Metamorphosis, Presence and Anthropomorphosis

6 May, 2017

"Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realising one's sensations."

Paul Cezanne

According to Richard Sennet, in his seminal book, the Craftsmen, all craftspeople have an inbuilt material consciousness. This engagement with their material can produce beauty and their thinking crafts can be explained by three key issues, and below I have attempted to relate them to the craft of architecture. If Architects can imbue all three of these stages, their work would speak of beauty in my opinion.

  1. Metamorphosis - Architects are taught in practice to follow a standard set of rules for wall, floor and roof build ups. Year by year these gradually change through regulation and knowledge transfer. These small incremental steps and innovations within construction are normal. But sometimes, a larger step is taken and the process by which an Architect creates a seismic shift that is adopted by the industry. An example is reinforced concrete and pilloti inspired by the Japanese timber tea houses with sliding paper walls. This was adopted in the West with concrete frames and shear glazed walls.
  2. Presence - A maker will normally leave his or her mark or presence on an object they've made. A brickmaker leaves a stamp so we know what yard it has been produced. Architects leave their stamp on projects with repeated details and a certain intangible atmosphere. Some Architects only use shadow gaps above flush skirtings and around door architraves, others consistently use certain eaves details in their work. One of the nicest feelings I get in a space the Workshop has designed is when someone knows we have designed it, as opposed to another Architect, they cannot tell immediately why, the feeling of the place gives them an intuition so.
  3. Anthromorphosis - This kind of material consciousness is when an inanimate thing is imbued with human qualities. This is when a craft is elevated to the level of beauty. Cezanne didn't paint a photographic reality of a countryside scene, he painted what his senses and body interpreted as that scene, the result was Impressionism. This is when Architects can impart their haptic senses into materials and they discover virtue in composing material compositions.