– A response to current reading and the Lagan Meadows, Belfast

We are all temporal beings, and move with time; our personalities, our memories, are constructed from a collection of events existing in relation to one another along our personal timelines. What would become of our identity if these did not connect? Instead existing as detached phenomena floating in an empty chasm?

An ‘object’ sits separate and cold – unwelcoming – adrift. What use is this object if it cannot be used, if it is so isolate that it connects to nothing, relates to nothing? What use is Architecture if it does not recognise its context? It’s pursuit of individuality asks the removal of a significant, and traceable identity.

Nature has a wonderful habit of showering its beautiful chaos across the clinical order of our isolated intervention, it reminds us of the significance of the relationships between things, the connections which generate a cohesive identity, a unity.


Currently reading:

Narrative Architecture – Nigel Coates

Anti-Object: The Dissolution and Disintegration of Architecture – Kengo Kuma


4 thoughts on “Empiricism

  1. Really nice post Callum, makes me want to read the two books you mentioned! It reminds me a little of what I was thinking about in my last project, about people attaching their memories to the land they are brought up in, and how the land somehow shapes their identity. You’re going far more in-depth than me, but maybe you’d like to read ‘Landscape and Memory’ by Ken taylor, it’s a very short paper. http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/mow/mow_3rd_international_conference_ken_taylor_en.pdf
    But maybe you’re thinking about something completely different and I’m just going off on a tangent, anywho, nice post.

    • Thank you Letitia, that’s very kind of you! Nigel Coates primer is quite basic, and tends towards a catalog of his work for NATO, but it introduced me to William Kent’s Landscaping at Rousham House which, compared with Versailles for example, sought an approach based on the culmination of experiences by moving between nodes as opposed to the rigorous top down order of the French equivalent. The paper you linked is really interesting, it feels like a step towards something more concrete in what I’m pursuing here (not at all a tangent!), this notion of identity fascinates me. He mentions that the Asia-Pacific regions show some of the strongest evidence of this which could prove quite relevant too. Given the pretty outstanding success of your recent project I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the impact of landscape on shaping identity?

      • Haha I don’t know where to start really, the impact of landscape on shaping identity is such a huge topic. A book which really helped me was Robert Macfarlanes book called the Old ways. It has so many observations and ideas about this topic, written very simply and easily.
        But I think landscape means so much to people because it feels so familiar, not just to the individual, but to their ancestors. If a family is established in one region for a long time, the land becomes an alive and accessible museum almost. Old stories and traditions aren’t just talked about and remembered, they have an anchor in the landscape. Almost everything which has ever happened to the individual and their family and friends, happened on their landscape, on that hill or by that river, or under that tree.
        And then of course because everything is wrapped up in memory, the imagination comes into play, because memory is shifting and unreliable, it becomes exaggerated in some places and forgotten in others, and the land starts to become so so dear to someone, simply because they have attached so much emotional, private thoughts onto it. It’s hard to explain and I don’t think I’m doing it justice, because I know this topic is far more complex than what I’m saying. But you see the manifestation of it everywhere, settlers in America calling every new town after their beloved old one, or soldiers in trenches exchanging stories of a specific river with one another, to gain some comfort. I’m not sure why the land you are raised in becomes so treasured, almost obsessively. It almost feels like no-one understands it truly but you. I know I have places that when I go back to them, I just feel full of…I’m not sure what! Sadness, longing, regret, happiness, hopefulness? I’m going on abit now and I don’t think I really made my point but hope this was in someway relevant! Haha, let me know!

      • Such an interesting response Letitia! I don’t entirely know where to start with this either, like you say it’s an incredibly expansive a topic, memory and landscape. The psychologist in me would make claims to the development of neural connections though experiences, a passive learning of the landscape based on the kind of events you mention. The level in which the environment plays a role in who we are, our development, and our personalities is phenomenal, even compared to our genetic bias’s. Given that learning is essentially a recording of experiences, it’s amazing how much of what we may deem non-essential information is recorded during this. The ‘backdrop’ of a landscape may not be essential to the actions/repercussions of the experience, but it is subconsciously recorded in such depth that the landscape can reproduce in us the intensive emotional responses you mention without a direct representation of the original event. It’s so similar to hearing that song that makes you feel something before you can place it, or that scent that forces you to remember before you can think of why. I guess what makes landscape so much more inexplicable is the ancestral connection you mention, it stretches further that the individuals song and becomes this tribal rhythm that connects memories across generations, it becomes written in us, ingrained…Okay, now I’m rambling haha. but your points are both entirely relevant and helpful! I think I may hold off in relating this back to the built environment for a while until I at least read The Old Ways, so thank you for that recommendation too. I’m not sure if you are pursuing any of this material since you have finished the project, but if you happen to come across anything you think might be of interest let me know!

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