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Phenomenal Deformations: Affordance as an Architectural Design Tool to Deal with Subject-Object Complementarity in Occupancy Evaluation

Authors:

Abstract

This paper analyses the concept of affordance by Gibson (1979) as a suitable tool to deal with occupancy in terms of subject-object complementarity because it addresses the ecological value of an object, i.e. its value in relation to a perceiving subject. The first problem posed by the concept of affordance, hence, is how the subject can be identified given the variety of real occupants which interact with a certain environment. The common answer is to address only those general aspects which are in common between all the subjects, i.e. the ones which define individuals as members of broader categories. But more general the description of subjects, more elementary the needs which the project can address. For this reason a different approach considering subjects in their singularity is needed in order to shift towards more personal aspects of inhabitation. The concept of affordance must therefore go beyond a physiological dimension of the subject which applies to the whole mankind and it must deal also with the cultural and the individual dimensions. However these are not the guarantee for a definition of the subject as person, because the cultural and individual dimensions can derive from schemes of behavior uncritically absorbed from the context due to habituation. Activities accomplished on the basis of a personal critique and those accomplished on the basis of habit differ with regard to the length of the interval they entail between the action received from the environment and subject's reaction. Indeed, more critical the attitude, longer the time needed to process data received from the environment. Time is not considered here as a sum of instants, but as an unitary event having a specific character. For this reason, Bakhtin's idea of chronotope can be useful in the definition of an affordance-based architectural approach which spans the different dimension of the subject, from the more general to the more personal ones. Indeed, each of the chronotopes identified by Bakhtin can exemplify a different type of interaction between the subject and his environment, thus providing criteria to realize it.
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ARQUITECTONICS
MIND, LAND & SOCIETY
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Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC),
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Unicef - United Nations Children's Fund
Ciudades Amigas de la Infancia
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Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia)
Universities and Research of Catalonia
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Josue Nathan Martinez
Jose Calvet
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Mind, Land & Society
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Photography: Josep Muntanola; Plaza in front of the
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Edition:
Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya
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ISBN-13 978-84-09-02652-4
©2018, ARQUITECTONICS and Josep Muntanola
May 2018
COMPILED BY
Josep Muntanola
Head of the Conference
Magda Saura
Associate and collaboration
INDEX
INDICE
INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………..…….6
TEACHING ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN PLANNING IN THE UNIVERSITY………....7
1. Emergencia en la Educación de Posgrado. El caso de la Experiencia
Educativa “Taller de Innovación Arquitectónica” de la Maestría en
Arquitectura de la Universidad Veracruzana, México. Luis Arturo Vázquez
Honorato ,Selim A. Castro Salgado ,Bertha Lilia Salazar Martíne.....................8
2. La aproximación al proyecto a través de la investigación. La experiencia
metodológica del taller de proyectos III-IV de la EAUUS sede concepción.
Dr. Valentina Ortega Culaciati……………………………………………………………………………..23
3. Dubai Creek Maritime Museum Comprehensive Architectural Studio,
Spring 2017 “A Tectonic Study”
Assistant Professor George Newlands, Assistant Professor Igor Peraza……………...38
4. Society spatial inscription and representations of the places of the
medina of Tunis: Pedagogical experience. Férida Sellem……………………………..…45
5. Docencia colaborativa. En busca de la condición humana en las
investigaciones sobre las teorías y las prácticas de los proyectos
arquitectónicos y urbanísticos.
