09: Kissing Architecture

SHORT REVIEW

 

LONG REVIEW

Lavin’s searing critique (enveloped in beautiful writing and scholarship) offers a liberating alternative to current architecture through the metaphor of kissing. Kissing is proposed as a new medium lying in the liminal space between practices (art, architecture, photography, film) and is instantiated more commonly through the fruitful interaction of them. This book is nothing but the exegesis for this theory, and is repleted with plenty of examples and case studies for it, some current and some retrospective. The book advances to position the idea that architecture is not the pallid receptacle of capital, but rather, the sublime potential to create affect through the built environment. Kissing is there to awake us from the stupor of modern life through an euphoric state of affect and the liberalization of phenomenological delight.


The act of kissing is what two surfaces can accomplish when put together, yet Lavin creates beautiful and poetic definitions for it throughout the book.

´Kissing confounds the division between two bodies, creating new definitions of threshold, kissing performs topological inversions, renders geometry fluid and updates the metric of time´ - Sylvia Lavin

The interior projection videos of Pipilotti Rist in the New York Museum of Modern Art in the exhibition: ´Pour your body out´ and the exterior projection videos by Doug Aitken also in the Museum of Modern Art, are used, throughout the book, as a recurrent example of a contemporary architectural performances, and as illustrations of the productive capacities of art, architecture and a contemporary art institution.

These installations, not only were they works of art in their own right, they dealt with the some of the ideals that architecture holds as a discipline: domesticity concerning interior design, circulation patterns, or the use of a per-ordained aesthetic experience used for capital gains.

If the interior ceases to be understood as simple the natural consequence of an envelope or if the exterior is no longer understood to be the passive result of a buildings mass, interiors and exteriors can assume enough identity of their own that their re-implantation in building constitutes the electric move from one to two - Sylvia Lavin

With her book, Lavin is inviting us to imagine a new topic of critical assessment through the analysis of multi-media constructions that deal with the outermost layer of a buildings mass: the facade. The facade of a building should not be used a mode of representation but as an open field for the construction of visual performance: Lavin organizes all the analyzed projects according to their surfaces: Lacerated surfaces as in Lucio Fontana’s canvases and Gordon Matta Clark Conical Intersect; inverted surfaces as in Preston Scott Cohen’s lightfall in the The Aviv Museum; blushing surfaces as in Diller Scofidio’s Alice Tully Hall hall and UNStudio’s Galleria; reflective surfaces as in Greg Lynn’s Sociopolis project in Valencia; swelling surfaces with Jason Payne’s Raspberry Fields in Round Valley Utah; exploding surfaces as in Koolhaas and Baldessari’s Caltran headquarters competition; screen surfaces as in Frederick Kiesler’s store windows and Herzog and de Meuron’s Laban Dance center and in interior surfaces as in Paul Rudolph’s Ellman Apartment and Pipilotti Rist’s video installations.

Releasing the exterior from the obligations of facadism and embracing qualities more generally associated with other mediums, from luminescence to colorfulness and from slow opacity to quick and animated pattern, makes it possible to transform the exterior from a plane of representation into an affective surface - Sylvia Lavin

Kissing requires to and as Lavin argues, architecture should always find itself in dialectical relationship with other media what she calls Superarchitecture:

Superarchitecture exploits the exterior surface’s capacity to become product, textile, canvas and screen and thus to adhere to other than architectural rules and to densify architecture with the virtual material of other mediums - Sylvia Lavin

Ultimately situating kissing as as an ‘urgent call to ethical action’ stemming from her personal conclusion that architecture is in anemic state, a strong direction is found at the end of the book:

Architecture, more directly than criticism and more directly than most other cultural practices, has had the unique privilege and responsibility of housing the one and representing the many. It has long since been the instrument for creating private breathing space and public environments, for representing capital and materializing social forces. Today, architecture is also ready and able to contribute to the reinvention of experience, not personal or sentimental or idealized but affective and political. Architecture is redesigning the way it exercises power and diagrams politics - Sylvia Lavin

P.S. BUY KISSING ARCHITECTURE HER (USA) OR HERE (IF YOU LIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS)

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SYLVIA LAVIN

KISSING ARCHITECTURE

PRINCETON ARCHITECTURAL PRESS

ISBN 978-0-691149-23-3