Greg Lynn’s work in the early 1990’s sought a method to engage its cultural context that neither regressed into a neo-modernist attempt to found a new totalizing vision upon a context treated as tabula rasa or resorted to post-modernist or deconstructivist simplification of difference in to binary oppositions. Simple oppositions, according to Lynn, stripped difference of information, of specificity, disallowing a sophisticated understanding and instrumentalization of context: “To arrest differences in conflicting forms often precludes many of the more complex ways of connecting forms of architecture to larger cultural fields.”(13)
Bergson and qualitative difference
Lynn’s critique of negativity owes much to the philosophy of Henri Bergson (often via Deleuze). In Time and Free Will(14) Bergson sought an alternative to philosophical methods of inquiry based in negativity, dualism or dialectics in a careful observation of difference. His concept of the multiplicity hinged on a refusal to position monism in a dialectical relationship with dualism, it was a refusal define elements through simple oppositions, but to examine in detail their uniqueness. Lynn’s intuitive method of exploring the potentials of new digital tools may also have been influenced by Bergson’s philosophical understanding of intuition, which he writes is the only way that man may conduct productive ontological inquiries without being led astray by the intellect into negative or binary thought. Perhaps most profoundly, Lynn’s understanding of multiplicitous parts-to-whole relationships is informed by Bergson’s concept of the qualitative multiplicity. Bergson defined two types of multiplicities: quantitative multiplicity, which can be divided into elements which differ in degree, and which remains the same no matter how many times it is divided, and qualitative multiplicity which can be divided into elements which differ in kind (which differ in their individual methods of and capacity for changing), and which changes as it is divided. Bergson’s multiplicity was thus defined at two different scales: at the scale of the element (does the element differ in degree or in kind from other elements) and at the scale of the multiplicity (does the multiplicity differ in quality according to the number of times it divides.) Lynn’s concept of the smooth mixture(15) as an integration (intrication ) of elements which vary in kind due to external forces (Bergson also refers to the qualitative multiplicity as contracted as opposed to relaxed or extended(17) quantitative multiplicities) and his understanding of smooth mixtures as bodies in which changes at the local scale have global consequences: “If I change one thing that would have been a second or third level decision it can ripple through the entire structure and change every aspect of the building including the control geometry”(18) thus owe much of their conceptual development to Bergson’s qualitative multiplicity.
Canetti, Leibniz, and the Complex Composite
In addition to Bergson concept of the qualitative, one may identify many other formative influences which shaped Lynn’s understanding of the smooth mixture or intricated body, including Elias Canetti’s analysis of crowd and pack behavior(19), which revealed that the behavior of intricated elements is influenced by its adjacencies: “the composite entities develop behavior and traits that cannot be reduced to any one of the individual members but result from the differential alliances of the composite.”(20) Leibniz, too, had a profound impact on Lynn’s understanding of parts-to-whole relationships. Leibniz’s Ars Combinatoria initiated an understanding of combination as the primary method by which identity is constructed. “While Cartesianism is associated with the isolation and reduction of systems to their constitutive identities, Leibniz’s combinatorial universe is founded on the changes in identity that take place with greater degrees of complexity and connection.”(21) The intricated body cannot be decomposed or added to without changing it in kind, because its intrications - its connections - are constitutive of its identity.
Deleuze and the Multiplicity
Perhaps the most profound and evident influence on Lynn’s development of the concept of the intricated body or smooth mixture is the philosophy of Deleuze. Intrication(22) and the smooth(23) were in fact concepts originally developed by Deleuze. Smooth space, according to Deleuze’s conception, is not homogenous, but “a crazy quilt of juxtaposed pieces that can be joined in an infinite number of ways”(24), or in another description, a space of vectors which constantly change direction due to their participation in local operations. What matters in these descriptions is not so much the identity of the individual pieces, but their relations with one another, which are both provisional and promiscuous. Intrication, a kind of felting of elements within smooth space, is a process of forming contingent, reconfigurable relationships through adjacency which is opposed to weaving(25), the act of inscribing a permanent directionality into space. Lynn’s conception of multiplicity is also heavily influenced by Deleuzian thought. As with Bergson’s qualitative multiplicity, Deleuze’s multiplicity is defined at two scales: at the scale of elements, which change in nature due to internal trajectories, adjacencies with other elements, and environmental conditions, and at the scale of the body without organs(26), which changes in nature when its constituent elements change in number. Deleuze’s multiplicity is both a noun and a verb, it is a wolf-pack and a becoming-wolf(27), more a trajectory than a thing. Multiplicity, as verb, is deterritorialization(28), an opening of the element to exterior influences and an allowing of individual behaviors to impact larger scales of aggregation.
