Collage and Architecture

August 22, 2017 | Author: leguizamonj | Category: Cubism, Collage, Abstract Art, Surrealism, Perception
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Collage and Architecture Jennifer Shields, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, NC, USA Abstract: Pablo Picasso’s first act of collage-making in May of 1912, in its conceptual, material, and technical originality, has profoundly influenced numerous artists and architects throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Collage inherently emphasizes process over product, offering the potential for a multiplicity of readings while re-conceptualizing three-dimensional space. This ambiguity creates opportunities for multivalence in the architectural design process and the resultant work of architecture, responding to the richness and complexities extant in sites and cities. Collage can be considered in the following ways in its relevance to the field of architecture: collage as autonomous work of art, collage as analytical and/or design tool, and architecture as collage. The richness and potentiality of collage as a tool for analysis and design lies in the diversity of media and techniques. This paper will address the efficacy of collage as a representational medium integrated into the design process in the work of Le Corbusier and Eduardo Chillida, whose work proves a lineage of the Cubist conception of space through the translation from collage to built form. Considering collage as an instrument for analysis and design, drawing on decades of relevance in art and architecture, offers a diverse set of material, technical, and conceptual precedent for designers. Keywords: Collage, Architecture, Representation, Cubism, Le Corbusier, Eduardo Chillida


NE CENTURY AGO, collage entered the lexicon of the contemporary art world. Pablo Picasso, in May of 1912, first appropriated a found material into a work of art. In his Still Life with Chair-Caning, Picasso affixed a piece of oil cloth printed with the design of chair-caning into an oil painting, creating what would come to be known as a papier collé 1. This was the ‘“first deliberately executed collage–the first work of fine art…in which material appropriated from everyday life, relatively untransformed by the artist, intrude upon the traditionally privileged domain of painting.”2 [Figure 13] The founders of Cubism-Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris-valued collage as a hybridization of painting and sculpture existing at the threshold of two and three dimensions. As a means of image-making in which to investigate the potentialities of three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional medium, collage facilitated a new conception of space. These first acts of collage-making in the Modernist canon, in their conceptual, material, and technical originality, have profoundly influenced numerous artists and architects throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.


Papier-collé is a French phrase meaning ‘glued paper.’ Poggi, Christine. In Defiance of Painting: Cubism, Futurism, and the Invention of Collage. New Haven: Yale University, 1992, p. 1. 3 Pablo Picasso. Still Life with Chair Caning. 1912. Artchive [online]. Available on World Wide Web: ( 2

The International Journal of the Image Volume 2, Issue 3, 2012,, ISSN 2154-8560 © Common Ground, Jennifer Shields, All Rights Reserved, Permissions: [email protected]


Figure 1: Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Chair-Caning, 1912 Collage, as an art form unique to the modern era, emphasizes process over product. A collage as a work of art consists of the assembly of various fragments of materials, combined in such a way that the composition has a new meaning, not inherent in any of the individual fragments. According to Diane Waldman in Collage, Assemblage, and the Found Object, a collage has several levels of meaning: “the original identity of the fragment or object and all of the history it brings with it; the new meaning it gains in association with other objects or elements; and the meaning it acquires as the result of its metamorphosis into a new entity.”4 Simultaneity of spatial, material, and intellectual content is inherent in collage through a synthesis of unrelated fragments. We might understand architectural experience in a similar way. In Questions of Perception, Steven Holl illuminates the nature of our perception of the built environment, saying: ‘A city is never seen as a totality, but as an aggregate of experiences, animated by use, by overlapping perspectives, changing light, sounds, and smells. Similarly, a single work of architecture is rarely experienced in its totality (except in graphic or model form) but as a series of partial views and synthesized experiences. Questions of meaning and understanding lie between the generating ideas, forms and the nature and quality of perception.’5 In our experience of the world, we perceive human artifacts as an amalgam of sensory phenomena understood through personal experience and memory, rather than completely and objectively through a formal evaluation. Like a collage, revealing evidence of time and its process of construction, a work of architecture contains accumulated history as it is lived and engaged rather than observed. Just as a work of architecture is only fully created and


