|From Postmodernism to Symbiosis
The Avant-garde Role of Inarticulate Architecture Has Ended
The Value-Added Nature of Information Society
City Space Becomes Novelistic and Private
Ruled by an Invisible Icon
Introducing Diachronicity and Synchronicity
The City as a Blending of Sacred, Profane, and Pleasure
From Association to Bisociation
From The Death of the Economy to an Age of the Exchange of Symbols
The Simulacre as the Symbiosis of Sanity and Madness
Le Poetique: Deconstructed Beyond Meaning
The Science of Ambiguity, or Fuzzy Logic
The Nonlinear, the Fractal, Nested Structures, Implicato Order, and Holistic Medicine
As I have shown in chapter 2, and in other places throughout this book, the period of Modernism's use in our daily lives has reached its end and, if anything, its philosophy has been revealed as a dead end. That is because Modernism is based on the pursuit of the desires fostered by material civilization, and the technology that has advanced so tremendously to fulfill those desires has begun to turn against humanity. In various forms, such as environmental pollution, technology has brought mankind up sharply and we have realized that even should the human race find a way to survive the Modernist creed, it would not be a very desirable sort of survival.
This has let to a reconsideration of the Modern period, industrial society, material civilization, and Modernism as a whole, and a search for a new philosophy to replace it. The issues of the present are Postmodern issues. And the search for a new culture, art, society, and a new state of knowledge has become more and more active. The French philosopher Jean-Francoise Lyotard, in the preface to his The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (La conditione postmoderne, 1979), explains the terms Postmodernism: "We call the present state of knowledge of our highly advanced society 'Postmodern.' This terms is widely used by American sociologists and critics at present. It refers to the state of a culture that has undergone a transformation brought about by the sweeping revision of the rules of the game, beginning in the late nineteenth century, in the fields of science, literature, and art." NOTE 1
For the world of architecture, Charles Jencks suggested six defining principles of Postmodernism in his 1977 The Language of Post-Modern Architecture. The first is an architecture that speaks to people on at least two levels simultaneously. A sign on the expressway, for example, "Exit 5 KM," has only one reading, and would no longer serve its purpose, in fact, if it could be read in different ways. Unless legal codes and government documents have only one clear reading, they cannot serve their purposes. They are composed to have, as far as possible, only one reading, clear to all.
Documents of that sort, not surprisingly, do not make for interesting reading. This is the nature of what is called a single code. In contrast, novels can be read in many different ways, though they are written with a combination of words from the very same language as single-code documents. The reader uses his imagination as he reads to find meanings beyond the literal, enriching the story with his own experience. That is one of the pleasures of fiction. The greater room there is for the reader to participate imaginatively in the reading, the richer is the literary quality of the work. In semantics, language that can be read in two or more ways is called a double code. Or, to borrow Charles Jenck's term, we could call such forms of expression "multivalent."
To give another example, an artist who paints with great realism but whose work is unable to move its viewers is called an uninspired sign painter. Even among realists and super realists, there are those such as Andrew Wyeth who are respected as artists -- and those who are not. This is the difference between one who can successfully incorporate a multivalent reading into his work and one who cannot.
The Avant-garde Role of Inarticulate Architecture Has Ended
Modern society was above all a single-code society, and Modern Architecture was an unreadable architecture, an architecture of steel, glass, and concrete that valued convenience and functionality only, an architecture from which no narrative could be read. The most representative work of Modern Architecture is the lake Shore Apartments by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, completed in 1951. Widely regarded as a masterpiece of Modern Architecture, these high-rise luxury apartment towers are extremely abstract in design, a silent architecture that has abjured all historical symbols and narrative quality. The only thing that it can possibly be read as is an icon of Modern Architecture.
When the Modern Architecture movement was begun by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and their contemporaries, it was important as a rebellion against the status quo. The French Academie des Beaux-Arts, for example, concentrated entirely on the teaching of historical styles. The Academie completely dominated the world of architecture, and no architect who dared to stray from its historicism, much less challenge it, could hope to find work. In that context the founders of the Modern Architecture movement declared their secession from the Academie and their opposition to it. At the same time, they raised their banner of secession from all historical styles and decoration.
But today the avant-garde role of Modern Architecture has already come to an end. The Academie has long ago lost its authority, and in fact the orthodoxy of Modern Architecture has become the new Academie. Modernism has been intertwined with commercialism and economics and now exercises the greatest authority. When I was invited as a special lecturer to Sidney University in the summer of 1984, the head of the department warned me that Postmodernism was a taboo subject. Every single member of our faculty regards it as a blight, he said, and asked that I refrain from teaching it to their students. That's when I realized how Modern Architecture had begun to exercise the same unbending, rigid authority as the old Academie.
I do not totally reject Modern Architecture, by any means. My own work always makes use of what I regard as the positive aspects of Modern Architecture. But when I see how rigid it has become, how it has lost all flexibility, I ma forced to ally myself with those who attack the weaknesses of Modern Architecture and the Modernist doctrine of society.
Another factor important to keep in mind is that Modern Architecture appeared at a time when abstract art was believed to be more advanced and avant-garde than representative art. Modern Architecture was appreciated for its abstraction just as the painting and sculpture of the age were.
There is something to be said for the superiority of abstract art over concrete representation. After all, while other animals can only respond to direct, concrete stimuli, humanity can respond through intellectual processes to abstractions. But the abstraction of Modernism is a byproduct obtained as a result of industrialization; it is only accidental. That is why it has ended up as a single -- coded -- or a completely silent -- architecture, lacking an "epistemology," as Louis Althusser put it.
When we walk through the streets of an Italian Renaissance city -- Florence, for example -- the experience of just strolling down the streets is highly enjoyable. Each building along the street speaks to us, each sculpture engages us in conversation. We can read the streets, just as we read a novel. The city as a whole is a work of literature, and we can browse through it as we walk its streets. European cities offer this pleasure.
