|RIKYU GREY AND THE ART OF AMBIGUITY
The Nature of Rikyu Grey
Two-Dimensionalization of Space
Confrontation and Harmony
Philosophy of Sunyata
Rikyu Grey is Baroque
Unlike concepts, sensations are much harder to identify and explain. But this is only fitting, for by trying to analyze and discuss sensations, we only constrain their spontaneity and betray their inherent naturalness. But even as I say this, I want to talk about sensation, because rather than simply succumbing to the embrace of sensation, I believe there is self-discovery in grappling with the discordant impulses it creates in the mind.
If one is going to name a certain sensation, formulate an outline of its features, trace its history or search for the origin of that sensation, it must inspire a profound sympathy yet awake a certain critical awareness. For me, such a sensation is "Rikyu grey." The sensation of Rikyu grey represents an aesthetic of an ambivalent or multiple meaning. My interest in it began seventeen years ago when, with a number of friends, I had started the Metabolism movement and developed a strong dissatisfaction with functional architecture. Function as a criterion in architecture achieved many things, but it also resulted in the articulation and concretization of space. In the process of providing rationally and clearly articulated spaces, the virtues of nebulous and undifferentiated space that naturally exist between demarcated areas was totally neglected. Spaces which might embrace tow or more meanings were eliminated in functional architecture.
During the sixties I became fascinated with the comparison of space in Asian and Western cities and I proposed the hypothesis that Oriental cities have no squares or plazas while Western cities possess no streets, in the sense that I will explain below. In other words, I argued that although Asian cities may have no public squares, their streets carry out the function of these open spaces. On the other hand, Western cities have squares or plazas while their streets are little more than thoroughfares. This essay is an attempt to provide a detailed study of what I mean by this hypothesis.
In Asian cities, street spaces exist between private and public space and between residential and commercial space, possessing the characteristics of both the former and the latter types of space. I believe that there is a difference between this type of open space and the Western square which is more clearly defined both in terms of area and function. The Asian street, by contrast, is not so clearly defined, it is harder to tell where it begins or ends, and it generates responses to innumerable variations with time.
In the Indian Vedas, the ideal cities of Dendaka, Nandyavarta, Padmaka and Seastika all share a common layout composed of a straight-line grid pattern of streets. None of these cities have squares or plazas, their basic framework was determined by the 'avenue of the sun' (Rajapata) set from the sundial, and 'the avenue of the wind' (Mahakala). During the monsoon season, the avenue of the sun overflowed with people; perhaps on hot, humid nights they set up their beds along the avenue of the wind to sleep in the cool under the stars. Public and religious institutions were distributed along these perpendicularly intersecting streets and all the multifarious functions of daily living went on there side by side.
The ancient Japanese capital of Heian (Kyoto) had no central square either; shrines, temples and public buildings were built along the lattice-like framework of streets. It was a city without one "core," but a poly-nuclear one made up of an integrated framework of streets. In the sixteenth century Hideyoshi (1536-98) changed the subdivisions of Kyoto by diagonally dividing into four equal parts the square blocks formed by the streets, until then called machi. These new units were called cho and each pair of cho facing each other were newly named machi. This revision in the division of the city, while it may seem insignificant, had pervasive impact. Units of living space until then enclosed by the streets became units which enveloped the street. Living space then could expand freely in horizontal directions.
Hideyoshi's policy was built upon a long historical process of development from the dismantling of the za or tradesmen's guilds, the establishment of the monopoly guilds (rakuza), the flowering of popular urban culture and the growth of commerce and urbanization in Japanese society. His policy turned the street into the core of the community. The homes and shops of these street-oriented communities featured lattice-work facades, bench-like porches (agedana), low fences and other structural techniques which exploit the openness of wooden architecture and create continuity with the street outside. Street space became an ambivalent space -- a medium in which individual living space and the metropolis converge.
The street is thus an undifferentiated, demarcated area of multiple functions, but these dense and rich spatial qualities of the street were completely ignored in the function-oriented city planning of the West. There instead, the square or plaza developed, an open space of sun and greenery. I have no wish to deny the rationality of functional city planning, but I am more and more certain that we must go back and reassess the advantages of space with an ambivalent or multiple meaning, spaces which have been sacrificed for the sake of functional priorities.
At the risk of being misunderstood, I would like to suggest that the difference between the Western concept of space and the Japanese concept of space is the difference between spatial confrontation and spatial continuity. Western architecture emerged from a philosophy of confrontation with nature and the impulse to conquer it. In that sense the stone wall which sharply divides inside from outside, is extremely significant. The Japanese concept of space reaches out to embrace nature and to achieve unity and harmony with it. Another reason that the complete wall did not develop in Japan was a matter of materials; wood, rather than stone became the primary building material. But more significantly, there was always a conscious effort made to allow inner and outer space to inter-penetrate. The spaces under the eaves, the veranda, corridors, lattice-work dividers and other such details of building are all examples of such intermediating zones. My effort to rediscover the tremendous variety of meaning in these intermediate spaces was inspired by Japan's rich architectural tradition.
The Nature of Rikyu Grey
This study of Rikyu grey was originally published as an essay in a special issue of The Japan Architect in September 1977 and republished in the same year as part of a book, Gurei no Bunka (The culture of Grey).
The term Rikyu grey, as Isamu Kurita has pointed out (see No. 339 of Geijitsu Shincho) has no clear origin; and I use it here as a purely symbolic term expressing the multiple meanings or ambiguity of Japan's open spaces. As I will show a very similar aesthetic sense is expressed in the sixteenth-century Mannerism movement, in Baroque and in modern Camp in the West.
