De-structured space

What I call de-structured space here (pdf) is the kind of work we find in naturalistic Japanese and Chinese art and gardens, and in picturesque Western gardens and art.  

 "Sargent Juniper, 1905-2007" by Ragesoss - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

"Sargent Juniper, 1905-2007" by Ragesoss - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

As natural as such works look, they require a great deal of care in design in order to sidestep the typical human desire to create simple rhythms and symmetries. The bonsai above looks natural in its way, but in reality it's quite difficult to create. The bonsai artist has to balance the asymmetry, make the trunk look like it's striving against mighty forces, and incidentally weave in driftwood.

Look at the wall behind, though. If the bonsai were at the side of a driveway next to a coiled-up garden hose, it would not even be apparent that it was tended. The blank wall behind it is just as important as the bonsai itself.

1st Principle: Break Order

The first principle of de-structuring is to break the easy symmetry of a doodle. 

 "Doodle" by Dmn - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

"Doodle" by Dmn - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

This collection of doodles is decidedly untutored. However, several of the doodles have repeating, alternating patterns, symmetries, and rhythms. A couple of them grow from small to large. This basic instinct to pattern, which comes out even in a sketch, has to be carefully broken in order to create something like the bonsai. 

2nd Principle: Provide a foil

The bonsai would be difficult to appreciate against a random backdrop, or any strong  backdrop. It sings when against a blank wall. Together, the blank wall supports the bonsai. Even a very large building can attempt to erase itself, so to speak, by making itself a foil.

 "John Hancock Tower - Boston, MA - DSC08138" by Daderot - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

"John Hancock Tower - Boston, MA - DSC08138" by Daderot - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

The John Hancock Tower in Boston was supposed to melt into the sky, so that its grid worked as a foil for nature: the clouds and reflections of the city. Of course it doesn't always work, but it certainly can. In the previous post, I mentioned that a pergola can act as a neutral backdrop. Certainly the best pictures of modernist architecture have trees and free-form sculpture in the foreground.

3rd Principle: A Subjective Stance

The third principle is to engender a subjective stance. Artists can usually depend on people to try to appreciate their art. This subjective stance is easy to come by in fine art, but difficult in architecture -- particularly urban architecture. When we come on architecture in everyday life, we're usually preoccupied by mundane concerns. Of course, we can often enjoy modern architecture when we have a chance to prepare.