Unfortunately, the cities that have been built since the advent of Modernism do not provide that pleasure. Quite the opposite: they put us in an extremely disturbed mood, they exhaust us. No tourists flock to Brasiliaor Canberra, and young couples don't stroll hand in hand through the bleak banking and business area around Kasumigaseki Building in downtown Tokyo. It is in this sense that Jencks has offered his first definition of Postmodern architecture as architecture that speaks to us on at least two levels.
His second definition of Postmodern architecture is hybrid architecture. This is an architecture that mixes and hybridizes opposing elements such as historical styles with contemporary life, and high art with popular culture. One example of this process of hybridization is the search for elements of, in America's case, the popular cultures of Las Vegas or Hollywood that have fascinated the masses. These are then used to enliven contemporary architecture. To discover the essence of charm and interest even in such paradigms of "bad taste" is one of the strategies of Postmodern architecture.
To put it another way, Modern Architecture scorned Las Vegas as the vulgar taste of the masses and ranked it very low. Modern Architecture, like modern literature and abstract art, made no attempt to hide its elite consciousness. In contrast, Postmodern architecture has set itself to the task of destroying the border separating high art from popular art.
Jenck's third definition of Postmodern architecture is that it is intentionally schizophrenic. The term schizophrenia, of course, originally described the mental illness in which a person is possessed of two conflicting metal states at the same time, but Postmodernism uses it to refer to a healthy person who intentionally behaves that way. Here was seen an impulse similar to that of second definition, the hybrid nature of Postmodern architecture.
The fourth definition of Postmodern architecture is an architecture with a language. In other words, to be an architecture that can be read in a multivalent fashion, it must have an architectural language.
The fifth definition is an architecture that is "rich in metaphor, new, and embracing rather than exclusive."
The sixth definition of Postmodern architecture is "an architecture that responds to the multiplicity of the city." Postmodern Architecture must be created based on a reading of the plurality of the city's values and its complex context.
The Value-Added Nature of Information Society
Next I would like to take Charles Jenck's definition of Postmodern Architecture and rework it into my own, in the context of contemporary culture.
1. The Postmodern is produced in the transition period from industrial society to information society.
The leading sector of the economies of the developed countries has already moved from heavy industry to research and development, education, broadcasting, and publishing -- the industries of an information society -- together with the service industries and the banking and finance sector. This is a major transformation of society from an industrial to a non-industrial base.
In industrial society, it was the production of things that was given the highest priority. Quantity was more important than quality, and the main trust was to produce goods of standard quality in great quantity at the lowest price possible. But in an information society, the added value attached to goods comes to play a major role. We see a shift from the goal of the early period of industrial society -- to produce durable, inexpensive goods -- to, in the next stage, producing goods that are also well designed. Even the "star" products of early industrial society -- automobiles and electrical appliances -- have been forced to take note of the value-added factor of design, which now accounts for a fair proportion of the cost of the finished product.
Japan was once an important silk-producing center, specializing in the spinning of silk thread, and it exported large quantities of raw silk. Yet is it inconceivable that Japan should be a silk exporter now. Japanese wages have risen to the highest level in the world, and once that happens it is impossible to make a profit by producing raw materials. Now Korea, China, and Taiwan are the raw-silk producers, while Japan designs silk fabric and shells it to the world. The products of designers such as Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, with the value of their designs added, are sent out into the world. This is how the roles in the international division of labor have evolved.
The cost of the raw materials of, for example, a piece of clothing designed by Issey Miyake, comprises less than ten percent of its retail price. With Miyake's value-added design, however, it becomes a high-priced product. The fields of broadcasting, education, and publishing are based, too, not on hard costs but on "soft" costs. The hotel industry is another example: four-star and five-star ratings are determined by such value-added features as the quality of the service, the room decor, and the restaurants.
In this evolution to an information society, we look in our architecture and our cities for more than mere convenience and function, more than mere pleasantness; it is only natural that we should seek value-added elements, an interest on a par with that we feel when reading a novel: the excited expectancy of science fiction, a historicism that evokes memories of the past, a sense of mystery that takes us aback.
My point is that it is not enough to regard Postmodernism as a movement of art and literature that has influenced architecture and urban planning. The production base of our society itself is changing tremendously, and as we evolve from an industrial to an information society, the defining traits of Postmodernism are converging as an accompaniment to this great transformation of the values of society as a whole.
City Space Becomes Novelistic and Private
2. In the Postmodern age, our lifestyle will become novelistic and private.
In the age of Modernism, much was made of "humanism." We could even call it the slogan of industrial society. Humanism was the dispensation that permitted the unchecked development of technology. But in the Postmodern age, this slogan of an idealized, abstracted humanity must be cast away.
What, for example, does it mean to design with such a notion of humanism in mind? There is no abstract human being in the world. What there are, are men and women, old people, middle-aged people, young people, children -- individuals of both sexes and different ages. There are Japanese, Americans, Chinese -- individuals of differrent countries. And if we pursue this line of reasoning to its end, there is person A and there is person B.
You can search the world, but nowhere will you find the abstracted, average human being, the "humanity" that has served so long as the slogan of Modernism. That is no more than an icon labeled a human being by Modernism. In the Postmodern age, however, we must build cities and design buildings and homes for the actual, concrete person A; for a man, for a woman, for an elderly person -- for concrete individuals, with their own faces and personalities. This is the task of lowering human beings from their pedestal of ideal abstraction and returning them to the milieu of private life.
Let us enter a Gothic cathedral from the Middle Ages. The cathedral is a work of architecture offered to god. When we lift our eyes, light pouring through the stained-glass windows falls on our heads. The music of the pipe organ also cascades down on us from above. In that imposing space we fall to the earth in submission, we repent, and we pray that we might move nearer to god. This is the Medieval cathedral.
Following the Renaissance, the achievement of Modern Architecture has been to create a humanist architecture that replaces god with man, and architecture offered to a mighty, faceless, ideal image of humanity. Since that architecture is offered to an abstraction of humanity, and to human society, the individual person can not only find no peace or comfort in it but feels a crushing alienation. As the role of government grew with the rise of modern industrial society, public spaces in cities were enlarged, in the name of the public welfare.