Laura Mendoza Kaplan, José Francisco Javier Kuri Camacho……………………………..54
TEACHING ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN EDUCATION TO CHILDREN……..……...72
6. Fortaleciendo lazos comunitarios desde la escuela.
Laura Mendoza Kaplan, Karla Elisa Carrillo Rodríguez…………………………………………43
7. Una mirada joven, un recuerdo futuro. Francisca Roger Espinosa……………..87
8. La evaluación del espacio público urbano en Morelia a partir de una
mirada inclusiva hacia la infancia. Dr. Júlia Beltran Borràs………………………..….100
THE GENERATION OF KNOWLEDGE IN ARCHITECTURAL STUDIOS RELATED
TO DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION OR USE………………………………………………..109
9. Phenomenal Deformations: Affordance as a Design Tol to Deal with
Subject-Object Complementarity in Architecture. Andrea Zammataro…….. 110
10. Found / Lost in translation. Translating procedures as conceptual tools
for the Project of architecture. Vanna Castarello………………………………………...120
11. Identidades y movimientos en el espacio urbano. Identidad, lugar y
arquitectura. Reflexiones en torno a la relevancia de la interacción en la
construcción del espacio. Jorge Sánchez Bajo Pablo Campos Calvo-Sotelo…..127
DESIGNING DIGITAL TOOLS FOR A BETTER DESIGN………………………………………...146
12. Microtopografías y superposiciones: estudio comparado de las superficies
en las ciudades de Barcelona y São Paulo. Prof. Dr. Diego Pérez-Rial……………147
SOCIAL PARTICIPATION IN PLANNING AND THE CONCEPT OF PLACE
CONSIDERED A DESIGN PRODUCT…………………………………………………… 169
13. Reflexiones para la construcción de resiliencia territorial, a través del diseño
de vivienda social en el Posconflicto. Popayán-Colombia.
Arq. Liliana Vargas Agredo………………………………………………………………………………...170
14. The Cohesive Urban Social Fabric Between Local Architectural Identity
and Climatic Response. Ahmed Kaihoul…………………………………………….180
TOOLS AND THEORIES FOR THE SOCIAL EVALUATIONS OF BUILDINGS AND
CITIES (PUBLIC SPACES AND BUILDINGS)…………………………………………...193
15.Desarrollo urbano-turístico, transformaciones y permanencias en la
arquitectura local. Matheus José Rigon, Margarita Barretto……………………………194
16. Hostels urbanos y arquitecturas recicladas.
Arq.Dra.María de Miguel Pastor………………………………………………………………………….206
TOOLS AND THEORIES FOR THE SOCIAL EVAUATION OF BUILDINGS AND
CITIES (SOCIAL HOUSING)……………………………………………………………..213
17. El Roble, Autoproducción asistida en asentamiento autogestionado de
Xalapa, Veracruz.
Sandra Irene Prieto González, Carlos Misael Colorado López…………………………. 214
DESIGN AND SOCIAL HISTORY: HERITAGE, HISTORY AND URBAN FORMS………227
18. Learning form redrawing the ancient city of Naples: the weaving,
the thickness and the tonalities of non-monumental historical Palazzo.
Alberto Calderoni, Marianna Ascolese, Vanna Casterello,
Lugiemanuele Amabile…………………………………………………………………………………….228
19. Preservation of the Great Sites in China, Han Chang’an City
as Case Study. Jingyu Xiao……………………………………………………………………………….. 239
THE MUSEUM AND THE CITY OF TODAY………………………………………………249
20. The exhibition Design in the face of complexity: Inter-active story
from design to user experience. Nawel Bani, Ahlem Ben Abdelsalem……...250
21. I came to look at it as part of a city, rather than part of a museum. It’s a
fragment of the urban experience…It’s a space of our time. Kali Tzortzi……261
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Phenomenal Deformations: Affordance as a Design Tool
to Deal With Subject-Object Complementarity in
Architecture
Andrea Zammataro
Politecnico di Milano-ABC PhD
candidate e-mail: andrea.zammataro@polimi.it
ABSTRACT
The production of knowledge related to the architectural project during the design phase mainly
concerns the object in itself, while its relationship with occupants is an underrated factor for design
success. This is due to the fact that architecture as a formal design field is naturally devoted to deal
with the physical and geometric characteristics of the design object identified in unequivocal ways,
while occupancy implies a degree of subjectivity and contingency which phenomenally deforms the
object into its many manifestations.
