Architecture, Bruno Latour, Peter Sloterdijk

Spheres / Networks: a philosophy of (being-in) space?

Just like my previous two posts, this post is meant to set a task for myself by exploring a theme that has been on my mind for a couple of days now. As before, due to the ‘explorationary’ character the content is really provisional.

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It seems to me that both Sloterdijk’s and Latour’s philosophy can be seen as philosophies of space. For instance, Sloterdijk’s Spheres trilogy is one big, obsessive answer to the question ‘where are we?’: it sees the totality of the world in terms of the creation of different kind of spaces. The history of spheres is the history of human existence (according to S.): we are because we participate in the constant creation of spheres and we share this space as a ‘immune’, ‘innerweltliche’ spheres by constantly ‘breathing’ its air. We could compare these spheres to Latour’s stabilized networks. By this it could be made clear that in a way spheres / networks only are in existence in as far they are being performed by actors or ‘breathed’ by its inhabitants. Following Latour we could say that networks only stay in existence during the course of time, as long as they are being ‘materialized’. Networks are present as long as they keep on multiplying this present: we could say, with Latour, that the world is made out of networks which are real as ‘infinite presents’. As for Sloterdijk, we can only breathe as long as we keep the air clean, present and thus ‘breathable’.

Following Sloterdijk/Latour, Spheres/Networks, we could say that time is folded in space. This can be seen as an abstraction of Latour’s description of Paris as an ‘invisible city’. He describes how objects like fences along the roadside in the centre of Paris, trafficlights, traffic islands and the road itself can be seen as ‘enabling devices’: they make save movement possible, but they also limit and the determine our conduct. We’re not obeying some invisible force here; these are men made (designed) devices which are there to make public and social life possible. Apart from this, it is important that these traffic-related objects represent a whole network of labour and that they contain all the labour that has been done in the past to make any such device possible. This makes clear that, firstly, objects (and people) are always part of a network and are carrying out network-building activities and, secondly and more abstract, they are foldings of all this, previous, network-building labour. With regard to this, it can be said that all objects contain their own invention and are in a way the material continuation of this process.
It must be clear that this means an obsessive attention to space. The fact that Latour sees reality as a fluctuation of present moments, means that every present moment for him is really ‘present space’. Tv’s, refrigerators, cars and computers are all foldings of the passing of time. Tv’s contain their own invention but they also contain the knowledge and existence of waves, colour and electricity. Networks last, expressed in time, because they are a chain of alignments that exist in a particular way only at this present moment. They are lasting because they are present and they are present because they last. As for Sloterdijk, spheres are always activities of the creation of space.

This explains why I would like to work toward an understanding of architecture and design as ways in which space is given and created: it creates a specific kind of space, it occupies space, it determines what space looks like or is supposed to be ‘doing’. Architecture (and design) could be seen as ‘enabling devices’: it enables us to use and occupy space in a specific way and gives meaning to the existence of space. So this is the task I would like to set for myself: an understanding of (the meaning of) Foam architecture, of Latourian design. I will be searching for articles on this subject and continue reading Spheres: Foam.


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