LOST IN THE LINE (2010)
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK:
Architecture is the discipline that attributes physicality to the lines traced on paper. In this regard, the architect wields the power to separate milieus by the mean of those lines, thereby applying a tremendous violence upon the bodies that become prisoners within. One immediately thinks of the famous geopolitical walls of our world; around Gaza and the West Bank, along the Mexican border, in the middle of Cyprus or Korea, etc. However, those walls are only the extreme illustrations of a more general and subtle system of architectural apparatuses that manifests a transcendental control on the bodies.
This characteristic of architecture can not only be explained by intrinsic qualities, but also for the close relationship it has maintained through history with military strategy. The latter, in its need for diagrammatization, rationalization and optimization, mutated ‘the architect’ into ‘the engineer’ who designs exclusively via those processes. The more literal the translation from a diagram to an architecture, the more powerful the transcendental control becomes.
The labyrinth, in its classical representation, is the quintessence of the architect’s absolute control. The line is traced from above, its author has a total vision of the space, and he is amused to see bodies below subjected to his architecture. When he writes The Trial and The Castle in the 1920’s, Franz Kafka reinvents this notion of labyrinth by creating a maze that escapes the control of its developer, the giant administrative system. This maze will find a space in 1941 through Jorge Luis Borges and his Ficciones in which space is composed both by the notion of infinite and the random. Eventually, during the 1950’s, Constant Nieuwenhuis brought an architecture to this labyrinth by the creation of his New Babylon, the territory of the Homo Ludens’ continuous drift. Those three labyrinths, whether they are administrative, spatial, or architectural, all own the characteristic of not being controlled by their creators.
The labyrinth proposed in the following story attempts to be of this kind, as well. Just like the wall, this labyrinth is defined by a single line; however it considerably increases its thickness in order to allow a roving in the line. In fact, one transgression towards the line consists in walking on it, in the way of a tightrope walker experiencing spatially what Marcel Duchamp calls inframince. This labyrinth is an uncontrollable growing entity comprised of a forest whose use depends exclusively on its appropriation by people. The creation of a new environment that needs to be colonized in order to acquire a function implies the invention of a new architecture that adapts to its new conditions. Its violent architectural vocabulary is not innocent nor is the potential danger its experience implies. In fact, Italo Calvino’s dream of remaining for a lifetime in the three dimensionality of the forest entails a refusal of comfort, convenience and safety.