The lobbies and halls of public buildings are enormous spaces with no place for a person to make himself comfortable. To return to a normal living environment, where they can laugh and cry, people have had to rush into their own homes. In other words, the city denies the possibility of private life. But in the Postmodern age, architecture and the city will restore private life to its rightful place, in many different forms. For example: narrow streets that are fun to walk along all by yourself; pocket parks just the right size for a couple to squeeze into, hand in hand; a bench set under a single tree; space with the thrill of a maze; special places, restaurants, boutiques that suggest you are the only one who knows where they are; places that are so frightening and terrifying that you never dare to return; places that come alive at night; a little niche where you can lose yourself in your own thoughts. These are core images of private life. By incorporating spaces of private life into the city, and into its public spaces, they will become more interesting and more complex.
The reason that the old Shitamachi downtown area around Asakusa is so interesting, that the crowded, twisted, up-and -down, and ever-changing back streets of Harajuku and Akasaka are so much fun, is that they have achieved a good combination of public space and private living space. In the cities and buildings before Modernism, we find a mixing of the frightening, the fascinating, and the reasonable. In old Edo, there were "haunted houses" (obakeyashiki) here and there where you could go for a good scare, there frightening old streets that people used for tests of courage, and the night was different from the day: it was a dark, dense time when spirits reigned. But modern city planning tears down the haunted houses, destroys the mazes, and rejects a city of night that might satisfy our curiosity. Now night is inferior to day, little more than a diluted version of it. We need to recapture the symbiosis of the city of the day and the city of night.
Making space novelistic and private again is just this: restoring interest, fright, and things to satisfy our curiosity to our monotonous cities and architecture so that the people who pass through them can weave their own stories from the environment. Much is made of the present as the age of private enterprise. But the sole purpose of "private enterprise" is not simply to reduce the role of the government by placing a greater part of the financial burden on the private sector. Private enterprise can do much to create the city of night, the city of private, novelistic space in contrast to the public centers of the city of the day.
Ruled by an Invisible Icon
3. The Postmodern age will be age without a center.
The premodern age was the age of the king, the ruler. The king or ruler -- or, in his place, a vast government -- was always in the center, and all rules, all lines of sight, radiated out from the center.
In the urban planning and architecture of the premodern age, that of the Renaissance in particular, a plaza occupied the center and the streets radiated out from it. Standing in a plaza in Rome or Paris and looking down one of those streets, we see buildings of equal height neatly lining both sides and extending off into the distance in a dramatic demonstration of the law of perspective. The lines of sight extend into infinity from the central plaza, the symbol of authority.
If the premodern age is described as an age of a transcendent code, then the Modern is an age that has liberated itself from codes. Michel Foucault has offered Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon as a model for the Modern age. NOTE 2 The Panopticon was a prisonlike structure comprised of radiating wings made up of blocks of cells. Between each two wings was a tower from which the prisoners could be observed. The design insures that the prisoners feel the eyes of their guards on them at all times, even if there are actually no guards in the towers.
To put it simply, in the premodern age the king of the lectern, the teacher, stood at the front of the class, and all his pupils faced him. In the Modern age, the authority figure of the teacher no longer exists, but the pupils still feel his gaze on their backs. The reality of the Modern age is that though the authority figure no longer exists, we are each ruled by his icon inside our self. For example, when we drive a car we observe the rules of the road. It can be said that we do so because the rules exist; but we can also interpret this as an example of being ruled by an invisible authority.
The rule of the icon manifests itself in a variety of fields -- in education, in industry, and all other aspects of life -- in the form of self-control and self-discipline. The International Style of Modern Architecture is an icon of this sort; an architect who refuses to design according to its laws will not be punished by society. But architects have been possessed by an internal fear, a fear of liberating themselves from Modern Architecture, an obsession that what they design must be in the International Style.
In the Postmodern age the spell of the teacher's gaze on our backs will be broken. I call this, in contrast to the model of Bentham's Panopticon, the age of the third classroom. In the first classroom, the teacher stands in front. In the second classroom, we feel the teacher looking at us from behind. In the third classroom, there is no teacher, real or perceived, in the front or at the back of the classroom. That is the Postmodern age.
At first glance it may seem a confused age, and there will be those who will mistake the mood of the times and seek to restore hierarchy and order. But no one will want to return to the order of the past, and a new age cannot be forced to bloom through political or moral coercion.
Introducing Diachronicity and Synchronicity
Perhaps we can compare this absence of the king, the central authority, to the movements of a school of fish. When a school of minnows changes direction, the action is not initiated by any established leader of the school. An individual within the school volunteers to lead by making the first move, and the rest of the fish follow its lead as if they shared a single mind. There is no king or authority in the school. Each individual member can become the leader at any moment, yet the school as a whole does not lose its dynamism. The school of minnows may well serve us as a model for the Postmodern era.
In that age, the concepts of diachronicity and synchronicity will become important. In time, Modern Architecture cuts itself off from the past and places the future far ahead; in space, it regards the West as the leader and all other places as inferior and less advanced. This is the basis of the philosophy of Modern Architecture. But my philosophy of architecture is to introduce diachronicity and synchronicity into urban space and into architecture. This is a philosophy that relativizes space and time.
How are we to consider the past, the present, and the future with regard to architecture? In Giambattista Piranesi's Imaginary Prisons (Carcerid'Invenzione, ca. 1743), there is neither present nor future; NOTE 3 in the New City (Citta Nuova, 1914) drawings by Italian Futurist Antonio Sant'Elia there is no past or present. NOTE 4 Modern society is a society of the present, with no interest in past or future. That is why Modern Architecture rejected the history and tradition of the past, along with its symbols, its decorative language. At the same time, it rejected the future as unfathomable. To put it another way, Modernism could only conceive of the future as an extension of present trends.
All that was required of Modern Architecture was that it rationally serve its present functions and meet the demands of present-day people and society. Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation apartment complex outside Marseilles (1945-52) and Mies van der Rohe's Lake Shore Drive Apartments are both examples of contemporary architecture that are offerings to the frozen icon of an ideal image of society. NOTE 5 To put it another way, Modern Architecture conceives of time as a pyramid of three layers of time: the past is a base on which the present stratum rests, and on top the present, the future stratum sits. In this model, both past and present are only articulated in terms of the present, which forms that central stratum of the pyramid. I think, on the other hand, that architecture is an evolution from the past to the present and on to the future, a maturing and metabolizing process.