This paper analyses the concept of affordance by Gibson (1979) as a suitable tool to deal with
occupancy in terms of subject-object complementarity because it addresses the ecological value of
an object, i.e. its value in relation to a perceiving subject and not in itself. The first problems posed
by the concept of affordance, hence, is how the subject can be identified given the variety of real
occupants which interact with a certain environment. The common answer is to address only those
aspects which are in common between all the subjects, i.e. the ones who define occupants as
members of a species. At this level, indeed, occupants are natural subjects, which can only express
basic needs to be met by sensorimotor activities, and for this reason a different approach
considering the subject as culturally and also individually defined is needed in order to shift from an
automatism of inhabitation to the self-determination of occupancy. Affordance must therefore be
considered in a broader context going beyond sensorimotor activities and dealing also with upper
cognitive faculties. However, an affordance related to a culturally-defined subject does not entail
self-determination per se, since also cultural and individual schemes can be absorbed without the
exercise of critique due to habituation. Activities driven by natural, cultural or individual schemes
differ with regard to the interval they entail between the action received by the environment and
subject's reaction. Indeed, more individuality is implied, longer the time needed to process data
received from the environment. Time is here intended not as an extensive but as an intensive
dimension. This means that it cannot be considered as a sum of instants, but an unitary event having
a specific character. This is the concept of duration in Bergson, as opposed to spatialized time, and
it also recalls Bakhtin's idea of chronotope.
In the overall framework interweaving design activity and time through cognition, chronotopes can
be useful in the definition of an affordance-based architectural approach. Indeed some chronotopes
describing duration in its becoming are related to the contingent and direct relationship between the
subject and his object which is expressed by the concept of affordance.
The present paper aims at understanding how these contributions from cognitive sciences, literature,
philosophy and semiotics can allow architects to improve affordance as a design tool starting from a
review of the state of the art. At the end, some case studies from the past which address the question
of a self-determined occupancy are proposed as exemplary of an affordance-based approach to
architecture.
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The identity of occupants: who is the subject of the subject-object duality?
The interest of affordance in the architectural field resides in its ability to grasp the project in
complementary terms with regard to the occupant. It therefore raises a question concerning the
identity of the occupant who must be defined in order to define the project in its turn. This identity
is very generic, due to the fact that affordance mainly concerns sensorimotor activities which
engage the occupant as a representative of mankind, i.e. a plain natural subject which is not
culturally or individually defined. Culture and individuality rather partake different kinds of
activities, notably the higher cognitive ones drawing upon customs and personal experience
respectively. There is no preferential dimension of subjectivity to be considered during the design
process, because the occupant is a natural, cultural and individual subject at the same time, even if
he expresses these subjectivities one at a time, depending on the specific situation he is dealing
with. Each situation, indeed, confronts the occupant with a particular need to be fulfilled by
executing the correct activity. Both needs and activities can be ordered into a scale in relation with
the increasing level of subject's cognitive engagement. This paper draws upon two existing models
to accomplish this task. These models have been reviewed by scholars since their first appearance in
order to make them more flexible to particular cases, but they are here presented in their original
version because their supposed rigidity achieves a clarity which is lost in its following formulations,
and which is useful to recover for the purposes of this paper. As far as the scale of needs is
concerned, the model is the Maslow's hierarchy (1943), while with regard to activities the model is
Piaget's stages of cognitive development (1972). Both models are based on a teleological
perspective which progresses from the lower to the upper steps of the scale. Actually, this finalist
progression must be updated in so far as the scale is not a path to be covered once and for all, but a