Waldman, Diane. Collage, Assemblage, and the Found Object. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1992, p. 11. Holl, Steven, Juhani Pallasmaa, and Alberto Perez-Gomez. Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture. San Francisco: William Stout Publishers, 2006, p. 130. 5



comprehended through bodily, sensory engagement, collage offers a counterpart, providing the medium to interrogate spatial and material possibilities. [Figure 26]

Figure 2: Max Ernst, La Puberte Proche ou Les Pleiades, 1921 Collage can be practiced not only to capture spatial and material characteristics of the built environment, as an analytical and interpretive mechanism–through this understanding, we can also build with a consciousness and intentionality to respond to the multivalence extant in sites and cities. The dialogue between collage and architecture can be evaluated in the following ways: 1. 2. 3.

Collage as autonomous work of art Collage as a tool for analysis and design Architecture as collage

Beginning with an overview of collage as an investigatory tool for spatial analysis, we must consider the evolution of collage throughout the past century. The Cubists, for the first time in 450 years, had rejected the Renaissance approach to representation in which visual experience was privileged. The Cubists instead represented aspects of daily life through abstraction, 6

Max Ernst. La puberté proche ou Les Pléiades. 1921. Artchive [online]. Available on World Wide Web: (



material juxtapositions, and fragmentation and synthesis of form, capturing spatial and material qualities. The genealogy of collage and the influences of Synthetic Cubism on art and architecture are illustrated in the Collage Genealogy Map, demonstrating the conceptual or technical affiliations between various artists and architects throughout the past century. [Figure 37]


The legacy of Cubism as demonstrated in this genealogy has its foundation in Alfred Barr’s chart for the MoMA exhibition in 1936, Cubism and Abstract Art, in which he illustrated the movements that influenced Cubism and the movements that were subsequently informed by Cubism.



Figure 3: Jennifer Shields, Collage Genealogy, 2012





The Analytical Premise of Collage Tracking the diffusion of the Cubists’ reconception of space both geographically and ideologically, we find that the bold geometric forms of the Cubist collage were quickly adopted by artists outside France, while political unrest in Europe leading up to World War I saw the appropriation of collage for political and cultural purposes. The work of the Italian Futurists and the Russian Avant-Garde was highly politicized, the goal being to direct art towards a social purpose and demonstrate the ideals of a modern society. Formally, they emphasized materiality and typically focused on the two-dimensional plane of the canvas. Artists of the Russian Avant-Garde were often architects as well, using collage, a two-dimensional medium, as a means of generating concepts for three-dimensional architectural forms. [Figure 48]

Figure 4: Kazimir Malevich, Private of the First Division, 1914 Dadaism was founded in Zurich at the outbreak of World War I in protest and considered itself ‘anti-art’, Dadaists seeing their work as a rejection of existing cultural and aesthetic values through their adoption of collage. Most Dadaists eliminated painting and drawing in their collages, and instead used photos and catalogues almost exclusively. Their use of photomontage was due to their desire to be seen as engineers or mechanics rather than artists.9 The social commentary of the Dadaists was represented formally through changing perspectives, sharp diagonals, and contrasting materials and images, using rich textures and representations of the human body. Surrealism developed in the period of peace following World War One, an outgrowth of Dadaism in Paris that become more internally focused. The Surrealists opposed the formal and rational order of Cubism, seeking to unify the inner world of the imagination with the outer world of reality, a synthesis termed ‘surreality’ by Surrealism’s founder, André Breton. This dreamlike quality was often achieved through photomontage and the juxtaposition of unrelated objects–the often fluid and indistinguishable boundaries 8 Kasimir Malevich, Private of the First Division, 1914. ARTStor [online]. New York: New York. Available from World Wide Web: ( 9 There is debate over the birth of photomontage, as both the Russian Constructivists and the Dadaist Raoul Hausmann claim to have invented it.



