Biopolitics and Self-Governance

31 – “The Premise of Recombinant Architecture” – B. Bratton

Bratton discuss an exciting and dangerous concept that is Recombinant Architecture. I cannot help thinking this biotechnological architecture will create a peculiar interaction relationship between architecture and human, which can rapidly improve out living environment and also can destroy our life at the same time, because the bionic technology can lost control with the aggression by virus.
The author presents three interrelated forms for recombination: the image of genetic biomorphic corporeality, the deliberate fashioning of recombinant bodily forms and the application artificial biomaterials. Those are “from bodies to buildings and back again” (Pg. 94).  The body and architecture have more common ground than difference in my view. For example, “The house skin reacts to and anticipates sunlight and environmental variables according to data received and adjusts itself accordingly” (Pg. 98). The house body modulates its temperature as human skin. The only difference is that the former is artificial and the latter is natural. Bodies and building can convert each other. This technology will improve human’s life and provide the service as the natural organism. However, the ethical issues arise with cloning human apparatus. And there is high hidden trouble threaten our life as I mentioned the aggression by virus. We can imagine we cannot breathe when the doors and window are shut and the ventilation system turn off, which are caused by computer virus.

The bionic technology can radically shift in our body, family, city and environment, however, we have to solve the ethical and technology issues to avoid human destroy themselves.

1. Does the technology improve our life or destroy our life?
2. What is the base line of biotechnological development?



30 – “Once More, With Intensity” – J. Nealon

In this article, the author primarily expounded the intensification of power change. “Change, then, is a matter of slow mutations, accretions, and accumulations of social practice” (Pg.38). It interprets that intensity is the power that drives change.

Jeffrey Nealon revealed the conception that power shift. The social and economic changes are a slow process and those historical changes generally would not take place unless they arrive to a tipping point. There is an example explain this phenomenon. “At 200 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s simply hot water; intensified to 212 degrees, it’s boiling water” (Pg.38). It illuminate a truth that object or subject mutates into another form, which need to accumulate and accelerate in a period. On the other hand, Foucault pictures the power shift through sexuality. For example, homosexual happens through the slow intensification of existing practices and redefines the practice. It is the effect of this slow transformation.

Foucault appraises that biopower is the intensification of sexuality. Biopower is an even more intense and saturated form of power. Biopower does not simply include or exclude individuals based on norms. However, whose norm is something right or wrong? As the example of sexuality, “not everybody has a shared institutional or disciplinary identity, but everyone does have something like a sexuality” (Pg.46). Biopower did not exclude sexuality, but included it in the body as a mode of specification.

1) What is the relationship between the biopower and architecture form?
2) Is the intensity of power a norm of contemporary tide?

Feminism and the Political Body

29 – “When Man is on the Menu” – Donna Haraway

Donna Haraway argues a dialectic topic – what are the boundaries between humans and animals, morality and technology? She uses two examples that are OncoMouse and virtual rabbit to explore why man is on the menu as we treat with animals. Biotechnology is developing with high speed. However, the boundaries humans and animals are breaking. The lab animals are products of the laboratory but they deeply affect our life now. Sometime, we are so confused about what is the reality and fiction. Maybe we as human will exchange the role in the world with the animals, because we did not figure out the genesis of life. As a joke said, we are the animals of God’s lab and the earth is the place of God’s lab. We just did not know whether it is a joke or not. The technology improves our life and leads us into other virtual world at same time. Bio-engineered body can be produced in the lab, and the human also can be cloned as the order on the menu that depends on the clients’ requirement. We can breed the progeniture in cuvette and bereave the generational right of female and male, but who can keep us away from the destroyers who come from our lab.

1. The digital virtual technologies are used widely in architecture. How can we distinguish the true effect or fake result?
2. Will the architect become the products of architectural theories?



28 –  “How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics” – N. Katherine Hayles

Katherine Hayles explains Norbert Wiener’s study in cybernetics that put mathematics and science together to bridge the information and mechanism. Both of them relate to the body. “Fusing cybernetic device and biological organism, the cyborg violates the human /machine distinction; replacing cognition with neural feedback, it challenges the human-animal difference; explaining the behavior of thermostats and people through theories of feedback, hierarchical structure, and control, it erases the animate /inanimate distinction.” (Pg.84). Body as an informational system could be reconfigured by cybernetics. She uses one example – a blind man’s cane to explicate cybernetics that describes the information flows, and the cane is portion of the blind man because the cane extends the informational flow to wide space. Furthermore, Body is fused with the mechanical device. However, there is an anxious or threatening trend that is electronic computers are thinking and making decision for the human. The postman does not mean past-man. We need to make sure that machines are always controlled by human beings and humans “must not let machines become their masters” (Pg. 85). The physical boundaries of human’s body should be secure, and the flow of information through the organism should be controlled by human’s decisions. Personal identity and autonomous should not be challenged. All of those points would secure us became a “healthy” Posthuman.

