LELU1 - Jacques Herzog "la géométrie cachée de la nature"


Jacques Herzog "la géométrie cachée de la nature" - 1988_...

ISBN-10: 272982782X; ISBN-13: 978-2729827823

Sujet : la géométrie cachée de la nature

Auteur : Herzog Jacques

Jacques Herzog
La géométrie cachée de la nature
Out of our préoccupation with architecture, and
plans, models, sketches and text fragments arise.
These text fragmens can be put together into a text
A part of thèse texts in entitled « the Hidden
Geometry of nature ». The title is the expression of
an approach, a search for perception and meaning,
a search of something hidden, somthing that is
intégral to nature, that occurs in nature. A search
that must fail at the moment I believe I have found
my geometry.
1 Tradition and the image of tradition
I am an architect. Before I became an architect I
went to school for so many years that I learned,
and probably changed my own nature in doing so,
to do everything with my head. From the head,
throughts go down to the hands, which draw the
plans for craftsmen and workers. I had seen the
drawn craft détail somewhere before. Maybe I saw
it in a firm or in an illustration. When I showed the
détail, or my drawing of it, to the worker, I noticed
that the real world had changed so much since my
observation of it, that the worker no longer
understood the détail. Building technology offered
him another, probably better, détail and accepte dit
because he believed that such things must change
because they are subject to development which
must be identified with progress. Never and never
handles for dors, Windows and faucets ; never and
never forms for tiles and bricks, for sinks and
bathtubs ; never and never color schèmes for each
and every building product.
The construction industry has thus changed
craftsmanship and has suppressed the craft
tradition the world over. Actually, traditions in the
uncompromising and compréhensive sensé of the
world no longer exist. At most there are still a few
customs, useful for planning the annual calendar.
But back to the worker ; I can no longer build upon
this tradition since he no longer exists. He had
been replaced by the developers of construction
industry who can certainly give me a few
suggestions – usually warnings against some
technical folly I was about to commit. But their
brains are no longer interested in this process.
Thus I must try to understand what it is that
industry offers me. My images of the build world
must be confronted with the reality of the
construction industry’s products, I have to analyze
the products which are available to me – the
images in my head and the industrial products. I
have to heat up, melt and take apart both, and then
cool them down again in my own sweat bath.
The architectural product has for a long time been
the product of no craftsman. But already it is no
longer a purely industrial one either. The
coïncidence and correspondence of industrial
aesthetic and architectural aesthetic was lost with
the fading away of the modern ovement. A modern
tradition is just as impossible to live out a tradition
of craft periods. Never in the history of architecture
has there been such a crass loss of orientation for
architects as now. Never, too, was there so much
terrible arhitecture as there is today.
But never before were there so many possibilities,
so many directions in which to move without
worrying about questions of style. As a matter of
fact, never before was architecture so close to art
and again so distanced from it. Architecture is
perception, architecture is research without the
demand for progress.
In these considérations, the concept of tradition is
of central importance. In earlier cultures tradition
was a kind of ethical pattern, a matrix for the
identity of things, relationships and selfunderstanding.
Tradition is a utopia. The utopia of
a unified culture and the yearning for the
intégration of life within a collective functioning at a
highly complex level. Tradition is a compréhensive
category of being and cannot therefore be split
apart. I want to repeat that our architecture stands
in no real tradition with earlier architecture. It does,
however, allude to it through observations, critical
perceptions, copies of it or denials of it. It is almost
as if an earlier mediatory génération had been
wriped out but an environnemental catastrophe. At
this juncture our contemporary culture, often
designated as Post-Modern, comes in. Only this
culture carries on earlier forms of behavior and
building more in their appearance than in their
original compréhensive form. The relationdhip to
pre-existing architectural and building for mis
unavoidable and important. Architecture has never
arien out of nothing. But there is no longer a
mediatory tradition. This can also be seen in the
way that contemporary architecture so often tries
to fabricate a Relationship to historical forms by
means of quotation and with this pratice pénétrâtes
no further than the surface of the eye’s retina.
What else can we do but carry within us all these
images of the city, or preexisting architecture and
building forms and building materials, the smell of
asphalt and car exhaust and rain, and to use our
pre-existing reality as a starting point and to build
our architecture in pictorial analogies ? The
utilization of thèse pictorial analogies, their
dissection and recomposition into an architectural
Coordination des TD : Delphine Desert
Assistants : Camille Besuelle - Etienne Delprat - Houda Draoui – Marie Ange Jambu - Marion Nielsen - Nicolas Simon
reality is a central thème in our work.
Taking the Plywood House of 1985 as an example
demonstrates various relationships to other
buildings with which we are all somehow familiar.
