April 29, 2011
bars sphinx
Secured Window (source)
Hotel Sphinx Project, Zoe and Elia Zhengelis, 1975-6 (source)


‘Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light’.


—Le Corbusier, Towards an Architecture



There are two principle means of experiencing architecture. The first is through the senses, the result of light waves, sounds waves and our human weight bouncing around a controlled and curated environment. The creation of architecture of the senses occurs at a molecular level, with atoms organized and clustered to macroscopic artistic effect. The second means of experiencing architecture is through storytelling. Greek mythologies, Biblical tales, Hollywood movies, blogs such as the one you are currently reading, but also the mundane chit chat of our everyday lives create a parallel cerebral version of real and imagined places. While architects developed the term ‘Paper Architecture’ to describe unrealized architectural designs, most of what I will term as ‘Narrative Architecture’ exists only to advance a story. While the architecture itself is insignificant in such instances, it provides the important backdrop or context for the action. These two means of experience are not exclusive, and as Molecular Architecture is inhabited it also becomes the backdrop for stories, flickering between molecular and narrative states.


This past week, my apartment was broken into. The thief snuck in through our kitchen window, which was left unlocked and ajar, an attempt to take advantage of one of the few warm sunny days in what has been an uncharacteristically cold spring in New York City. My roommate was at home at the time taking a nap, and didn’t hear the perpetrator entering, not even after he knocked over all of the plants on our window sill, sending them crashing to the floor. The noise was enough to alert our downstairs neighbors, but they left soon after knocking at our door, assuming no one was home. All the while the thief was rummaging through my personal belongings, trashing drawers and pocketing laptops, eventually making his way back towards the living room. Needing to pee, my roommate stumbled out of his bedroom, freezing in his steps as he reached the center of the kitchen and the sight of a strange man in our living room, ready to lunge at him, his backpack filled with stolen goods and armed as a makeshift jousting lance. While still groggy from being safe and asleep, my roommate managed to quickly dash into the nearby bathroom, avoiding harm, while the intruder spirited back out the kitchen window.


I will forever after remember this apartment, the one I currently reside in, as the apartment that got broken into, the new bars installed over our kitchen window whispering the above narrative every time my eyes pass over them.


E. Sean Bailey


The old cliché goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. But how are those words organized? Do they stand alone offering distinct points of reference or are they arranged into sentences? Are those sentences related to one another to tell the same story or do they cluster together to tell multiple unrelated stories? Do these tales originate in the mind of the viewer or are they passed down from a different author?


It is also important to consider the role that time plays in the association between picture and story. For architects, who are often producers of both images and narratives, it is difficult to pinpoint which of the two emerges when. Sometimes the image may merely serve as a tool to illustrate an already solidified agenda. On other occasions, a visualization is produced through intuition and any accompanying story is post-rationalized. Another scenario exists where the narrative is written and then the image is created, or vice versa. What is produced initially is then adjusted to better fit what is produced later. The final scenario is one where narrative and image may be tweaked in tandem, with back and forth adjustments being made as required.


In general, the relationship between picture and story is a loose one.


Erandi de Silva



One Response to “STORY”

  • Kari Rittenbach says:

    architecture as unreliable narrative ?! on both counts…



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