seen', to identify elements in an environment which satisfy the biological need for survival by offering an opportunity to observe or to hide. Appleton’s first proposition, called habitat theory, relates pleasure to environmental conditions that are favourable to biological survival including 'the ability of a place to satisfy all our biological needs'.2 Appleton’s second proposition, prospect-refuge theory, proposed the strategic appraisal of various landscapes as potential habitats that enable 'the ability to see without being seen'; a property which is an 'immediate source of aesthetic satisfaction'.3

According to Appleton, what influences the human perception of a landscape are the spatial arrangement of various components that support seeing and hiding, the opportunity for movement and exploration as well as the impact of shadows and the sun. Appleton then proposes that prospect-refuge theory could be used in a variety of disciplines to analyse aesthetic preferences for environments; for which he considers architecture as a 'field in which the concepts of ‘order’, ‘symmetry’ [and] ‘proportion’ [… give] us an understanding of the basis on which to distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly'.4 At around the same time Appleton was developing prospect-refuge theory from studies of habitat preference, multiple other researchers were exploring similar ideas; and explicitly refer to prospect-refuge theory although not all agreed with Appleton, while several expanded or revised his original idea or proposed alternative, similar theories.

Grant Hildebrand, professor emeritus of architecture and art history at the University of Washington, wrote several books in architecture before he became interested in prospect-refuge theory. In 1991, he published The Wright Space: Pattern and Meaning in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Houses and in 1999 he expanded the theoretical foundations of that work to propose a general aesthetic theory in Origins of Architectural Pleasure.In The Wright Space, Hildebrand analyses the spatial characteristics of Frank Lloyd Wright' approach to domestic architecture, which represented a unique and radically dramatic shift in design from conventional homes of the period, that generally conformed to imported styles such as the Victorian and the new Queen Anne style.6 Of particular significance to his developing aesthetic was a country he once described as 'the most romantic, artistic, nature-inspired country on earth',7 Japan. Kevin Nute:

'Through his early knowledge of Ernest Fenollosa, it seems likely that Wright would also have been aware of his equally well-known colleague Edward Morse. If anything, Morse would have been of even greater interest since he was the author of what at the time was the most authoritative English account of Japanese domestic architecture, Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings. Morse had noted how the traditional Japanese post-and-beam system of construction had all but dispensed with load-bearing partitions, and he was enthusiastic over the freedom which this permitted in allowing the main living areas of the house to be converted into a single large space if required. This characterisation of the Japanese home as essentially one large space divided only by non-structural screens was to become a central feature in Wright's account of Building the New House, in which he explained: '... I declared the whole lower floor as one room. . . . Then I screened off various portions of the big room for certain domestic purposes like dining, reading, receiving callers.'8

Morse contrasted the openness of the Japanese house with its Western counterpart, having commented in Japanese Homes: 'If there is no attempt at architectural display in the dwelling houses of Japan the traveler is at least spared those miserable experiences he so often encounters in his own country, where to a few houses of good taste he is sure to pass hundreds of perforated wooden boxes ...'9 This could, perhaps, have been the source of Wright's similar characterisation of the typical American home of the time as a 'box in which only a limited number of holes were to be punched.'10 More importantly, it may have encouraged Wright's subsequent 'destruction' of that box in the form of the Prairie House, in which it was his declared aim to 'eliminate the rooms as boxes and the house itself as another boxing of boxes.'11

In several of his sketches Morse illustrated how, by withdrawing the shoji - sliding outer partition doors and windows made of a latticework wooden frame and covered with a tough, translucent white paper - the Japanese home and its adjacent garden could be made to seem almost continuous. Wright openly admired this particular characteristic of the Japanese dwelling, having delighted in the fact that it was impossible to tell precisely 'where the garden leaves off and the garden begins.'12 It may be significant, then, that Wright later stated that one of the primary objectives of the Prairie House was 'to bring the outside world into the house, and let the inside of the house go outside.'13, 14

According to Hildebrand, Wright's Prairie Style arranged certain elements in a repetitive way which he calls Wright’s Pattern. Usually, there is an open plan living area with a fireplace at the centre of the house. There will be windows on the wall opposite the fireplace and an opening which leads to an extension of the living space: a large terrace which functions as an observation platform. Throughout his life, Wright changed some attributes of this configuration including, on the exterior he added deep overhanging eaves and additional terraces while the interior became more complex by adding openings to, and interior views through, adjacent spaces. In Wright’s houses the living area will typically sit directly under the rising roof; a spatial configuration what allegedly adds significantly to the sense of refuge and prospect.15

In Origins of Architectural Pleasure, Hildebrand further explores why some buildings elicit happiness or excitement, arguing that these reactions occur when architectural and natural elements are combined in complex but organised environments. Hildebrand explains: 'Refuge and prospect are opposites: refuge is small and dark; prospect is expansive and bright. It follows that they cannot coexist in the same space. They can occur contiguously, however, and must, because we need them both and we need them together. From the refuge we must be able to survey the prospect; from the prospect we must be able to retreat to the refuge.'17 This spirit was expressed at its most sophisticated by the disillusioned samurai warrior, eminent Confucian scholar and poet, and landscape architect Jozan Ishikawa [1583-1672] at Shisendo or Hall of the Poetry Immortals [Fig. 9]: a sacred, otherworldly and extraordinary house-cum-temple at the foot of the northern mountain range of Higashiyama, in the north-east of Kyoto city, Japan. 


'Refuge and prospect are opposites: refuge is small and dark; prospect is expansive and bright. It follows that they cannot coexist in the same space. They can occur contiguously, however, and must, because we need them both and we need them together. From the refuge we must be able to survey the prospect; from the prospect we must be able to retreat to the refuge.'

- Grant Hildebrand


In another age, Jozan might have expected to live and die as a samurai in the service of his feudal lord. And ideed, for the first thirty years of his long life, he admirably fulfilled the first part of that formula. even saving the life of one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's own sons in battle. But the profound social, political, and intellectual changes that took place after the start of the seventeenth century resulted in a new sort of life. As such, this way of life involved the working out of a new aesthetic basis in Japanese life. And indeed. as Thomas Rimer notes in his concise and evocative introduction to the life of Jozan, much of Jozan's fascination for today's Japanese lies in the fact that 'he was one of the first figures in the Tokugawa period to exhibit in his work and life the contemporary aesthetic virtue that came to be known as 'furyu', a term that 'suggests withdrawal from the oversophisticated, ultimately shallow cares of urban life, a pause to search for a natural elegance found in closeness to things at hand and to a simpler, fresher environment.'18

The end result was a private, very quiet, meditative retreat in which the physical contrasts of openness and enclosure, length and breadth, light and shade, natural and rectangular are skillfully opposed in carefully considered doses and proportions.19 With metaphoric panache, garden historian and author Günter Nitschke elaborates:20 After passing through a dim four-tatami space, with an unlit Buddhist chapel to one side, we walk into the most private zone. This is the destination of our journey, the actual sacred place. It is understood there is no other place to go to; nearly everyone sits or kneels on the tatami and waits for a cup of tea. We have arrived, we are inside, and all we do initially is look outside. This view is special; we face a magnificent picture painted in three dimensions; framed by the wooden planks of the verandah on the bottom, the roof overhang on top, and on the right by the mighty turn and branches of a sazanka [sasanqua] tree, blossoming in mid-winter, and serving as a huge natural parasol ... At our destination we are physically induced to pause, to be still… to meditate ... It gives us a taste of who we are.21

The fundamental characteristic of the shoin [main hall] is a slender post and lintel skeleton frame construction of hinoki [Japanese cypress], supporting a large triangular roof with deep overhanging eaves. Except for the roof beams, every part of the structural framing is exposed, and even those parts which are not entirely necessary for structural purposes are made to look as if they were. In reality the exposed structural framework includes decorative elements, so that the entire structure itself acquires the richness and variety of an ornament. Sliding interior and exterior walls are fitted into the structural framework and can be removed entirely, thus making the main hall extremely flexible in plan. Interior wall screens called fusuma, made of opaque paper, separate all the rooms. Sliding screens of white translucent paper, called shoji, together with sliding wood weather-doors, form most of the exterior walls. The floor, which commands a magnificent view of the garden beyond, is covered with fragile straw mats, called tatami.

