Interstitial difference

Architects are intimately aware of the notion of a field as a condition that precedes architecture. A parcel to be built upon is not generally considered to be more than a small piece the vast surface that wraps the planet, the skin of “nature”. Or what has once been natural. An easy way to describe the field is: “the unenclosed interstitial space in-between building areas” – whatever the scale. Even if this description were to be accurate it would not help us much with deepening our understanding of the subject matter. On the one hand the field cannot and shouldn’t be seen separate from the urbanity that has covered it. However, defining the field vis-a-vis architecture is rather more difficult because the latter is still loosely defined (architecture seems to want to transcend simple descriptions). On the other hand, the field as a mental construct has much deeper implications culturally, socially and economically.
The birth of the field probably coincided with the first shelter. Perhaps it is not that critical figuring out if Ledoux was right, after all, that the primitive shed was in fact planned the way he portrayed it; more important is recognizing that even a shed has a design intention, that it has an “Architect”, if you will. That first voluntary intervention into the virgin natural setting was then the creation of the field, whatever that intervention might have been, shed or some other thing. It turns out that the word “tabula rasa” is in fact a paradox; the earth being the spheroid that it is, requires only one such intervention to be turned not only into a field, a “scape”, but a finite one. After which all other interventions will be relative to the original - they all belong to the same genus of actions upon the natural setting. It is precisely within this relativism that any discussion of the field, which is a signifier of specific category of concepts, can even make sense.
The most interesting things then tend to happen at the boundaries the category. One thing we need to understand is that the act of categorizing is fundamentally artificial and immaterial, thus the categories themselves do not equate what they encompass. The field, being a category itself, cannot be a stable construct, and since subjects and interpretations vary in time and space so does the understanding of the field. This gives it its highly dynamic quality that causes so much perplexity to those who have the pretention of studying it. Even more perplexing are the moral and a ethical “solutions” some try to insert into the discussion. While it makes full sense to insert anything one wants into the conceptual category of the field, more insertion leads to less coherence . This logic is not all that hard to follow. Words and concepts are only useful if they refer to something somewhat specific. If a word has let’s say a thousand synonyms then it wouldn't be pragmatic to use it in verbal or textual formulations, for the sake of clarity. Similarly, the field once it becomes too unstable a mental construct it loses its usefulness. However, one cannot always arrive at a concept so inert and void of ambiguity like Descarte's “I”. Furthermore, it is perhaps not even in the benefit of the discussion to try to clearly define the field to exclude all ambiguity.
More useful then is bringing to consciousness that there can be such a thing as an optimum boundary condition, one that allows for the insertion and exertion of concepts in such a way as to increase the understanding and usefulness of the field. These concepts, each with their own internal logic, need to be unfolded by the logic of the boundary until an acceptable and relevant relativism can be made manifest. It is precisely the reason why the most interesting things happen at boundary. Once you insert a new sub-component, its internal logic alters the way all other concepts unfold; you get a "new" field, and possibly a novel approach to design.
Historically the understanding of architectural work has regularly bounced between objective and subjective paradigms, between self-referentiality and contextuality, without much consciousness on the part of the practitioners. That Sejima's simple idea of "Architecture to meet or avoid meeting people" created such furors at the 12th Venice Biennale in contrast to previous object oriented themes is an attestation that the practice forgets or overlooks too easily. Only a few decades ago we have seen similar thoughts brought forth by urban planners and architects in favour of random interaction brought by density over the isolating sprawl. Of course, both readings of architecture are somewhat correct when considered both by themselves or simultaneously. Perhaps it is not all that important figuring out what is right, or, if we take the postmodernist stance, one could even say it is ethically dubious for all the bad consequences that arrogant attitude had during modernism. The contemporary reality of Architecture is that of parallaleity, where all sorts of ideas and attitudes are maintained and developed side by side; ultra-modern neighbours ultra-post-modern, ultra-sustainable, and so on. The cacophony famously illustrated by Koolhaas in his collage of contemporary iconic buildings is highly disturbing but also informative: when the field is not covered by monotonous and idiosyncratic ideas, there can be no coordination or mutual comprehension. In this manner, Architecture becomes a useless mental construct. When new students start their architectural education they are faced with a profession that has in common only the solution to a human need in a world conditioned and organized by gravity. In other words, architecture is reduced to subdividing, covering and interiorising the field. In essence, the only fundamentally unmovable idea of the field is the raison d’ĂȘtre of the primitive hut - and no wonder that Ledoux wanted to "own" it by his fantastical projection. Anything beyond this raison d’ĂȘtre is superfluous artificiality historically perceived as sacred and utterly essential to humanity. Since it is no longer the case, the doors for discussion are widely open, and the dynamism of architecture is in full vigour, with creativity outdoing itself, helped by multi and inter-disciplinary approaches. In all cases, the field is currently not, by any means, susceptible to even covering, even if the covering is thorough.