between layers magnifies this effect. At the same time in Germany, the Bauhaus design school was founded, intending to integrate all of the design disciplines, greatly influenced by De Stijl and Constructivism: professors including László Moholy-Nagy employed photomontage in their own research and pedagogical pursuits. Contemporary art10 has witnessed the use of collage by numerous artists, including the Abstract Expressionists originating in New York and Pop Artists in New York and London. Abstract Expressionism derived directly from Synthetic Cubism with influences of Futurism, the Bauhaus, and Surrealism. This movement began in the 1930s in the US, drawing from Surrealism’s concept of automatism, or the power of the subconscious. These artists intended to merge the real and the imaginary by combining the familiar with the unknown, the personal with the universal. The process of collage-making in its manual engagement with the media, “reflected both process and product, the same way the Abstract Expressionists paintings simultaneously represented the creative act and the final image.”11 Pop Art developed in the 1950s as a response to Abstract Expressionism, employing found objects and images like the Dadaists, with a desire to capture the complexities of contemporary culture. Collage artists today have appropriated found physical artifacts as well as virtual image fragments, expanding the palette of collage-making materials into the digital realm. [Figure 512] Reflecting on the genealogy of collage, the value and meaning of collage intertwining art and architecture has transformed throughout the past century as the conception of space has evolved. Materially, the choice of fragments is also distinctive, revealing evidence of the time and place in which the collages were constructed as the artists incorporate readily available materials from everyday life into their collage compositions. The interconnectivity and overlap of collage methodologies in art movements of the twentieth century provide a diversity of ideologies, techniques, and materials from which architects have drawn, and will continue to draw, inspiration.


Contemporary art in this paper refers to art movements after World War II. Waldman, p. 231. 12 Jennifer Shields, Spatio-Temporal Thresholds digital collage, 2009.




Figure 5: Jennifer Shields, Spatio-temporal Thresholds, Digital Collage, 2009

The Generative Potential of Collage Shifting from the analytical to the generative, collage has been implicated in the architectural design process in a range of scales and conceptual and technical collage methodologies in the field of architecture over the past century. Though collage as a theoretical concept in architecture only became widely discussed after the publication of Collage City 13 by Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter in 1987, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and other early 20th century architects made use of collage in their design process to experiment with spatial and material juxtapositions. Architects have since exploited collage for both its conceptual possibilities and its material, formal, and representational potential. [Figure 614]


In Collage City, the authors were interested in collage for its metaphorical value, a means of understanding the potentialities in the rich layering and complexity of the built environment. 14 Nicholson, Ben. The Appliance House. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1990.



Figure 6: Ben Nicholson, The Appliance House, 1990 Considering collage as an instrument for design, drawing on decades of relevance in art and architecture, offers a diverse set of material, technical, and conceptual precedent from which to draw inspiration. Collage, as it has evolved, brings with it a number of dialectics, including representational/abstract, gestural/precise, texture/image, surface/depth, and literal/metaphorical, all of which are considered within the methodologies of art and architecture. The variety of methods can be hybridized and tailored to suit the conceptual framework within which a work of architecture resides. The multivalence and synthesis of spatial and material conditions inherent in collage-making creates the potential for a multiplicity of interpretations and experiences in the design process and the resultant work of architecture. As we consider the role of collage in design, we must consider the legacy of the Cubists and proximate movements in modern art, and their adoption of collage as a means of synthesizing unrelated fragments. Themes of figure/ground reversal, phenomenal transparency, and simultaneity are significant in architectural works in the Modernist canon. As these themes are translated into the realm of architecture, it becomes evident that the recognition of spatial as well as temporal conditions and the value of process play a crucial role. In our experience of space and site, “[The fragment] cannot be grasped in a single intuition; it relies on a sequence of stages bringing together individual phenomena and the universal ground in a process that may be described as the restorative mapping and articulation of the world.”15 This simultaneity is what the Cubists were attempting to capture in their collage-making.

15 Vesely, Dalibor. Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation: The Question of Creativity in the Shadow of Production. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2004, p. 334.