Since the outer walls of the house may be opened for the view or even removed the garden around the main hall is enclosed by a wall to insure privacy.22 The garden itself was executed in the karesansui style, and composed of three layers or volumetric elements; the base plane, the vertical plane and the overhead plane. The base plane is a foreground of carpeted white sand, directly in front of the main hall to metaphorically represent the element of water; the vertical plane is a composition of clipped Satsuki azalea bushes, which are to bloom in early summer, mingled with wisteria, maple, and trees of various kinds in the middle distance; and the overhead plane captures the sky in the background - a conscious 'borrowing of scenery called 'shakkei'. A small waterfall flows into a shallow pond, and the murmuring of the waterfall, accompanied with the intermittent, yet punctual sound of clacking which comes form a 'sozu' - a sort of water-work scarecrow, deepens the silence.23

Central as a design technique in shisendo is the concept of Ma24 - a deeply religious aesthetic grounded in Shintoism - Japan's indigenous nature religion - and the Buddhist 'middle way' or 'middle path' - a state of mind that transcends the metaphysical extremes of eternalism [the idea that the world is maintained by a permanent being or entity, like God or some other eternal metaphysical Absolute] and annihilationism [the idea that a person is utterly annihilated at death and there is nothing which survives i.e., nihilism]; as well as the extremes of existence and non-existence.25 In the context of traditional Japanese architecture, Ma is the space between two edges. Anything that crossed, filled, or projected into the chasm of Ma is said to have En, which means both 'edge' and 'connection.' This idea can be further expanded and made clear when one looks at one of the most pronounced and distinguishing qualities of Japanese architecture, the 'Engawa: A Bridge to the Sky'.26


'The engawa is multipurpose, serving simultaneously as an external corridor connecting all the rooms of the house, a sheltering structure against rain, wind, and summer heat, an area for greeting or entertaining guests, and as a passageway to the garden, among many other miscellaneous functions.'

- Kisho Kurokawa


Engawa, literally the 'connecting-edge at the side,' is usually translated as 'veranda' because it is the place to view the garden, but it is also the closest thing to a [semi] exterior hallway in many traditional buildings i.e., connecting adjacent rooms. The engawa is wooden flooring that is separated from the interior tatami mat room and the garden by translucent paper shoji screens. At night, the building is sealed of by interlocking, wooden storm panels that slide along a track at the exterior edge of the engawa. The shoji screens can be opened to greater or lesser extents to create apertures [openings] between the interior and exterior. They can also be completely removed so that there is no obstacle between the interior of the building and the garden. In former times, swallows could pass easily into a house, and if they built a nest in the house, it was considered good luck.27

In his essays on developing the notion of Ma or 'symbiosis' in modern Japanese architecture, Kisho Kurokawa explains that: 'The engawa is multipurpose, serving simultaneously as an external corridor connecting all the rooms of the house, a sheltering structure against rain, wind, and summer heat, an area for greeting or entertaining guests, and as a passageway to the garden, among many other miscellaneous functions.'28 He expands on the meaning and multifunction of the engawa stating that 'perhaps the most important role of the engawa is as an intervening space between the inside and the outside – a sort of third world between interior and exterior'29 or 'grey space' explicitly designed to facilitate contemplation and meditation; foster an increased awareness of the spriritual dimension nature and the cosmos, and our relation to it; and assist the individual in the quest for self-realisation, tranquility and peace.30 There can a man loaf, and invite his soul; and, though that soul may be shrivelled and shrunk, it will swell and grow and blossom in the atmosphere of the place.31 

Thus the construction of architectural elements such as engawa, garden and shakkei arrangements are not simply a matter of tackling the design problem of thresholds in the typical residential dwelling of today i.e., interfacing conflicting interior and exterior spaces. It is much more a matter of providing a garden, in its most real meaning: a place of material charm, of rich and plentiful vegetation, of personal enjoyment, communion with nature, contemplation, spiritual healing, and finding inner peace.32 This generally means the development of spaces with aesthetically pleasing [indoor and outdoor] prospect and refuge conditions: open or semi-open floor plans complete with generously proportion glass doors - that are as easy to pass through as possible, both functionally and psychologically - directly from the kitchen, dining area, or living room to the outdoor areas. The need for a gentle flow of life between private and public spaces is emphasised further when one looks more closely at the type of activities that would disappear if only the short-term 'coming and going' activities are permitted to take place.33 Jan Gehl:

It is important that it is easy to go in and out of dwellings. If the passage between indoors and outdoors is difficult – if it is necessary, for example, to use routes other than the direct one when the destination is in sight – the number of outdoor visits drops noticeably. Regardless of whether the environment invites or repels; residents, do of course, move to and from their dwellings in the course of an ordinary day. This generates a comprehensive 'coming and going' traffic, but many other outdoor stationary activities – especially short-term and spontaneous activities – more or less cease because it is too bothersome to come down and go out into the public areas. The outdoor areas further acquire a rather impersonal character in most cases, for as a rule there is not very much for adults to do. There may be fixed benches, but rarely more. Residents are practically cut off from using their own furniture, tools, and toys – it is simply too much trouble to carry things in and out all the time. Under these conditions outdoor activities become extremely limited, both with regard to number and character.34

Correspondingly, two horizontal elements that act as the intermediate zone or soft boundary between the interior and the exterior - a raised, strip of decking, often finished in wood, and the strong presence of a roof with deep eaves -  must be placed in immediate juxtaposition to the rooms in the dwelling i.e., between the edge or periphery of the house and the garden. The principal spatial condition is protection overhead and to one’s back, preferably on three sides.34 To prevent the architectural structure from intruding on the site, to remove it from sight, and to provide a sense of retreat and withdrawal for work, protection, rest or healing: turn to the repeated use of tall, lightly foliaged and exquisitely beautiful shrubs, grasses and trees that are meant to be experienced mainly with the eyes and the mind while seated on the deck of the engawa; as well as a large number of thin elements, or wood slats, in the form of shades, blinds, screens or partitions.35 With this 'hide and reveal' or blurring the lines approach to thresholds and in-between spaces, the dwelling achieves a comfortable privacy without completely shutting itself away from the world.36

More importantly, a wide range of activities that are especially pleasant to pursue outdoors will also occur because place and situation now invite people to stop, sit, eat, play, and so on.37

