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We Want to Become Architecture

Architecture is performative as it directly affects our way of moving in and across the city. Similarly, it impacts the choreography of inter-human relations as well as our modes of cognition. Ergonomica is a fascinating project conceived by Italian choreographer Elisabetta Consonni, who developed it over the course of a few months during her residency at the Centre for Culture in Lublin.

Excursion takes place in the Lublin Old Town. Starting point of the walk and meeting point for participants is the Krakowska Gate.

“Ergonomic Excursion: We Want to Become Architecture” is a performance, yes!

Well but it’s also a bit of a lecture, “an embodied lecture”.

And also a collection of experiments.

And an EXPERIENCE.

Ok first of all it is EXPERIENCE.

The experiencing of the surroundings leads the moving body towards the built environment, searching for input to fill the gap existing between body and architecture. The gap is between a turning, twisting, not fitting any system, soft and changeable organic human form of pretending-to-be-rational human beings and the rational, hard, precise, not alive and pretending-to-be-eternal architectonic constructions.

Human beings can dance because they can experience their selves and the surroundings and there, in the experience, they meet the space. A space that is more and more shaped by architecture, which happens to be also a human activity – even if it seems so detached from humanity.

So what if we allow architecture to shape a dance? What if a dance starts from the awareness of the built architecture of the place where the body is moving? What if we try to become architecture?

“Ergonomica” is a research project investigating the relation between dance and architecture. “Ergonomic Excursion” is one of the pieces stemming from this research. The title, “Ergonomica”, refers to the ergonomic concept of an interaction between a human body and the devices it is in contact with. “Ergonomics”, in fact, aims for the optimisation of the relation between human beings and the built environment. It is “seeking for a biological compatibility in the interface between the two entities”.

“Ergonomica” is a never-ending research process made of studying, reading, observing, measuring, trying, dancing, drawing, thinking and sensing. Out of those activities, we have defined some ways to approach a space, which is in this case the historical city center of Lublin. And there is “Ergonomic Excursion: we want to become architecture-Lublin”.

We experiment those tools along a path which leads us into the city, in the streets, through buildings, squares and courtyards driven by the impossible intention of going even through walls, bricks and concrete, diving into them, to become one with architecture!

Body-Building

At the beginning was the body. I mean, at the beginning, if we think about the archetype of the architectonic construction, we can imagine its dimension being adherent to the body.  The body was the measure. Then, soon after the very beginning, for many reasons that together can create an issue as big as the discussion around the meaning of life, buildings became something way too bigger than the human size. Anyway, however huge it could be, architecture can’t be detached from human size. Even the biggest cathedral, whose dimensions refer to the idea of god, has stairs with steps no more than 20cm high and other elements built with human size in mind. Searching for the human size in architecture, we find Le Courbusier and the modulor. The modulor is a measuring instrument ensued from the proportions of a human being 1,75 tall with a lifted arm upon his head: the distance between the foot, the plexus, the head and the finger tips of the lifted arm generate series of measures related to each other through the Fibonacci’s sequence. Unlike metre, the conventional unit of measurement, modulor possesses “an embodied dimension”. We can’t really talk about body as a unit of measurement in dance, but this thought opens up an intuition of a connection between the human size in architecture and dance. We can’t really explain the logic of the connection but it is clear that both of the disciplines in a certain way refer to the human body and its size. Then of course the body of modulor is a model while the body in dance is not, but – as observed by Le Corbusier – architecture is also ‘carnal, material, spiritual, speculative’, and as such it is similar to dance.

Surfing Survey

In architecture, survey is the technique for creating a map of built landscapes and cities. Maps made from surveys record the form of things and their relationship to each other and thus constitute the foundation of modern urban design. In accordance with the architectural survey practice, we tried to analyze urban space using the body as a metric tool. Doing it was already choreography in practice. But this is not the main point; instead, it is a nice way of shaping movement material. Doing it, our body functions not just as an instrument for measurement but also as a collector of information. Through the physical experience of the space, we acknowledge aspects that are not always describable, they are most of the time ineffable and not able to be translated into rational data. Such is the way of surveying by means of the body: surfing among experiences!

“Human being still breathes in and out. Is architecture going to do the same?”

(Aldo Van Eyck)

Or, in other words, is architecture capable of relating to some aspects of human beings without responding to the question of functionality? Creativity is one those aspects and so is creativity in movement. By experimenting with many different creative ways of seating on a chair or crossing a hallway, can you add something to the architectural/design process? And, most of all, can architecture stimulate in people the being in touch with the endless possibilities of their movement, however their body is? The process of shaping the space starts in our body before acting on the outside.

A device for creative movement is, in our “ergonomica language”, an architectonic construction capable of imbuing people with a more creative approach to the built space.

Despite the necessity of functionalism that architecture has to face – hence the necessity of building forms according to standards – humanity cannot really fit into standards. And especially, when it comes to the issue of dance, the interpretation of the space for dancers reveals the limit of a normative ergonomic approach. Dance messes up standards!

“What if arcitecture is as much about movement and events as about space?”

(Bernard Tschumi)

Tschumi is one of the architects who have illuminated our way. He questioned the essence of architecture, including in its definition the body and the social activities. To him, there is no architecture without movement, without events, without the activities that take place inside the building. Therefore, he opted for an alternative way of representing architecture, adding the missing element of movement and action into the otherwise static representation of architecture. Good for us!! Just out of the movement acted into a square, a choreographic system can be established which potentially is also a moving architectonic system.

We musn’t ignore Oskar Hansen

Oskar Hansen is a Polish architect, designer of the Juliusz Słowacki Housing Development in Lublin. So “Ergonomica” couldn’t call itself a site-specific project without having been influenced by Open Form, seminal Polish architectural theory and praxis. The intention of Hansen’s work was to angle towards the direction of “shaping a cognitive space” rather than a material one. In opposition to a situation where “we are surrounded by space but we don’t understand it” (O. Hansen, Towards Open Form, 2005). Open Form makes space understandable and readable in order to be participated, changed and used by individuals/residents. Such an idea of space is a basic principle within dance and choreography. In dance, occupying a space means also shaping it while the bodily experience of the environment becomes, at the same time, a physical and an intellectual process. Within the framework proposed by Oskar Hansen, we can find a place of dialogue between dance or movement and architecture, when both are based on the human awareness of the space.

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