如果把这本书当做现代主义建筑的词典，其实也不尽然准确。正如书中所描述的那样，许多词汇在其诞生、使用、翻译与反思的过程中，字义会不可避免地发生改变。因此，这本2000年出版的书，其中对一些词汇的阐释，也必然会受那个时代的思潮所影响。所以，对于这本书更准确的描述，我想，应该是 A Dictionary of Modern Architecture in the late 20th century。
The introduction of the word ‘character’ into the architectural lexicon serves for discussing the relationships between built forms and the meanings behind these forms. While modernist critic Colin Rowe, by asserting that architecture’s meaning only presents in the immediate perception of visitors, attempted to erase ‘character’ from architectural vocabulary, the term was widely used and referred to during the 20th century. More recent discussion of this word was based on the phenomenological understanding of the ‘meaning’, inviting the subjective experience. One exponent of this idea is Christian Norberg-Schultz, who sees meaning as an outcome of character because the latter helps individuals to comprehend the atmosphere and identify themselves with the environment through the character of concrete forms. Another advocate is Dalibor Vesely, who argued that ‘character’ separates the built work and symbolic meaning so that once people perceive buildings as representational because of ‘character’, they disregard themselves should be part of the representation. Thus, the meaningfulness of architecture is partially deprived by ‘character’.
However, Vesely admittedly stated ‘character’ as a prime link with representation. Earlier architects and writers can testify this. There are five main senses of character in the 18th and 19th centuries - character as the expression buildings’ particular purpose, as the evocation of specific moods related to nature, as the expression of locality or place and theories of German Romantics.
(a) As an expression of purpose
Germain Boffrand wrote that every sort of buildings should have its signifying character by comparing architecture with poetry and drama in parallel. J.-F. Blondel continued this idea by differentiating 64 building genres.
(b) As the evocation of moods
L.-D. LeRoy, comparatively, suggested that the themes expressed by architecture could be drawn from the experience of nature. This contention is further developed by Lord Kames, who asserted the foundation of art is the creation of emotions, and Thomas Whately, who classified character into three kinds – emblematic, imitative and original, and praised the last type of character for its direct appeal to the spirit.
(c) As the expression of the locality
This is a notion developed by practices of picturesque landscape and architecture, which emphasizes the ‘unity of character’ that designs both the buildings and the landscape.
One of the most enthusiastic exponents of ‘character’ is Sir John Soane, using the term all the way discussed above, including discussing architecture’s relatedness to its natural settings, character to the use and light to the mood.
(d) German Romantics – ‘expressive character’
This theory of ‘expressive character’ was initially based on Goethe’s deduction that the truth of all art and architecture lay in the degree to which it expressed the character of its maker and later developed to the national identity. Regardless of the wide acknowledgment of this theory, the idea is challenged by John Ruskin that spectators might not recognize the building as the way intended by the builders. Ruskin further developed this theory by relating the visible characteristics of Gothic architecture to the mental tendencies of builders.
(e) Ambivalence towards character
Architect Viollet-le-Duc and his followers were fiercely opposed to the elucidation of architectural meaning according to the character types, viewing the integrity of structures as the only meaning a building could have.
Due to the influence of structural rationalism, there is a relative decline of ‘character’ in the early 20th century. Nevertheless, ‘character’ is still a term that is indispensable to architecture.
(a) Roger’s and Rossi’s interest in ambiente (distinguished by ‘history’/polemical, commitment to modern)
The story of ‘context’ begins when Ernesto Rogers criticized modernism for its tendency to make every work a prodigy without the consideration of location in the 1950s. The term used by Rogers initially were ‘le preesistenze ambientali’ (surrounding pre-existences), or ‘ambiente’ and his concept stresses on the importance of the historical continuity manifested by the city and existing in the minds of its occupants. For Rogers, preesistenze ambientali and history are indissolubly linked, which is referred to T.S. Eliot’s comment that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.
Aldo Rossi, however, criticises Roger’s l’ambiente because it was insufficient concrete and he argues that it could be made concrete once we study architectural forms, independently of their functions. Rossi asserts that these built forms are the only tangible points of contact between the economic processes of cities because these forms documented through the verifiable histories of land development and partition and also the vagueness of the ‘collective historical consciousness’.