Masayoshi Nishida has written that Rikyu grey (Rikyu nezumi) first appeared in the Choandoki (Annuals of Choando), a book of tea written in 1640 by Kubo Gondaifu Toshinari, priest of the Kasuga Shrine in Nara, which contains the following passage:
After Soeki (Sen no Rikyu) was summoned by Hideyoshi to be his teacher of tea, all ceremonial tea came to follow his style. Soeki disliked that which was ornate or gorgeous and he wrote numerous satirical poems admonishing people to follow the principle of wabi (simplicity, rusticity). "Change your collar cloth," said he, "wear a fresh sash of charcoal grey cotton (sumizome) cloth and a new pair of socks, carry a new fan. To entertain your guests at dinner, lentil soup and shrimp in vinegar sauce is quite enough to serve."
Ever since, this charcoal grey color has been extremely popular, and dark grey twilled cotton cloth has been widely imported from China. The dark grey color of this cotton cloth is what came to be known as Rikyu grey.
Grey was generally considered a vile color conjuring up images of rats or ashes and had never been popular. But when it became known as Rikyu grey, it was better appreciated; in the latter part of the Edo period (1600-1868) it gained tremendous popularity, along with brown and indigo (navy) blue, at the embodiment of the aesthetic ideal of iki. Iki in this period is a complex concept but may be simply described as "richness in sobriety." As the cult of tea spread beyond the upper classes to be practiced in the homes of ordinary people, so did the taste for this grey color. People took pleasure in naming all manner of colors containing the element of charcoal grey such as Fukagawa grey, silver grey, indigo grey, reddish grey, lavender grey, grape grey, brown grey, dove grey and lentil grey. When various colors are mixed until no trace of any specific color remains, it is called simply "grey." All these colors have chromas of very low intensity and their subtle differences of tone had great appeal in that period. This taste in colors prevailed throughout Edo culture from the Genroku period beginning in 1688 and continuing throughout the eighteenth century.
Toru Haga has written on the An'ei and Tenmei periods (1722-1781) that the patterns in Kimono fabric preferred by women included kabeshijira or akebono shibori. Akebono shibori is a faint bluish purple pattern like the essence of morning glories, while kabeshijira is a very delicate, finely woven silk pattern that appears pure white but in shifting light reveals a subtle pattern.
Gen Itasaka has described the change in taste during the Edo period as the transition between the styles of woodblock print artists Moronobu and Harunobu. Moronobu's women are pleasantly plump, Marilyn Monroe-type beauties with round faces, ample bosoms and hips. Harunobu's women are less sensual, androgynous beauties with slender faces and delicate, willowy figures.
This aesthetic development is of particular interest because it suggests the denial of the generous voluptuousness of Marilyn Monroe-type beauty which symbolized the prosperous growth and material abundance of pre-modern Japan up until Genroku. The An'ei Tenmei Aesthetic was rather one of nonsensuality, eccentricity and nonphysicalness, expressing the spirit of the age characterized by a more refined ambiguity and a highly sophisticated rhetoric.
In his book Beauty in Japan Masayoshi Nishida explains Rikyu grey as a "colorless, nonsensual hue produced by combining various colors until they cancel each other out." In terms of chromatics, Rikyuiro is a dark grey-green, or ash color with a greenish tint; Rikyu grey (Rikyu-nezumi) is grey with a hint of Rikyuiro, and is the hue which gained great popularity in the Edo period.
But my own interest in Rikyu grey is because it epitomizes the confrontation or collision of various contradictory elements and describes a condition in which those elements cancel each other out, thus achieving coexistence and continuity. This condition might also be described as nonsensuality. Perhaps through the aesthetic of Rikyu grey, Sen no Rikyu was deliberately attempting to create a two-dimensional, plane world temporarily frozen in time and space.
In the grey of twilight, the spatial qualities of the city of Kyoto, Japan's traditional community, are at their best. Roof tiles and plaster walls dissolve into shades of grey; they seem to lose all perspective and three-dimensionality. This dramatic effect, in which a three-dimensional world shifts into a two dimensional, plane world, is impossible to experience in any city in Western Europe. The spatial arrangement of Western cities and of the principle of perspective in the Renaissance period brought three-dimensional shading to cities and architecture. Towers, monuments and public squares form fixed points of perspective which have become important elements of city spaces in Western Europe, space is experienced from a single point of perspective and these landmarks became indispensable for grasping that space. Western cities thus demonstrate their most dramatic effects under the strong, bright sun which highlights their three-dimensional qualities.
Two-Dimensionalization of Space
The spatial composition of Katsura Detached Palace is similar to a drawing in a picture scroll in which the point of perspective moves, dissolving building facades and street space into plane elements. This is a garden of meandering walks among hills and around a lake, it refuses any single, fixed point of perspective. It is a two-dimensional world created by a moving visual point and in the grey of twilight the most dramatic effect of this two-dimensionality appears. At the very basis of Japanese aesthetic consciousness, be it in painting, music, drama or even in buildings and cities, is this two-dimensionality or frontality. It is a quality of timeless nonsensuality, a nonsensuality produced by the reduction of three-dimensionality to a plane world; it is the continuum in which contradictory elements coexist and the quality which dissolves demarcations between disparate dimensions and cancels out ambiguity. Rikyu grey, or the "philosophy of grey" shares all and is a medium of all these concepts. Needless to say, such concepts epitomize the special qualities imparted to Japanese culture by the pervasive influence of Buddhism.