collection of conditions which are underwent by the subject depending on the situation and
determine which dimension of subjectivity he will express. Subjectivity can be defined as the
membership of the subject in different groups ordered in relation to their dimension, which
indicates the strictness of criteria must be met to be their member, so that in parallel the subject, as
member of these different groups, is defined in increasingly individual terms as the membership
criteria become stricter and stricter. The levels of individuality depend on the type of schemata the
subject adopts to perceive reality. Indeed schemata are strategies of interpretation and abstraction
based on codes which can shared among members of groups varying in size. Individuals, as
members of humankind, share some natural schemata which are common to all men, while as
members of a cultural community or disciplinary practice share other kinds of schemata which
apply to smaller and smaller groups as the specificity of membership increases. At the extreme of
the scale, the individual is member of a group constituted by one only person: himself. As member
of the group composed by himself, he adopts very original schemata, drawing on his personal
experience and memory. This last kind of membership allows a very transactive relationship
between the subject and his environment, in the sense that a major involvement of his personality is
implied. Therefore the levels of transaction increase in inverse proportion with respect to the
extension of the group: as individual, the subject's interaction with environment is aware, as
member of a cultural community this interaction is customary and as member of humankind it is
instinctive. However, the subject does not decide which membership he must express, rather
membership, and therefore the adoption of related schemata, is contextual: it depends on the
situation. For instance, only in professional contexts the subject expresses his membership to a
disciplinary group, and a deconstextualised expression of this membership is defined 'professional
deformation', that is an anomalous behaviour. As a general rule, the subject expresses his
membership depending on the situation, which in its turn requires from the subject the fulfilment of
different kinds of needs, from the physiological and safety ones shared by all men to the higher ones
related to self-esteem and self-actualization which are personally interpreted. The subject must
perform higher cognitive activities to fulfil higher needs, and therefore higher needs elicit
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consciousness. Since the hierarchy of needs seems to parallel personal growth, the membership of
the subject could be imagined as a series of stages which are achieved step by step. Indeed, the
characteristics of the subject as member of each group recalls the characteristics of the child in the
various stages of his cognitive development. However, the Piagetian model of cognitive
development can only be used to understand the behaviour of the subject as member of different
groups, and must not be adopted in its temporal formulation, because membership, for the purpose
of this paper, depends on the context, and not on the age.
Variations upon the concept of affordance: from direct experience to the
routinization of perception
If subjectivity is manifold, the suitability of the concept of affordance to deal with its various
dimensions must be discussed. Indeed, many researchers proposed to extend the concept of
affordance to cultural and individual dimensions of subjectivity, as if the concept was intended by
Gibson to deal only with the plain natural subjectivity expressed by the occupant when engaged in
sensorimotor activities. Actually, the original interpretation of affordance by Gibson does not
restrict the adoption of affordance to sensorimotor activities. Rather, Gibson focuses on that
particular kind of affordance which is grasped during sensorimotor activities because his seminal
book was not devoted to the study of human being in particular, but of the animal in general. Of
course, only the very basic dimension of natural subjectivity is shared among the totality of
different animals, and this led Gibson to concentrate mainly on lower cognitive activities.
Nevertheless, in some specific chapters which act as digression upon the specific case of human
being, Gibson shortly refers to affordances typical of social activities embedded with a cultural
content. For instance, he writes about the affordance of the postbox with regard to letter-mailing, by
specifying that this affordance is manifest to a letter-writing human in a community with a postal
system, that is a case where both the need of the human (letter-writing) and the rules to fulfill it (the
postal system) are culturally based.
