Coexistence of rational definiteness and irrational oneness an investigation of Robin Boyd's architecture and theoretical approach through a Heideggerian perspective

Baracco, M 2010, Coexistence of rational definiteness and irrational oneness an investigation of Robin Boyd's architecture and theoretical approach through a Heideggerian perspective, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Coexistence of rational definiteness and irrational oneness an investigation of Robin Boyd's architecture and theoretical approach through a Heideggerian perspective
Author(s) Baracco, M
Year 2010
Abstract This thesis examines the approach of Melbourne architect Robin Boyd (1919-1971) through a philosophical framework developed from the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976).

Boyd’s approach to both theoretical discussion and design production resists the rational determinations of mainstream modernism through sensibilities informed by a sense of ambivalence, ‘con-fusion’ and other correlated dimensions that are discussed in this thesis: unclearness, vagueness, weakness, irresoluteness, elusiveness, ambiguity, indefiniteness, openness, releasement. These qualities of Boyd’s approach and related works are indicative of his inclination to rationally accept a comprehensible objectification of the world, and yet at the same time to hope for an incomprehensible dimension of reciprocal co-belongingness of physical and spatial entities. The thesis proposes that this paradoxical position – this coexistence of rational determination of individual entities, and irrational releasement to a dimension of all-inclusiveness/oneness – is a quintessential characteristic of this architect, and places him on the edges of the modernist culture and its related values.

This is argued through two parts: a theoretical framing essay – part one – that is then discussed for its particular application to 36 specific projects – part two. The latter presents the projects anew by redrawing and photographing so as to detach them from their purely historical archival presentation and to provide a comprehensive and consistent documentation. This act is important and supportive to the PhD’s framework that focuses on essential and philosophical notions of architecture rather than historical ‘facts’ or trajectories, therefore offering an alternative reading in comparison to the extensive body of existing material about Robin Boyd and his work.

Robin Boyd’s work and thought are discussed as in empathy with some theoretical positions of Martin Heidegger, whose philosophy is informed by a condition of critical resistance towards a pervasive modernist approach that tends to conceive reality as if it was merely consisting of objective and individual physical presences. This modernist approach is a direct reflection of both:
- a typical Western tradition of thought that is originally, since ever, inclined to identify being with presence,
and
- the Western Modern creation and gradual amplification of the duality between subject and object, according to which the world is perceived and represented a san objective outcome of a cognitive process in which human beings are the subjects, constantly considering themselves as “the relational center of that which is as such” (Martin Heidegger, The Age of the World Picture).

Alternative to this approach, Heidegger’s philosophy proposes to release ourselves to irrationality, through a “meditative thinking” as a coexisting sensibility of the “calculative thinking” that predominantly informs rational/logical viewpoints. Heidegger's paradoxical thinking embraces at once rationality and irrationality, accepting both these conditions as intrinsic of our being-in-the-world.

Boyd’s approach, reflected in particular in the ambivalence of his writings and sense of potentiality and spatial continuity of his projects, is investigated in relation to the above philosophical positions. The thesis argues that the application of this approach in Boyd’s two different operative fields (theoretical discourse and architectural practice) is inclined to forms of ‘con-fusion’ and openness rather than clarity and determination.

Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) Robin Boyd
Heidegger
Australian Architecture
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Created: Fri, 17 Oct 2014, 10:42:19 EST by Maria Lombardo
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