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Jay Appleton [1975]. The Experience of Landscape, pp. 1.
2. Ibid, pp. 70.
3. Ibid, pp. 73.
4. Ibid, pp. 195.
5. Annemarie S. Dosen; Michael J. Ostwald [2013]. Prospect and Refuge Theory: Constructing a Critical Definition for Architecture and Design. The International Journal of Design in Society, pp. 11 - 14.
6. Kevin Nute [2019]. Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan, pp. 5.
7. Frank Lloyd Wright [1943]. An Autobiography, pp. 194.
8. Frank Lloyd Wright [1945 ed.]. An Autobiography, pp. 129. 
9. Edward Morse [1972 ed.]. Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings, pp. 48.
10. Frank Lloyd Wright [1938 ed.]. An Autobiography, pp. 139. 
11. Ibid., pp. 142.
12. Ibid., pp. 197.
13. Ibid., pp. 139.
14. Kevin Nute [2019]. Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan, pp. 5 - 20.
15. Annemarie S. Dosen; Michael J. Ostwald [2013], pp. 16.
16. Frank Lloyd Wright [1931]. Modern Architecture, Being the Kahn Lectures for 1930. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; as reprinted in Edgar Kaufmann; Ben Raeburn [1960]. Frank Lloyd Wright: Writings and Buildings. New York: Horizon Press, pp. 43 - 44.
17. Grant Hildebrand [1999]. Origins of Architectural Pleasure, pp. 22.
18. J. Thomas Rimer; Jonathan Chaves; Stephen Addiss; Hiroyuki Suzuki [1991]. Shisendo: Hall of the Poetry Immortals. New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, pp. 23.
19. Gunter Nitschke [2015]. Space Tunnels: Rites of Passage to Places of Stillness. Kyoto Journal; Hidden Japan.
20. Andrew R. Deane [2010]. Chapter 10: The Hermitage Garden. North American Japanese Garden Association.
21. Gunter Nitschke [2015].
22. The Museum of Modern Art [MOMA] [1956]. Description of the Japanese Exhibition House, pp. 1 - 2.
23. Gunter Nitschke [2003 Ed.]. Japanese Gardens. Taschen, pp. 77; Japan-Kyoto [JAKYO]. The Hermitage Shisendo, pp. 2.
24. Mark Hovane [2020]. Invitations to Stillness: Japanese Gardens as Metaphorical Journeys of Solace. Kyoto Journal; Hidden Japan.
25. Glenn Wallis [2007]. Basic Teachings of the Buddha: A New Translation and Compilation, With a Guide to Reading the Texts, pp. 114; Kaccānagottasutta SN 12.15 (SN ii 16], translated by Bhikkhu Sujato. Quoted in Wikipedia [2024]. Middle Way.
26. Michael Lazarin [2014]. Phenomenology of Japanese Architecture: En [Edge, Connection, Destiny]. Ryukoku University, Kyoto, pp. 138.
27. Ibid, pp. 139.
28. Kisho Kurokawa [1988]. Rediscovering Japanese Space, pp. 53.
29. Ibid, pp. 54.
30. Mark Hovane [2020].
31. Mrs Basil Taylor [1912] Japanese Gardens. Methuen & Co Ltd, pp. 1.
32. Michael Lazarin [2014], pp. 140; Mrs Basil Taylor [1912], pp. 1;   Botond Bognar, Balazs Bognar [2019]. Kengo Kuma and the Portland Japanese Garden. Rizzoli International Publications; 1st edition.
33. Jan Gehl [2011]. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Spaces. Island Press, pp. 187.
34. Ibid, pp. 184.
34. Terrapin Bright Green; William Browning; Catherine Ryan; Joseph Clancy [2014]. 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design: Improving Health and Well-Being in the Built Environment; Refuge
35. Botond Bognar; Kengo Kuma [2005]. Kengo Kuma: Selected Works. Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 28, 31 & 32.
36. Angus Mortimer [2015]. The Impact of Threshold on Phenomenological Architecture
37. Jan Gehl [2011], pp. 11.

Fig. 11. The Home of Kethevane Cellard [2022].

Chapter Eleven

Life Between Buildings

Greatly simplified, outdoor activities in semi-public and public spaces can be divided into three categories, each of which place very different demands on the physical environment: necessary activities, optional activities, and social activities

Necessary activities include those general, everyday tasks and pastimes that are more or less compulsory and related to walking – going to work or to school, waiting for a bus or a person, shopping, running errands, distributing mail – in other words, all the mundane, everyday life and phenomena in which those involved are to a greater or lesser degree required to participate. Because the activities in this group are necessary, their incidence is influenced only slightly by the physical framework. These activities will take place throughout the year, under nearly all conditions, and are more or less independent of the exterior environment. The participants have no choice.1 Theodore Kaczynski:

'This is closely related to the need [probably based in biology] for power and for something that we will call the power process. The power process has four elements. The three most clear-cut of these we call goal, effort and attainment of goal. Everyone has goals; if nothing else, to obtain the physical necessities of life: food, water and whatever clothing and shelter are made necessary by the climate. Nonattainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical necessities, and in frustration if non-attainment of the goals is compatible with survival. In modern industrial society only minimal effort is necessary to satisfy one’s physical needs. It is enough to go through a training program to acquire some petty technical skill, then come to work on time and exert the very modest effort needed to hold a job. The only requirements are a moderate amount of intelligence and, most of all, simple OBEDIENCE. If one has those, society takes care of one from cradle to grave. [Yes, there is an underclass that cannot take the physical necessities for granted, but we are speaking here of mainstream society.] 

Thus it is not surprising that modern society is full of surrogate activities. These include scientific work, athletic achievement, humanitarian work, artistic and literary creation, climbing the corporate ladder, acquisition of money and material goods far beyond the point at which they cease to give any additional physical satisfaction ... One indication of this is the fact that, in many or most cases, people who are deeply involved in surrogate activities are never satisfied, never at rest. Thus the money-maker constantly strives for more and more wealth. The 'scientist' no sooner solves one problem than he moves on to the next. The long-distance runner drives himself to run always farther and faster.  Today people live more by virtue of what the system does FOR them or TO them than by virtue of what they do for themselves. And what they do for themselves is done more and more along channels laid down by the system. Opportunities tend to be those that the system provides, the opportunities must be exploited in accord with rules and regulations, and techniques prescribed by 'experts' must be followed if there is to be a chance of success.'2 

In Idleness, Contemplation and the Aesthetic, 1750–1830: author Richard Adelman explores a tension internal to economist historian Adam Smith' [1723 - 1790] dictum that man is a labouring animal above and before all else. The tension is this: the goal of labour [work, especially physical work] is repose - a state of resting, or being at rest, after exertion or strain. And yet when the division of labour creates highly specialised work, the goal of greater productivity entails that the labourer’s task becomes a nearly continuous activity. The way to avoid over-exertion, Smith argues, is to work continuously but moderately. Highly specialised and continuous work makes humans machine-like, uncreative, inflexible, and, as Smith says, 'as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become'.3 

Repose, rest, and play are, therefore, forbidden by the division of labour. Though labour promises a state of inactivity, it delivers a paradox: the more the labourer works, the more impossible repose becomes. This tension arises, Adelman argues, because Smith is working with two incompatible views of human nature - on the one hand, humans have an 'inherent propensity ... to exchange one thing for another',and, on the other hand, 'repose or the absence of exertion [is] the natural state of the individual'.5,6 Championing the latter view, philosopher Roger Scruton [1944 - 2020] in the introduction to Josef PieperLeisure, The Basis for Culture writes: 'Leisure has had a bad press. For the puritan it is the source of vice; for the egalitarian a sign of privilege. The Marxist regards leisure as the unjust surplus, enjoyed by the few at the expense of the many. The calumnies, however, do not apply: so argues Josef Pieper ... . Work is the means of life; leisure the end. Without the end, work is meaningless - a means to a means to a means ... and so on forever ...'7


'We live and act within a world whose deeper aspects are hidden from our physical senses. Yet each of us possesses other faculties which, when cultivated, can lift the veil that separates us from spiritual knowledge.'8

- Arthur G. Zajonc


For that very reason, the need for repose, it is of the first importance to see that a wide range of optional activities - that is, those pursuits that are participated in if there is a wish to do so and if time and place make it possible9 - consist of learning to surrender ourselves less and less to the impressions of the outer world and developing instead a rich inner life. For this to happen, we must set aside a brief period of time in daily life, five minutes a day are sufficient, in which we withdraw into ourselves in silence and solitudeIn these moments we should tear ourselves completely out of our everyday life. Our thinking and feeling lives should have a quite different colouring than they usually have. We should allow our joys, sorrows, worries, experiences, and actions to pass before our soul. But our attitude toward these should be one of looking at everything we have experienced from a higher point of view. 

In the time we have set aside for ourselves, then, we must strive to view and judge our own experiences and actions as though they belonged to another person. We must face ourselves with the inner tranquillity of a judge. If we achieve this, our own experiences will reveal themselves in a new light. Sorrow and joy, every thought, every decision will look different when we stand over against ourselves in this way. It is as though we spent the whole day somewhere and saw everything, small and large, at close range, and then in the evening climbed a neighboring hill and enjoyed an overview of the whole place at once. Then the various parts of the town and their relationships to each other would appear very different from when we stood among them. Of course, one cannot succeed in achieving such a transcendent perspective toward whatever experience destiny daily brings us - nor is it necessary to do so. However, as students of the spiritual life, we must strive to develop this attitude toward events that occurred in the past.

We must continue to observe this rule seriously and faithfully until we feel the fruits of inner calm and tranquillity. For each of us who does this, a day will come when all around will become bright with spirit. Then, to eyes we did not know we had, a whole new world will be revealed. As this higher self or higher human being makes its influence more and more felt in our ordinary, established lives, the calm of our contemplative moments begins to affect our everyday existence. Our whole being becomes more peaceful. We act with greater confidence and certainty in all our undertakings. We do not lose composure in the face of all kinds of events. Slowly, as we continue on the path, we increasingly come to guide ourselves, as it were, rather than allowing ourselves to be led by circumstances and outer influences. Before long, we realise that the moments set aside each day are a great source of strength for us.  