However, the cultural aspects of affordance, i.e. those dimensions which are enacted by the subject
as bearer of a cultural code, were not specifically explored by Gibson and were addressed only
years later by Norman (1988). In his book 'The Design of Everyday Things', Norman clearly
acknowledges that the perception of affordances also depends on semantic, cultural and logical
constraints. This assertion made him oppose the idea that the perception of affordance is immediate,
because the aforementioned constraints require cognitive operations upon the data of perception
which take time. These operations consist in conferring meaningful unity to a bundle of sensations
analytically perceived through channels and subsequently matched to what Norman calls 'prestored
templates', i.e. schemata. This is not an innocuous extension of the concept of affordance, but a
complete reversal if we consider that Gibson, influenced by Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka,
supported the idea that unity was not a product, but the starting point of perception, where no
channels exist neither elaborations occur, so that it did not need time to be grasped. Nevertheless,
the analytical hypothesis by Norman is suddenly reformulated by Norman himself in synthetic
terms. Indeed, once schemata gain an increasing role in determining the way the bundle of
sensations must be perceived, the analysis of sensations themselves is automatized and perception
actually becomes immediate and synthetic also in the case of cultural affordances. Therefore,
Normans' conclusion about the adoption of the concept of affordance into architecture and design in
general is that the project must comply with schemata in order to be recognized by the occupant and
consistently used. In a similar way, Umberto Eco (1997), from the side of semiotics, suggested to
architects and designers to exploit existing processes of codification to denote the function of the
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object, otherwise it would become something ambiguous, capable of being interpreted in the light
of various different codes, so that it becomes suitable to any use imaginable and to none in
particular (Eco, 1997, p. 178). Anyway, this position should be updated, as nowadays the
globalization of capitalism and the individualization of consumption patterns make language
ineffective and architecture as well as industrial design are turning to affect as an uncoded, pre-
linguistic, and for this reason universal, form of identity for any subject (Spencer, 2016). The result
is that inhabitation is less about doing what some designer or manager explicitly intended in a space
and more about imaginative, ad hoc appropriation for unanticipated purposes (Mitchell, 2012, p.
154).
The real interest in the concept of affordance exactly lies in its suitability to move from the logic of
recognition expressed by Norman and Eco to the logic of encounter required by present times.
The immediacy of perception and the question of occupants' self-determination
Affordances, no matter if related to natural or cultural dimensions of subjectivity, have in common
the immediacy of perception due to the exploitation of natural and cultural schemata respectively. A
more conscious, and therefore proactive, engagement of occupants with regard to their environment
requires a reduction of these schemata and the fostering of the empirical character of affordances:
the immediate and automatic interpretation of the mechanisms of affordance represents an obstacle
towards the achievement of this goal. It is worth noting that Bergson (1910) introduced a discussion
upon free will at the end of his 'Essay upon the Immediate data of Consciousness'. To Bergson,
indeed, it must be noticed 'that we rise by imperceptible stages from automatic to free movements,
and that the latter differ from the former principally in introducing an affective sensation between
the external action which occasions them and the volitional reaction which ensues.' (Bergson, 1910,
p. 33). For the self-determination of the subject, hence, an interval is needed between the received
and the returned action, a temporal gap where consciousness prefigures what the automatic reaction
would be, and substitutes it with the invention of alternative, voluntary reactions. This temporal
gap, to Bergson, is an internal state of the subject he calls duration and he distinguished from the
spatialized time of scientific knowledge. Spatialized time is an abstraction which occurs once the
event is detected as the difference between a previous and a following state of affairs which become
the initial and final instants of a temporal partition operated on the flow of reality which is actually
continuous. The partition occurs according to schemata which select the starting and final instants
as coincident with states of affairs which are relevant for the subject. But before this operation is
performed by consciousness, the subject exactly lives reality as a flow, that means that the
extraction of the event is in its becoming and the temporal gap is therefore characterized by blurred
edges, as the individual experience surges on with every new piece of information which is brought
up by flowing reality (Keunen, 2008). At this point, schemata have not taken place yet, and this is
the reason why it represents the moment when the occupant, if allowed by the architect, can
redefine his relationship with the environment he lives in, by abandoning the 'prestored templates'
by Norman in favor of the constitution of his own templates, depending on his individuality and the
contingency of the situation. It is not surprising, then, that many techniques to achieve this goal
were defined in the context of research upon imagination, in particular in the artistic field, intended
as that faculty of human mind which allows to shift from repetition of existing standards to the
invention of new frameworks.
