text by 竹山聖
text by Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama
translate by Hamilton Louie
Project Brief: Arising from Ancient Greek tragedies, the Chorus was the mediator of the play, present at the heart of the amphitheater. Their voices overlay and multiply. The chanting begins to generate the ambient. The theater becomes a space of its own. The congregation is encompassed, cradled in the atmosphere of space. Like birds singing to proclaim their territory, consider chorus as an expression of spatial assertion.
text by Hamilton Louie
For this year's studio design project at Takeyama Laboratory, a group of 12 students were given the above project brief and the theme of Chorus. The following text outlines the core thinking behind the design process, and documents some of the key investigations and discussions that took place as part of the design project.
The project brief was the starting point, a poetic undercurrent that governed the design process. It remarked on the spatial characteristics we were aiming for, but did not comment on the building programs, types or the location of the site. We were first required to assert these aspects through series of studies and discussions.
The preliminary groundwork process for the project involved analyzing the nature of chorus. In an attempt to comprehend the quality of the term, we preformed a series of studies into the concept of Chora.
Chora, a Greek term literally translating to place or site, shares its lingual origin with the word chorus. In Platonic philosophy, chora is a space or a receptacle that lies between the unchanging Intelligible world and the Sensible, visible and changing world. The two words are derived from the Greek Khoros, a group of performers in the plays of Ancient Greece amphitheater who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action (as described in the project brief). In order to grasp the theme at a deeper level, we studied several readings which explains the concept of space in Plato's thinking. Of these readings, two became the core text for our investigations- Heuretics: the Logic of Invention by Gregory .l. Ulmer, and Chora L Works, a series of transcripts and essays edited by Jeffrey Kipnis.
Platonic philosophy explains three kinds of natures at the origins of the world: "the uncreated, indestructible kind of being (the eternal Ideas); the sensible copies of the eternal (the objects of opinion and sense); and space, the 'home of all created things" (G.Ulmer, Heuretics, p.49) This space is chora, the interval that rests between the being and becoming and mediates the two worlds. This receptacle, a "universal receiver", is where form is generated. "Just as a mirror containing the reflections or images of actual things", Ulmer explains, "in the interaction of being and becoming in the medium of space, the intelligible is made sensible." (p.68)
The notion of space in Pluto's theory is highly intricate and mysterious. Unlike topos, which refers to a determined, defined place, chora is free from any kind of this-worldly notion of confinement. In fact, Ulmer considers Chora as "not just a place among others but perhaps place itself, the irreplaceable, the unplaceable place." (Ulmer, p.65) Derrida explains chora as "a place without space, before space and time" (Kipnis, p.91) Chora is as much a place as it is a non-place.
Having studied the concept of chora, we were committed in principle in using this perception of space in exploring the spatial qualities of chorus. Faced with the task of giving architectural forms to what is essentially unrepresentable, we were conscious of the seeming impossibility of representing chora. However, our aim was not merely to design a space of chora or chorus, but to explore the design process itself.
We further investigated the two key texts as case studies which explored the application of the concept of chora in the modern-day context. Through analyzing the methodologies taken by these precedents, we asserted our own interpretation of the task.
Chora L Works documents the collaboration between the philosopher Jacques Derrida and architect Peter Eisenman at Parc de la Villette in Paris. It is an example an attempt at incorporating the concept of chora into architecture.
To attempt to physically embody the program of chora in an architectural form, in Kipnis' words, "would be the height of anthropocentrism" (p.10), which, in the thinking of Eisenman, was a subject to be avoided. Under the notion that "chora cannot be represented, instead negatively" (p.12), the collaborators set off to achieve this through representing "The presence of the absence of chora." According to Derrida, chora is the place where everything is received as an imprint, while remaining foreign to the imprint that it receives. It is "where everything passes but nothing is retained". In the three proposed sites, the layers of History, Text and Architecture were carefully scaled and interwoven into a design that held traces of one another - "Each site will contain, through superimposition, a part of another site… The three can thus be read as a whole, as a unity..."(p.69)
This trans-spatial, trans-temporal nature of chora is also explored by G. Ulmer in his book Heuretics: the Logic of Invention. The professor of English who specializes in cyberlanguage, uses the concept of chora in his methodology of electronic writing. The method, named chorography, explores how one can move electronically through a database. According to Ulmer, the Platonic notion of space was highly applicable in examining cyberspace - "In order for rhetoric to become electronic, the term and concept of topos must be replaced with chora." (p.48) In this transition from topos (the determined place) to chora (the invisible, limitless non-place), Ulmer found the algorithm for electronic writing.
As Derrida explained to Eisenman, "chora is neither the object of a logos nor muthos… It is not an organized story with a beginning and an end." (p.11) Similarly, Ulmer explains, chorography is "more like discovery than proof." This un-dialectical nature of chora inspires a certain language of methodology - the act of reaching out into the unknown and creating a goal, rather than filling in a path between a start and a predetermined goal.
From this observation, we were able to distinguish the nature of the group design procedure. We were to design not to a predetermined overall plot or master-plan, but through the overlaying of analysis and responses. As a group we were determined that the design procedure must be of chorus-like nature, in the musical sense as much as in its conceptual undertones. In order to understand and 'represent' this non-place, we were required to approach it indirectly, and the musical metaphor was an apt rhetoric in considering the character of chorus.
In the musical sense, the act of chorus is that of receiving and returning - the member of the chorus must listen to the voices that surrounds, and vocally respond to the Music. Harmony can be generated only when the voices are answering each other. To interpret the design process in a musical metaphor, it was to be like a Jazz session rather than an orchestra's performance – a series of spontaneous responses under a unified tune. We opted for a discussion based process so that each member of the group was required to input to the process.
Our design objectives arose from one such analogy used though the discussion - 'sound' as a metaphor for others, or input from the outside. The act of chorus can consist only when the others that surround is also making a sound. This constant presence of the otherness, whether conscious or unconscious, is the fundamental aspect of the nature of choral singing, or in our case, of choral designing. There were two levels of otherness to the project- on one hand the colleagues, the group in which we were designing in, on the other the environment, the surrounding in which our design was to be located in. It was crucial to generate togetherness and wholeness as a group, while retaining the variety and individuality intact.
At this stage we made the decision to locate the design within the Katsura Campus where we study in. The objective was to create a 'place/non-place', a receptacle that is foreign to the homogeneity of the campus buildings, in an attempt to vitalize the lifelessness of the enormous and uniform educational institute. In the figure/ground of the campus composition, we focusied on the space in between the buildings. We remained free of setting requirements for specific building programs – we were aiming to create a place/non-place that brought joy, relief and inspiration to the University.
• Using sound as a metaphor of input from the surroundings,create a receptacle, a pocket, a space to "listen to the sound".
• Choose a site within the Katsura campus, propose an architecture that breaks the lifeless homogeneity of university buildings.
• Explore the Nature of chorus through the design process. Respond to colleagues' design, aid and interfere with each other.
Each students chose a site, and a specific 'sound' to respond to; the sound of water, wind, trees or traffic etc. In designing specific to an external input, we were aiming to embody the nature of receiving and returning into an architectural form.
修士設計コンセプトマッチ 2015 / Master's Project Concept Match 2015
日時：2015年 11月 14日
Takeyama Studio 2015: Chorus
Essay - Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama
On Chorus/Chora, or Forms without Form