A person who is held in the grip of language alone will have lost touch with many other scales of action vital to her existence.
-- Madeline Gins + Arakawa, Architectural Body (2002), p.82
According to eminent philosopher of language Jean-Jacques Lecercle, architects Arakawa and Gins have a great deal to teach philosophers.
Over a series of essays that span nearly a decade, Lecercle refines an interpretation of Arakawa and Gins that takes architecture—procedural architecture—as philosophy. One should not merely philosophize about architecture, according to Lecercle, but read architecture as one would a philosophical text, complete with its own concepts and propositions of truth and reality.
Reading the architecture of Arakawa and Gins, Lecercle locates new concepts—landing sites, bioscleave, organism that persons. For Lecercle, these concepts offer “nothing short of a new mapping of our experience and of the construction of our lived world.” Lecercle also confronts and takes seriously—that is, not just aesthetically or metaphorically—key propositions in Arakawa and Gins’s work that challenge both our semantics (“reversible destiny”) and our most ingrained beliefs (“we have decided not to die”). In his latest essay titled Gins and Arakawa, or The Passage to Materialism (2010), Lecercle situates these propositions in what he calls a “materialism of space”—the vast expanse of architecture comprised of buildings and monuments—in order to display how the construction of meaning (a “tentative constructing” according to Arakawa and Gins) emerges, transforms, and even reverses itself through the human being’s engagement. “It is in space,” according to Lecercle, “that reversing direction makes sense” and that reinventing oneself becomes possible. Thus a reversible destiny is not so far fetched or far off as one might think.
While added attention is given to space, time is not neglected by the author of The Tense of Architecture (2003). Time is obviously required for the construction of architecture, but also the conducting of architectural “procedures.” In Arakawa and Gins’s work, time according to Lecercle is “not the time of teleological future, but the time of the present of action and procedure;” in short, the time of social praxis. And herein lies the political dimension that Lercercle sees excitingly emerging in Arakawa and Gins’s latest work.
Lecercle places Arakawa and Gins as immediate successors to Marx and Engels: equally as radical and prescient (Upon hearing of this, Arakawa immediately wanted to be Engels, leaving Gins to side with the carbuncled philosopher).
For Lecercle, how you read architecture determines the kind of philosopher you are. For Arakawa and Gins, how you embody architecture determines the kind of human being you will become; namely, one that has decided not to die.
Lecercle’s published works on Gins and Arakawa:
The Tense of Architecture (2003) An A to Z Guide to Making Dying Illegal (2006) The Passage to Materialism (2010)