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A theoretical framework for the techniques of inventive occupancy
Techniques upon schemata consist in their reformulation rather than suppression, because schemata
cannot be simply suppressed. Indeed Karl Popper, from the side of epistemology, posited that
perception is either a corroboration or a refutation of a previous hypothesis formulated upon the
world: mind is not a passive receiver of sense impressions to be worked upon only in a later
moment (Zimmer, 2003). In the 60's Anton Ehrenzweig (1971), in the framework of a theory of
creativity, developed a technique with the aim of exercising a purely receptive faculty without the
mediation of schemata. He called this technique low-level vision, and it actually was a sort of
unfocused glance holding together figure and ground in a way that can be hardly called perception
and is not useful for action. The objective of practices upon schemata against the logic of
recognition, therefore, is not to suppress them, but to provide the subject with the tools suitable to
change them according to the situation, in order to be open to the encounter with the unexpected.
There are two aspects of the relationship between occupant and its environment which can be
operated to reassert or question schemata: the amount of new stimuli afforded by the environment,
which measures the pace of its transformation, and the state of consciousness of the subject, which
can vary between the passivity of reflexes and the proactivity of reasoning. Deleuze (1997) called a
strong or weak transformation of external conditions 'saturation' and 'rarification' respectively, while
with regard to the internal states of the subjects he talked about 'slowing down' when consciousness
draws upon preordained schemata to interpret reality and 'acceleration' in the opposite case, because
the different kinds of engagement with the environment distort the perception of time by the
subject. These two sets of aspects are interdependent. Indeed the routinization of stimuli afforded by
a steady environment ingrains some schemata, but at the same time the schemata produced this way
will reduce the attention to new stimuli produced by environmental conditions eventually changing.
However, if environment considerably changes, schemata cannot accommodate a large amount of
new stimuli and they must be reformulated.
The possible relationships between the variation in the environment and the variation in the
occupant are well exemplified by Bakhtin's minor chronotopes. It is worth noting that Bakhtin was
interested in the dynamics of imagination in the literary field, and therefore his contribution is
consistent with the research upon the inventive role of the occupant in relation to the environment
he inhabits. Keunen (2008) explicitly proposes a parallelism between the categories by Deleuze and
the chronotopes by Bakhtin. To Keunen ''the nature of the information (the amount of new stimuli)
on the one hand, and the degree of activity and passivity (the pace of the state of consciousness) on
the other hand are, in their mutual combination, responsible for the creation of four poles within
which the human experience of time oscillates'' (Keunen, 2008, p. 43). These poles can be
represented through some chronotopes identified by Bakhtin. The 'chronotope of the provincial
town', for instance, exemplifies those cases characterized by steady environmental conditions dealt
with in customary ways by the subject. It therefore represents the logic of recognition between the
occupant and the project. Instead, the 'chronotope of encounter' and the 'chronotope of the parlor'
are both characterized by the fact that they raise an alert attention from the side of the subject, who
is encouraged to question his own schemata, but for different reasons. Indeed in the first case the
reformulation of schemata is due to the novelty and unexpected character of the situation, while in
the second case the situation is not an accident, because the subject deliberately goes to the parlor to
attend to an encounter set in advance. Here the alert attention, and the necessity to continuously
reconsider his positions, are produced by the interactive and challenging character of the
relationship between the subject and a steady environment, rather than by the unexpected
transformation of environmental conditions. Then, the 'chronotope of the Gothic castle' is based on
the expectation of a situation which does not actually occur, and that in the specific case of the
castle is generated by the fear, while in general it takes place when the subject tries to adapt reality
to a schemata without success. Finally, the 'chronotope of the threshold' is characterized by a huge
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amount of new information which cannot be dealt with by the subject unless he completely
disavows his previous experiences and the schemata they produced. However, this break paralyses
action, and therefore the subject is unable to react to environmental stimuli.