Our inner person grows, and with it, inner faculties that lead to higher knowledge and the 'higher self'. This higher self then becomes the inner ruler, directing the affairs of the outer person with a sure hand. As we do this, something comes to life in us that transcends what is personal or individual. Our view is directed toward worlds higher than those our everyday life brings us. We begin to feel, to experience, that we belong to these higher worlds of which our senses and everyday activities can tell us nothing. The center of our being shifts inward. We listen to the voices that speak within us in our moments of serenity. Inwardly, we associate with the spiritual world. Removed from our daily round, we become deaf to its noise. Everything around us grows still. We put aside everything that reminds us of outer impressions. Quiet, inward contemplation and dialog with the purely spiritual world completely fill our soul.10

Furthermore, in our moments of contemplation, a second life begins for us. We will enter into a daily round of social activities in relation to the presence of other human beings and the need for deeper, more meaningful contact.


'There he sits, this thinking, building animal, his machines humming gently all around him - and his thoughts whirring inside his head ... One might almost suppose that action - simple animal action - would be beneath him, surviving only as a remnant from his primeval past. But this is not so.'11

- Desmond Morris


Very freely interpreted, social activities take place every time two people are together in spaces between homes: verandas, porches, decks, terraces, steps, lawns, driveways, yards, gardens, and the pedestrian parts of the street. The most widespread of social activities we partake in every day, without even realising it, is people-watching - the subconscious act of observing people in relation to the need for contact. At a modest level, people-watching enables one to be among others, see and hear others, receive impulses from others, in a relaxed and undemanding way; as opposed to being alone and a passive observer of other people’s experiences on the television. One is not necessarily with a specific person, but one is, nevertheless, with others; participating in a modest way, but most definitely participating. People-watching is also a situation from which other forms of contact can grow. It is a medium for the unpredictable, the spontaneous, the unplanned.

Contacts that develop spontaneously in connection with merely being where there are others are usually very fleeting - a wave or salute, a short exchange of words, a brief discussion with neighbours often in connection with daily comings and goings implies a valuable opportunity to establish and later maintain acquaintances in a relaxed and undemanding way. Social events can evolve spontaneously. Situations are allowed to develop. Visits and gatherings can be arranged on short notice, when the mood dictates. It is equally easy to 'drop by' or 'look in' or to agree on what is to take place tomorrow if the participants pass by one another’s front doors often and, especially, meet often on the street or in connection with daily activities around the home. With frequent meetings friendships and the contact network are maintained in a far simpler and less demanding way than if friendship must be kept up by telephone and invitation - it is the simplest way to stay 'in touch.'

The opportunity to see and hear other people in a residential area also implies an offer of valuable information, about the surrounding social environment. Through the mass media we are informed about the larger, more sensational world events, but by being with others we learn about the more common but equally important details. We discover how others work, behave, and dress, and we obtain knowledge about the people we live with, and so forth. By means of all this information we establish a confident relationship with the world around us. A person we have often met on the street becomes a person we 'know.' In addition to imparting information about the social world outside, the opportunity to see and hear other people can also provide ideas and inspiration for action. This points up another important need, namely the need for stimulation. Compared with experiencing buildings and other inanimate objects, experiencing people, who speak and move about, offers a wealth of sensual variation. No moment is like the previous or the following when people circulate among people. The number of new situations and new stimuli is limitless. Furthermore, it concerns the most important subject in life: people.

The value of the many large and small possibilities that are attached to the opportunity of being in the same space as and seeing and hearing other people is underlined by a series of observations investigating people’s reaction to the presence of other people in public spaces. In the home we can see that children prefer to be where there are adults or where there are other children, instead of, for example, where there are only toys. In residential areas and in city spaces, comparable behaviour among adults can be observed. If given a choice between walking on a deserted or a lively street, most people in most situations will choose the lively street. If the choice is between sitting in a private backyard or in a semiprivate front yard with a view of the street, people will often choose the front of the house where there is more to see. A summary of observations and investigations shows that life in buildings and between buildings seems in nearly all situations to rank as more essential and more relevant than the spaces and buildings themselves. In Scandinavia an old proverb tells it all’ 'people come where people are.'12

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Jan Gehl [2011]. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Spaces. Island Press, pp. 9.
2. Theodore J. Kaczynski [1995]. Industrial Society and Its Future, pp. 4 - 8.
3. Adam Smith [1776]. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations], pp. 13. 
4. Ibid, pp. 10.
5. Ibid, pp. 30.
6. Nancy Kendrick [2013]. Idleness, Contemplation and the Aesthetic, 1750–1830 by Richard Adelman [review]. Project Muse.
7. Josef Pieper [1998]. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. St. Augustine’s Press, Inc, pp. 13 - 14.
8. Rudolf Steiner. Foreword. Arthur G. Zajonc [1904]. How to Know Higher Worlds: A Modern Path of Initiation. Steiner Books.
9. Jan Gehl [2011], pp. 9.
10. Rudolf Steiner [1904], pp. 22 - 33.
11. Desmond Morris [2002 ed.]. Peoplewatching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language. Vintage, pp. 1.
12. Jan Gehl [2011], pp. 15 - 29.

Fig. 12. PC Garden, Japan [2013]. Architecture: Kengo Kuma & Associates [KKAA]. Landscape Architecture: Placemedia. Photography: Mitsumasa Fujitsuka.

Chapter Twelve

The 'New Wave'

This last point, that the sight of people attracts still other people, is something that current city planners and city architectural designers seem to find incomprehensible. They operate on the premise that city people seek the sight of emptiness, obvious order and quiet. They take this with such devotion that when contradictory reality intrudes, threatening to shatter their dearly won learning, they must shrug reality aside. Instead the practitioners and teachers of this discipline [if such it can be called] have ignored the study of success and failure in real life, have been incurious about the reasons for unexpected success, and are guided instead by principles derived from the behaviour and appearance of Le Corbusier's dream city and social Utopia - from anything but cities themselves. And to put it bluntly, they are all in the same stage of elaborately learned superstition as medical science was early in the last century, when physicians put their faith in bloodletting, to draw out the evil humors [fluid or semifluid substances] which were believed to cause disease.1

Against this backdrop of pseudoscientific city planning and architectural design which are truly marvels of dullness, regimentation and spiritlessness:2 Critical Regionalism was first introduced as an architectural concept by architect Alexander Tzonis and historian Liane Lefaivre in their coauthored essay The Grid and the Pathway [1981]. Focused on the modern architecture of Suzana and Dimitris Antonakakis [Atelier 66] - whose work was fundamentally situated, in relation to Greek history and culture; and techniques of architectural modernism deployed sensitively3 - the essay introduces critical regionalism as the '[upholding] of individual and local architectonic features [entry ways, gates, stairs and steps, windows οf all kinds, porches, courtyards, passages and so on];'4 opposed against the impersonal and monolithic effects of modernism. The critical aspect is seen to take its cues from the writings of 'the last of the great humanists' Lewis Mumford [[1895 - 1990], who trenchantly and frequently criticised the modern trend of 'megatechnics' and the creation of an environment in which humanity is conditioned to conform as much as possible to a machine-like state of being.5

Architect, historian and critic Kenneth Frampton [1930 - ] followed the lead of Tzonis and Lefaivre in propounding critical regionalism, but he imbued it with a higher sense of urgency and highlights its critical nature against the placeless monotony of modernism. In Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance, he opens with a lengthy quotation from Paul Ricoeur's Universal Civilisation and National Cultures: On Identity and Resistance, to identify the paradox effecting civilisation and its cultures: 'how to become modern and to return to sources; how to revive an old, dormant civilisation and take part in universal civilisation;'6 and to advance the thesis that a hybrid 'world culture' will only come into being through a cross-fertilisation between rooted culture on the one hand and universal civilisation on the other.7 Frampton’s take, which was profoundly influenced by the phenomenology of Hannah Arendt and the critical theory of Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno, centred on how architecture might ‘resist’ the erosion of influence of both the architect and the avant-garde to affect material societal change and, specifically, the universalising tendencies of contemporary capitalist culture.8