(b) Rowe’s interest in context (formal/between the modernist and pre-modernist city/contextualism)
Colin Rowe and Rogers shared the same distaste for ‘prodigy’ architecture the modernism supposition that the particularity of every building requires a unique solution. Nevertheless,
1. Rowe concentrated on the formal properties of the work of architecture, instead of Roger’s concern over the dialectical relationship between history and architecture.
2. Rowe was more interested in the relationships objects and the spaces they occupied, instead of Roger’s of the environment as formed by objects, monuments.
3. Contextualism seeks to explain the ways in which idealized forms can be adjusted to a context and extract systems of the geometric organization from any given context as design tools.
In the late 1970s, Rowe began to avoid the word ‘context’ and ‘contextual’ after his final testament of contextualism with Koetter – Collage City (1978).
(c) Reservations about ‘context’
Soon after, the reservations towards the term ‘context’ were voiced more widely in the 1980s. It is recognized as architects’ collective confidence about the possibility of adding on and intervening anywhere.
(a) ‘Design’ in relation to architecture
In the mid-twentieth century, although being encumbered to a certain degree, architecture suffered from attempts of subsuming it as ‘design’. This confusion between architecture and design derives from the meaning of the word ‘design’ itself:
1. As a verb, it describes the process of preparing instructions for a building.
2. As a noun, it comes from the Italian word disegno (drawing) and used routinely as synonymous for the drawings of architects in English in the 17th century.
3. Additionally, ‘the design’ could be referred to as ‘the object’ executed from the instructions (e.g. I like the design).
Whether the word ‘design’ implicates ‘drawing’ or ‘work executed’, there is an equivalence between ‘artistic idea’ and its representation as the design is traditionally taken as a visual expression of the concept since the Italian Renaissance. In the 1930s, the modernism practitioners appropriated ‘design’ and stated that if ‘form’ was to be a primary category of architecture, then ‘design’ is its necessary accomplice. During this time, ‘design’ was regarded as a substitute for ‘composition’ and it is no mere substitute.
The pervasiveness of ‘design’ is also to do with the polarities it set up – between design and construction and this separation of design from materialised practice allows architecture to be taught as a mental product. However, the supported existence of design caused certain suspicion for its potential of degrading manual work.
(b) ‘Design’ in relation to commodities and consumer goods
In this sense, it implied the sense of ‘good design’. From the early 18th century onwards, there has been a debate over the pursuit of luxury. Although being contested by some, the idea of luxury was regarded as advantageous to society because the wealth could circulate and selfish passions would be turned into a socially acceptable form of rivalry if the objects are well designed.
(c) ‘Design’ as a means of economic competition
‘Design’ as an added value for consumers.
(a) A controversial and confusing word
Flexibility has been used since the 1950s to redeem functionalism from determinist excess by introducing time and the unknown and by the 1960s, it is recognized as an axiom of architectural design. Nevertheless, ‘flexibility’ is controversial in several aspects:
(1) Leaving the building incomplete for the future to decide suggests denial of architects’ responsibility bound up with the action the they take;
(2) Architect’s involvement in a building ceases when occupation began, yet ‘flexibility’ gives architects the illusion of projecting their control into the future, which is beyond the period of their actual responsibility.
(3) The word also performs two contradictory roles – it serves to extend functionalism and resist functionalism (see (b) (3)).
(b) Strategies to identify ‘flexibility’ in architecture
As explained by Rem Koolhaas, the spatial redundancy is a characteristic of many pre-modern buildings where rooms were not dedicated to specific uses like the Arnhem panopticon.
(2) Flexibility by technical means
This kind of flexibility is initially achieved by making elements of the building – walls, windows and even floors – movable. In the post-war period, the focus shifted away to the lightweight building structures and mechanical services.
(3) As a political strategy
This use of flexibility is based on the objection towards capitalism, which removes individual freedom of domestic life, leisure and space into functional components and commodities with an exchange value. Resistance to such abstract space, for Lefebvre, can be affected by appropriation through user’s realization of space’s flexibility and multifunctionality.
（to be continued）