Something that is next to nothing
“A stage space has two rules: (1) Anything can happen and (2) Something must happen.”1
In the absence of a brief, a proposition? An idea in search of a somewhere in the city. Metropolitan emptiness has long been reduced to an economic quantum.
The predatory city abhors a vacuum, seeking to diminish all voids with construction. With development economically predisposed to density, empty space is compelled to coexist. In a realm where lacunae are rare and fissures to be filled, Śūnyatā remains a conceptual state.
So how to sustain a place for ‘something’ and ‘anything’, while also making it available? Free movement as an absolute anthropological imperative? “Something” and “anything”in themselves are never enough. Random spaces necessitate opportune strategies. Obliquity ventured by all concerned. Intuition willingly gifted in return for the possibilities of becoming. “We are not referring to life as we know it from its surface of fact, but to that fragile, fluctuating center which forms never reach.”2
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness. Whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form. Yet technology and technique incline to diminution and with a simple gesture we can enlarge awareness by the most fractional means. Just as the slenderest frame can underscore a view, a view without a frame requires no mediation to perceive.
As Lewerentz understood, directness and discretion can be two aspects of the same thing.
In the basement of the Lisson Gallery in 1973, rare eyewitnesses observed the artist Michael Asher’s strategic sensitivity: “All the way round, a thin but palpable incision had been made in the base of the walls, so that they appeared slightly detached from the floor. It would sound inviting if I said the walls thereby seemed to float or hover above the floor, but the effect was not as dramatic as that. Rather did it dislodge, in a hair’s-breadth and not at all irrevocable way, the function of the walls, implying that their presence need not prevent us from imagining the floor extending beyond into the space outside the room.”3
The shadowed interval is tendered as an opening to understanding, not a stylistic motif or shameless parody. Likewise, dance and architecture are mutually defined by each other’s limits. Physical form remains a circumstantial impediment to physical liberty. Hope lies somewhere between scenography to crush all prospects and choreography to obliterate all form. Architecture must seek its own disappearance if life and impulse are to manifest unimpeded. Defended within spaces together and alone, mutually shaped by the disposition of body, mind and form. Poised somewhere between the transparent and the opaque with reflections determined to disrupt and yet reveal coherence.
Behaving Merce like McGregor like Mies “cancelling symmetry at precisely the point where affirmation was demanded”.4
Perhaps inside a space without corners, where all surfaces are rendered as if continuous, both architecture and body wait to be revealed. All exits open to the future and pathways unprescribed. Something that is next to nothing.
1. Peter Brook ‘The Empty Space’ 1968
2. Antonin Artaud ‘The Theatre and its Double’ 1938
3. Richard Cork ‘Everything Seemed Possible: Collected Essays’ Page 92, Yale University Press 2003
4. Robin Evans ‘Mies van der Rohe’s Paradoxical Symmetries’ AA Files 19 1990 reproduced in ‘Translations from Drawing to Building’, MIT Press Cambridge Massachusetts 1997.
Location London, United Kingdom
Client Studio Wayne McGregor
Architecture We Not I
Authors Mark Treharne, Douglas Tuck
Structural Engineering Techniker
Service Engineering BSG Ltd
Acoustic Consultants Sandy Brown Associates
Project Management Castle-Davis
Contractor Westgreen Construction Ltd