According to Frampton, one of the few architects that was really able to address this issue was architect, designer, and town planner Alvar Aalto [1898 - 1976]. Born in a forestry village in central Finland: he was good company, talked to everyone he met, especially non-architects, had no time for architectural theories noting in a speech in London in 1957 that, 'like all revolutions, it begins in enthusiasm and ends in dictatorship', wrote few letters and kept no diaries. Interested in everything to do with his country, he had no interest in politics and never voted in elections. He was a totally devoted architect, devoted, that is, to developing an architecture based on human needs and designed for what he called 'harmonious living in a community'.9 At the heart of this approach was a deep understanding of natural light, and the distinctive qualities of the Nordic light, as a fundamental element of nature and human experience and an ability to give this profound expression in his buildings.10 The building that illustrates most vividly this attitude was the Paimio Lung Sanatorium [1933]: a radical synthesis of architecture, nature and research [heliotherapy] where tuberculosis [TB] patients could recover during the tuberculosis outbreak in Finland at the time.11 

In the beginning of the 20th century, before an antibiotic cure for tuberculosis was found, fresh air, sunlight, convalescence [rest], and calm were considered the best treatments to beat the insidious illness. As a result, the sanatorium12 - a sinuous, serpentine, and striking white building nestled in a peaceful grove of pine trees - was constructed to be full of light-flooded spaces. Patient rooms were connected to the landscape through large, vertical windows facing south. A roof terrace or sun-deck looking out over the tops of pine trees was furnished for outdoor sunbathing, with plenty of fresh air.13 To further the healing process for the 'horizontal human' who lies on a bed most of his or her time 'in the weakest possible condition':14 the lighting is set both above and below sight line to avoid glare;15 the heating is oriented towards the patient’s feet; and a remarkable array of colours were selected to play a 'medical role'16 - the ceiling was painted a restful earthy dark green ['pine forest'] and the linoleum floor was brown ['earth']. Brighter colors were used in public areas, though not the cloying 'cheerful' colors that are common in so many hospitals today. The stairs and hallways were warmed in the cold winters by canary yellow rubber-coated floors ['sunshine'];17 and light, pastel blue railings and walls ['fresh air'] were set alongside ochre orange, brick red or light mustard yellow.18

Climbing up the six flights of stairs seems effortless, which is down to design: the gentle incline between one step and the next is intentionally small, originally for the purpose of encouraging patients to choose the stairs over taking a lift as part of their recovery and rehabilitation.19 But it was not just the architectural spaces that targeted the illness: each piece of furniture and each fixture were also conceived with the special needs of the sick in mind:20 the individual washbasins were designed to reduce splashing noise while washing hands; wardrobes of curved plywood were fixed to the wall and raised off the floor to facilitate cleaning and less dust for tired lungs;21 and the door handle leading into the toilets looped inwards to avoid the catching of sleeves on levers.22 The most famous example was the sleek Paimio Chair: a low-slung bentwood recliner with a back optimised to what was believed to be the optimum angle for reclining, breathing deeply, and contemplating with the eyes and the mind, the strange mysterious quality of the pine-forested landscape.23 

When all of this is considered in relation to the field of critical regionalism, we can see that Alvar Aalto’s notion of harmonious living in a community and the horizontal human embodies the best qualities of philosopher Paul Ricoeur's paradox: 'how to become modern and to return to sources; how to revive an old, dormant civilisation and take part in universal civilisation'. The exterior and interior incorporated all the de rigueur ['fashionable'] hallmarks of the 'International Style' or Functionalism as it was called in Finland: ribbon windows, white plastered walls, flat roofs, dramatic cantilevers;24 yet his work exhibits a carefully crafted balance of intricate and complex forms, spaces, and elements, and reveals an understanding of the psychological needs of modern society, the particular qualities of the Finnish environment, and the historical, technical, and cultural traditions of Scandinavian architecture.25 In short, he saw nature and man as one, and was clear about the continuity of both. Human life consists, he thought, in equal degrees of tradition - the so-called forbidden fruit of modern architecture - and new creation;26 a cross-fertilisation between rooted culture on the one hand and universal civilisation on the other.


'I mention from experience, as quite perceptible in promoting recovery, the being able to see out of a window, instead of looking against a dead wall; the bright color of flowers, the being able to read in bed by the light of a window close to the bed-head. It is generally said that the effect is upon the mind. Perhaps so, but it is not less so upon the body on that account.'27

- Florence Nightingale


Around the same time, internationally renowned scholar of the history and theories of Japanese architecture, Botond Bognar [1944 - ] published Contemporary Japanese Architecture: Its Development and Challenge: which after carefully outlining Japanese cultural traditions, traced formulations of Modern architecture; skimming Meiji and pre-war developments, to focus on the post-war proliferation of Modernism. Then he examined reactions to Modernism in the 1960s primarily through Metabolism [Kiyonori Kikutake, Kisho Kurokawa, Masato Otaka] and the related Structuralism [Kengo Tange] and Contextualism [Fumihiko Maki]. Early deviations from Metabolism through Symbolism and Mannerism [Arata Isozaki] provided a bridge to the final chapter titled Japanese Architecture Today: Pluralism, which presented developments from the 70s and early 80s. In the introduction, he explained: 

'A new architectural awareness is on the rise; in Japan, it was first referred to as Post-Metabolism and lately as ‘A New Wave of Japanese Architecture.’ In its various individual expressions, the new awareness rejects not only the technological phantasmagoria of Metabolism and by extension the reductive rationale of a dogmatic and universal modernism, but also the equally rootless and value free norms of consumerist populism. Often taking a critical attitude towards both of them, these still-developing intentions aim at redefining and recreating a profound sense of place with and within architecture. This sense…is correctly assumed to be rooted in the particular cultural heritage, the qualities of a specific locality, and the urban conditions of Japan.'28  

One can see here the direct connection of Charles Jencks’ The Language of Postmodern Architecture [1977] and The Pluralism of Japanese Architecture [1976-1980], Hiroyuki Suzuki and Kazuhiro Ishii’s The New Wave in Japanese Architecture [1977], Kenneth Frampton’s The Japanese New Wave [1978] and Modern Architecture: A Critical History [1980], and Arata Isozaki's A New Wave of Japanese Architecture [1978] travelling exhibition and lectures. Like Jencks, Bognar used pluralism - a hybrid that dramatises the mixture of opposing periods; the past, present and future29 - as a framing device, but he proffered an alternative perspective to the multi-dimensional zeitgeist or 'spirit' in new Japanese architecture:30

'There has emerged another kind of Postmodernism, which is also derived from the critique of the Modernist project of architecture and culture but is equally critical of the ‘false normativity’ of reactionary Postmodernism. The alternative kind of Postmodernism has produced an ‘architecture of resistance’ that will be termed here Pluralism…Pluralism approves man’s claim to identity and thus also accepts the differences among individuals and between individuals and social existence as well as the private and public domains. It acknowledges the multiplicity of human experience and in so doing – as opposed both to the culturally destructive universalisation and uniformity of the International Style and also to the senseless fragmentation and superficial variety of the reactionary Postmodernism – favours meaningful and liberating diversification; diversification without mutual exclusion and heterogeneity ['diversity'] without deterministic hierarchy.'31

In 1990, established Japanese architectural historian and architect Terunobu Fujimori [1946 - ], in an issue of Kenchiku Bunka [The Architectural Culture], promulgated a simple theoretical model by which to understand the confluence of different trends: the 'Red School' versus the 'White School.'32 The Japanese ‘Whites’ [Fumihiko Maki, Toyo Ito and Takashi Yamaguchi & Associates] reflected an internationally-oriented 'purist bent: spare structures, state of the art, smooth and swooping, scholarly and scientific'; a preference for 'sparkling aluminium, steel, and glass – stable durable and predictable' material palettes and formal 'appeals to the intellect in its crisp geometry.' In contrast, Dana Buntrock best summarised the ‘Red School’ [Kisho Kurokawa, Osamu Ishiyama and Kengo Kuma] as: 'a rolling roster: raw and robust, raffish and ragtag, rambunctious and reckless, rough and rudimentary, refreshing and resplendent, risky and risqué, recalling Rikyu,33 regionally responsive. The Red School rots and inclines to ruin; it is made of rust,rammed earth, red brick, random rock rubble or recycled rubbish. It is about being rooted and having a roof. It is a rich rhapsody.' Fujimori self-identified as a ‘Red’ exemplar and used the distinctions to colour code his contemporaries, even suggesting that Tadao Ando could be 'pink.'34