In some parts of Basel you encounter wooden
barrack-like building for kindergartens or for sports.
The closer one looks at these diverse buildings,
the more the différences, even the oppositions,
between them and our Plywood House become
visible. The kindergartens and the woden sports
buildings are more logical in their détail work and
essentially determined by the finishing technique
with a kind of linear, functional logic. Already hère,
no real tradition in the sense that I discussed
before as an interpénétration of craftmanship,
building form and use – is présent. But an «
ordinariness » in the détails and building form that
is no longer possible today is still recognizable.
Such buildings, when constructed today, are
makeshift and chunsy or their ordinatiness and
inconspicuousness are treated as a joke and
become merely picturesque. If we take a closer
look at the traditional old house, oppositions
become ever clearer. The severed tradition
opérâtes as the distant utopia of a complete and
integrated culture.
The floor plan seems simple and clear ; a division
following a standardized geometric pattern. If I look
at it a while longer, I no longer perceive this
division or subdivision, but rather as a whaloe
assembled out of autonomous parts. I see it as if
the house in its inherited form did not arise out
division, that is, from th slitiing off of one function
form another, but out of the opposite process of
assemblage to create a social, functional, spatial
and constructional whole, literally a unified
If the plan form and the cross-section are
expressed as geometric equivalents, the spatial
integration of all building parts is strengthned. The
building is simultaneously an architectural
expression of each single building part as well as
of their unified collective form. This specific
Relationship between the parts and the whole is
what we try to find in most of our projects, as for
example in our Stone House in Tavole, Italy.
2 The presentation
Thiking about the présentation of an architecture is
identical to thinking about the architecture itself. To
say it another way, each architect’s présentation
communicates insight into architecture not so
much through the images presented of this
architecture, but through the présentation itself ;
hence, our problematic Relationship to
conventional archiectural models and to
perspective drawing. Unwillingly, we bow to the
compétition rules which require the well-know
white site models. Although they are supposed to
be « neutral », they, in fact, reduce architecture to
volume and geometry. Thus they appear to comply
with a view expressed by Le Corbusier who wrote
in « vers une architecture » : « Architecture is a
scientific, correct and wonderful game of volumes
assembled Under light » What, however, if
architecture is not a game at all, especially not a
scientific and correct one and if the light is otfen
clouded over, diffuse, not so radiant as it is in the
idéal southern landcape ? Sometimes architects
are also required to present a perspective drawing
in as naturalistic a style as possible. Such
architectural pictures, always equipped with détails
from the latest contemporary design répertoire, are
even more impossible than the neutral white
models. Yet these two presentation techniques are
internally related : while the one technique
suggests knowledge through the omission of
information, the other naturalistic technique
achieves the same and through an overhundance
of information. The more naturalistic such a
perspective drawing is, the more deceptive is its
intention. A pictorial space comes into being which
is more and more often perceived as real.
Nonetheless, only a mood is captured, the single
illusion of a not-yet-existing reality. The tradition
filmmaker uses this means to begin the action. But
in the cases of an architectural image, aside from
the emotional field of action of the architect
himself, this action is wholly lacking. Architecture,
that is, the reality of architecture, cannot be
represented through a perspective, naturalistic and
illusionistic, manually or computr-aided produced
drawing. Once fixed, the image of such an
architecture will turn against its creator. It will wear
out and become as ludicrous as the love letters
once intended for an ex-girlfriend. The image will
become confining because it fears the reality of the
architecture arising from it. The perspective
drawing will become confining because it does not
allow its observer any new mode of seing other
than that which its author intended or any new
perspective, naturalistic mode of présentation for
architecture is therfore authoritarian and
antienlightening. To the same degree, the
architecture presented in this manner will tend to
reflect such a position. The précision of an
architectural présentation cannot be found in an
intensification of the naturalistic outward
appearance of the architecture. Rather, it is
realized ina mode of représentation which calls up
other images of this architectural expression, both
visible and invisible. This is a présentation which
develops from the structure of architecture itself
and changes from project to project just as the
architecture itself and changes fom project to
project just as the architecture itself changes from
site to site.
3 The reality
The reality of architecture is not built architecture.
Coordination des TD : Delphine Desert
Assistants : Camille Besuelle - Etienne Delprat - Houda Draoui – Marie Ange Jambu - Marion Nielsen - Nicolas Simon
An architecture créâtes its own reality outside of
the state of uilt or unbuilt and is comparable to
autonomous reality of a painting or a scultpture.
The reality of which I speak is also not the real
building, the tactile, the material. Certainly we love