The centrality of Buddhism to the tea ceremony is reflected in the Nanporoku in which a disciple of Sen no Rikyu, Nanbo Sokei, master of Shuun'an, at the Nansoji in Sakai, recorded the teachings of his master,
Rikyu said, "You must practice and master tea ceremony in a small hut, first and foremost, according to the teachings of Buddhism. The comfort of a home and the taste of meals are merely worldly concerns, and a house which shelters you from the elements and food sufficient to prevent you from starvation are all you need. This is the teaching of the Buddha and the intent of the tea ceremony. Bring water, gather firewood, boil water, and make tea. Offer the first cup to Buddha, then to others, lastly partake yourself. Arrange some flowers and burn incense. In all, follow the way of the Buddha. Further details may be found in my humble writings." Joo (Takeno Joo, 1504-55) said, "Fujiwara Teika captured the spirit of wabi-cha in a poem in the Shin Kokinshu:
MiwatasebaAs I look about,
Hana mo momiji moWhat need is there for cherry flowers
NakarikeriOr crimson leaves?
Ura no tomaya noThe inlet with its grass-thatched huts
Aki no Yugure.Clustered in the growing autumn dusk.
According to Joo, here "cherry flowers and crimson leaves" are analogous to the formal daisu ceremony. After gazing long at such flowers and leaves, you come to a hut by the water, the world of nothingness. Those who have not known this gaudy beauty of flowers and leaves will not appreciate such a hut. Only after you have looked at the flowers and leaves are you able to see the truly elegant simplicity of the hut. This for Joo is the very essence of tea.
The image in Teika's poem quoted in this description coincides with what I feel at dusk on the streets of Kyoto or in the twilight in any old Japanese community.
The Nanporoku goes on to describe Rikyu's ideas about tea ceremony rooms.
As I have said many times, the deepest meaning in tea is to be found in the simple, rustic tea hut. In the most formal daisu ceremony, the presecribed rules must be observed because that is customary. In the simple hut, though it conforms to the formal measurements, you can break away from formal measurements, discard technique, revert to the innocent and empty mind and go beyond customs and rules, beyond worldly cares.
'Break away from formal measurement.' 'Discard technique.' 'Revert to the innocent and empty mind.' These are notions of great contrast to the techniques of Western architecture, which begin with the Order of Greek and Roman tradition and underlie module building in modern architecture. The tearoom that Rikyu built 'breaking away from formal measurement' and 'discarding technique' went far beyond the four-mat room to a one-mat room. He attempted to overcome the narrowness of physical space by creating a detached, nonsensual, spiritual space.
Measured by Western standards, the height of the ceiling, the windows, and the low entrance nijiri-guchi are ridiculously small, almost inhuman. Heterogeneous design elements such as circular windows, unplanned alcove support pillars, various kinds of ceiling materials and openings may seemto clash with each other yet coexist harmoniously. From the point of view of the Western sense of order, this is no doubt quite difficult to understand.
In Japanese architecture, including tearoom architecture, the traditional spatial elements of a design such as ceilings, alcoves, and walls are each autonomous, that is, they are on the independent planes of a two dimensional world. The heterogeneous elements mutually deny any direct three-dimensional relationship. There are many examples, such as where the windows in two walls opposite each other are placed with total disregard to conformity in size, height or other measurements. This is one technique of encouraging the sense of two-dimensionality. In any case, Rikyu grey likewise is a medium in which three-dimensional, cubical, sculptural, substantial space of single meaning is rendered into plane, one-dimensional, nonsensual space of multiple meaning.
Confrontation and Harmony
Few other examples express the sensation and the aesthetic of Rikyu grey (or Baroque) better than the interior of the Denkan room of Katsura Detached Palace. From the curved lines and white hues used in the frame of the entrance to the tearoom from the mizuya (preparation room) , to the fit of the rounded edges -- all are of different qualities, yet superbly harmonized. They are serene, yet dynamic. It was Baroque in the West which finally broke up the classical order by employing the dramatic element of curved lines; but I consider the interior of the Denkan more typical of Baroque aesthetic than ever the Jesuit Chapel by della porta, which is considered the archetype of early Baroque.
There are other examples of the way heterogeneous elements can be handled, such as in the garden benches of the Katsura Detached Palace. Naturally curved timbers are used for supports and pillars and are set in conformity with autonomous criteria, without influencing structural components in any way. In other words, they create dramatic spaces where confrontation and harmony coexist.
The Toshogu Shrine is usually given as an example of "Japanese Baroque" but it does not apply to the aspect of Baroque (or Mannerism) in the same sense as Rikyu grey. The quality of Baroque of which I am speaking is represented by the mutual resistance and harmony of movement and drift, stillness and movement, straight lines and curved lines. A further example of this type of the Hiunkaku (Fleeting Cloud Pavilion) of the Nishi-Honganji Temple, a structure said to be the only remaining part of the Jurakudai Palace. This asymmetrical three-story structure demonstrates an amazing heterogeneity of straight and curved lines which coexist in an overall appearance of great tranquillity. This again, is precisely the same sensation as Rikyu grey, as well as a further example of early Baroque aesthetics.
The first time I incorporated the aesthetic of Rikyu grey into my own designs was in the Ishikawa Welfare Annuty Hall (Kanazawa, 1977) and in the National Ethnological Museum (Osaka). The exteriors of both buildings are of Rikyu grey tiles, and all the various construction materials, from the rounded edges of the aluminum diecast eaves, to the granite and Angora stone, the aluminum and stainless steel materials are uniformly in hues of grey or charcoal grey. By this example, I do not wish to mislead you into thinking that the sensation of Rikyu grey is achieved only by the use of color. Structures are built against gravity, yet in themselves express the sense of gravity. In contrast to this gravity, grey tones can create a detached, drifting sense, as do the streets of Kyoto in the twilight. It is but one technique of blotting out the materiality of the structural materials, rendering space autonomous and of double meaning, as well as dramatizing that space.