Time finds expression through architecture both spatially and materially, while collage, as a two-dimensional medium, must express time materially, implying spatial conditions. Space, according to philosopher Martin Heidegger, is parceled into places by human activity and experience.16 Heidegger postulates that the identification of place is not logical or systematic, but rather subjective and personal. Edges and boundaries are critical to an understanding of space: “the boundary is that from which something begins its presencing.”17 Concepts of edge and boundary are critical to architectural design and similarly, to collage. Boundaries (in our lived experience and images) are created in our minds: they can be physical and defined, such as by a wall or a row of trees, or vague and imprecise, like a horizon. Although a threshold, a horizon cannot be marked or precisely located. These imprecise boundaries are evidence of the ambiguous relationship between architecture and context, as well as between architectural spaces. The implied boundaries and spatial overlap defined by phenomenal transparency are demonstrated in the work of designers throughout the past century who employ collage. In this analysis, the works of Le Corbusier and Eduardo Chillida prove a lineage of the Cubist conception of space through the translation from collage to built form. The following interpretation of work by Le Corbusier and Eduardo Chillida considers the fragmentation and synthesis of spatio-temporal conditions as a physical manifestation of place, intertwining built form and context. Le Corbusier, as a contemporary of the Cubist artists in Paris, was significantly influenced by their work both conceptually and technically. Both Corb and Chillida acknowledge an underlying order that is manipulated or disrupted by conditions of site, program, or perceptual intent, creating an ambiguity between figure and field. In the words of Steven Holl, “When a work of architecture successfully fuses a building and situation, a third condition emerges.”18 These considerations have been captured through the collage-making process, drawing on themes and techniques of the Cubists and subsequent art movements.

Le Corbusier and Collage Influences Le Corbusier, as a seminal figure in the development of Modern Architecture, was greatly influenced by the Cubists re-conception of space and form. When the Swiss architect settled in Paris in 1917, Cubism was in its seventh year following its first written account in The Architectural Record. As an artist working in painting, sculpture, and collage in conjunction with his architectural practice, Le Corbusier was clearly influenced by the work of Juan Gris in the superimposition of regulating lines and grids, reducing objects to simple geometric forms mediated by the established order. Le Corbusier formed a response to Cubism in his exhibition with Amédée Ozenfant entitled After Cubism. Though they investigated the connection between Cubism and architecture, they sought a more rigorous geometric analysis 16

The scientific revolution of the 17th century created a disconnect between measurement and human experience, as the mathematical rationalization of spatial dimensions–the equality of value in the x, y, and z dimensions–devalues the human experience of space. 17 Heidegger, Martin. ‘Building Dwelling Thinking.’ Poetry, Language, Thought. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1971. 18 Holl, Steven. Anchoring. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1989, p. 9.



in the deconstruction of form, a respect for the inherent properties of the objects (specifically weight), and opposed decorative elements in Cubist works.

Figure 7: Le Corbusier, Icone, 1961 In conjunction with issues of space and measure, Corb’s interest in temporal conditions of simultaneity and the value of relationships/context over individual figures as investigated by the Cubists is revealed in his artistic and architectural work. This theme was also reinterpreted in the collages of the Dada, Bauhaus, and Constructivist movements after World War I, serving as precedent for Corb’s artistic endeavors. [Figure 719]

Content, Materials and Techniques Corb’s collages (like his architectural projects) are evidence of a collage mindset in which he sought a synthesis of forms. These collages were often papiers-collés, constructed in the design process as a prelude to the final fabrication of his tapestries. He primarily worked in painted newspaper, gouache, and ink, employing collage at two scales: first, in the initial maquettes, and second, in the full-scale cartoons.20 According to Cristopher Green, “The tapestries share their rough éclat, and indeed, even when working on the scale of the cartoons, Le Corbusier kept intact the open-ended immediacy of his approach to papier-collé,…”21 While documentation primarily points to Corb’s use of collage in the design process for two-dimensional media, the formal content of his collages has clear ties to his architectural work. His collages include an underlying order juxtaposed against fluid lines and forms, employing phenomenal transparency as a means of implying depth in the composition. There 19

