Chapter 1 of 24
Bernard Tschumi, Paris, 1995
I always felt that architecture was as much about spaces as about the events that take place in those spaces, and that under no circumstance could an architect ignore the disturbing or disrupting factor that the use that one would make of one's building would have on the building. In other words, that always you had to look at architecture in relationship to the way it was being used, not at all in a functionalist manner - I don't believe there's a cause and effect relationship between a function and a type of space - but very much how they bounce against one another, how the action and spaces come to play, interact, reinforce or contradict one another.
The first time this began as a sort of serious piece of investigation was long before I was interested in starting to build. At the time - I must have been twenty eight to thirty - I was interested in the definition of architecture, what is architecture, and of course everybody knows what architecture is about, it's solid, you can say it's, as Le Corbusier said, the correct and magnificent player of volumes under the light. But I felt that was a wrong definition because, again, people were running in those spaces and people were somehow changing the nature of those spaces according to what would happen in them. Let me give you an example. If you are in a hall, if this hall is used as a hockey rink, it's not the same is if it's used as a concert hall, even if the architecture is the same. Somehow one plays against the other.
First I was really fascinated by film, by cinema, because what is film, it's space entered by protagonists, people who move around but acting within the space in such a way that you could say that space was a protagonist. Some movie-makers, Orson Welles, could be extreme, and of course very early on these people had some influence on my work probably more than architecture theorists, like Eisenstein or Vertov and the early twenties movie film makers. They meant architecture as a form or montage and not as architecture as composition. I've always been very much against the idea of composition. The painterly approach to architecture which suppresses the notion of time was always a no, no. In a sense one had to integrate the action of time and the idea that you could simultaneously perceive a space, movement through it, the movement of bodies in that space. Of course that could be materialised through ramps, stairs and so on. And of course the program itself.
There is this wonderful notation by the film-maker Eisenstein for the film "Alexander Nevsky" where you see those strips, where at the top you see the shots. then you see a mode of notation that explains the movement of the camera, then another mode of another strip of notation that explains the intensity of the music, the sound, because there was sound played by Shostakovich as related to the movement of the camera and the symbolism of the images, and of course the action itself. And the simultaneous transcription of image, movement, sound and the narrative was to me a very interesting parallel to what architecture was. Architecture was never pure space. It was always contaminated by event, action and so on.
While I was writing - because writing was an important mode of developing concepts, in other words through articles, "Architecture & Transgression", "The Pleasure Of Architecture", and so on, which talked always about that relationship between concept and experience - while I was writing, I was also trying to develop through drawings this relation between space, event and movement.
And that's how "The Manhattan Transcripts" came about where, (taking four urban archetypes)...