Image Credit: http://www.goldendrum.com/news/gd-column-20122/
In attempting to unpack the true workings of wholeness, people often run into several major mental roadblocks. This happens because, most of the time, they have never been exposed to this kind of thinking. The architecture schools of today do a very good job at teaching wordplay.
First, they hunger for definitions. A kind of dictionary that they can carry around in their pockets to 'fact-check' arguments and reshuffle the meanings. They have been trained to regurgitate these definitions rather than actually lay out their thoughts. They lose touch with reality, disparage unfamiliar ways of writing, and resort to complaints about how unclear the whole issue is.
Second, they think with a certain kind of logic. A logic that muzzles human intuition in a profound way. A logic that is somehow constructed so as to deny the valid and reliability of human feelings (and human life in general) and, therefore, the possibility of true connectedness. It is a modern logic that treats all life as a machine. All life.
It is very important to dissect two particular, disastrous strains of this logic: first, they say that if I look at a thing - a building, a plant, a painting, ect. - and call it whole, then I have destroyed that thing by projecting my own feelings (by calling it whole) on to it. The object no longer stands as a "thing in and of itself" - to go against this in architectural circles is a sin. But it gets even better, because the second thing these people say is that wholeness is distracting from other social arrangements. That it was pointless to talk about it from the outset. Wholeness is uncritical they say, lacking in rigor and meaningfulness for our profession.
So I can't call something whole because then I will destroy it, but calling something whole to begin with was a complete waste of energy. To these people, which sadly encompasses the majority of architectural discourse, you are better off just never opening your mouth. You are, literally, dammed if you do - do anything other than what they are doing.
The father of this movement was Jacques Derrida. He wanted no part of Hegel's dialect which he felt was full of contradictions. Allegedly, Michel Focualt told Derrida privately that his "text is written so obscurely that you can't figure out exactly what the thesis is and when one criticizes it, the author says,You misunderstood me; you are an idiot" - this sounds like a familiar sentiment to me.
Yet, somehow, Derrida is the patron saint of deconstructivist architects or, at the very least, he is the patron saint of Peter Eisenman. Contemporary architects love to throw a quote of Derrida's around and revise it using one word. "There is nothing outside the text." (from Of Grammatology) Can you guess what that word is? Here's a hint: the word is building.
I have now arrived at, what I believe, to be the prevailing attitude of the times. And it goes like this: There is nothing outside the building. Because this is taken literally, we end with buildings, like those of Libeskind, Hadid, Mayne, Ghery, Koolhaus, that project this message out into the world. If there really is nothing outside of the building, then who are we building for? For just the building? Are there no people living in this deconstructivist world of buildings? This is the predominant worldview that allows professionals and designers to truly be "free" and do whatever the hell they want to in their heads, draw it up, and send it off to the factory.
The discussion of wholeness does not involve this kind of worldplay trash. It is something far more accessible, far simpler to understand when you open yourself up to it. It is the ontological aspect of wholeness - the nature of wholeness - that is still elusive and mysterious. Progress has been made in biology, mathematics, and other life sciences in this regard. But the group of people who are still resistant to it, the group that needs it the most, are architects.
I'm sure that this will be an unsatisfying explanation for certain people because it is not nearly as scientific or rational as they are hoping for. But either way, I still lose in their view because then the "science" that I provide will be seen as "not really science". Same goes for "defining wholeness".
The bottom line: if all you have are words, then everything around you are words. This is a limiting worldview. It may bother people to hear this, but it is the first step toward undoing the architecture that diminishes human life.
This document is a collection of thoughts, ideas, sketches, and observations of a young architecture student living in the 21st century. It is intended to serve as a resource and vehicle for personal connections that extend beyond virtual domains. The main subject of this blog is an inquiry into the elusive nature of wholeness. The purpose is to identify wholeness-making building methodologies and examples of 'whole architecture' throughout history.