Monday, 6 March 2017

Kengo Kuma, anti object, hut, poetics of shelter in the immediate environment

Thinkers and Vessel Makers.
Weaving the body into architecture
Kengo Kuma

Poetics as an evolving and discursive system of dialogues that acknowledges environmental changes, of other spatial narratives and histories, and things that are not just about place and space.

‘The phenomenology of space – the matter of how we experience it.’
Gaston Bachelard, Poetics of Space (space and reverie), The Psychoanalysis of Fire.














‘Architecture that forces us to confront our own spatial intelligence by moving us so much that we recall the eidetic origination of our own mental space.’ (Schaik,2008:80)

‘Speculations about the first shelters, the relationship between our home and the universe, about spaces that we first use as surrogate houses as we form our spatial histories and our mental space. It is about the contemplative effects of the miniature, about the paradoxical way in which the scale of many of our most cherished monuments can switch in our minds from large to minute- the quality of intimate immensity. It is also about propositions around the complex relationships between inside and outside and the surface between, about the phenomenology of roundness’ (Schaik,2008:86-87)

‘We are composed of matter and live in the midst of matter. Our objective should not be to renounce matter, but to search for a form of matter other than objects. What that form is called-Architecture, Gardens, Technology- is not important.’
Kengo Kuma.

On Anti-Object : An extended essay that is not so much history or theory as a volume of self-assessment that gives an opportunity for the author to contextualise his own body of work through considered self-reflection.
‘A monument is a form that preserves time through the compression of space, a form in which visual perception is the parameter. A monument is a compression of time and space’ (Kuma,2008:92) Anti Object.

‘My purpose in writing this book is to criticise architecture that is self-centred and coercive.’ Kengo Kuma.

‘Like McTiernan or the theorist Paul Virilio, Kuma sees new digital and information technologies as leading us to an aesthetics of disappearance, rather than image or form.(Steele,2008:3)

‘My ultimate aim is to erase architecture’(Kuma,2008:3)
How then, can architecture be made to disappear?


‘To be precise, an object is a form of material existence distinct from its immediate environment. I do not deny that all buildings, as points of singularity created by humankind in the environment, are to some extent objects. However, buildings that are deliberately made distinct from their environment are very different from those that attempt to mitigate this isolation, and the difference is perceptible to everyone who experiences them.’ (Kuma,2008:Preface)

Art and The Humanities in reference to Waverley Abbey
Contemporary Art Practices, Installations and Interiors



This research and its design proposal are centred on the arts and the humanities and their ongoing function in our contemporary society. The emphasis of this inquiry is located by the spatial practices of architecture, fine art and performance. My project is a field event and symposium that would be able to host intellectual dialogues, lectures (TED) workshops, performative events and exhibitions. I am particularly interested the relational production of social spaces and the aesthetics of builtspaces, both historical and ephemeral. The proposed use of Waverley Abbey near Farnham as a possible site and retreat for this venture is valid as it links a possible interdisciplinary territory of anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. Tim Ingold (Making) Colin Renfrew (Figuring it Out) and others have for many years been researching and mapping this new spatiality.

What remains of Waverley Abbey and its sense of place are critical to the holistic and contemporary underpinning of this experiential event. Founded in 1128 it was the first Cistercian Abbey to be built in England. It is recorded that Cistercian life was initially based on manual labour and self-sufficiency, this was further supplemented by other activities like agriculture and brewing that enabled the abbey to support itself. Later over the centuries education and academia began to dominate the concerns of the abbey. The abbey was suppressed with its dissolution in 1536, although records show its activities were already at this time substantially diminished. The ruins and their site then enter into the imaginary realm through classic literature in the novel Waverley by Scott. Further on a pictorial reference from an engraving shows the ruins now incorporated as a fashionable landscape feature within the newly built Waverley Abbey House.

On a contemporary note Waverley Abbey has featured in a number of films ranging in genres from period costume dramas through to fantasy, together with post apocalyptic visions of dystopia. A recent film shoot required the construction of a sixty-foot tower made from internal scaffolding with a skin that recreated the adjacent ruinous fabric of this historic site.

Encountering the site is currently only manageable by foot; this short walk in the surrounding landscape sets up the sense of place and prepares our own subjectivities to its reception. It is in this expectation, this thinking in the landscape that the pastoral and educational aspects of the site become apparent. Currently access is only available through one directed pathway; a multiplicity of other access points and even other structures (bridges, earthworks and thickets) could begin to open up the spatial palimpsest already located at Waverley. What remains of the architectural fabric with its diminished interiors still grants a hospitality and refuge for both the body and the imagination. This activity opens up the experiential space of encountering ourselves through the enjoyment/entanglements of layered social space.


Waverley Abbey is a public monument in the custodian care of English Heritage. It can only be accessed by walking about a quarter of a mile from the limited parking spaces.