1. What is the base line of the cyborg? Do not attack human or other?
2. What are the boundaries of keeping the body away from the machine?



27 – “Architecture from Without: Body, Logic, and Sex” – Diana I. Agrest

Agrest argues a long-standing reality that “The logic in the system of architecture represses sex in two different ways: sex is thought of in both positive and negative terms; where woman is assigned the negative term, and sex is neutralized or erased through the medium of the artist” (Pg.174). Why and how did the frozen stones in the architectural building express the characters of gender? Why would the woman be assigned the negative term? The followed two scenes of architecture will help us to understand the complex ideological apparatus.

First scene: The Book of the Renaissance. Women had been suppressed, repressed, and replaced in historical and architectural ideology since the Renaissance. At this time, the architects built an architectural system founded on the analogical relation between architecture and man’s body. Further, this system became the foundation of architectural theories. That system considers the man’s body naturally and perfectly matched in the design of buildings and female body is suppressed or excluded. Woman, her reproductive creative functions are replaced by man. The woman’s womb was replaced by man’s navel.

Second scene: The Text of the City. “Wife in the kitchen. Whore in the street” (Pg.191). The role of woman had been restricted in the “interior” space. And “she is at home” (Pg.191). The public place is a no-man’s-land ready to be appropriated. Woman is dispossessed of her body.

The Western system of architectural theories had been built upon and remained influential in our architectural buildings. The sexual characters are branded on those buildings with or without intention. Whatever they are female or male characters and they are both unique with their own qualities and values in architectural form.

1. Does it mean perfect if we use nonsexual characteristic in architecture?
2. Is an improvement or a retaliation of Feminism in architecture?

The Phenomenological Body

26 – “Visions Unfolding: Architecture in the Age of Electronic Media” – Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman narrates a new perception and vision – folded space. “The architecture began to conform itself to this monocular rationalizing vision – in its own body” (Pg. 557). Spaces and bodies act. The idea of vision with regard to architecture is not only vision, but also planimetric idea. However, the architecture always skips the problem of vision. The idea of a “Looking-back” replaces the anthropocentric subject. It concerns the possibility of detaching the subject from the rationalization of space. There is an interesting example – Mobius strip that is an unbroken continuity circulation between two sides of the trip. Mobius strip is one kind of folded space.  “Folded space articulates a new relationship between vertical and horizontal figure and ground, inside and out – all structures articulated by traditional vision. Unlike the space of classical vision, the idea of folded space denies framing in favor of a temporal modulation” (p. 559). And the Klein bottle is a non-orientable surface, and made up of two Mobius strips. The bottle has vertical and horizontal circulations; the interior and exterior space. Those examples are found at 19th century, but are mocked after the development of Electronic Media. The new Electronic technology enlarges our views and helps us build an integrative visual field.
1. Can we say the space is flexible if the space can be folded or unfolded?
2. How does the Electronic Media change the materiality of spaces?



25 – “The Synthesis of One’s Own Body” – M. Merleau-Ponty

This article explores the link between our body in objective space and perceptual experience. “Our body is not primarily in space: it is of it” (Pg.148). That as an introduction brings us into the argument that why our own perceptions of our body are synthetic rather than only existing is space.

There are some examples as reaching the telephone, work of art and color panels used to explain Merleau-Ponty’s theory of human’s body in space that the perceptive and physical interaction of our tactile bodies in space explicates the way of perceiving that space by perceptual habit. The traditional view of the body in space thought that our body just existing in Cartesian coordinates. However, Merleau-Ponty claims the body is not a series of individual sections in space, but becomes an extension of ourselves. As the example of art, the body is not the entity in space but only expresses the contact. Other example of a blind man’s stick, it becomes part of his perception rather than just a tool – “it is a bodily auxiliary, an extension of the bodily synthesis” (Pg. 152). Our bodies, habits and our experiences put together to form our reality. 

