“‘Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character,’ Winston ‘The Wolf’ Wolfe warns his oblivious daughter in Pulp Fiction. Likewise, just because you have character, doesn’t mean that you are a character. Having character is only one quality of being a character. To follow this line of thinking further, what does it mean for architecture to be a character in the world?”
12 Reasons to Get Into Character
Essay2015 — Published in Log 33
In literature, characters are almost always animate beings, whether human or animal. This reinforces a conventional subject-object relationship in which living subjects impact inanimate objects. To be an architectural character, however, conflates a typical understanding of subjecthood and objecthood. While typically we conceive of buildings as objects that implicate human subjects, the architectural character suggests that a building might be considered an active subject that impacts human ""objects."" In the wake of postmodernism, parametricism, and other experiments of the 90's, R.E. Somol theorized shape as a way to liberate architecture from scientific metrics and critical interpretation in order to provoke immediate communication with new audiences. Characters expand and amplify architecture's communication by straddling both affective and representational techniques. An arresting character appeals to both our senses and our intellect, and indulges in quirky misalignments between the two. Written a decade after Somol published his pivotal “12 Reasons to Get Back into Shape,” this essay speculates upon new tactics for creating audience-building architecture by cultivating companionable qualities in architecture—states of being and tones of voice that prompt us to relate to built matter and things on an equal footing with personhood.