What the Ishikawa Hall and the Ethnological Museum both share is the deliberate combination of mutually antagonistic, heterogeneous elements and materials, and my attempt through them to create a sense of detachment and coexistence. In the Ishikawa building, we created an almost mystic serenity by grey aluminium paneling on the walls and ceiling.
Philosophy of Sunyata
In the second or third century, six to seven hundred years after the death of Buddha, the Mahayana philosopher Nagarjuna of South India wrote a treatise on the "middle way" entitled Mula-madhyamaka-sastra, in which he describes the concept of sunyata or relativity (in Japanese, ku). This treatise was published in Chinese in 409 A.D.
Nagarjuna advocated the "middle way" in everything, saying, "We are not nihilists. By rejecting the theories of both existence and nonexistence we will make clear the way to Nirvana," and he explains the "Eight Negations" and the "Middle Way of Impermanence." Nagarjuna's "middle way," a philosophy of great contrast to the dualism of the West, is considered the origin of the philosophy of sunyata. Later, in the fourth or fifth century, this theory was replaced by the "consciousness-only" doctrine of the North Indian philosopher Vasubandhu, which produced the philosophy of the "truly non-existent but mysteriously existent." These teachings were brought to China by Hsuan-chuang (618-701) through his translation of the Vimsatika-vijnaptimatrata-siddhi into Chinese in 661. Vasubandhu's teachings are explained in the Diamond Sutra which contains the following passage.
Treasure sunyata, the state which is beyond the visible world and beyond transient phenomena. The absence of form may be thought of as infinity, where there is no difference between life and death and in which one lives without fetters of any kind.
Sunyata is not a concept which opposes either substance or existence, but a nonsensual existential concept which is precisely the same as the Rikyu grey of twilight spaces.
Western architecture is the architecture of stone and sun-baked bricks, and it is thus very physical, substantial and three-dimensional. Therefore, its space is like a porous body with openings made in it. This technique is all the more certain to characterize buildings by perspective, three-dimensionality and distinct shading.
Spaces in Japanese architecture, especially as illustrated by the shoin and sukiya tradition from Katsura Detached Palace to Rikyu's tearoom, are created out of wood materials which impart none of the impression of a physical body which has been carved out to form space. Rather like a stage set, each vertical side has its own viewpoint and each side seems transformed into a metal image which goes beyond substance. In the sense that Japanese architecture incorporates the ku and relativity, in marginal zone between substantiality and insubstantiality, it is related to the architecture of vertical two-dimensionality.
Rikyu grey, as hue produced when mutually opposing colors are blended, also corresponds to sunyata (relativity) or that which shares both existence and non-existence. Japanese emakimono (picture scrolls) are examples which illustrate a way of drawing heterogeneous elements, measurements, aspects, distances and times simultaneously onto one plane surface, clearly a style quite different from Western painting.
In Japan, until the early modern period, architectural drawings were merely rough sketches with instructions. In the Shomei (A Guide to Carpentry) of the Hirauchi family and in the records of the Kora family there are many detailed building plans for temples. Among those in the Kora family records are plans for Daitokuin, including detailed frontal views, floor plans, cross-sectional drawings and sketches of sculpture. Whereas Western European architects often draw their plans with bird's eye perspective or isometric three-dimensional figures, Japanese master builders drew their plans only in plane or frontal views. The practice, too, illustrates the unique treatment of space in Japanese architecture as an unfolding diagram.
The technique of bringing together different worlds and different spatial dimensions can be found in various other different spatial dimensions can be found in various other aspects of Japanese culture. Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241) the court poet mentioned earlier writes in his Guhisho (A Private Sketchbook) on the technique of soku, the poetic sequence in court poetry in which the verses are seemingly unrelated in imagery and rhetorical technique.
There is rarely virtue in shinku (in which the verses are closely related in theme). Shinku poems are much too predictable; the poem develops as would a plant, from root to branch and to leaf, and they express only the ordinary, never the unusual or exotic. Each verse of soku is complete, yet they always produce something strange and unique. That is why Lord Tsunenobu said that there were many superb soku poems.
Yu sarebaAs evening falls,
Nobe no akikazeFrom along the moors the autumn wind
Mi ni shimiteBlows chill into the heart
Uzura naku nariAnd the quails raise their plaintive cry
Fukakusa no sato.In the deep grass of Fukakusa village.
In this example of soku technique, it is clear that the two verses do not follow in explanatory order, but are rather two completely different mental images placed together. Between those two images is the same nonsensuality as represented by Rikyu grey and by the multiplicity of meaning of sunyata.