Le Corbusier. Icone. 1961. Collage, gouache, and ink on paper, 22 1/4 x 18 in. Modernism Inc. [online]. San Francisco: CA. Available from World Wide Web:( 20 Green, Cristopher. “The architect as artist.” Le Corbusier Architect of the Century. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1987, p. 130. 21 Green, p. 130.



is simultaneously a frontality and collapse of space in his work (like the Cubist compositions) while movement of the viewer is suggested. According to Colin Rowe, “The figure is simultaneously static and set in motion. There is the primary surface of attack, the frontal picture plane, and then, there is the convoluted and serpentine territory which lies behind.”22 The dynamic spatial conditions captured in two-dimensional collage compositions are evident in Le Corbusier’s built works of architecture, including Casa Curutchet and the Unité d’Habitation.

Interpretation In Sigfried Giedion’s Space, Time and Architecture published in 1941 in the midst of Le Corbusier’s career, Giedion states, “the interpenetration of inner and outer spaces in modern architecture corresponds to the simultaneous presentation of the inside and outside of objects in cubism.”23 The spatial overlap identified by Giedion was subsequently characterized by Rowe and Slutzky as phenomenal transparency, referring to “the stratification and ‘densifying’ of space in Le Corbusier’s work and thus its relationship to twentieth-century cubism.”24 While there are clear correlations between the architecture of Le Corbusier and the two-dimensional work of his Cubist contemporaries, Corb’s collage-making serves as a formal and conceptual bridge between the two. Two late-career projects of Le Corbusier demonstrate the translation of these themes from two to three dimensions. Slutzky described the “exploration of metaphor and collage in Le Corbusier’s urban projects and buildings of the late twenties and after.”25 Both Casa Curutchet in La Plata, Argentina and the Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles, France were completed under the design supervision of the young Swiss architect Bernhard Hoesli, a seminal figure in architectural education in the US and an ardent collage-maker himself.26 Casa Curutchet (1948-53), incorporates the free plan with the overlapping L-section, with evidence of phenomenal transparency in its spatial configuration. This ambiguity of spatial definition occurs in the overlap of interior spaces as well as in the overlap of interior and exterior spaces, as recognized by Giedion. The frontality of the composition in Casa Curutchet creates a density of spatial overlap, varying conditions revealed through temporal and spatial progression. Considering Casa Curutchet planimetrically, identifying a geometric order superimposed with organic forms speaks to “the spatial organization of the canvas and the plan as generator of architectural space…”27 A regular grid establishes a structural metering for the house while sculptural

22 Rowe, Colin. “The provocative façade: frontality and contrapposto.” Le Corbusier Architect of the Century. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1987, p. 26. 23 Gideon, Sigfried. Space, Time, and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941, p. 432. 24 Caragonne, Alexander. The Texas Rangers: Notes from the Architectural Underground. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1995, p. 167. 25 Blau, Eve and Nancy J. Troy. Architecture and Cubism. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002, p. 4. 26 A protégé of Corb, Bernhard Hoesli, further abstracted and geometricized his collage compositions, contributing to the articulation of phenomenal transparency as a condition of overlap in his work with Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1950s. 27 Caragonne, p. 167.



forms, both built and natural, disrupt the grid, creating a dynamic spatial experience. [Figure 828]

Figure 8: Phenomenal Transparency in Le Corbusier’s Casa Curutchet, 1948-53, and Taureau XVIII, 1960 After Hoesli’s work on Casa Curutchet, Corb appointed him project architect for the Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles. Like Casa Curutchet but on a much larger scale, the Unité d’Habitation shows the influence of Corb’s artistic investigations, testing systems of proportion juxtaposed against sculptural forms. The multivalence of space and form is most evident in the roof terrace, a surface populated with and interpenetrated by numerous sculptural figures. [Figure 929] According to Maurice Besset,