Time is not a linear series, nor does it have the hierarchical structure of a pyramid or a tree. It is an interwoven network, a rhizome. "Rhizome" is a term employed by Deleuze and Guattari. It represents a model in which, unlike the pyramid, or the tree with its trunk and its branches, there is no clear hierarchy. It is like a spider web, with neither core nor periphery, neither beginning nor end. A rhizome never ossifies; it is a series of relationships that are always dynamically reforming and regrouping.
If the past, present, and future are conceived of after the model of a rhizome, we can feel and consider ourselves at an equal distance from all times and freely engage in relationships with any. No longer is the present alone close to us, while past and future are distant. This relativity of time is what is what is meant by diachronicity.
Synchronicity, on the other hand, is the relativity of space. Levi-Strauss, through his Structuralism, linked all cultures that exist on the earth and thereby relativized Western culture, which had been accorded the position of absolute superiority until them. In structuralism, the cultures of Western Europe, America, Africa, the Islamic countries, and Asia were all given equal status, and each of them was placed at an equal distance from the other.
In the age of the third classroom, time and space are made relative in this way. As a result, we are able to weave different times and histories -- past, present, and future -- and different cultural values -- those of Western Europe, Japan, and Islam -- into a single work of architecture and allow them to exist in symbiosis.
The City as a Blending of Sacred, Profane, and Pleasure
4. The Postmodern era is characterized by the elimination of dualism and binomial opposition.
I have spoken of this earlier; it is a major feature of Postmodernism. In the Postmodern age, the boundaries between such apparent opposites as flesh and spirit, religion and science, artifice and nature, technology and humanity, pure literature and popular literature, seriousness and irony, work and play, and life and death will gradually become hazy, and from the intermediary space between these pairs of terms many creative possibilities will well up. The Postmodern sensibility will be one in which we straddle the spiritual and the material, the sacred and the profane. Things that seem contradictory at first glance will turn out to be of a piece, like the Klein bottle. And from this situation a new set of values will come forth.
For example, Roger Gaillois, in Man and the Sacred (L'Homme et le sacre), proposes adding a third element to the traditional dualism of sacred and profane: pleasure. The sacred corresponds to the first classroom. NOTE 6 The king, the authority, claiming to be sacred, looks down over the people. The sacred existed as a godlike state transcending that of ordinary human beings. The profane corresponds to the second classroom and Modernism. The Modern age is the age of the masses, the age of mass production, of an Esperanto-like universality, of Heidegger's Das Mann -- man as an ordinary person. To be ordinary is the value that Modernism has lauded. It rejects variety and difference. The paradigm of Modern values is ordinary domesticity.
In design a standard was created, and a standard form for humanity was cut from the same cloth: humanism, the abstract icon of the human being. The recognition that all mankind possess equal rights is a wonderful achievement of the Modern age; but in the process human beings have been abstracted, standardized, and recast into an ideal image. All human faces are reduced to a single visage and we are still far from a society in which the enormous variety of individuality can be expressed.
Pleasure is the third classroom, the Postmodern age, which utterly rejects the division of sacred from profane. In architecture, for example, we can imagine the police boxes set in each neighborhood area in Japan today designed in a multiplicity of shapes and styles: brick, or with onion domes, or other curious shapes; and the thought of the same old policemen glaring out of them is a delightful image. This will transform the city into a blending of the sacred and the profane.
In the world of thought, the New Academism discusses difficult concepts with the flippancy of the comic strip in a blending of the sacred and the profane. In the writings of Deleuze and Guattari we find remarks such as this: "Be the Pink Panther and your loves will be like the wasp and the orchid, the cat and the baboon." NOTE 7 In the past, philosophy restricted itself to a rigorous and self-enclosed language of its own, but here we see a mix of philosophical investigation and everyday words and images that will appeal directly to the mass sensibility, and the authors place themselves at an equal distance from both languages. This, too, is an example of the rhizome.
The age when philosophy is restricted to philosophical terms has come to an end. The age of dualism and binomial opposition is already starting to crumble and shake on all sides.
From Association to Bisociation
5. The Postmodern age will have conviviality.
conviviality is another way of expressing Zeami's hana. Zeami defined hana as pleasure, novelty, and enjoyment.
Modernism allied itself with a type of purism, and made the functional the highest good. Play, ease, interest, and pleasure were rejected as extraneous elements to be eliminated. During the Baroque, the Renaissance, and even before those periods, decoration was regraded as an important element in architecture. The rejection of decoration began with the advent of Modernism, and that is one reason that Modern Architecture is an architecture that cannot be read.
6. Postmodernism will reappraise and recognize the value of the world's variety and hybrid styles.
The Postmodern age will recognize that the values of the West are not the only legitimate ones and that a nearly infinite variety of cultures exist around the globe. this will be one of the major currents of Postmodernism.
As Western culture, which up to now was regarded as totally superior to all others, is recognized as just another local culture, English and French, for example, will be recognized as no more than local languages, and the world will be transformed enormously.
In architecture, this will take form as the reappraisal of combinations of elements from different cultures and a new hybrid style. It will not be regarded as the product of compromise, "neither bird nor beast," as it has up to now, but as a positive expression of a multivalent creative energy. My high regard for the architecture of the late Edo and early Meiji periods -- the Tsukiji Hotel, the Mitsuigumi House -- is because they are fine examples of this creative hybrid style.
7. The concept of the whole will crumble and the part and the whole will exist in symbiosis in the Postmodern age.
The Modern age was an age of Hegel, an industrial age, in which the concept of the whole -- the nation, massive industrial and scientific complexes -- was formulated. The Postmodern age, in contrast, will be a utopia after the fashion of Francoise Marie Charles Fourier's phalanxes, or cooperative communities. NOTE 8 It will be a world in which small groups take the initiative to form cooperative federations. Arthur Koestler has described this change as one from association to bisociation. While "association" has the nuance of free and friendly cooperative relations among groups that recognize their mutual differences, "bisociation" suggests a tenser relationship that even includes a certain degree of mutual opposition.