The same effect is achieved on the state by the senuhima ('no-action') of the No drama, as described by Zeami in his treatise on the No, Kakyo: Sometimes spectator of the No say, "The moments of 'no-action' are the most enjoyable." This is an art which the actor keeps secret. Dancing and singing, movements and the different types of miming are all acts performed by the body. Moments of "no-action" occur in between. When we examine why such moments without actions are enjoyable, we find that it is due to the underlying spiritual strength of the actor which unremittingly holds the attention. He does not relax the tension when the dancing or singing come to an end or at intervals between the dialogue and the different types of miming, but maintains an unwavering inner strength. This feeling of inner strength will faintly reveal itself and bring enjoyment. However, it is undesirable for the actor to permit this inner strength to become obvious to the audience. If it is obvious, it becomes an act, and is no longer "no-action." The actions before and after an interval of "no-action" must be linked by entering the state of mindlessness in which one conceals even from oneself one's intent. This, then, is the faculty of moving audiences, by linking all the artistic powers with one mind. NOTE 3
The silence and stillness in the interval between the action of the No drama must be 'performed' with utmost care. Senuhima represents the same quality that I have been describing in sunyata and in Rikyu grey. The senuhima, the moment when the expression of one mind communicates itself to another, is a transitional, complex, silent space replete with meaning. The concepts of sunyata, Rikyu grey and senuhima each represent distinct areas of meaning. Naturally, I am well aware that it is problematical to discuss all these on the same level, but in order to pursue my point about the nature of intermediaries, I have indulged my penchant for fossicking in every cultural corner for contexts that will illustrate my theory of space.
In the Metabolism theory (1960), I hypothesized that there is a marginal realm or zone which unifies different spatial realms. That intermediary was the start of an approach to sunyata, but the marginal realm I had in mind than was too substantial.
I began to realize that the marginal zone was space without substance sometime after I became concerned with the street as a special feature of Japan's urban space; the semi-public ambiguity of such areas held great significance when compared to the spatial role of the square in Western cities.
The street has no clearly defined spatial function, but within the twenty-four hours of the day, it is at times used for private and at times for public activities. In that sense it is space without substance, space with many overlapping complex meanings. In the same way that sunyata is completely invisible yet possesses profound and dense meaning, so too is this "street space" replete with meaning. In the Fukuoka Bank building the open space under the eaves is considered neutral; it is my attempt to create a relative space--a marginal zone where public and private meanings interpenetrate and where interior and exterior overlap.
If verandas and long eaves can create spaces where nature and buildings attain continuity the intermediaries of the Fukuoka Bank are designed to produce spaces of dual meaning--that is, to be private and public simultaneously. I believe that postwar city planning in Japan has been too firmly based on the theory of functionalism and has too severely separated private and public space. The superficial, uncritical adoption of Western rationalism has resulted in the division of urban spaces into cramped, uncomfortable spaces for private use and vast expansive public spaces, including roads. Street space, which once had many functions in daily life, has now been taken over by the automobile -- no longer is it a scene of dense human activity, but a channel of danger. The feeling that man is being shunted aside for the sake of the road is further alienating modern man. Rather than join the hysterical voices calling for abolition of all cars, can we not discover a way to bring back and recreate the intermediary zones which have been sacrificed in the cause of growth?
The marginal zones of the Fukuoka Bank were planned with that endeavor in mink, in order to restore semi-public space in the city which would at least create continuity with the buildings around it.
I called the Nishijin Labor Center (1962) "street architecture" because its purpose was to recreate for people the streets where cars had totally taken over. To produce a marginal zone in architectural space requires techniques which simultaneously relate the qualities of internal and external space. The intermediary zone of the Fukuoka Bank interlocks with the building area and while it is an area in the eaves of the building, elements such as trees and ponds give a sense of drifting movement and provide an experience in the dramatic nature of space. In this sense, such intermediary spaces have the gravity-free qualities of El Greco's paintings and the ambivalence and double facetedness of the woman's expression in "Ecstasy of St. Theresa" by Bernini.
The lobby of the Japan Red Cross Main Office building was designed to create an intermediary zone linking inner and outer space through mutual interpenetration and reflection. In this case, the lobby is clearly an internal area, but there is an opening in the vaulted glass ceiling. A dry pond of polished granite was laid in the floor which reflects through the opening to the outside. In short, this lobby demonstrates very deliberate devices for reversing interior and exterior spaces. In terms of my theory of marginal zones, Daido Life Insurance Tokyo office building lies between the Nishijin Labor Center and Fukuoka Bank. The building site extends from the street in front to the street in back, and so it seemed only natural to plan a new road space passing from front to back. The thoroughfare constructed within the building is provided with exterior elements such as shops, a running stream, street lamps, street furniture and trees. Through openings in the roof light and rain can pour into the artificial stream within.
This was an effort to create a marginal zone where exterior and interior space confront one another yet coexist. In their concept of sunyata Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu are not the only ones to describe the Buddhist aesthetic as the spiritual condition which incorporates both opposition and coexistence and reaction and affirmation. Daisetz Suzuki, in his logic of "identity and difference" has clarified for us the basic philosophical principle for grasping the coexistence of relations between the parts and the whole and between mutually contradictory element. The following description is found in the Diamond Sutra:
Ya eva subhute, Prajnaparamita
Tathagathena, bhasita sa eva aparmita
Tena ucyate Prajnaparamita iti.
If the modifiers in these sentences are omitted they become: A eva a-A. Tena ucyate A iti.
In English this is: A is non-A, therefore, it is called A This is the essence of the logic of "identity and difference."
The individual in the East Asian tradition is not the same as an individual of the West. He possesses no basis of self-existence within himself, but he has existence in the supra-individual which exists in the state of sunyata. Individuality and supra-individuality maintain their identity despite their mutual contradiction. The logic of identity and difference produces a state of suspended ambiguity with dual meaning through the simultaneous rejection and affirmation of concepts. Again, on the conceptual level, this logic is the same as the logic of Rikyu grey.