Human uses their perception of body to interpret the space. Our bodies are not only in space but also are portions of space. In regard to architecture, the bodily perception will affect the space distributing and is like as an X-ray that penetrates other spatial and temporal extension.

1. How does the architectural form change to suit the bodily perception?
2. Can the architects use the social or personal habit to affect the environment? Is it degradation?

Studio-Project 3-Diagram

Bin Tian-Programming Diagram

Freud and Topographies of the Mind

24 – “Unhomely Homes” – Vidler

Vidler discusses the idea of the unhomely home that is an uncanny space. “Uncanny” is a complex definition and is simply described as ‘lack of orientation,’ it is not only fearful, but also beyond knowledge. Vidler build a special feeling with light and shape of construction elements. For example, Vidler presents “the general space of the sublime – that of height, depth and extension, as characterized by Burke – from that of the uncanny – that of silence, solitude, of internal confinement and suffocation, that mental space where temporality and spatiality collapse. The vertigo of the sublime is placed side by side with the claustrophobia of the uncanny” (Pg.39). And “his chimney; it provided warmth and stability for the entire house” (Pg. 42). The chimney is the center of the house and is the “backbone” of the house. The shape of chimney symbolizes vertical power and manhood. It reminds me that similar shape of construction could be found at Egypt and Greece. Both of them represent the sexism and lordliness. The author indicates that “Around this pyramid-tomb the house deployed itself, depending on the chimney for sustenance and support; because of its position, it was a kind of labyrinth protecting the inner center form profane intrusion” (Pg. 43).

1. How can we project this uncanny space into some special projects?
2. What is the key element of this uncanny space?



23 – “Creative Writers and Daydreaming” – Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud discusses the comparison between the creative writers and children through the daydream. We always complain the stress of real life and dream that we can go back to our childhood to enjoy the light-hearted time. However, the adults always ashamed of their fantasies and tie them to themselves with all kinds of excuses. If we can recall our experience, we may find that the creative thought is always hidden in our mind. “The creative writer does the same as the child at play. He creates a world of phantasy which he takes very seriously- that is, which he invests with large amounts of emotion- while separating it sharply from reality” (Pg. 437). We will never yell out or laugh full mouth hen we grow up. We oppress our emotion that closely relates to the creative thought. As time passes, we will forget laughing and crying as forgetting to imagine. Fantasy and Daydreaming may be the only way of expressing the hidden emotion. “when a creative writer presents his personal day-dreams, we experience a great pleasure and one which probably arises from the confluence of many sources” (Pg.443).

Architects also have the same problems. Daydream can help us to get rid of redundant cord.

1. Is the design project a product of Architects’ daydream?
2. Does the different culture have different influence on creative thought?


22 – “The Organization of Personality” – C.S. Hall

The author classes the personality into the three parts as Freud’s developed – the id, the ego, and the superego. Each portion of the personality is different but not isolated entities from one another. They are interactional and dynamic context as Hall explained in this end of the articles “They are merely a shorthand way of designating different processes, functions, mechanisms and dynamisms within the total personality” (Pg.35). We can further explore the core thinking of author from the followed three sections.

ID is regarded as a solution of relieving tension and based on pleasure and intuitive needs. Freud compared the ID to a hungry baby who inevitably experiences the tension of hunger that was other excitations arising in the body. Those experiences imitate the development of the ID. It is the product of evolution and the basal of the pleasure principle. ID can only be controlled by the ego.

Ego harmonizes between the id and the external world. It supersedes the pleasure principle and is governed by the reality principle, which learns through perception, memory, thinking and action. Ego keeps the balance between the id and the superego.

Superego is made up of two subsystems – the ego-ideal and the conscience. “The ego-ideal corresponds to the child’s conceptions of what his parents consider to be morally good” and “Conscience, on the other hand, corresponds to the child’s conceptions of what his parents feel is morally bad , and these are established through experiences with punishment” (Pg.31). It relates to human’s moral and judicial branch of personality. Superego has no differentiate between subjective and objective as the ID.

“The ego s formed out of the id and the superego is formed out of the ego” (Pg.35). Hall summarizes that the ID is a product of evolution. The superego is a product of socialization. Finally, the ego is a product of a person’s interactive with objective reality.

1. What is the standard of the right and wrong in our complex society through those three systems?
2. What the relationship between those three systems and the architecture?



Studio Project-2

Bin Tian-Studio Project 2

Previous Older Entries