1. Casa Curutchet. Le Corbusier and Bernhard Hoesli. 1890. New York Times [online]. New York: New York. Available from World Wide Web:(; 2. Taureau XVIII. Le Corbusier. 1960. Modernism [online]. San Francisco: CA. Available from World Wide Web:(; diagrams by author. 29 1. Le Corbusier, Picasso, and Bernhard Hoesli at the Unité d’Habitation, 1952. Le Corbusier, Oeuvre Complète 1946-52. 2. Le Corbusier and Bernhard Hoesli, Unité d’Habitation, Marseille, France, 1947-52. Photograph by Ezra Stoller, 1952. ARTStor [online]. New York: New York. Available from World Wide Web: (



“By multiplying the number of views taken of an object in order to acquire fuller cognizance of it, Cubism at the same time introduced a factor of relativity. By superimposing non-concordant, discontinuous images, it stripped the object of its opacity, its density, rendering it at once transparent and permeable to the medium which surrounds it, and with which it then engages in an interplay of unstable, shifting relations.”30 The value of the relational qualities over those of individual objects was recognized and tested by the Cubists in their collage-making and shortly thereafter by Le Corbusier. His artistic and architectural work, like that of the Cubists, experimented with themes of phenomenal transparency, ambiguity of figure and field, distillation and synthesis which subsequently impacted the collage-making and design and pedagogy of Bernhard Hoesli and many others.

Figure 9: Le Corbusier, Picasso, and Bernhard Hoesli shown during Picasso’s Visit to the Unite d’Habitation, 1952; Roof Terrace of the Unite, 1952


Besset, Maurice. Le Corbusier: To Live with the Light. New York: Rizzoli International, 1987, p. 41.



Eduardo Chillida and Collage

Figure 10: Eduardo Chillida, Lithographic Collages for Heidegger’s Die Kunst und der Raum, 1969

Influences Chillida began an architectural education at Colegio Mayor Jiménez de Cisneros in Madrid in 1943. An interest in sculpture took him to Paris in 1948 where he began working in clay, then carving in stone and plaster. Chillida returned to the Basque region in Spain in 1951 to work with a blacksmith, a traditional trade of the region. “After returning to the Basque country, Chillida wanted above all to capture and penetrate space rather than occupy it, and primarily for that reason he rejected working with massive blocks of stone or plaster and turned to a ductile material, iron, which when heated sufficiently can be bent to shoot and curve into space.”31 Chillida’s architectural education clearly influenced his conception of space, augmenting a fascination with the dialogue between solid and void. Martin Heidegger and Chillida met in 1968, finding common ground in their work. Heidegger subsequently wrote Die Kunst und der Raum [Art and Space] in relation to the work of Chillida in 1969. In this essay, Heidegger asserts, “In plastic embodiment the void acts like the searching and projecting establishment of place.”32 Chillida created a series of seven lithographic collages to accompany Heidegger’s essay, in which the compositions play with a reversal of figure and field. [Figure 1033] As for Heidegger, boundaries were a significant consideration in Chillida’s work, evidenced in these collages and by his statement that “Limit is the true protagonist of space, just as the present, another limit, is the true protagonist of time.”34 Chillida’s focus on space and boundary was further refined by his material investigations, interrogating the potentialities inherent in plaster, alabaster, and iron, to delimit space.


Selz, p. 11. Selz, p. 116. 33 Eduardo Chillida, lithographic collages for Die Kunst und der Raum with Martin Heidegger, 1969. Available from World Wide Web:( 34 Selz, p. 116. 32



Content, Materials and Techniques Tactility as a consideration in spatial perception is evident in the translation from collage to sculpture to architectural intervention. Chillida’s collages include lithographic collages, as seen in Die Kunst und der Raum, as well as subtractive paper collages, in which voids are inscribed in the top-most surface, revealing layers beneath. The spatial implications of this method of collage reveal themselves in his three-dimensional work. Three of Chillida’s large scale works demonstrate the value of the void: two works in collaboration with architect Luis Peña Ganchegui Peine de Viento [Wind Comb] and a plaza in Vitoria-Gasteiz, as well as a proposal for the Canary Islands. Each project reveals an evolution from collage to threedimensional sculpture to full-scale work, investigating the ambiguity of boundaries and the meaning of the void. Designs for a site-specific installation in his hometown of San Sebastian, Spain began in 1952 but Peine de Viento wasn’t realized until 1975-77. The sculpture consists of three iron sculptural components in dialogue: two horizontal-one extending from the cliff towards the ocean, the other extending from a rocky outcropping towards the cliff-and one vertical, occupying the middle ground. The two horizontal sculptures are positioned, according to Chillida, “as if in colonization of the horizon,”35 while the third is placed on the edge of the town boundary. “Martin Heidegger considered sculpture a thing occupying a place and showing forth in space,”36 and Peine de Viento defines this place through sculptural insertions which imply boundaries to the vast context of the ocean, framing the visitor’s experience of the void. [Figure 1137]

