“A strange yet vaguely familiar maze of streets and stairs, walls, columns, towers, and domes expanding in every direction.” -Freud
The Seat of Projection
Architects are given landscapes and upon them, build visions of cities and buildings. These visions are ideally projected on sites that act as blank canvases upon which all creativity is unleashed. But what happens when we introduce external stimuli into this act of creation? What if the site is not a tabula rasa but is an eternal city, locked and steeped in history?
When we are asked to redesign or even add to such cities that already exist, we are unable to unleash our true creative potential. Its only when the reality is distorted, exaggerated and heightened does the capacity to craft something entirely new emerge. Through a process of distortion, representations of cities can shift from concrete forms to abstract ones. This abstraction brings along with it a sense of the new and unknown, through a process of de familiarization. Through erasing its iconic views, that architect is then invited to engage with the spaces in unique ways. The city then opens itself to infinite possibilities.
Nolli’s map used the figure and ground technique, locking Rome into a two-dimensional view. Ironically the rigid cartography reduced the city to its absolute form, where the figure is the building and the ground is the void. It is this reductive form of drawing that enables us to project our own identities, perceptions and ideas on the city. In this way it becomes valid to recognise the figure ground as a diagnostic tool.
The Catoptric theatre is the architect’s mind removed from the architect’s body. Often our minds cannot obscure reality. As Wittgenstein’s duck rabbit sketch demonstrates, we either see a duck, or a rabbit; both existing independently, what we don’t see is the third form, the ‘Duck-Rabbit’.
Similarly the Rorschach’s inkblot test used Gestalt principles. The inkblot is neither formless nor formal; it is a formless form, so empty of meaning that it allows for multiple possibilities.
It is important to see cities as formless figures; the capacity for a city to exhibit this quality gives it the ability for it to be envisioned the way the architect chooses it to be.