Phenomenal deformations: affordance as a design tool to deal with subject-object complementarity in Architecture
Document typeConference report
PublisherGIRAS. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
Rights accessOpen Access
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.
Ponència presentada a la sessió 4
CitationZammataro, A. Phenomenal deformations: affordance as a design tool to deal with subject-object complementarity in Architecture. A: Arquitectonics. "International Conference Arquitectonics Network: Mind, Land and Society, Barcelona, 29-31 May, 1 June 2018: Final papers". Barcelona: GIRAS. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 2018.