Koestler remarks: "The essence of creativity is to be found in the integration on a new plane of two previously unrelated structures of consciousness." Association is a relation between two parties with some connection to each other, but bisociation is the collision of two completely unconnected parties. Naturally, a tremendous tension, resistance, and stimulus results. According to Koestler, it is there that the essence of creativity is to be found. A Good SOHO Society is Inefficient Koestler described the Janus-like relationship between part and whole with the acronym SOHO, meaning "self-regulating open hierarchic order."
The atomism of the nineteenth century was akin to Koestler's thought in its concern with the part. But the "self-regulating" part is quite distinct from the earlier line of thought. The shared observation and management of the third classroom can be identified as this "self-regulating," which has led me to call my own concept of a society based on shared management as a SOHO society.
In short, the Postmodern world will be one in which the whole and the individual, the industry and the individual, and the society and the individual will all be accorded equal value. It will be a society of a type rejected by Modernism, to a certain degree an inefficient society. According to the logic of Modernism, to maximize its efficiency society must be unified and highly organized. Whatever ideals may be professed in our age, society has continued to advance toward greater concern for the whole. Though capitalist societies claim to value the individual, in reality the trend has been to cede priority to the whole. The great challenge of Postmodernism will be in whether it can achieve a society of symbiosis in which the part, the individual, is Valued equal to the whole.
My own approach to the actual work of architecture is to design, for example, the door handles and the carpet patterns at the same time I am making sketches of the whole building. I use this as a method to design from both the part and the whole at the same time. Most architects first settle on the shape of the work as a whole and then proceed to think about the shape of the rooms inside it. The door handles are the last of the last. That is the way we are trained, to always move from the whole to the part.
In urban planning, too, it is the roads, the parks, the large spaces and facilities that are decided on first, Last of all the houses that will line the roads are considered. But that is wrong. We cannot create new cities unless we consider the city and its houses at the same time and of the same value. True creativity emerges from the process of conceiving of the part and the whole together.
A complete deconstruction of the social status quo took place from about 1900 to 1930, three decades which perhaps best represent the special character of the twentieth century. This is the period during which Planck's theory of quantum mechanics, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Bergson's creative evolution, and Einstein's theory of relativity were all articulated. Then, as we entered the 1930s, a transcendence of that deconstruction was explored on various fronts. These were the years that saw the appearance of Ortega Y Gasett's The Rebellion of the Masses, Benjamin Cremieux's Inquietude et la reconstruction, and Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents. The Western concepts of individualism and the self had reached maturity before the twentieth century began, and now a community based on those concepts was created. In other words, the basic model is one of part and whole, individual and society. In response to tendencies to give priority to the whole, the individual is emphasized or theories of the deconstruction of society become popular. When that deconstruction proceeds too far, the reconstruction of society is called for. This pendulum swing has repeated itself again and again in Western society.
The Arts and Craft Movement initiated in England by William Morris was a reaction to industrialization that called for a renewed recognition of the value of the hand labor of the craftsman. With the industrial revolution and the introduction of mechanization, hand crafts declined, so Morris and others rejected the industrial revolution and demanded a return to the age of the craftsman.
In Europe, ages that emphasize the whole alternate with ages that emphasize the part, the individual. Periods of the encouragement of technology alternate with periods of movements to preserve nature. I call this the pendulum phenomena, based on the dualism of Western civilization. The Postmodern age must be an age when we transcend dualism and the part and the whole live in symbiosis.
From The Death of the Economy to an Age of the Exchange of Symbols
8. In the Postmodern age, material and spiritual elements will live in symbiosis.
The materialism of the Modern age has valued things in terms of their function and utility. The parts of things that have to apparent function are rejected as frivolous. But in the Postmodern age, spiritual elements within things or outside their structures, unknown elements, will become important.
I don't reject the principle of functionalism per se, nor will it be rejected in the Postmodern era. The reason is that functionalism is not really a product of Modernism. It can be traced back to the ages of Greece and Rome. Edward Robert De Zurko, in his book Origins of functionalist Theory, traces functionalism back to Aristotle or the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius, on through Saint Augustine in the fourth century, Saint Thomas Aguinas in the medieval period, and the architects Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci, and Andrea Palladio during the Renaissance. NOTE 8 Functionalism has been transmitted down to us in a lineage that includes such eighteenth-century figures as Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Lessing, Goethe, and Karl Friederich Schinkel, and, in the nineteenth century, Horatio Greenough and Louis Sullivan. NOTE 9 From there the baton was picked up by Modern Architecture, and it will just as surely be passed to the Postmodern era.
The essence of the problem is not functionalism but the one-sided over dependence on the intellect and rationalism that is at the base of Western culture. Intellect is more highly valued than emotion. Rationality is the essence and true form of humanity, and the ultimate and unadulterated good. Industrial society developed from scientific thought, the experimental and analytic methods that are based on such a thorough going rationalism.
Rationalism has played an important role in industrial society, but on the other hand it has also led to a tendency to disdain and devalue philosophies emphasizing the role of consciousness, spiritual phenomena, and emotions. In the Postmodern age, the material and the mental, the functional and the emotional, the beautiful and the terrifying, analytic thought and synthetic thought will have to exist in symbiosis.
For examples, things have in addition to their function a distinct atmosphere or aura. To explain a drinking glass in terms of its function is relatively easy. "This vessel is made of glass, is a convenient size and shape for grasping, and holds 180 cc of liquid." But people today have a harder time describing the "feeling," the aura of the glass. Modern education develops the ability to explain the functions of things, but it does not stimulate the emotions, so our ability to look at a thing and describe its presence in words is limited. The fact that many of even the best and hardest working students find essay questions and examinations that seek their thoughts on the subject matter so difficult is further testimony to this state of affairs.