this tangibility, but only in a Relationship within the
whole of the (architectural) work. We love its
spiritual quality, its immaterial value.
The artwork is the highest ontological state of
material once it is taken out of is natral once is it
taken out of its natural context. All other ontological
states of material describe a gradual dévaluation
ending in the total rape in which manking
participates through his production of the utilitarian
objects of daily life and the typical architecture of
today. These thoughts on the spiritual quality of the
material world, like those on tradition and
présentation, are to be seen in one context. This
context tends to let reality be left and intellectually
confronted because we feel this to be a political
As a matter of fact, the architectural plan and the
architectural work interest us as Tools for the
perception of reality and confrontation with it. Here
too, we would view the moral and political content
of our own work from a more questioning
stance.Not only as a stance during the drafting
process, but also as the self-reflecting quaity that
we try to bring into the finished buildings
With the word « moral », I am not referring to an
objective or affirmative moral concept, or even to a
moral precept. The morality of which I speak is not
the morality of good form and pure stylistic means
that was demanded by the famous architects of the
International Style for a new modern man. We are
not against the arbitrariness of its use. We are
against arcitrariness because it always serves to
dismantle résistance to simple consumerism, to the
dizzying speed with which this consumer behavior
has to be maintained by new picture material.Our
moralpolitical résistance to this arbitrariness is also
related to a fear of being pulled into the current
ourselves, a fear of what we could call the time grid
of the media, a fear of being ourselves degrated
into guises.
One work which we feel may express the
questioning of both self and site, is the Ricola
warehouse we built in a former quarry in Laufen.
The brief was the encasement of a warehouse in
steel construction with fully automatic stocking
installations. Since the outer mass of building had
already been determined by the Inside installations
and the steel construction, the building’s
proportions, which through their huge dimensions
would completely change the scale of the site, had
to be created by the structure of the building’s
sheath. This structure has been realized as a kind
if giant « pile of board » in which the vertical and
the horizontal carrying éléments, wooden beams,
wood cément panels and wooden platforms
« shelve » the éléments of the façade in an
analogy to the inner warehouse structure of
building. The idea of stocking shelves is not
applied to the building, but is embodied by the
building itself. The varying dimensions of horizontal
layers emphasize this concept. The building
acquires an almost « breathing » effect in which -
visible in the roof frieze – the inner steel
construction enclosed in sheet-metal is unmasked.
In ontact with the floor, the idea of a stacked pile is
again strengthened by the placement of concrete
consoles directly on top of the approximately sixfoot-
high stone foundation that remains visible
along the north façade. The viewer’s perception of
the stone is heightened by its contrust to the
délicate wood cement construction and its meaning
as a constituent topographical and historical
élément on the site becomes clearer ; The
limestone, once quarrid hère, now for the first time
becomes a part of this factory area.
Here, in the context of warehouse, I would like to
présent our housing project in Vienna-Aspern. The
site is a flat parcel in the eastern part of the city.
This flat open space was our point of departure
from our first sketches onwards, and found
concrete architectural expression in the final site
plan for the project. From the very beginning of this
project we worked together with Adolf Krischanitz
from Vienna and Otto Steidle from Munich to
develop a common idea for the site ; The row
houses are being developed individually by each
The settlement consists of long, slightly curved
rows of one-family houses ; The rows are curved
like a railroad train where the curve allows the
length of the train to be seen. A curve which also
serves as a means of orientation. It also describes
a center of the settlement without being
hierarchical, too-strongly pronounced center. It is
not a center with a market function or some similar
sociological invention. One feels this curve as a
sort of shelter with the centrality I mentioned in the
total form, and simultaneously something flowing,
something open, related to the flat ladscape
remains. The détails of each house are closely
related to thèse idéals of a curve and of
orientation. The houses display vertical strips of
rough or fine plaster. The Windows are placed
either outside or Inside of the masonry. They are
placed either within this plaster or they reach out
beyond it. This means that through their détails,
the suject of the convex or the concave side of
each house row is brought to the fore. Other
détails of the houses are to be understood as part
of a code for thèse concave and convex sides, for
the building as a whole. This code is also found in
the site plan and through this mutual dependency
displays a srong Relationship to the warehouse in
the stone quarry I mentioned before.
Coordination des TD : Delphine Desert
Assistants : Camille Besuelle - Etienne Delprat - Houda Draoui – Marie Ange Jambu - Marion Nielsen - Nicolas Simon
The hidden geometry of nature
Most of the objects we use in everyday life have for
us a clear identity, which is defined only by their