Figure 11: Eduardo Chillida, Around the Void 1, 1964, and Peine de Viento, San Sebastian, Spain, 1977 Another work by Chillida and Ganchegui that asks similar questions is a plaza in VitoriaGasteiz, Spain. Chillida’s lithographic collages, particularly those using only two tones, interrogate the perception of solid and void. This investigation continues in his subtractive alabaster sculptures such as Gasteiz, a study for the spatial configuration of the plaza. According to Mexican poet Octavio Paz, “The alabaster sculptures do not try to enclose inner space; neither do they claim to delimit or define it: they are blocks of transparencies in which 35

Selz, p. 120. Selz, p. 89. 37 1. Eduardo Chillida. Around the Void I. 1964. Museo Bilbao [online]. Bilbao: Spain. Available from World Wide Web:(; 2. Chillida and Ganchegui. Peine de Viento. 1977. Inigo.txg [online]. Available from World Wide Web:( 36



form becomes space, and space dissolves in luminous vibrations that are echoes and rhymes, thought.”38 The resultant form in the full-scale plaza construct embodies similar qualities, at this scale permitting the human occupation and full, bodily experience and perception of the void. Subtleties of scale, perceived boundaries and spatial overlap offer potentialities for multivalent experience within the plaza. [Figure 1239] The third project, a controversial work proposed by Chillida before his death in 2002 to be constructed in Tindaya Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, has been moving forward thanks to his widow, Pilar Belzunce, and Canary Island authorities. In Chillida’s Tindaya, he proposed to excavate a 40m cube of rock from inside Tindaya Mountain: this space would be connected to the surface via two 25m high vertical shafts for light and a 15m x 15m entrance tunnel. Although the vast scale of the proposal is unique amongst Chillida’s built work, concepts of spatial overlap and the value of the void continue to be the conceptual motivation. Studies beginning in a subtractive collage process and extending to alabaster sculptures test the subtractive methodology. Similar to his completed large-scale sculptures, the dialogue between Chillida’s intervention and its context is vital. He states, “The large space created within it would not be visible from outside, but the men who broke into his heart would see the light of the sun, the moon, inside a mountain facing the sea, and the horizon, unreachable, necessary, non-existent …”40


Selz, p. 42. 1. Eduardo Chillida, Untitled collage, 1966. Terminartors [online]. Available from World Wide Web: (; 2. Eduardo Chillida, Gasteiz, 1975. Museo Bilbao [online]. Bilbao: Spain. Available from World Wide Web:(; 3. Eduardo Chillida and Luis Peña Ganchegui, Plaza in VitoriaGasteiz, 1979. Wikispaces [online]. Available from World Wide Web:( Eduardo+Chillida). 40 Eduardo Chillida, Tindaya Project website. Available from World Wide Web:( 39



Figure 12: Eduardo Chillida, Untitled Collage, 1966, Gasteiz, 1975, and Plaza in VitoriaGasteiz, 1979 In this poetic language we see a complement to the writing of colleagues Martin Heidegger and Gaston Bachelard. [Figure 1341]

41 1. Eduardo Chillida, Gravitación, date unknown. Artfacts [online]. Available from World Wide Web: (; 2. Eduardo Chillida, Mendi Huts (Hollow Mountain), 1985. Photograph in Chillida, Peter Selz; 3. Rendering of space and light in Chillida’s proposal for Tindaya, unbuilt. Available from World Wide Web: (