We might clarify the matter with the following definition: the ability to look at a thing and discover its function is due our analytic capacities, but the ability to discover its atmosphere is due to perceptive capacities. " The nonfunctional aspects of things -- their design, their atmosphere, intangible context, their spiritual nature -- will become increasingly important in information society. The ability, the sensitivity, the perceptivity to see what is not visible to the eye will be much sought after.
Jean Baudrillard has used the bold term "the death of the economy" to describe the new age. NOTE 10 The age of the economy has come to an end, to be replaced by the age of the exchange of symbols. In the age of mass consumer society great quantities of goods and currency were exchanged. The products manufactured by the industrial society of the Modern age were bought and discarded, bought and discarded, in a repeating cycle. The consumption of goods has created the economy of our age.
But in the information society it will not be goods but symbols, information, and signs which are consumed. The very frequent redecoration of shops and coffee shops and restaurants that has become so popular lately can be regarded as a sign of the tendency to discard things. When cafe bars are popular, suddenly there are scores of them, all with the same white walls, revolving overhead fans, and generic high-tech atmosphere. But this style is consumed in an extremely short time, and next, shops made from renovated warehouses (or with that look) are the rage. The atmospheres people seek change at an amazing pace, and the stores and shops are constantly being redone to keep up with those changes.
They don't redecorate because the shop no longer functions well, not because the building has aged, is dangerous, or dirty, not because the heating and cooling system no longer works or the chairs and tables are broken. They redecorate because the symbols and signs their store presents have grown old. What is being so vehemently consumed here is not goods but symbols, information, the value-added part of the store. Baudrillard, in his L'echange symbolique et la mort, offers a radical criticism of the ideology of production. In Modern society, production and economics have, through long association, merged into a single entity. He suggests that we are moving away from an age of the accumulation of value and meaning to an age of le poetique, in which all excess value and meaning is pared away in what he calls the "exchange of symbols." Poetry can be thought of as the creation of atmosphere, but the contemporary age is one in which atmosphere, the likeness of a thing, is created from signs that possess no particular meaning. A piano that has never been used, a clock that does not tell time, a chair that can't be sat on, weapons that cannot be fired -- our lives are filled with evidence of the age of the exchange of symbols, what Baudrillard calls simulacres.
The city and architecture will become increasingly theatrical spaces and each and every person will begin to play out his or her own drama against their backdrops.
The Simulacre as the Symbiosis of Sanity and Madness
This age of the exchange of symbols will effect great changes in human relationships. Even among friends, information that you don't have but your friend does, information not available through the mass media, will by extremely valuable. The value of information will link people in relationships.
People will be willing to become members of special groups, even at considerable expense, to obtain information. In search of new information, people will come together and separate. A person who told you a wonderful story yesterday will be dismissed out of hand if he tries it on you again today. His information has already been consumed and no longer has any value. In turn, people will look for friends and join groups as a way of gaining access to information of rare value.
However you choose to look at this, it represents a great change from Modern society, when one could be satisfied with being an ordinary, average person. The age has come when we find our purpose and interest in the information we have that is different from what other have, and how we are different from others.
There is nothing to guarantee that this will be an easy life. Compared to the lukewarm waters of human relationships in the Modern age, the pleasures, stimulation, and joys of life will be vast. But on the other hand, each of us will have to possess his own gyroscope and seek an independent lifestyle, different from that of others. In that sense, it will also be an extremely challenging time. Because each of us will have to select information for himself, we will need a sharp sensitivity and intelligence.
The times are changing from an easy-going, hedonist mass society to a society that will make great demands on our intelligence. In television, news shows, debates, and other "hard" programming will be popular. The appearance of the New Academies in philosophy is a sign of the same trend, which will only increase in intensity from now on.
The keyword in the age of the exchange of symbols will be simulacre. Baudrillard says that "A simulacre is the structure of atmosphere, or a system constructed of the extraordinary." The film director Yoshimitsu Morita has made a film titled Something Like it (No Yo na Mono) -- which is precisely the definition of a simulacre. NOTE 11
For example, a survey in Japan has shown that there are today nearly five million pianos in the country, of which a fair proportion are little more than a silent piece of living room furniture, never played. In these cases, the piano cannot function in its original role; instead, it helps to create an atmosphere of wealth and culture. These pianos are not musical instruments. They sit in these living rooms as "something like a piano." In Morita's film Dazoku Geemu (The family game), an automobile acts as a simulacre. Whenever a problem arises in the film, the hero, with a wink, calls his wife or the son's tutor out to the car in its parking place to have a talk. His car is not something to drive; he sues it as a private room -- a reflection of Japan's housing situation. The hero also uses it as a space that he controls, a metaphor for a space where he can regain intimacy and take the initiative in his life. Here the car has already been transformed from a car into "something like a car."
To give another, even more popular example, we need only look at the sale at a tremendously high price of the Rolls Royce that once belonged to the Beatles. Precisely because it carried the cultural cache of having been their possession it sold for such an enormous amount.
We will live in the future in a world surrounded by simulacres, "things like" other things. The Japanese have a long tradition of appreciating, simultaneous with function, the background, the context of objects. This is their sensitivity to ki, or atmosphere, energy. The element ki (also pronounced ke) appear in words such as Kehai (presence or seeming), fun'iki (atmosphere), and kibun (feeling or mood). It is the sense of a symbol, a spirituality, a cultural value attached to or arising from or surrounding an object. ki is also used to point to the irrational, the religious, the transcendent. Through the concept of ki, a corridor is opened linking the symbiosis of function and atmosphere, material and spiritual elements with the symbiosis of sanity and madness, science and religion.
Le Poetique: Deconstructed Beyond Meaning
The theory of the exchange of symbols is linked with linguist Ferdinand de Saussure's theory of le poetique. NOTE 12 Saussure used le poetique to refer to the symbolic function of language that he discovered in unique method of using anagrams to decipher poetry.
Baudrillard describes Saussure's le poetique as follows: "Le poetique is an exchange of symbols from which, ultimately, nothing remains, a reverberating interplay of structural elements." That is, in the poem god is not the subject, the poet is not the subject; language itself reverberates within the bounds of the poem and then perishes, of its own accord. Usually the role of literature and philosophy is to point to a subject, such as a transcendent god, and make "meaningful" statements about it. But in poetry, that meaning itself is completely extinguished.