Deleuze and Guattari’s formulation of the multiplicity, like Lynn’s development of the concept of the intricated body, was an attempt to find a method of organizing thought which neither defaulted to cynical acceptance of worn-out modernist ideals, or to an oppositional attitude that refused to affirm or construct anything. Guattari asked, “Rather than joining the fashionable crusades against the misdeeds of modernism, or preaching a rehabilitation of worn-out transcendent values, or indulging in the disillusioned indulgences of postmodernism, we might instead try to find a way out of the dilemma of having to choose between unyielding refusal or cynical acceptance of this situation?”(29) Neither brute opposition nor forced disingenuous unity, according to Deleuze and Guattari, could effectively counter the widespread expansion of fixed hierarchical organizations, referred to in A Thousand Plateaus as arboreal multiplicities. An arboreal multiplicity channels transmissions from superior to inferior elements via branching operations. It is both totalizing and disjunctive, imposing a comprehensive order which forces certain relations between elements while disallowing others. The arboreal multiplicity, as Guattari describes in his essay Regimes, Pathways, Subjects, is constituted by a singular flow of information and a complex of power differentials, paradoxically both singular and factional, resulting in “a planetary intermixing of cultures [unity/connection created by the singular flow], paradoxically accompanied by a rising tide of particularisms, racisms and nationalisms. [factionalism created by power differentials]”(30) Deleuze and Guattari opposed the arboreal with the concept of rhizomatic multiplicities(31), which are described as acentered and nonhierarchical, allowing communication to run from any one element to any other, is intended to have radical social and political repercussions, up-ending philosophical foundations and liberating thought from hierarchically-imposed templates. The reconceptualization and theorization of parts-to-whole relationships is a fundamental step towards the achievement of Deleuzian philosophy’s cultural ambitions. The Deleuzian concept of deterritorialization(32) was similarly intended to effect cultural change, opening closed systems of thought to exterior influences and recognizing the individual’s impact on larger scales of organization.
The Colossus as Multiplicitous Body
The architectural implications of the Deleuzian concept of deterritorialization were well recognized by Lynn, who instrumentalized the concept in an effort to open architecture to more profound affiliation with material, structural, economic and cultural systems outside of its boundaries. Deterritorialization is fundamental to the process of becoming a multiplicity according to Lynn: “The loss of internal boundaries allows both the influence of external events within the organism and the expansion of the interior outward.”(33) Multiplicitous architecture, according to Lynn, requires an internal dislocation, a dissociation with values and methods assumed native, even fundamental to the discipline. According to Lynn, a multiplicitous body accepts direction from logics not internal to it. Thus Robert Venturi’s duck is considered to be a multiplicitous body, allowing foreign sculptural logics of figuration to coexist with native structural and pragmatic requirements. This non-native insertion resists closure and completion of the body by denying “any possibility for a complicitous relationship between decoration and structure.”(34) A “contingent and compliant”(35) substructure fills the gap, linking skin and structure through various unpredicted localized solutions. That a multiplicitous condition is achieved through a two-fold process, one violent (a tearing away of the roots -- deterritorialization) one integrative (a growth of new, finely intricated connections), is here made manifest. Lynn’s formulation of the foreign insertion (in the case of the colossus/Statue of Liberty, the sculptural logics of figuration), its territorialization and deterritorialization of the body, and its capacity to open the body to a host of new affiliations is informed by Michel Serres’ description of the parasite.
Figures 6-8. Statue of Liberty,Typical shapes of horizontal bars and vertical bars; typical armature diagram of secondary structure of skin
Serres and the Parasite
The parasite, according to Serres, is not an agent of destruction, but rather builds new structures or logics within its host. “The parasite invents something new. Since he does not eat like everyone else, he builds a new logic.”(36) The parasite invites new affiliations within the host and between the host and its environment by building connective structures. “The parasite discovers unity and stability within an entropic system through connectivity. A parasite does not attack an already existing host but invents a host by configuring disparate systems into a network within which it becomes an integral part... the parasite is the active agent of unification.”(37) The parasite-host relationship, understood by deconstructivism as a purely destructive, oppositional relationship (see Wigley, Deconstructivism) is within this new theoretical paradigm as a generative relationship. Thus the insertion of foreign genetic logic into the body, initially creating a gap or interruption within the flesh and code of the host, ultimately creates a greater continuity between host and environment as well as new circuits between previously unrelated portions of the host body.
