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The Knowable and the Ineffable

An Object-Oriented Reading of Enric Miralles’ Design Approach

Cuadernos de Proyectos Arquitectónicos 9, 2021 English Version | Spanish version w/ abstract, figures, and bibliography
This paper links the current philosophical stance of Object-oriented Ontology (OOO) to Enric Miralles’ design approach in the late 20th century. On the one hand, Graham Harman’s thinking has influenced architects’ methods, principles, and value systems since the early 2010s, claiming a deeper reality of things beneath their appearance and our knowledge of them. OOO proposes an indirect approach to things through aesthetics and rhetoric, safeguarding the autonomy of the object. On the other hand, Enric Miralles emerges as a historical figure whose poetic understanding of architecture was concerned with something beyond practical needs or cosmetic issues. In this context, this paper examines two issues (autonomy and aesthetics) to connect the two authors. When the architectural project (AP) appears as an autonomous object, any epistemological effort exerted on it becomes incomplete, and the project offers multiple results and readings. For that, both authors advocate their second shared major point: aesthetics as a form of cognition. Similar notions of mimesis, allusion, and metaphor refer to the project’s ineffable reality and access some of its various knowable profiles. Under these overlaps, both oeuvres complement each other. First, Miralles appears as a significant precedent for the current discussion about objects in architecture, especially when he instrumentalized the mechanisms of aesthetics not only for the audience’s experience but also for the design process. Second, Harman’s postulates offer, retrospectively, a solid theoretical ground for Miralles’ intellectual approach to architecture and design methods; that is, an ontological framework that unifies the particularity of each project while maintaining its inexhaustible expressions.


Superficiality and Representation

Adding Aesthetics to “Knowledge without Truth” 

Open Philosophy 4, no. 1, 2021 https://doi.org/10.1515/opphil-2020-0150
This article has two parts. The first one compares the ontological and epistemological implications of two main philosophical stances on how reality relates to appearance. I call the first group the “plane of superficiality,” where reality and appearance are the same; there is no gap between what a thing is and how it manifests itself. I call the second group “volume of representation,” in which reality is beyond appearances; there is an insurmountable gap between the thing and its phenomena. The second part of the article focuses on Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) as the second group’s contemporary position. Within the OOO epistemological model of “knowledge without truth,” Harman’s schema of the observer’s participation in the object’s knowledge production is questioned. Alternatively, based on the notion proposed here of “flat representativity” in which each appearance is equally valuable to represent different aspects of the object, I argue for the full spectrum of the sensual as the basis for “knowledge without truth.” In particular, the aesthetic method, excluded from Harman’s concerns about knowledge, is suggested as another contribution to the episteme.

On Default

A Conversation with Gonzalo Vaillo

Paprika! 6, no. 1, 2020 WeblinkI find ‘default’ as a problematic term when it is used as a goal because it implies that you’ll deliver something that is already known. I would say that the default can be seen as the common agreement within a society, a common ground, which is what makes a collective cultural form of living particular and specific. And this idea obviously is what establishes a measure of rightness. I think especially in creative fields, there is always a necessity that each proposal needs to be confronted with something, and I think that’s what provides guidance and orientation in every design. I think that default is what provides a kind of a measure [...]

The Oxymoron of “Jectivity”

A Design Process for Unveiling the Unexpected Manifestations of the Architectural Project’s Reality

ACADIA 2019 Weblink
This paper discusses a design methodology that seeks to unveil the nature of architectural projects (here abbreviated AP) as the basis for spatial production. This method is embedded within a broader theory of designing that suggests an autonomy of the project as an independent entity detached from the architect. Therefore, the architect's role is to discover the AP. This approach appears as a counteraction to the relational models in designing where the architect constructs the project in limited and subjective ways usually driven by the alienation of external. The methodology presented here also rejects any possibility to reveal the AP in its fullness as a unique and absolute truth. The inherent reality of any project is specific and unique in itself. This means each AP is ontologically complete and different from any other. Because designing is the encounter between the AP and the architect, jectivity is a form of cognition that is neither objective nor subjective. It finds the potential of novel spatial configurations in what we call the "space of abundance," which appears beyond the architect's limited perceptions of the determinate AP. This design method aims to unfold some of the initially ungraspable multiple manifestations. Two particular projects explore jectivity as a methodology that seeks the AP's unknown and turns the procedures that lead to it into new knowledge gained for the architect. The two projects illustrate some of the possible uses of computational and digital technologies for both asking and materializing (cognize and notate) its inward architectural realities.

Ideen für konkrete Raum-Prototypen

Project Research Report 2017-2019 - Institut für experimentelle Architektur Hochbau, Universität Innsbruck

Eds. Allner, Lukas, Christoph Opperer, Karolin Schmidbaur, and Gonzalo Vaillo. Vienna: Verlaghaus Hernals. 2019