Pattern study 3

The plan view of a ceramic tile system.

Subverting postmodernism

In Kuwait the typology of a mosque is distilled into a mental image from a set of preservationist and ideological ideas. Heritage, as a concept, has always played a tangible role in Middle Eastern region, which since the golden ages of the Islamic and perhaps Ottoman Empire has experienced an intellectual "retardation", hence looking back to the past for inspiration and identity. However, the notion of Heritage is quite an oddity in a number of ways, the most important of which is that the core ideas that instructed the superficial aspect of things (material and especially pertinent to our discussion, architectural) have not been fully preserved, either in a wide enough intellectual circle or culture, leading to a sort of fascism, where how things look determines how much they abide to this impoverished version of the notion. Those ideas then are not allowed to resurface, evolve and consequentially instruct novel forms or architectural approaches, which might be very interesting. Instead, all the technical expertise of the time needs to bow to the creation of a simplistic function dressed in substance-less aesthetic. The typology of the mosque cannot flourish to keep up with the current architectural trends and theories, and even worst, does not retain the same intellectual quality and rigor on which it was previously defined.
Secondly, the Kuwaiti society is still ,relatively speaking, a "young" society in search of an identity. Sticking to Heritage provides and answer, partially. Aside from the mix of group-specific ideological paradoxes, the modernization of the state of Kuwait saw an unprepared society rapidly immersed into an imported modernity which didn't really resonate with the cultural predisposition at the time to create a richer context. On the contrary, space and form has lost most of its finer and subtler meanings. Half a century later architectural typologies are perceived strictly form a functional perspective; an office is nothing more than an office, a house is nothing more than a house, and a cultural institution is nothing more than a decorated box. It is perhaps not surprising that a conservative society sees "class" as sticking to Heritage, however since the notion is only applied stylistically - where the aesthetics are no longer accompanied by their core values - it produces the comical situation where the referent can be chosen from any time and any place; this is how European classicism has found its way to decorate the houses of some well to do people, alongside Moorish, Ottoman and contemporary international styles. T
Obviously, this version of post-modernism is a step further than what even Venturi proposed. The obvious question, for an architect forced to work in such a contexts, is how can it be subverted. It is part of the designer's obligation to respond to the client's requirements with respect and understanding, even when they are paradoxical or contrary to his or her beliefs. On the other hand it is many times difficult to selectively turn a blind eye to he client's requirements; for example I would agree to make a mosque of these many square meters but I cannot be stylistically predetermined. Right away we can see that subversion is no easy task. Its possible only if one can correctly identify the doors left open by the client's requirements and lack of understanding of the matter.
Take the following example. I am supposed to design a mosque with more or less standard functional requirements, and in a post-modern "Moorish" style, with arches and all the clutter, for no other reason than the clients preference. In this case it is very likely that his taste is only a matter of surface application, which means that the concepts adopted by the Moors is not something he's juggling with in his head. With some historical knowledge it is possible to resurface some core intellectual ideas, update them, re-shape them, and reintroduce them in a novel way that could perhaps lead to innovation.
Even from a functional perspective, it is unlikely that the client would have a deep understanding that would take into account the qualities of each element in the set of functions, and their relationships within themselves and with each-other. For example the qualities of space are shaped and modified by its position, function and connection to all the other spaces, and by introducing an element, even if only a filler, could induce enough change to induce novelty

Hegel's Circle

You self-reflecting pile of lifeless matter,
What you are, you do not know,
Who you are, you cannot decide,
Where you were, you don't remember...
or where you'll be, you cannot see,
Why you are, you just can't fathom...
even if you heard the words.
You speak of life and love and freedom,
Do you realize you are death throughout,
Frozen inconsequential action,
Despite unrelenting will,
Since where you willed it wasn't yours...
Not then, not now, nor ever,
As for the words you think you've heard...
your dead ear received only silence,
Like ashes unfold unto ashes deaf, in a circle,
Falsely imagining brief moments are substantial,
To life and the history of life,
Enough to differentiate truth from false...
with logic as if it's more than a sensation,
As if lifeless matter can feel or imagine.
You self-reflecting pile of lifeless matter,
You are neither, but a loop of delusion.