The Blob, the Informal, and the Anexact
Lynn’s formulation of the blob is in some ways an elaboration of his research into deterritorialization and multiplicitous bodies. In the case of the blob, traditional logics of architectural proportion are replaced by anexact(38) geometry, a geometry which is dependent on external forces for its configuration. This disavowal of proportional systems creates a dislocation or deterritorialization, destroying architecture’s status as a closed internally coherent system. Lynn borrows the concept of the anexact from Husserl.(39) Anexact geometry, which is neither inexact or exact, was, according to Husserl, much more adept at describing complex local conditions than exact geometry: “geometric exactitude...tends to transform particularities, no matter how precise they may be, into inexactitudes through mathematical reduction. It renders particularities and difference as mere variations beneath which subsists a more fixed and universal language of proportions.”(40) Geometric exactitude grafts an artificial system of organization onto difference, stripping difference of anomalous (yet vital) information so that it may fit comfortably within an imposed unity.
The blob must also be understood in relation to Bataille’s notion of writing. In Against Architecture(41), Bataille uses architecture against which to define writing. While architecture is “reducible, static, exact, fixed, proportional, and identically reproducible”(42); writing, according to Bataille is “indeterminate, nonideal, heterogeneous, and undecidable.”(43) Writing is thus potentially transgressive, while architecture is hopelessly locked in convention. According to Lynn, “Bataille’s and Hollier’s rejection of architecture as a potential practice of writing depends on the assumption that proportional order originates in and is natural to architecture.”(44) Lynn’s refusal to use traditional systems of proportion to order part-to-whole relationships is thus an effort to create an architecture that writes, as is his research into animation and iterative form making, which introduce temporality into architecture such that it loses its fixity, becoming dynamic and undecidable.
Figure 10. D’Arcy Thompson, Cartesian deformation of one species into another
Lynn’s blobs are also informed by D’Arcy Thompson’s Cartesian deformations,(45) which illustrate the need for a geometry beyond the Cartesian to describe the dynamics of differentiation. Cartesian space locks forms into an artificial stasis, while a geometry of continuous deformation (Lynn’s anexact geometry) may describe dynamically changing form.
Lynn’s early blobs seem to share an understanding of form and formal transformations with Gestalt psychology. Gestalt psychology, according to David Katz,(46) seeks to describe the principles of perception, posits that the entirety of an object - its Gestalt – is perceived all at once, not by first identifying parts and inferring the whole from the parts.(47) Gestalt psychology describes the brain’s ability to track the Gestalt through a series of transformations including elastic deformation, translation, rotation, scaling, and partial obstruction, in which individual parts may change dramatically. Wertheimer’s Gestalt theory opposed atomistic thinking, which in physiology represented the organism, “as a combination of the smallest elements, namely cells; if one could achieve insight into the function of a single cell, comprehension of the work of the whole organism would come about automatically, to a certain extent, by summation.”(48) In contrast, he understood the Gestalt as “a whole whose characteristics are determined, not by the characteristics of its individual elements, but by the internal nature of the whole.”(49) The Gestalt must be understood as a set of dynamic indivisible internal relationships.(50) The idea that the whole is different from the sum of its parts, and that a Gestalt may be tracked through a series of dynamic transformations seem to underpin Lynn’s blob research. Lynn is however less interested in analyzing and manipulating perception than in through formal transformations than in creating an architecture which is dynamically responsive to contextual forces.(51)
The Embryological House
Lynn’s later projects move away from an understanding of form as an index of processes of transformation to explore the implications of replacing traditional systems of proportion with calculus-based relationships to regulate parts-to-whole relationships.(53) The Embryological House, through its incorporation of calculus-based logics, gains a whole new order of connectivities, such that a change in one coordinate point sends a ripple of change through the entire structure. The pliancy afforded by calculus based relations allow a flexible, responsive connection between landscape and house as well. “The surface envelopes are connected to the ground so that any alteration in the object is transmitted outward into the landscape. For instance, a dent or concavity in the envelope generates a lift or plateau in the ground.”(54) The deterritorialization of architecture via calculus thus allows the house to create an interactive relationship with its context, to self-territorialize.
Figure 12. Greg Lynn, Embryological House
The Kleiburg Housing Project
Lynn’s more recent Kleiburg housing project approaches the idea of deterritorializing and opening the architectural organism to new external affiliations through more overtly architectural means. Lynn reconfigured the internal organization and circulation of an existing residential block, displacing internal circulation to the exterior and multiplied the number and variety of accesses to the units. At Kleiburg, existing systems of connectivity (architectural systems of proportion, single-entry interior circulation) are replaced with connective systems offering a higher level of interactivity and density of connection (calculus based relationships between structural members, escalator linkages with various entry points.)