'At the risk of being misunderstood, I would like to suggest that the difference between Western space and Japanese space is that Western space is discrete and space in Japan is continuous. Western architecture is created to conquer nature, in opposition to nature.'35

- Kisho Kurokawa


Unlike Terunobu Fujimori’s dichotomy of so-called ‘Red’ and ‘White’ schools within Japanese architecture, Kisho Kurokawa [1934 - 2007] sought to shift perspectives by introducing the conceptual framework of a Japanese-Westen dichotomy, and advocating for a return to the Japanese Oriental tradition of non-dualistic thinking [primarily of being in-between architecture and nature] in an original way.36 In his book Each One a Hero: The Philosophy of Symbiosis [1994], a collection of different concepts that he had been developing since the early 1960s, he writes:

'Industrial society was the ideal of the Age of Machine. The steam engine, the train, the automobile, and the airplane freed humanity from labour and permitted it to begin its journey into the realm of unknown. Le Corbusier declared that the home was a machine for living [and] was found of placing the latest-model automobile in front of his completed works. Film-maker, artist and writer Sergei Einstein [1898-1948] called the cinema a 'synthesising machine'. Italian poet, art theorist, and founder of the Futurist movement, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti [1876-1944], said that a poem is a machine. Not only for artists and the architects but for the general public as well the machine was a longed-for saviour that would blaze the trail for humanity's future. The success of the Model T Ford offers abundant proof of this. By mass-producing a selected model of a product, the masses could be provided a homogeneous satisfaction, an equally distributed happiness, and as the machine seemed to promise the rosiest of futures, no one thought to doubt it.

The international architecture that became the prototype of modern architecture was also an expression of the models and norms of the age of the machine ... The architecture of the age of the machine was also as architecture of the age of humanism. This same logos-centrism that so values the existence of Reason regarded human beings as the sole possessors of that faculty. It ranked human beings next to divinity and it discounted the value of the lives of other animals, plants and living things. The world revolved around the expression, 'A human life is more valuable than the entire world'. Based on this anthropocentrism and logos-centrism, the pollution of the air, rivers, and seas, the destruction of forests, and the extinction of animals and plants were regarded as unavoidable events in the development of the technology and the economic activity necessary to support human society and its cities and building, which were regarded as eternal. 

The great reform that took place in Japan from the end of the Edo period [1600-1868] through the Meiji period [1868-1912] as we modernised and internationalised, was modeled on Western civilisation. It was an attempt to absorb that civilisation and to approach it as closely and quickly as possible. It had no other goal than to measure progress by degree of Europeanisation. Modernisation was pursued in every field by adopting Western modes and models - in the educational system, the economy, government policies, the constitution and legal system ... Western architecture was an absolute, almost sacred ideal.37 As a result, the sickness of dualism - the relentless pendulum swing between humanity and technology, science and religion, good and evil, the part and the whole - that has played such an important role in the modernisation of Western society is deeply entrenched in our ways of thinking and living. The discoveries of contemporary design, too, are based on dualism, giving us such contrasting pairs of terms as beauty and utility, form and function, architecture and the city, human scale and urban [superhuman] scale.38

The time has come for us to transcend dualism and leave these extremes swings of the pendulum behind us. Since human beings are by nature an ambiguous form of existence which incorporates contradictions and oppositions, we have no grounds for disdaining or faulting that which is intermediate, that which cannot be divided into opposing dualisms. On the contrary, I am convinced that this intermediary zone will prove to be a fertile field of human creativity as we face the future.39 In architectural terms this takes shape as the presence of intermediary space and intermediary elements, unobstructed by any dualistic division between inside and outside, a space free of the divisions of walls in a conscious effort to integrate the inside and the outside40 i.e., free space, play space, meeting space, third space, the space of ma, media space, equilibrium zone, grey zone, semi-public space, en-space, or in-between space.41 In such a theoretical framework, we can position the building complex Kurokowa most admires: 

'I was struck by Japan's traditional architecture and its space, which was one in which inside and outside interpenetrated. In the countryside house where I spent the war years, for example, we always opened the sliding exterior door from the first light of morning, no matter how cold it was. The garden would be filled with snow; or in another season, the buds of spring would be opening and the air filled with the fragrance of flowers. In Japanese homes of the shoin and sukiya styles, there was always this kind of 'unobstructed interpenetration' and symbiosis of inside and outside, a symbiosis with the world of nature. The Japanese house has another important feature that intermediates between inside and outside - the engawa verandah. The engawa runs around the house as a projecting platform under the eaves. It is different from the terrace in Western architecture in that it serves as an exterior corridor. While it protects the interior from wind, rain, and, in the summer, the strong rays of the sun, it also functions as a place to entertain guests and as an entranceway from the garden into the house. But in addition to that, the engawa possesses its own meaning as a third type of space, an intermediary space, in addition to interior and exterior space. In that it is beneath the eaves, the engawa is interior space; but in that it is open, it is part of the exterior space, the garden.'42


'The engawa is not a border or a boundary, rather it is a transition between inside and outside. An intermediate connective area that allows the building to establish a relationship with its surroundings. It lends itself to movement in space as well as contemplation of the garden.'43

- Kengo Kuma


Kisho Kurokawa was by no means alone in his thinking. The younger generation of Japanese architects [the 'New Wave'] similarly deplored the rigid demarcation of categories and the either/or dichotomies of Western rationalism, the sterility of architecture, the decline of Japanese cities to a state of anti-human chaos, and the waning of Buddhist tradition and Japanese culture. What differentiates the attitude of the Japanese from other postmodernist architects is the means they adopt to rehabilitate their tradition. Whereas, on the one hand, they declare a rejection of Western rationality, on the other hand they do not abandon technology, but use it in its purest and undiluted forms. They make no effort to revive handcraft or the materials and techniques of earlier times. Quite on the contrary, Kurokawa and the New Wave are masters of the most sophisticated and advanced technology. Nor do they use technology, as do some other postmodernist architects, to reproduce the superficial forms of the architecture of the past. Their aim is not to quote the styles of previous periods. It is not to reproduce the visible tradition or endorse any sort of stylistic revivalism, but to preserve the unseen tradition, the spiritual heritage of Japan.44 Among the New Wave of Japanese architects who are active today, this is particularly so in the work of Kengo Kuma [1954-]. 

Kuma emerged as part of a generation of architects that launched their careers around the early to mid-1990s, when the high-flying, prosperous, and flamboyantly excessive era of Japan’s bubble economy was giving way to one of the longest, and in many respects still ongoing, recessions in the country’s history. It is not surprising that the new realities of the post-Bubble Era, while setting considerable limitations on construction in the country, ushered in new priorities and created the necessity for a new kind of architecture. Kuma’s generation, which includes such noted designers as Shigeru Ban [1957-], Toshihito Yokouchi [1954-], and Hiroshi Nakamura [1974-] faced the challenges of a drastically changed economy and met them by finding new means of creativity through down-to-earth innovations in design, the idea of 'less is more'. Kuma’s maturation as an architect was nevertheless somewhat different from that of others in his generation, many of whom are now returning to minimalism and reiterating some of architecture’s high-modern tenets in refreshing ways. Kuma’s ideas and his understanding of architecture have been shaped by diverse experiences and influences, with varying intensities and in unique combinations.45 In his own words:

'I was asked to design small buildings for towns and villages in the countryside in the 1990s, during the Japanese economic downturn. Although the buildings were small, this work was rewarding. I was able to talk and work directly with local craftsmen. For projects in Tokyo, I could only talk with the manager of the construction company. And managers were primarily interested in financial factors and the schedule of a project. They were not interested at all in the architecture itself. They were not interested in the elements that comprised buildings. To them, buildings consisted of money and time. Since nothing would change by talking to them ... I visited islands in Japan and thought about the appeal of small, wooden houses ... to provide a gentle connection between people and nature. In the villages, a priority was placed on configuring architecture with small pieces ... with a focus on horizontal elements nestling close to the ground and using a minimum of vertical elements. Large roofs were an important element in this equation. The open space created beneath these roofs shaped the environment. Spaces were separated with light screens that provided the ability to respond in a flexible way to changes in lifestyle. I became confident that small, low buildings were much more appealing and that the age of large, tall buildings had come to an end.'46

Kuma’s interest in architectural traditions and their contemporary relevance was further reinforced in 1991, when he received the commission for Water/Glass, a guesthouse in Atami, a city in Shizuoka Prefecture. The site of the building is adjacent to Bruno Taut’ [1880-1938] only extant work in Japan, the Hyuga Villa [1936]. When Kuma visited the villa, the aspect that impressed him most was not how skillfully Taut had applied traditional elements such as tatami mats and sliding panels of shoji and fusuma, but, rather, his splendid appropriation of an intense but intimate relationship between the traditional Japanese house and nature. This occurrence in Kuma’s life is important, because it reveals that he, like many Japanese architects, came to appreciate traditional architecture, at least partially, through the influence of foreigners like Taut and [Frank Lloyd] Wright, who admired and learned from Japanese traditions, implementing them within their work.47 Kengo Kuma:

'Taut fled Germany in 1933 and moved to Japan ... Even though he stayed in Japan for only three years, his understanding of Japanese culture was surprisingly deep, and I learned a good deal about my country from his books. Taut was especially interested in the seventeenth-century Katsura Villa in Kyoto, which he viewed from his own unique angle ... Most of his writing focuses on the relationship between the garden and the architecture, and on the sequence of experiences that people encounter while walking around the villa. As I read his books, I decided to make the Atami guesthouse a homage to Taut ... Taut had expressed admiration for the Katsura Villa's deck ... made of bamboo. In his view, a deck is a medium that links the garden with the building; it is the place where the environment unites with the human element ... Taut [also] pointed out the importance of horizontal elements, just as traditional Japanese architecture emphasised the design of the floor as a central component. In fact, after the fifteenth century, 'eliminating walls' became a sub-theme in Japanese architecture ... Little by little, I thus began to understand the real significance of 'erasing architecture'.48

Needless to say, such a statement from an architect about to start his career in earnest, without explanation, seems utterly paradoxical. Even for Kuma, the realisation of this intention, in practical terms, left much to think about. It resulted in various interpretations of the notion, as well as extensive and strategic experimentations during the years to come:49 stylistic postmodernism, fragmentary compositions, subterranean constructions, the uncommon application of materials, features of traditional architecture and vernacular, ecology and nature, and phenomenology50 - our experiences and sensations of space, the sensory meaning of spaces; the flow of everyday life that includes routine and unusual, ordinary and surprising situations within itself.51 A common theme in these divergent ideas has been Kuma's strong tendency towards a new minimalism characterised by successfully blending the best of their long-standing Japanese aesthetic sensibilities with a mood of contemporary simplicity, lightness, and ephemerality.52 This is most obvious in the modern intepretation of the Katsura Villa, PC Garden [2013] in Tokyo [Fig. 1].

The project, a single-storey house constructed with four rooms - each positioned where the arms of a windmill would normally be situated - follows the Japanese sukiya tradition of post and lintel skeleton frame construction, flexible room arrangements, close relationship of indoor and outdoor areas; and the ornamental quality of the structural system itself.53 For Kuma, the slightly elevated floor and the soft metal canopy or roof, with large overhangs eaves all around are the primary place-defining devices: the floor because it entices flows of movement, which provide continuity between inside and out;54 the roof because it naturally creates a deep covered space under the eaves, where the extension of the interior flooring, becomes the engawa [veranda].55 Boundaries are made up of minimum frame, floor-to-ceiling glass panels that slide open like traditional shoji partitions - blurring the line between inside and outside - and the transition between architectural space and the garden, is modulated by the differentiation in materials and gradation of horizontal surfaces: 'tatami', engawa, steps, stepping stones, and gravel.56 The garden itself, a beautiful and serene Zen rock landscape [karesansui], is designed not as a pleasure garden, but as an object of contemplation, to be viewed from fixed vantage points.57

The result may be summed up in the word shibumi, which is difficult to translate, but whose meaning may be suggested by saying that it stands for quiet, delicate, and refined taste, the beauty that does not show on the surface, austerity in art without severity; and that it is opposed to anything which is gaudy, crude or ostentatious. Without shibumi [literally astringency] no art can be worthwhile, no person worth knowing, and no house worth inhabiting.58  

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Jane Jacobs [1992]. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vintage Books, pp. 6 - 12.
2. Ibid, pp. 4 - 5.
3. Claire Zimmerman [2022]. Migration, Briefly Arrested: Revisiting Atelier 66
4. A66 Architects [2024]. Biography.
5. Gregory Morgan Swer [2003]. The Road to Necropolis: Technics and Death in the Philosophy of Lewis Mumford. Sage Publications, pp. 41.
6. Paul Ricoeur [1965]. Universal Civilisation and National Cultures: On Identity and Resistance, pp. 277.
7. Kenneth Frampton [1983]. Prospects for a Critical Regionalism, pp. 148. 
8. C. Holland [2019]. The Critical Past. University of Brighton, pp. 3. 
9. Patrick Nuttgens [1988]. Understanding Modern Architecture. Unwin Hyman, pp. 133 - 138. 
10. Dean Hawkes [2023]. Northern Light: The Unique Visions of Alvar Aalto & Sigurd Lewerentz. Daylight and Architecture.
11. Katja Pantzar [2023]. The Architecture of Empathy. Paimio
12. Sanatorium: from Latin sanare 'to heal, make healthy'.
13. Kvadrat Interwoven; Anniina Koivu [2024]. Paimio Sanatorium: The Colours of Alvar Aalto. A previous version of the article was published in Iittala Journal, 2017.
14. Alvar Aalto [1940]. The Humanising of Architecture. The Technology Review. Republished in: G. Schildt [ed.] [1997]. Alvar Aalto in His Own Words, pp.102 - 107. Quoted in: Hyon-Sob Kim [2009]. Alvar Aalto and Humanising of Architecture. Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, pp. 11.
15. Maharam; Billie Muraben [2024]. Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium.
16. Kvadrat Interwoven; Anniina Koivu [2024].
17. Witold Rybczynski [2015]. The Enduring Legacy of Paimio.
18. Kvadrat Interwoven; Anniina Koivu [2024].
19. Paimio Sanatorium; Katja Pantzar [2023]. The Architecture of Empathy.
20. Kvadrat Interwoven; Anniina Koivu [2024].
21. Witold Rybczynski [2015].
22. Maharam; Billie Muraben [2024]. Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium.
23. Emily Sargent [2019]. The Building as a Tool of Healing.
24. Witold Rybczynski [2015].
25. Great Designers [2008]. Great Designer::Alvar Aalto
26. Patrick Nuttgens [1988]. Understanding Modern Architecture. Unwin Hyman, pp.137; Esin Kömez Daglioglu [2019]. On the Paradoxical Nature of Frampton’s Critical Regionalism.
27. A de Swaan; C Jencks; S Verderber, et al [2006]. The Architecture of Hospitals. Wagenaar C, Editor. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, pp. 376. Quoted in: Diana Anderson [2010]. Humanising the Hospital: Design Lessons from a Finnish Sanatorium. National Institutes of Health.
28. Botond Bognar [1985]. Contemporary Japanese Architecture: Its Development and Challenge. New York: VNR, pp. 14. 
29. Charles Jencks [2011]. The Story of Post-Modernism. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 9.
30. Ari Seligmann; Sean McMahon [2017]. Positioning Pluralism in 'New Waves' of Post-Modern Japanese Architecture. Monash University, pp. 654, 659.
31. Botond Bognar [1985], pp. 204, 205.
32. Blaine Brownell [2016]. Learning from the 'Red' and 'White' Schools of Japanese Architecture.
33. Sen no Rikyu [1522 – 1591]: a Japanese tea master who perfected the tea ceremony and raised it to the level of an art.
34. Dana Buntrock [2010]. Materials and Meaning in Contemporary Japanese Architecture. Oxford: Routledge, pp. 15, 32; Terunobu Fujimori [2010]. Red & White Schools. Tokyo: X-Knowledge. Quoted in: Ari Seligmann [2016]. Ostentatious Dichotomies in Representations of Japanese-Architecture. Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, pp. 633.
35. Kisho Kurokawa [1994]. Each One a Hero: The Philosophy of Symbiosisetabolism in Architecture, pp. 305,
36. Florian Urban [2013]. Japanese ‘Occidentalism’ and the Emergence of Postmodern Architecture, pp. 91; Zeljka Pjesivac [2021]. Architecture of Creative Becomings - Sou Fujimoto, pp. 127.
37. Kisho Kurokawa [1994], pp. 298, 
38. Ibid, pp. 300, 312.
39. Ibid, pp. 300.
40. Ibid, pp. 305.
41. Kisho Kurokawa [1977]. Metabolism in Architecture, pp. 171.
42. Kisho Kurokawa [1994], pp. 305.
43. Coco Marett [2023]. Every Building is a House - Kengo Kuma on the Future of Architecture.
44. Adrian Snodgrass [1931]. Translating Tradition: Technology, Heidegger's ‘Letting-Be’ and Japanese New Wave Architecture, pp. 83-84.
45. Botond Bognar [2009]. Material Immaterial: The New Work of Kengo Kuma, pp. 15-18.
46. Philip Jodidio; Kengo Kuma [2022]. Kuma. Complete Works 1988 – Today.
47. Botond Bognar [2009], pp. 18.
48. Botond Bognar [2005]. Kengo Kuma: Selected Works. Princeton Architectural Press, pp. 14-15.
49. Botond Bognar [2009], pp. 22.
50. Botond Bognar [2005], pp. 23, 25.
51. Saeid Soltani; Nazan Kirci [2019]. Phenomenology and Space in Architecture: Experience, Sensation and Meaning. International Journal of Architectural Engineering Technology, Vol. 6, pp. 1-2.
52. Botond Bognar [2005], pp. 23, 35.
53. Arthur Drexler [1956]. Description of the Japanese Exhibition House on View at the Museum of Modern Art during the Summers of 1954 and 1955. New York Museum of Modern Art [MOMA], pp. 1.
54. Botond Bognar [2005], pp. 37.
55. Siujui [2020]. A Study on Engawa: The Japanese Tradition and its Contemporary Revival.
56. Botond Bognar [2005], pp. 37.
57. Gunter Nitschke [2007]. Japanese Gardens, pp. 68.
58. Jiro Harada [1936]. The Lesson of Japanese Architecture, pp. 48.