From theory to practice: approaches from the past
The aforementioned chronotopes seems to suggest some techniques to operate schemata, thus
reducing the automatic character of the affordance in favor of its empirical grounding.
The first consideration is that, actually, only the 'chronotope of encounter' and the 'chronotope of the
parlor' describe a reformulation of schemata useful for the purposes of the present paper. Indeed the
'chronotope of the provincial town' just describes the ordinary conditions of perception driven by
preordained schemata, while the 'chronotope of the Gothic castle' and the 'chronotope of the
threshold' concern anomalous relationships between schemata and reality which undermine the
correct perception of the situation and the adequacy of consequent action. Therefore, only the
'chronotope of encounter' and the 'chronotope of the parlor' are further analyzed as far as their
possible influence on design practices is concerned.
These chronotopes both exploit the technique of defamiliarization, but with different focuses.
Defamiliarization was formalized at the beginning of the 20th century by Victor Shklovsky who
stated that ''the technique of art is to make objects 'unfamiliar,' to make forms difficult, to increase
the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself
and must be prolonged'' (Shklovsky, 1917, p. 277). The aim of Shklovsky was to confer to art a key
role in catalysing new forms of awareness with the aim of freeing the individual existence from
habituation, in a period characterized by the discussion about the effects of assembly lines upon
human cognition. Liberation from habituation required, as predicated by coeval logical empiricism,
a return to reality as it is perceived directly rather than as it is known through schemata, in order to
derive knowledge individually, on the basis of reasoning. This objective can be achieved in two
different ways. The first one focuses on the transformation of the subjective standpoint of
observation, so that the conflicting perspectives make the occupant acknowledge the variety of
possible schemata and offer the opportunity to make a conscious decision with regard to their
adoption. The second way, instead, is more focused on the characteristics of the environment, which
could be designed in order to confuse schemata, thus eliciting an alert attention from the side of
occupant who must formulate ad hoc interpretations to make sense of the situation. The paper
suggests that the latter case recalls the dynamics represented by the 'chronotope of the parlor'
because the environment is steady, and the occupant starts a sort of dialogue to better understand it.
On the contrary, the former case recalls the dynamics represented by the dynamics of the
'chronotope of encounter' because the environment undergoes disruptive tranformations, from a
phenomenological point of view, as the occupant changes perspective, but each time it is clearly
perceived.
In relation to the 'chronotope of encounter', techniques of defamiliarization in architecture can be
studied through the analysis of Joseph Albers' work. Albers was influenced by logical empiricism
due to the lessons of some empiricists at the Bauhaus in Dessau (Diaz, 2008). For instance, he
adopted strategies such as mirror writing as a teaching method to train his students in the
understanding of form independently of cultural schemata, due to the fact that writing letters from
the opposite side made students concentrate on the formal characteristics of the sign and on the
procedure to achieve those characteristics, which are instead automatically absorbed and reproduced
when the letter is written as usual. In more recent times, a similar technique to perceive
environment with new eyes was proposed by Bernard Tschumi (1996), who suggests to explore
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spaces through uses which transgress their program, for instance to experience a stairwell through
bungee jumping.
In relation to the 'chronotope of the parlor', instead, exemplary practices can be derived from radical
movements of the 60's and 70's. Guy Debord, an important representative of the International
Situationist, adopted a technique he called 'détournement' which essentially reinterpreted
the formalist technique of 'defamiliarization'. The linkage between the International Situationist
and architecture is represented by Constant Nieuwenhuys, who experimented what he calls the
'ancient powers of architectural confusion' in his unrealized project New Babylon
(Andreotti, 2001). Constant Nieuwenhuys also collaborated with Aldo van Eyck, an architect
who has, quite the opposite, lots of built projects. The proximity of Aldo van Eyck and
Constant Nieuwenhuys in particular is witnessed by their collaboration for the 'Man and House'
exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in 1953, as well as by van Eyck's article on
labyrinthine clarity published on the Situationist Times in 1963 (Sadler, 1999). Labyrinthine
clarity can be considered an architectural technique drawing upon occupants' consciousness with
the aim of suspending their preordained schemata and allow their reformulation. This couple of
contradictory terms refers on one hand to the difficult perception entailed by the labyrinth, as
well as the high level of attention it arises. On the other hand, the term 'clarity' indicates that once
the occupant is situated in the labyrinth, he can confer to it a meaning which is clear from the
subjective standpoint, but absolutely obscure from the exterior (Wellmer, 1991).