The period between 1900 and 1930 was one of great technological transformation and intellectual upheaval in Western societies. it was the advent of Planck's quantum theory, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Bergson's creative evolution, and Einstein's theory of relativity. Then in the thirties came a period when people pursued escapism in many forms: B. Clemen's "Uncertainty and Reconstruction," Ortega's "Revolt of the Masses," Freud's "Anxiety of Culture" soon followed. Individualism and the establishment of the ego had matured in European societies before the turn of the century and community was built on the schema of the individual vs. the whole, and the individual vs. society. For this reason European societies have swung back and forth like a pendulum. The rise of totalitarianism, for example, was countered by strong individualism tending toward social disorganization. When social disorganization went too far, then a movement calling for social reconstruction occurred. In the world of 'Oriental individum,' the parts and the whole are of equal value, individual and super-individual (the totality) coexist without losing their identities and there is no hierarchical pyramid which unifies the whole and the parts.
Rikyu Grey is Baroque
In the West, Baroque and Camp show similarities with the sensations of Rikyu grey. In his book on Baroque, Eugenio Dorus says that when conflicting intentions are bound together in one motion, the style which results is by definition Baroque. In plain and simple terms, Baroque means not knowing what one wants to do. It is the simultaneous wish for affirmation and rejection; the attempt to fly while being pulled downward by the force of gravity. From this contradictory impulse the round column was born, for its structure is what could be described as a paradox of inspiration. The spirit of the Baroque, according to Dorus, can be represented by raising the arm while simultaneously trying to lower it.
He goes on to say that the actions of the Lord Jesus Christ in the picture on the theme Noli me tangere (Touch-me-Not) in the prado is the virtual formula for the Baroque. The picture by Coreggio, the father of many instinctively Baroque masters, shows Mary Magdalene at the feet of Christ, who is rejecting her while at the same time drawing her to him. He is telling her not to touch him even as he stretches his hand out to her. Dorus says that as Christ teaches this woman the way to heaven, he leaves her in tears and desperation on earth. And Mary Magdalene, too, is pure Baroque since, while repenting her sins, she succumbs to profane love. She remains earthbound while attempting to follow Christ. Dorus further says that all of this is the eternal reality of the eternally feminine and it represents a style as well: the Baroque.
I have singled out Baroque from the patterns of Western culture not because I want to discuss the morphological types, but because I see Rikyu grey in Dorus's conceptual analysis of the Baroque as multipolar and continuous and as that which is eternally feminine and simultaneously desires affirmation and rejection. Though the Baroque age was scientifically and technologically more advanced than the Renaissance, probably at no other time have such efforts been made to express human spirituality and sentiment. It seems to me that this was the one time in Western history that rationality and irrationality coexisted and a nondualistic spiritual world was actually produced.
Of course, even in Baroque there is not a great deal that fulfills the aesthetic qualities I seek to demonstrate. Mannerism, a word whose original meaning is "affected" or "superficial imitation," was the pejorative name given by seventeenth century critics to the late sixteenth century artists. The terms Baroque likewise derives from the criticism of an aesthetic which strayed from the strict rules of the Greco-Roman tradition.
As an example of the view that rationalism and irrationalism coexisted in Baroque, we have della Porta's Jesuit Chapel (ca. 1575) which was completed in the transition between the Mannerist and the Baroque periods. This church is designed in the form of a cross and combines both medieval and Renaissance styles. Its composition is very free yet achieves a restrained sense of balance.
Further examples are in the ambiguous balance of the Palazzo Massimi (ca. 1536) by Baladassare Peruzzi (1481-1536), the Mannerist architect. A painter corresponding in style to was Claude Poussin. Dorus called him an artist of rational passion, and indeed his reaction to Baroque was an equilibrium brimming with tension between intellect and emotion. Poussin's "A Poet's Inspiration," is an even better example of motion in stillness. Bernini's "Ecstacy of St. Teresa," El Greco's "Adoration of the Shepherds," Domenico Tintoretto's "Goddess of Good Fortune Banishing Vices," Gaudi's "Sagrada Familia" all demonstrate the serene equilibrium between the rational and the irrational spirit and between the impulse to fly and the force of gravity and all contain the qualities of nonsensuality and ambiguity which is unique to Baroque. However, when Baroque comes to the decorative extreme of the interior of the Saint Agnese church by Borromini in Piazza Navona, it is too fantastic and has nothing to do with Rikyu grey.
It was Herbert Read who said that ambiguity in English prose is achieved through metaphors. William Empson, in his book, Seven Types of Ambiguity, takes examples from Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton to explain the complex and alternate meanings of poetic language. Se shows how single words or grammatical structures can simultaneously create different impressions on the reader's mind. This is an important key to evoking ambiguity.
Empson's seven types of ambiguity are as follows:
I. When a detail is effective in several ways at once
II. When two or more alternative meanings are fully resolved into one
III. When two apparently unconnected meanings are given simultaneously
IV. When alternative meanings combine to make clear a complicated
state of mind in the author.
V. When the author is discovering his idea in the act of writing...or not holding it all in mind at once.
VI. When what is said is contradictory or irrelevant and the reader is forced to invent interpretations.
VII. When (there is) full contradiction, marking a division in the author's mind. NOTE 4
However, as Masao Yamaguchi has pointed out in his work Double Meaning in Culture, sensitivity is produced in the marginal areas which are indicators of double meaning in art and culture. Because those marginal areas are so diverse, various kinds of sensitivity can thrive: images which are not ordinarily defined in everyday life, contradictory elements and images or symbols which have not yet been given words can ceaselessly appear and proliferate and achieve a new integration. However, such sensitivity cannot be nurtured in a world of logical consistency.
