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Architectural parallax: spandrels and other phenomena of class struggle

Zizek, Slavoj (2009) Architectural parallax: spandrels and other phenomena of class struggle. Lacan.com ,

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Official URL: http://www.lacan.com/essays/?page_id=218

Abstract

My knowledge of architecture is constrained to a coupler of idiosyncratic data: my love for Ayn Rand and her architecture-novel The Fountainhead; my admiration of the Stalinist “wedding-cake” baroque kitsch; my dream of a house composed only of secondary spaces and places of passage – stairs, corridors, toilets, store-rooms, kitchen – with no living room or bedroom. The danger that I am courting is thus that what I will say will oscillate between the two extremes of unfounded speculations and what most is already known for a long time. I would like to begin with the notion of parallax which I took from Kojin Karatani. The common definition of parallax is: the apparent displacement of an object (the shift of its position against a background), caused by a change in observational position that provides a new line of sight. The philosophical twist to be added, of course, is that the observed difference is not simply “subjective,” due to the fact that the same object which exists “out there” is seen from two different stations, or points of view. It is rather that, as Hegel would have put it, subject and object are inherently “mediated,” so that an “epistemological” shift in the subject’s point of view always reflects an “ontological” shift in the object itself. When confronted with such a parallax gap, one should renounce all attempts to reduce one aspect to the other (or, even more, to enact a kind of “dialectical synthesis” of the opposites); the task is, on the contrary, to conceive all possible positions as responses to a certain underlying deadlock or antagonism, as so many attempts to resolve this deadlock… and this already brings us to so-called postmodern architecture which, sometimes, seems to enact the notion of parallax in a directly-palpable way. Think about Liebeskind or Gehry: their work often appears as a desperate (or joyous) attempt to combine two incompatible structuring principles within the same building (in the case of Liebeskind, horizontal/vertical and oblique cubes; in the case of Gehry, traditional house with modern – concrete, corrugated iron, glass – supplements), as if two principles are locked in a struggle for hegemony.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Philosophy
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 12 May 2011 15:24
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:18
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/2242

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