utilitarian value. We do not pose any further
questions to such an object, e.g., where it comes
from, how and from what material it is produed.
Because it is helpful, we accept it without getting to
knwo it better. Even if I wanted to and had had a
technical éducation, I could not understand objects
used daily the TV, the refrigerator, the personal
computer. All thèse objects seem to me to be a
kind of synthetic conglomération in which the
resulting products are barely still recognizable.
They are in a way so mixed up with other materials
that décomposition back into the original for mis no
longer possibe. Here, the original form would not
even be the natural one. Rather, it would first
decompose back into industriallyfinished products :
cables, glass panels, steel baldes and cooling
liquids. The culture in which we live today,
especially the western one, is a culture of blending
ans mising substances until they are
unrecognizable. These substances are a part of
that matter which, according to a basic law of
physics, is never lost. However, in insumerable
products of our industrial age, these substance, thi
matter, can only reenter a natural cycle with grat
difficulty. This means that after they are scrapped,
they Harden nto a useless degenerated state di
they become poisonous, life-threatening
substances. In this context, substances such as
lead, mercury and chorine are connected in our
minds to négative values ; Their harmless ordinary
guise as batteries for toys or as a refrigerator has
vanished. Their heyday is over, their identity, which
we believed we could exhaust in their utilitarian
value, is scrapped. My disconfort and my
questioning astonishement in the face of our daily
production are thus not unfounded. I could not
dissolve thèse aesthetic clumps, thèse
conglomérâtes, in my own head. I could not
dismantle them any more than the junkyards and
dépôts of our culture can. Thus there seems to be
a connection between aesthetic critical perception
resulting in physical discomfort and the real
measurable destruction of the natural world. But
what does all this have to do with architecture ?
Where does this mode of seing lead to when
applied to architecture ? I come, with all my
discomfort, from the field of architecture.
Architecture whose limits I try to extend ;
architecture which I use as a thinking model for a
critial perception of our whole culture.
Our interest in the invisible world is in finding a
form for it in the visible world. That is, in breaking
through the deceptive, visible and familiar guise to
take it apart, to atomize it, before relating to it
anew. The invisible world is not a mystic one, but it
is also not a world of natural sciences, of invisible
atomic crystalline structures.
With this use mean the complexity of a system od
Relationship which exists in nature, in an unresearchable
perfection exists, and those analogy
in the realm of art and society interests us. Our
interest is thus the hidden geometry of nature, a
spiritual principle and not primarily the outer
appearance of nature.
More interesting than a more farreaching
theoretical explanation of thèse ideas or a position
finding against the important philosophers and
artists who have done research in related areas,
such as Goethe and Novalis, and Rudolf Steiner
and Taut and Joseph Beuys, seems to me that I try
to portray some of our Works in this light as with
the warehouse or the settlement in Vienna in which
the code, that is the feedback of the most possible
and complex forms of the project in the clearest
and most compehensible principles interested us
In a new apartment project (redevelopment of the
Gaba Block, Basel) we use _ Standing side by side
– two fundamentally different types of houses. One
building has the structure of a conglomerate, like a
pièce of Nagelfuh stone. The unity of the house
arises out of a blending of various intégral and
identifiable architectural parts. These tower-like
parts, composed of various materials and of
various dimensions and forms, are the most
specific spatial expression of warying funtions
possible ; for example kitchens, bedrooms or
stairs. This type of house is, in our opinion, related
to the Stone House, to the coss-form plan or to
numerous housing forms in traditional cultures in
which the finished outer for mis also determinated
to a very large degree by the pushing out of the
inner structure, analogous to a form of growth.
From this point of observation, the house type built
attached to it is a completely contrary facility. It is a
finished form, determined by its outer appearance,
a familiar building reminisent of a factory with an
analogous character. Corresponding to this
seemingly pre-given outer form are the apartments
which are fitted into it. The large windows on the
façade are important to the factory-like image of
the façade and are simultaneously also an
expression of the two-story apartments that are
located behind it. The différentiation and the
placement side by side of thèse two house types
first becomes completely compréhensible and
meaningful in Relationship to the project’s site on a
land parcel in Basel on the Rhine on the edge of
the historic city. The conglomerate-like house is
located on the river and becomes part of a very
heterogenos urban riverbank development while
the added-on « classicst » house is locted in the
back courtyard.

(Photo: source:

Document lié : th3_villien_2013_10_28_herzog_jacques_la_geometrie_cachee_nature.pdf

Voir aussi :

Groupe thématique : texte

Thème majeur : architecture

Notions - mots clefs : tradition, présentation du projet architectural, réalité du projet

Activités : Texte

Famille : Texte chapitre d'ouvrage

Échelle : XL

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