In the intellectual climate of Western rationalism one element of which is this logical consistency, it was from the start difficult for art and culture of dual meaning or of ambiguity to grow. The Baroque era included, the phenomenon of such arts was peculiar in the history of Western culture. By contrast as in the logic of "identity and difference," at the base of Japanese culture is an aesthetic consciousness or sensibility which goes beyond logical consistency.
According to Masao Yamaguchi, the basic motif of Yanagita Kunio's folklore approach was the dual meaning contained in marginal zones of Japanese: The guardian gods of travelers at the roadsides. The outcasts who lived on the edges of settlements at the boundary between the wilderness and cultivated land. Hashihime, the extension of a schizophrenic border goddess who could kill men in cold blood if angry but when pleased, bestow rare and precious treasures.
In the West, ambivalence and ambiguity is permitted only when discussing some special spirit of an age or the quality of some new art. The Baroque spirit and Empson's analysis of Shakespeare and Chaucer are examples of this rare phenomenon.
Masao Yamaguchi explains the marginal qualities of a culture by saying that they emerge when, on the fringes of the concentric circles that make up the pattern of a culture, attempts are made to adopt heterogeneous elements into the culture. From the point of view of Western logical conformism, which believed that cultural forms were something homogeneous and stable, anything that is on the fringes of that culture is potentially threatening, it represents vandalism and heresy. In the sense it coincides with Dorus's belief that Baroque represents a movement to incorporate heterogeneous elements at the fringes.
The theories of architectural functionalism, developed between 1928 and 1950 in the International Style movement, in which CIAM played a leading role, were founded on the Western system or rationalism and logical consistency. The one hundred years of modernization in Japan were also year of Westernization. A classic example is the fact that modern architecture in the Meiji and Taisho periods as well as the teaching of Joseph Conder of the College of Engineering at Tokyo Imperial University closely followed the Western European architectural pattern. The trend is this field has not changed substantially since the end of the war, and the copiers of elements of design from modern architecture in Western Europe and America are still very influential.
However, the heyday of the uniform standard for evaluating cultures which put European culture at the top of the world hierarchy is rapidly coming to an end. International conditions are undergoing rapid and drastic change. The economic strength and political power of the U.S. is declining. A new economic sphere is emerging in the Middle East along with a resurgence of the Islamic world. The political weight of Third World countries, led by African nations in particular, is growing. In Asia, China is moving rapidly toward political and cultural leadership while Japan continues substantial economic growth. However, even as these violent changes occur there is a quiet movement going on which places equal value on all cultures. This may well stimulate movements in search of cultural identity in particular localities, but we must firmly reject any assertions of chauvinism and traditionalism. Each individual culture is equivalent in value to world culture in the same sense as the concept of "identity and difference" in which equilibrium is achieved through related diversity. We most, for example work to discover elements of Japanese tradition which can go beyond Japan and establish continuity with world culture.
This is my reason for employing the term Rikyu grey in pursuit of Baroque aesthetic. Other architects of interest in this regard are Aldo van Eyck, Louis Kahn and James Stirling. The Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck has postulated a theory of dual phenomena. Against the traditional Western European belief that houses and cities are on completely different dimensions of a hierarchy, van Eyck built a new order, based on the idea that a city is a large residence and a residence is small city. A representative work of van Eyck is the Amsterdam Orphanage in which fundamental units of space are combined to build the whole, while producing dramatic spaces which make one unaware of the basic units. In some places the level of the floor varies, in others building units connect in larger spaces, and in the lighting provided, the units seem to melt into the whole. This building is a concrete example of his theory of dual phenomena.
The influence of van Eyck's theory on world architecture was very great, but of greatest interest to me is in the philosophy of Martin Buber as explained in Ich und Du. In Uber das Dialogische Prinzip I, Buber explains the relation between I and things (ich and es) and I and you (ich and du). He says that, for human beings, the world is double in that it conforms to dual human attitudes. He says that the I in the basic I-you relation is different from the I in I-it. I encounter you, because you turn toward me and approach. But the direct relation between you and me is created by my action. In this way, such a relationship entails both chosen and choosing; it is simultaneously active and passive. I myself have not succeeded in concentrating and dissolving myself into a total entity, but it could not have happened without me. I become I in relation to you and by becoming I, am able to describe you. Buber further says that the realm of it (es) exists in a complex of time and space. The realm of you is not a complex of time and space. When the relational phenomena have passed, the individual you must become one it, but individual its, by moving into relation with phenomena, can become a single you.
Buber's logic of the I and you has plainly transcended Western logical consistency and approaches Buddhist philosophy. But this is only natural, for he quotes copiously from the Buddhist sutras.
The idea proposed by Aldo van Eyck was a Buddhist, non-Western theory of ambiguity of meaning that had not up to that time been part of the philosophy of modern architecture. Yet, as Charles Jencks points out in his book Modern Movements in Architecture, the questions of ambivalent or multiple meaning are the most important points of departure in contemporary art, architecture and culture.
The British architect James Stirling, in the Leicester University College of Engineering building (1964) is a bold structure of glass and brick masonry. It is built of traditional English materials, brick and glass, but the treatment of glass projected from the facade, the glass roof tilted at an angle of 45 degrees and the cubical conclusion give the building its dramatic effect. The two quite different building materials are treated with quite ordinary technique, yet the effect is one of intense tension and coexistence. Again this building seems to intend an integration of two entirely contradictory ways of thinking, the articulation yet encasing of space. Stirling later clarified this approach in the Faculty of History building at Cambridge University (1968). The glass casing on the faculty office sections slants at a 45 degree angle, attaining not only an ambiguous spatial quality of intensified exterior space but also a sense of tension and of resistance to the articulation of the building.