Let us apply this concept to architecture. The creation of meaning is the task of a certain type of architecture, an architecture with an extremely strong, clear narrative quality. An example of this type of architecture frequently encountered in socialist countries are the one-dimensional, aggressive attempts to create a city or a district devoted to a mythologized Lenin, composed of symbols such as status of Lenin and streets named after him. But this monumentality is a thing of the past.
Though I have said that our living environments, our cities and our architecture should be novelistic, with many different readings, I also believe that this "novel" should be one that, when finally deconstructed, is a kin to a poem that expresses, finally, nothing. To borrow the words of Baudrillard, "Le poetique as the exchange of symbols brings into play a strictly limited and determined group of words. It's purpose is to totally exhaust those words."
The Science of Ambiguity, or Fuzzy Logic
9. The Postmodern age will be a time when the ambiguity of the intermediary spaces that have until now been regarded as boundaries will be rediscovered.
In the Modern age, vagueness, all that was regarded as "irrational," was rejected or forced into a dualistic mold. We were faced with a choice between exterior and interior, public and private, eternity and the moment, good and evil. But at last, I think, the truly ambiguous nature of human existence is being rediscovered.
We have learned that the human brain, especially the frontal lobe, is more creative than analytic, and it has a high toleration of ambiguity. The more we learn about ourselves the more we discover that the human being is an ambiguous from of existence that, in many respects, cannot be analyzed.
Modernism makes a great mistake in assuming that this ambiguity remains simply because science has not yet advanced to the point where these mysteries will call be solved. Human beings are not made exclusively of parts that can be clearly distinguished and illuminated. Ambiguity is also an essential part of the human makeup. My acquaintance Shuhei Aiba, a professor at Denki Tsushin College, comments about ambiguity from the perspective of engineering in his book Aimai kara no Hasso (Thinking from ambiguity):
The dictum "I think, therefore I am" is famous as a philosophical expression of the essence of humanity. The wellspring of the 'ambiguity' of human beings is thought, which depends upon the activity of the human brain. The brain is a miracle of nature, made up of a tremendous number of groups of cells that from a mass of matter which can perform an infinite variety of functions." The brain can process not only physical stimuli such as sound, light, and heat but human feelings as well. It exercises a subtle control over human emotions and each part of the body, and to preserve not only our biological balance but our emotional balance, initiates many different activities. The brain's information processing and instructions are carried out by electric signals known inbiology as impulses. Thus, when "I think," impulses within the brain flash in many different patterns, are unified according to a certain order, and take shape as thoughts and mental images. In each person's brain there is an independent life environment, a world, a language, props and a stage, and every day a grand drama unfolds there, directed by thought and intellect. Our words and actions are carried out before the vague and hazy scenery and backdrops of this living organism, the brain. When a human being sits quietly by himself and ponders what a human being is, he realizes that his body is not only a tool, a drop, for implementing his thoughts and his will, but it is also the very thing that makes his self possible ... Here lies the special character of the human being as a form of coexistence of the brain and the body. Ambiguous engineering starts here, and from this perspective reaches out to grasp many other phenomena. It is a system that is based on the recognition that his coexistence of brain and body is the essential nature of the human being, a system that incorporates multivalence. Nowhere are life and matter more intimately intertwined than in our brains. The broad, dark valley that lies between the worlds of thought and matter is where ambiguous engineering arises. By building small bridges across that valley it seeks to discover, gradually, methods for grasping ambiguity, and by that means construct a system to bring the machine, and contemporary civilization, closer to mankind.
Lotti Asker Zadeh, in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of California has made news recently by advocating what he calls (fuzzy logic." If we think about it, the language, colors, forms, and sounds that surround us are all ambiguous information. There is room for understanding, judging, and interpreting all of these data, and in that margin of ambiguity we come to a mutual agreement. This is precisely why words can mislead and different colors and shapes give different images to different people.
Traditionally engineering has tried to eliminate this naturally existing margin of ambiguity. Fuzzy logic, however, attempts to put ambiguous information to use in engineering. Its advocates seek to build a fuzzy computer and fuzzy software that can steer an automobile by remote control. They want to design a computer that can make suppositions that are impossible in the classical model of yes-no dualistic binary logic.
This ambiguity, the intermediary zone that cannot be explained by dualistic logic, is an important element in the Postmodern age of symbiosis. The discover a new image of humanity that can meet the challenge of Postmodern society, I think it is first important to conceive of the existence of a "moratorium human being," a concept most recently articulated by Keigo Okonogi in his Moratoriamu Ningen no Jidai (The age of the moratorium man. The "moratorium person" is one who remains uncommitted, unfinished, with no rigid self-definition of social role. It is a human being as potential, a human being in waiting, in preparation -- and a very similar concept to my idea of mankind as an ambiguous existence. NOTE 13
The Nonlinear, the Fractal, Nested Structures, Implicato Order, and Holistic Medicine
Ambiguity has become a major theme in science and philosophy as well. In his book The New Scientific Spirit Gaston Bachelard describes this new age:
If the Modern age sought an all-encompassing truth, the new age will seek relative truths. If the Modern age was the age of Euclid, the new age will be one that combines the Euclidean realm with a non-Euclidean realm. If the Modern age was one of rejection or contradiction, the new age will be a combination of rejection and contradiction. In mathematics, the Modern Euclidean realm will be pushed into a non-Euclidean realm by the new age. In physics, if the Modern age is one of a Newtonian realm, the new age will be moved into a non-Newtonian realm. In science, if the Modern age is that of Lavoisier, the new age will be a move into a non-Lavoisieran science. In logic, if the Modern age is one of Aristotle through Kant, the new age will be non-Aristotelian and non-Kantian. And, in contrast to the age of Modernism, the age that waits for us will be one in which all of those negations of their predecessors will encompass and embrace their opposites, in other words, the ideas and beliefs that existed before. NOTE 14
Up to now, progress and revolution in Europe have occurred through a complete rejection of the status quo, an about-face reversal; but Bachelard tells us that the new age will be one in which the status quo will be at once rejected and embraced. It will be an age of symbiosis of old and new. This Bachelard calls the new science of negation.