Conclusion: back to the emergent character of affordances
The objective of the paper was to understand to what extent the concept of affordance can be
adopted in architectural design. Indeed affordance is interesting as far as it implies a different
consideration of occupants, whose interaction with environment is proposed as emergent from the
anchoring of the subject in the world rather than as preordained in compliance to transcendent
norms. Nevertheless, the complementarity between occupants and environment determines a strong
influence of the latter on the former, so that the risk that occupants lose their self-determination and
are directed from the exterior arises. After all, the description of perception as an immediate process
which occurs without channels predicated by Gibson strengthens this idea of the occupant as a
passive subject. With the aim of interweaving the emergent character of affordance with an active
relationship with environment, the paper starts with a new definition of occupant entailing the
manifoldness of his subjectivity which explains how the attitude of the observer with regard to his
environment depends on the kind of activity he is carrying out: only those activities which engage
the higher cognitive faculties allow a critical attitude by the occupants' side and their active
engagement. Once the different kinds of subjectivity had been outlined, the paper further
investigated what is the applicability of affordance with their regard. While affordance is usually
related to lower cognitive activities due to the interest of Gibson in animals in general, the concept
can also be applied to higher tasks which have a cultural content, as illustrated by Norman.
However, both kinds of affordance have in common a certain automatism, in the first case due to
the elementary character of actions to perform, while in the second case due to the habituation
derived from the repetition of norms which can be set in the context of cultural or disciplinary
groups. These norms are absorbed by occupants as schemata which filter the relationship with
environment, so that the anchoring of the subject in the world is lost and perception becomes
recognition. The real interest in the concept of affordance, instead, exactly lies in its suitability to
move from the logic of recognition expressed by Norman to the logic of encounter, which allows
the occupant to address his own individuality coupled with the contingency of situation. The paper
therefore focuses on those techniques which are useful to achieve this goal by reducing the role of
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schemata in determining the way environment is perceived. These techniques start by
acknowledging that schemata are the product of habituation, and therefore explore strategies to
disrupt the routinization of perception, working on both the occupant and the environment. It is not
surprising, then, that many techniques to achieve this goal were defined in the context of research
upon imagination, in particular in the artistic field, intended as that faculty of human mind which
allows to shift from repetition of existing standards to the invention of new frameworks. Bakhtin
identifies, through his concept of chronotope, some exemplary situations which require the
reformulation of schemata by the side of occupants. This paper demonstrates how these situations
can be reproduced in the architectural field through the strategy of 'defamiliarization'.
Defamiliarization can be induced on one hand by offering to the occupant an unexpected
perspective which makes him question schemata he has adopted up to that moment. This strategy
parallels the 'chronotope of the encounter' in the way it draws upon the shock of an unexpected
event to deconstruct perception and make room for its reconstruction starting from the grounds of
direct experience. On the other hand, defamiliarization can be based on the difficulties of perception
an environment poses to the occupant. In this case, there is no clear perception to question, and the
subject is challenged to draw upon his inventive faculties to discover meaning in a situation which
does not exhibit any clear key of interpretation. This strategy perfectly fits the vision of affordance
and ecological perception expressed by Gibson when he stated that ''if what we perceived were the
entities of physics and mathematics, meanings would have to be imposed on them. But if what we
perceive are the entities of environmental science, their meanings can be discovered'' (Gibson,
1979, p. 33).
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An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness
  • Free Time
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Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.