Moreover, this building incorporates a whole range of architectural images -- from traditional English factory styles to details of spaceships, yet they come across as very strongly controlled. It might be said to represent a similar emotion as the intellectuality of Poussin's "A Poet's Inspiration."
The buildings of the American architect Louis Kahn are among the few examples of intelligent and dramatic space created by applying articulation and non-articulation at the same time. His Sauk Biological Research Institute allows articulation of structural beams and cores but creates an extremely controlled effect of coexistence which counteracts the turbulence of that articulation. The building is clearly in the lineage of the University of Pennsylvania Richards Medical Research building, the work which gained him world renown as an architect.
The masonry structure and the use of arches have given the India University of Economics building a quiet but dramatic sense of coexistence which surpasses conflict between tradition and modern, technique and art. In this Kimball Art Gallery building, space has been articulated into a world of sophistication and diversity. The entirely different materials of concrete, travertine and zinc roofing sheets create a sense of antagonism and yet extreme tranquillity--of motion in stillness.
"The mind of Louis Kahn is a cross between a gaslight and a laser beam. it is a mind full of connections, respecting the past, perceiving the future emerging from it. It is a mind full of compassion, having known poverty, having known the frustrations born of talents isolated from opportunities. It is a mind full of grace. Of grace under pressure. It is mind ever searching for tranquillity amidst turbulence, and for continuity amidst contradiction. A mind reaching out to pull tight the final ring. To amass harmony in the service of man." (THE ARCHITECTURAL FORUM/July-August 1972)
The quality of multiple meaning in space appeared early in the history of modern architecture. In a sketch of a residence for an art connoisseur drawn by C.R. Macintosh, we receive a feeling of "unstable stability" -- a feeling created by the subtle use of curved and straight lines. Again, Otto Wager's Vienna Post Office, though he declares that "Art is controlled only by necessity." successfully represents space with a wonderfully ambiguous sense of space evoked by curved and straight lines. These examples are all typical ones of the architecture of ambiguity and in that sense they possess a sense of space which had been lacking in modern architecture.
Camp is a contemporary aesthetic which turns its back on ordinary aesthetic judgment based on evaluations of good or bad architecture and offers an entirely new standard for appreciation of art.
Susan Sontag, in her Note on Camp says that the history of Camp can be traced back to such Mannerist artists as Pontolmo, Rousseau and Caravaggio, or to the severely put-on paintings of George de la Toule. In the field of literature the movement has its roots in Lilly and the euphuists, in music with Belogorage and Mozart and in the Baroquists as well as Ruskin, Tennyson and art nouveau. The tradition also includes a whole range of works from the weird but beautiful "Sagrada Familia" by Gaudi down to Stauburg's movie staring Marlene Deitrich and "Devil is a Woman." The aesthetic of Camp warns of the commonplace in modern architecture which has degenerated because of too serious and steadfast adherence to convention.
Many Mannerist painters attempted to heighten the sensual effects through the subjective and unstable form or shot colors. One of the founders of Mannerism, Pontolmo, in his portrait "Dugolino Martelli" communicates a tension which barely arrests its unstable movement. This expresses the same sensation as his Mary and child portrait in the St. Michael Bisdomini Church in Florence.
The Mannerist painters, although they employ Michelangelo's technique of contrapposta (a pose of the human figure in which the forms are organized on a curving axis to provide asymmetrical balance), tried to break through the artistic rules of the Renaissance and introduce intellectual foresight by creating new forms in which sensation and intelligence could coexist. The chiaroscuro shading technique is one of the best known of this school as exemplified in Carivaggio's "Palmist." The technique creates an overall dramatic effect but maintains a subtle balance of instability.
Camp exhorts one with the complexity of human nature and of space. It is expressed by the urban pastorale, discussed by Empson in his book, Seven Types of Ambiguity, mentioned earlier, and by the disquietingly androgynous quality in the perfect beauty of Greta Garbo. Especially for Camp, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield are too feminine to be meaningful. Similarly, it is correct to say that some architecture is too good for Camp.
Greta Garbo was always herself, and her poor acting only heightened the effect of her beauty. As Jean Genet points out in Notre Dame des Fleurs, to extract polysemy from a culture, good taste must not be merely good taste but must be a sense of taste about what is bad taste. In other words, the sense of Camp is sensitivity to double meaning when a thing is capable of interpretation in two ways.
The aesthetic which gives distinction to contradiction, distinguishes between different functions and pursues logical consistency is clearly a modern one. Therefore, functional architecture brought forth international forms which were everywhere the same and with the progress of industrialization created new criteria for a "good design."
However, perhaps he have come the full circle to face the source of existing contradictions. We face an awkward world that is certainly unspecialized, confused and possesses no logical consistency. I have no desire to deny the achievements of functionalism or to criticize the work of many fine students of so-called good design, but I feel that the time has come for us to venture into the frontier of the spirit which stretches broadly on all sides at the fringes of our established rules and standards. The core of the human spirit is not easily divisible, it is endowed with bountiful meaning and suggestion and at the same time with tranquillity, which is the world of Rikyu grey.
1. Earl Miner, An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968), p. 104
2. same as footnotes. 1.
3. Translation from Ryusaku Tsunoda, et al., eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), Vol. 1, p. 285.
4. William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (New York: Penguin Books, 1977), pp. 5-6.