How do buildings talk? Embodied experience in the Rolex Learning Centre

The Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010, curated by Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima, co-founder of Tokyo-based practice SANAA, included a remarkable twenty-four-minute 3D film by the German director Wim Wenders depicting the practice’s Rolex Learning Centre in Switzerland. Entitled If Buildings Could Talk, the film ran in a continuous loop, without a tangible beginning or end, much like the building itself. Invited by SANAA to develop the film, Wenders found himself confronted with a new type of space that he had no prior experience of, and no vocabulary to describe: ‘The Rolex Learning Centre’, said Wenders during a talk given at the Biennale, ‘is more landscape than building.’

Yang, J., Hale, J., Blackman, T. How do buildings talk? Embodied experience in the Rolex Learning Centre. arq: Architectural Research Quarterly, Volume 25, Issue 1, March 2021, Pages 83-92.

Coping Without Noticing: Buildings as ‘Tool-Beings’

Bringing Graham Harman’s philosophy into direct confrontation with contemporary architectural theory in new and creative ways, Is There an Object-Oriented Architecture? provides a dialogue between Harman and six of the world’s leading architectural thinkers, Adam Sharr, Lorens Holm, Jonathan Hale, Peg Rawes, Patrick Lynch and Peter Carl.

Harman’s object-oriented philosophy is one that sees the universe as a carnival of equal “objects” with no hierarchy between humans and nonhumans. In his model, unicorns, triangles, bicycles, neutrons, and humans are all things with enduring essences that outlast their partial transformations. It is a strikingly democratic vision of the universe that knocks humans off their ontological pedestal as arbiters of what is real. It also radically challenges the very precepts of architectural theory, the structure of which remains stubbornly human-centric as it seeks to give form to the human being’s place at the centre of the cosmos.

Hale, J., “Coping Without Noticing: Buildings as ‘Tool-Beings’,” Ch. 7 in Is there an Object Oriented Architecture? Engaging Graham Harman, ed. Bedford, J., London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020. ISBN 9781350133464

The ‘Tectonic Sensibility’ in Architecture: From the Pre-Human to the Post-Human

Link to journal website

This paper argues for a new definition and a broader application of tectonic theory in architecture. It extends the traditional understanding of tectonics as a bodily feeling for the physical materiality of constructional elements, in order to form the basis of a more generalized notion of a bodily sensibility towards the ‘the way things are’. The discussion is informed by an evolutionary perspective on the relationship between technology and human embodiment, suggesting links between the ‘pre-human’ and the ‘post-human’. It offers a reassessment of an often overlooked but pivotal insight evident in the work of both André Leroi-Gourhan and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, that the human and the technological are mutually co-constitutive. It explores this notion in the light of recent research in archaeology, evolutionary, psychology, philosophy and neuroscience.

Hale, J., The ‘Tectonic Sensibility’ in Architecture: From the Pre-Human to the Post-Human, Nottingham French Studies, Volume 59 Issue 3, Page 350-367, ISSN 0029-4586. [Available Online Dec 2020].

Keywords: architecture, technology, embodiment, tectonics, evolution, language, André Leroi-Gourhan, Maurice Merleau-Ponty

History: Evans Vettori Architects

In celebration of 25 years of the multi award-winning Derbyshire based practice Evans Vettori Architects, this book describes a selection of built and unbuilt projects across a range of building types and sectors.

Coordinated by RIBA Journal editor Hugh Pearman, the book features written contributions from practitioners and academics including Prue Chiles, Barry Joyce, and the late historian and theorist Professor Peter Blundell Jones, this lavishly illustrated book demonstrates how an in-depth analysis of programme, place and history can inform the design process, resulting in buildings that are both innovative and forward-thinking, while remaining deeply rooted in their time and location.

Hale, J., “History”, in Pearman, H., (ed.), Evans Vettori: A Sense of Place, Matlock: Knowleston Press, 2020, pp. 19-47.

Body Schema

Understanding Merleau-Ponty book cover image

“For Merleau-Ponty the body is not an object, but rather a set of possibilities for action in a given environment: an orientation toward the world that is—in essence—our very means for “having a world” as such. If our sense of space in the world around us is grounded by our “inner” sense of the body’s own spatiality, then it is important for Merleau-Ponty to describe the means by which this sense of bodily spatiality emerges. For this he posits the existence of what he called a schéma corporel, a body schema which operates below the level of conscious awareness, even while it remains open to gradual modification to suit the particular demands of a given spatial situation…”.

Understanding Merleau-Ponty, Understanding Modernism brings into dialogue Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology with modernist art, literature, music, film and neurophysiological discoveries, opening up the complexities of the philosopher’s phenomenology of perception to a broader audience across the arts.

Hale, J., “Body Schema”, In: Mildenberg, A., ed., Understanding Merleau-Ponty, Understanding Modernism, New York NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, pp. 295-296. ISBN 9781501302718.

Reciprocal Control in Adaptive Environments

Computing has become an established part of the built environment by augmenting it to become adaptive, and we generally assume that we control the adaptive environments that we inhabit. Using an adaptive environment prototype, we conducted a controlled study testing how the reversal of control (where the environment attempts to influence the behaviour of the inhabitant) would affect participants. Most participants changed their respiratory behaviour in accordance with this environmental manipulation. Behavioural change occurred either consciously or unconsciously. We explain the two different paths leading participants to behavioural change: (i) we adapt the model of interbodily resonance, a process of bodily interaction observable between, for example, partners engaged in verbal dialogue, to describe the unconscious bodily response to subtle changes in the environment and (ii) we apply the model of secondary control to describe conscious cognitive adaptation to the changing environment.

Jaeger, N., Schnadelbach, H., Hale, J., Kirk, D., and Glover, K., Reciprocal Control in Adaptive Environments, Interacting with Computers, 2017: 29(1), 1-18.

For earlier publications please see online listings at: www.academia.edu

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