The notion of deterritorialization becomes fully architecturalized in Kleiburg. Deterritorialization, characterized by the “motion of diffusion and fusion”(56) and the “loss of internal boundaries... within the organism and the expansion of the interior outwards,”(57) trades its metaphorical associations with wolf packs, embryogenesis or symbiotic wasp/orchid exchanges for concrete architectural applications: the fusion and diffusion of neighbor groups via diversified circulation, entries and subgrouping; the expansion of the interior outwards via exteriorization of circulation.
13 Lynn, The folded the pliant and the supple, 111.
14 Henri Bergson, Time and free will: an essay on the immediate data of consciousness, (Mineola, NY, 2001).
15 see Lynn, The folded, the pliant, and the supple, p.112 regarding smooth mixtures: “The two characteristics of smooth mixtures are that they are composed of disparate unrelated elements and that these free intensities become intricated by an external force exerted upon them jointly..”
16 see Lynn, The folded, the pliant, and the supple, pp.112-113 regarding intrication: “Intrications are intricate connections that affiliate local surfaces of elements with one another by negotiating interstitial rather than internal connections.”
17 see Bergson, Time and free will, and Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, pp 86-87 for discussion of extensity.
18 Greg Lynn, Dynamic space, Architecture d’aujourd’hui, n.349, (2003): 108.
19 see Elias Canetti, Crowds and power, (1988).
20 Greg Lynn, Body Matters, first published in Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts, 1993, in Folds, bodies & blobs: collected essays, (Bruxelles, 1998), 144.
21 Greg Lynn, Blob Tectonics, 173.
22 see Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, p. 475 for discussion of intrication: “Felt is a supple solid product that proceeds altogether differently, as an anti-fabric. It implies no separation of threads, no intertwining, only an entanglement of fibers obtained by fulling (for example, by rolling the block of fibers back and forth). What becomes entangled are the microscales of the fibers. An aggregate of intrication of this kind is in no way homogenous...”
23 see Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 477-492 for discussion of the smooth.
24 Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, 480.
25 see Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 477-492 for discussion of weaving and striated space in relation to smooth space.
26 see Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, p.30 for discussion of the body without organs.
27 see Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, pp.29-32 regarding the multiplicity as wolf pack and becoming wolf .
28 see Lynn, Multiplicitous and Inorganic Bodies for a discussion of deterritorialization. “There is a two-fold deterritorialization in becoming a multiplicity: the loss of internal boundaries allow both the influence of external events within the organism and the expansion of the interior outward.” p.44.
29 Felix Guattari, Regimes, Pathways, Subjects in Incorporations, Jonathan Crary and Sanford Kwinter, eds. (New York, 1992), 16.
30 Guattari, Regimes, Pathways, Subjects, 16. Text in brackets added by author.
31 see Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, pp 1-21 for discussion of the arboreal versus the rhizomatic multiplicity.
32 see Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, p.10 for discussion of deterritorialization.
36 Michel Serres, The Parasite, (Baltimore, 1982), 35.
37 Greg Lynn, Body Matters, 138.
38 see Greg Lynn, Body Matters, p. 136. Anexact “...forms which are neither exact (they cannot be reduced to mathematical statements) nor inexact (they cannot be measured with precision)... This category of the anexact is capable of describing the vague characteristics of bodies that are not fixed statically.”
39 see Edmund Husserl, Origin of Geometry, (1936)
40 Lynn, Multiplicitous and Inorganic Bodies, 41.
41 see Denis Hollier, Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille, 1989.
42 Greg Lynn, Probable Geometries, first published in Any Magazine, no.0, in Folds, bodies & blobs: collected essays, (Bruxelles, 1998), 82.
43 Lynn, Probable Geometries, 82.
44 Lynn, Probable Geometries, 82.
45 see D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, On growth and form. New York, 1992.
46 see David Katz, Gestalt Psychology, New York, (1950).
47 see Katz, Gestalt Psychology, p. 45.
48 Katz, Gestalt Psychology, p.4.
49 Wertheimer, as quoted in Katz, Gestalt Psychology, p. 91.
50 see Katz, Gestalt Psychology, p. 7.
51 see Rocker, Calculus-based form.
52 Lynn, Blobs,164.
53 see Rocker, Calculus-based form.
54 Greg Lynn, Embryologic Houses, Architectural design, vol. 70, no. 3, (2000): 32.
55 Rocker, Calculus-based form, 92.
56 Lynn, Body Matters, 143. Lynn here describes the process of deterritorialization: “The motion of diffusion and fusion continuously redefines the boundaries between interior and exterior. Internal territories are intensively influenced by forces beyond their control while bodies extend their interiors outward to extend and reconfigure their territory.”
57 Lynn, Multiplicitous and inorganic bodies, 44.
58 Lynn, Blobs, 166.