Figure 13: Eduardo Chillida, Gravitation, 1988, Mendi Huts (Hollow Mountain), 1985, and Rendering of Proposed Space in Tindaya

Interpretation It is evident from this analysis of Chillida’s work and the transformation from collage to small sculptures to large-scale architectonic form that Chillida, like Corb, tested the dialogue between solid and void while inverting the normative value system and hierarchy. Chillida has said, “My whole Work is a journey of discovery in Space. Space is the liveliest of all, the one that surrounds us...I do not believe so much in experience. I think it is conservative. I believe in perception, which is something else. It is riskier and more progressive. There is something that still wants to progress and grow. Also, this is what I think makes you perceive, and perceiving directly acts upon the present, but with one foot firmly planted in the future. Experience, on the other hand, does the contrary: you are in the present, but with one foot in the past. In other words, I prefer the position of perception.”42 In considering this question of perception, we again reference Heidegger who asserts that we understand things in the context of other things, not as separate self-contained objects. Conscious of these interrelationships, weak Gestalt in a work of architecture allows for multiple readings and manipulations, offering new relationships: much like the collages of


Eduardo Chillida, Wikipedia [online]. Available from World Wide Web: ( Eduardo_Chillida).



the Cubists.43 The ambiguity of space resulting from the dialogue between the intimacy of individual space and the immensity of the landscape44 offers a wealth of potential in the fragmentary relationships. The occlusion or revelation of these spatial and temporal conditions can be understood through collage: there is an inherent ability for collage to capture qualities of time and a potential for collaged fragments to identify relationships within architecture and between architecture and site.

Synthesis Thematically consistent across the work of Le Corbusier and Eduardo Chillida are conditions of simultaneity, phenomenal transparency, spatial and material overlap/interpenetration, juxtaposition of figure/field, background/foreground, and order/disorder in both their collagemaking and three-dimensional constructs. In the resultant architecture, “Architectural synthesis of changing background, middle ground, and foreground with all the subjective qualities of material and light forms the basis for an intertwining perception.”45 Both designers acknowledge value in the thickened thresholds, the liminal spaces. Fragmentation and synthesis offer meaning that is imbued as a result of context, as the relationships between elements are more important than the objects themselves. Le Corbusier’s connections to Cubism are clear: and although Chillida was not associated with a particular art movement, “his work is central to the modernist tradition in sculpture, which is based on the dialectic of solid and void, of inside and out. His work would not have been feasible without the Cubist articulation of space…”46 Collage is valued by these designers in their analysis and design, as tangible qualities of space and form are heightened and revealed through collage-making. Juhani Pallasmaa proclaims that “Collage and assemblage are favoured techniques of artistic representation in our time; these media enable an archaeological density and a non-linear narrative through the juxtaposition of fragmented images deriving from irreconcilable origins. Collage invigorates the experience of tactility and time.”47 The partial transference, transparency, and layering of materials serves to incite a haptic engagement with the work, provoking a visceral response and a multiplicity of ways in which to interpret this response. The works of architecture resulting from the implication of collage in the design process offer potentialities in the rich and varied ways the inhabitant might perceive the spatial and material experience of the architecture and landscape.


Pallasmaa, ‘Hapticity and Time: Notes on Fragile Architecture.’ The Architectural Review, May 2000: 78-84. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space, Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p. 8. 45 Holl, Steven. Intertwining. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996, p. 12. 46 Selz, p. 115. 47 Pallasmaa, p. 78-84. 44



About the Author Jennifer Shields Jennifer A. E. Shields, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, is a practicing architect with flux in Charlotte, NC, and a visiting assistant professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte School of Architecture. In addition to studio instruction, she pursues research, teaching, and practice that investigate the multi-sensory experience of place as revealed through collage. Her work has been published and presented in academic and cultural institutions in the US, Sweden, and Spain. ‘Collage and Architecture,’ a book documenting the lineage of collage in art and architecture over the past century, will be published by Routledge in spring of 2013.


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