Fig. 13. Shippocho House [House in Shippocho], Nagoya, Japan [2011]. Architecture: Toshihito Yokouchi Architect & Associate. Photographer: Isao Aihara.

Chapter Thirteen

The Magic of Trees

In light of the contemporary and quintessentially minimalistic ways in which Kuma's architecture has reinterpreted traditional Japanese 'small architecture' and 'small houses', it is interesting to note that this concept has been expressed in a diametrically opposite way; by a 'new wave' of prolific architects and architectural studios - Toshihito Yokouchi, Ando-Komuten, ADX, and General Design Co., Ltd., and to some degree, Kengo Kuma - immersed in a tenacious nostalgia for the construction of wooden sukiya style Japanese houses using centuries-old construction and joinery [kigumi] techniques; and that enduring characteristic of the Japanese sense of beauty, which is namely, the harmonious interplay of delicate natural forms [the garden] against the strict geometry of the right angle [timber architecture].1 To understand these thoughts in terms of design, one must look at the central factors in much of Japan’s customs and relationship to nature and the contextual issues that have had an effect on Japanese design.2 Toshihito Yokouchi:

'It has been more than 10 years since I started building houses, and I have been thinking about why I like wooden houses and why I have been so particular about them. And I feel that the reason, which was still vague ... seven years ago, is now becoming clearer. In a word, it could be said that I have become more aware [that] Japanese culture has been a forest culture for more than 12,000 years. And even though large-scale environmental destruction has occurred during rapid modernisation, two-thirds of the country is still forest, and it remains a rare forest country among developed countries. Moreover, the genes of the Japanese people that were formed through familiarity with the forest for 12,000 years and the spirituality that was cultivated during that time are unlikely to change easily in just less than 100 years.'3

Spirituality, as he refers to it, is Shinto. the indigenous faith of the Japanese people, which, according to the author Dr. Sokyo Ono 'implies faith in the kami, usages practiced in accordance with the mind of the kami, and spiritual life attained through the worship of and in communion with the kami. What is meant by 'kami'? Fundamentally, the term is an honorific for ... the qualities of growth, fertility, and production; natural phenomena, such as wind and thunder; natural objects, such as the sun, mountains, rivers, trees and rocks; some animals; and ancestral spirits4 ... The oldest and most prevalent type of the kami-faith is when 'shrine shinto' slowly entered its second phase 'nature shinto' and permanent shrine buildings appeared;5 to provide a dwelling place for one or more kami and a place where the kami can be served, that is, worshipped in accordance with Shinto beliefs and practices.

Such was the formal clarity and simplicity of the earliest [shrines] and the universality of their ritual imagery that they produced specific archetypes of holy site and sacred rite in the collective Japanese subconscious, archetypes which have survived the passage of time and which continue to cast a spell over foreign tourists even today.7 The Ise Shrine, which enshrines the Imperial ancestry, is the most well-known among such shrines as a perfect example of the pre-Buddhist architectural form.8 Takaaki Hashida:

'The Ise Shrine stands by the banks of the Isuzu River, amid dense forests at the foot of Mount Kamiji and Mount Shimaji of Ise city in the eastern-central part of Japan. There are two main sanctuaries, Naiku [Inner Shrine] and Geku [Outer Shrine]; the former dedicated to the worship of Amaterasu-Omikami, Sun Goddess and legendary Imperial ancestress and the latter enshrines Toyouke-Omikami, Godess of Cereals. The buildings of the Ise Shrine are in the Shimmei style, which is characterised by several architectural features. The roof, which is straight, thatched and gabled, has the chigi [the continuation of crossed gable-end boards forming V-shaped projections above the ridge] and the Katsuogi [tapered wood cylinders set crosswise along the ridge] on it. The pillars, which have no foundations, are driven directly into the ground. At each gable end there is a pillar called munamochi bashira [ridge-supporting post] standing clear of the main building. A special name, Yuiitsu [= unique] Shimmei style, is given to the form of the two main sanctuaries, Naiku and Geku, which can be distinguished from the Shimmei style by the veranda and railing around these two structures and the shin-no-mihashira [sacred central post], which is the symbol of the devine presence.9

It has been generally accepted that the form of the Ise Shrine building evolved from that of the ancient raised-floor storehouse: a floor raised well above the ground, which was probably meant to protect the crops against dampness and rats. The roof is gabled and seems to splay out widely at either end as it rises, so as to give the apex a wide overhang. The support to the projection is secured by two munamochi bashira, isolated pillars holding the ridge pole. The entrance is at the gable end with an exterior ladder leading to a high floor.10 

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Gunter Nitschke [2007]. Japanese Gardens, pp. 38.
2. George Verghese [2003]. The Way of the Detail in Japanese Design, pp. 164.
3. Toshihito Yokouchi [2002]. Forest Culture and Beautiful Japanese Homes. Housing Architecture.
4. Dr. Sokyo Ono [1962]. Shinto: The Kami Way. Tuttle Publishing, pp. 21, 26.
5. Gunter Nitschke [2007], pp. 15.
6. Dr. Sokyo Ono [1962], pp. 46.
7. Gunter Nitschke [2007], pp. 15.
8. Takaaki Hashida [1980]. The Development in the Design of Early Japanese State Temples, pp. 29.
9. Ibid, pp. 34, 35, 41.
10. Ibid, pp. 69, 
11. Ibid, pp

8. Facts and Details [2020]. Ise Shrine: Its History, Architecture and Rituals
9. Kiyoshi Matsumoto [2020]. The Shinto & Japan’s Most Sacred Shrine.
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