Architecture Program


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From: Rumiko Handa, Allure of the Incomplete, Imperfect, and Impermanent: Designing and appreciating architecture as nature. London and New York, Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, pp. 1–15.


Copyright © 2015 Rumiko Handa.


For as long as we can remember, architects have operated with the notion that a building is complete when construction is finished, and that any subsequent alterations are degeneration. They strive to make the building perfect and wish to keep it so permanently. The notion that a building is complete when construction is finished is problematic in a number of ways. First, it does not reflect reality. After construction is finished, people move in and events take place, and alterations inevitably are made as people’s needs change and the building becomes obsolete. In fact the “afterlife” is the very “life” of the building. Second, this fallacy — so called because it falsely represents reality — has allowed the architect’s intention to take priority over the users’ reactions. In professional and educational settings, as well as during design and in criticism, we focus on how design and execution meet the architect’s intention. As a result, the experts’ culture has alienated the life-world of the everyday. And third, this idealism leads us to neglect a certain architectural value, which may be characterized as ontological significance. I am advocating that we incorporate into the way we produce and evaluate architecture not only reality but also the value of incomplete, imperfect, and impermanent architecture. So doing requires a diagnosis of the prevailing ways of thinking about architecture as well as a prescription. This book first digs deep into the epistemological root of the notion that has led us to expect a piece of architecture to be perfect and complete permanently. The book then examines concrete instances of incomplete, imperfect, and impermanent architecture, drawing from three distinct classes: synecdoche, palimpsests, and wabi, the Japanese ethics and aesthetics of tea. The last section of the book articulates a way of thinking that finds value in incomplete, imperfect, and impermanent architecture, using as its guide recent developments in philosophy, in particular the aesthetics of nature. It explores representational means of architecture in light of the newly constructed intellectual framework, as those predominant in professional scenes prove insufficient.

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