From the perspective of the science of negation, Japan's Meiji Restoration may come in for a reevaluation. Up to now it has been compared with Western-style revolutions and judged ambiguous and incomplete. It did not reject all tradition, but sought to carry that tradition into a new realm. This Japanese characteristic of continual revision and reform is well-adapted to Bachelard's new age.
In mathematics, Benoit Mandelbroit's fractal geometry and nonlinear analytic geometry have replaced (the pseudonymous) Nicolas Boubaki's systematic, axiomatic mathematics and the Newtonian world view. Nonlinear analytic geometry is the science of analyzing phenomena such as wind currents and tornadoes, which up to now have been regarded as non-mathematical phenomena having no structure or order. Fractal geometry, too, treats the "nested structures" found in nature, demonstrating that chaos is found within order and order within chaos. Ilya Prigogine's dispersal theory and Hermann Haken's synergetics also describe the state of chaos, in with order and anti-order exist together.
Traditional science has limited itself to simple phenomena possessing a clear order and ignored the disordered and the chaotic. Postmodern science will take both order and disorder as its object and pursue the relations between them. Realizing that the complex arises from the simple, the previously ignored realm of disorder will live in symbiosis with order in each branch of learning, and a theory of chaos will be born. This is a Liebnizian view of the world. Liebniz declared that the whole exists in the part, a view that has much in common with Koestler's holon.
As Postmodern science and the science of ambiguity increase in scope, Christian civilization will receive a great shock. Christianity teaches that nature and man are both the creations of god, but Postmodern science declares each of us possesses within ourselves the power to create nature. This is the irrevocable death of god. and Postmodern science is approaching the Buddhist teaching, that in all existence -- animals, plants, and minerals -- there is Buddha nature. The momentous crumbling of Western civilization is already beginning.
Since his encounter with the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti, David Bohm, the logicist and physicist, has begun to develop a unique new physics. Bohm's basic position is that whatever portion of the world we select for inspection, we find that it contains an "implicate order" that embraces the rest of existence. He quotes Spinoza's remark that "Mind is incorporated in matter, and in that sense matter is all-embracing. Matter is an extension of god. "And Bohm goes on to say that "In classical physics, matter is regarded as exclusively material, a mechanical form of existence. There was no room for mind, feeling, or soul in this model. But in the new physics, there can be no true separation between inhabitants of the same zone. The mind is born from matter."
From this revolutionary new position, Bohm advocates holistic medicine. Up to now, medicine has treated the body as if it were only matter. But our spiritual and physical functions are interrelated, and by thinking ourselves well we can influence our previous system and actually become well. In Japan, the very word for sickness is "afflicted energy" (byoki), and traditional Oriental medicine has long regarded mind and body as a unit in a way very similar to holistic medicine.
I have above given several defining characteristics of Postmodernism as a great new current for transcending Modernism. To sum them up, we can say that Postmodernism is the philosophy of symbiosis.
In architecture there is a group who subscribe to Postmodernism. In America they are represented by Robert Venturi and Michael Graves, and in Japan Arata Isozaki is often called a Postmodern architect. But to me, they are Postmodern only in the narrowest sense of the term. Their method is to incorporate the architectural styles of the past, and predominately the European past, into contemporary architecture. The do not subscribe to the broader Postmodernism I speak of, which seeks to eliminate the domination of the West and transcend Modernism.
Postmodernism not as a narrowly defined architectural tactic but as the philosophy of symbiosis will be an important intellectual weapon to aid us in the challenge of conceiving of and living in the truly Postmodern age.
1. Jean-Francoise Lyotard The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brain Massumi. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984). Lytard (b. 1924) is a French philosopher, a professor at Paris University Number Eight and the director of the International Institute of Philosophy.
2. Michael Foucault (1926-64) was a French philosopher, the author of such works as The Order of Things and The Archeology of Knowledge. He was preoccupied with identifying the forces that underlie human institutions, and carried out studies on the treatment of the insane, criminals, and the history of human sexuality. He had published the third of six projected books in the latter series upon his death. In The Archaeology of Knowledge he suggests that different ages recognized different styles of knowledge.
3. Giambattista Piranesi (1720-78) was an Italian architect and engraver. He was active mostly in Rome and produced many views of that city, but he is best known for Imaginary Prisons, with its fantastic and macabre variations of Roman architecture.
4. Antonio Sant'Elia (1888-1916) argued for a new architecture free from all past conventions, and exhibited his ideas as sketches in the 1914 Nuove Tendenze group exhibition under the title New City. His concepts were visionary, and though his work had few links to contemporary Modern architecture, many of his ideas were uncannily realized decades later. He died in the First World War at the age of twenty-eight.
5. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) was a German-born architect and leader of the purist school of Modern Architecture. He succeeded Walter Gropius as the director of the Bauhaus, and pioneered in furniture design. In 1937 he emigrated to the United States and became a leading exponent of geometrical, abstract Modern Architecture there.
6. Roger Caillois, Man and the Sacred. Trans. Meyer Barash. (Greenwook, 1980).
7. Gilles Felix and Deleuze Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. (London: Athlone, 1988), 25.
8. Francois Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a French social reformer and economist whose vision of a new society exercised considerable influence on later anarchists such as Kropotkin. In Fourier's ideal society, the central government merely facilitated transactions involving goods; pole were organized into mostly agricultural cooperatives called phalanxes. Each phalanx consisted of about sixteen hundred people, who lived in a common buildings called phalansteries.
8. Edward De Zurko was an American architect active in the 1950s and a professor in the department of architecture of the Rice Institute at the University of Texas. Little is known of Vitruvius except that he is the author of the celebrated treatise De architectura, which seems to have been conceived after 27 B.C. In that work, Vitruvius reveals himself as strongly Hellenistic. In DeArchitectura he was closely studied by Renaissance architects such as Bramante, Michelangelo, and Vignola. Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72) was an Italian humanist and architect, active in the early Renaissance. His theories of architectur