TEras #11: Formalism


This is a flash visit to architectural theory. Because I was really intrigued by a statement toward particular design in the studio: “This is obviously just a form making. And this is wrong.” Curious.
And the thing is, the author of a resource in this visit is actually the Head of School in UQ.

What is Formalism? 
The definition is vary, because there’s no agreement upon this subject.

  1. K. Michael Hays: “The comparative absence of historical concerns in favor of attention to the autonomous architectural objects and its formal operations
  2. Russian Formalism: anti-realist, denying that morality or philosophy should be the concern of literature.
  3. Germany Formalism: their aesthetic emerged antagonistically in response to classical theories of imitation and representation in the arts. Form was no longer thought of as an expression of content but as co-existing with the idea. à Art aim new reality.
  4. Joseph Kosuth: “Art is abstract in relationship to cultural meanings, in the way that the noises we utter called words are meaningful only in relation to a linguistic system, not in relation to the world.”
  5. Perez-Gomez: “For more than two centuries, architects, critics, and theoreticians have been arguing functionalist and formalist positions, opposing art to social interest and ethic to poetic expressions.
  6. Mieke Bal: “Aesthetics is also a context, which is why formalism necessary fails.”
  7. Formalism has been used to promote, provoke, or dismiss one art or architectural practice over another, not so much on aesthetic grounds as on ethical or moral differences. (Kaji-O'Grady, 2012)
  8. Clement Greenberg: introducing “Flatness”, which then also influenced the advent of ‘minimalism’ ‘pop’ and ‘novelty art’, and also influenced a shift of optical formalism in abstract painting to phenomenological formalism.

In Architecture:

  1. Viollet-le-Duc: good form was concieved as the outcome of the rational procedure of a careful consideration of function and structure.
  2. Otto Wagner: shaping of form (Formgebung) should be consistent with its purpose and material. à well this is what we know as honesty which is really famous related with Modern architecture.
  3. Mies van der Rohe: “We know no forms, only building problems. Form is not the goal but the result of our work..”
  4. Viollet-le-Duc: a rational design method may not always result in a beautiful and satisfying formal outcome, buat a beautiful building is necessarily rational.
  5. Formalist ambitions in the practice of architecture are, consequently, denied, or dismissed as socially irresponsible, culturally irrelevant, solipsistic, and arbitrary. (Kaji-O'Grady, 2012)
  6. Jacques Derida: Architecture must have meaning, it must present it and through it signify. The signifying or symbolical value of this meaning must direct the structure and syntax, the form and function of architecture. It must direct from outside, according to a principle (arche), a foundmental foundation, a trancendence or finality (telos) whose locations are not themselves architectural. The experience of meaning must be dwelling.
  7. Eissenman: Post-functionalism. Architectural autonomy (which is reminds me about Libeskind’s idea about architect’s signature) consist two part: (1) the search of the way to make the elements of architecture the wall, the beam, the column self-referential; (2) the development of the process of making that could produce self-reference without referring to the formal conventions of modernism.
  8. Thomas Mical: Surrealism and Architecture (2005), that modernist architecture was essentially involved in formlessness. “Architecture must reamain void to function and incomplete to produce effects, because architecture can only be completed in the spatial immersion of the subject.”
  9. Bataille: “Forms have become more and more static, more and more dominant”. Architecture is concerned with systematic aith the regulation of the plan, and with inspiring fear and control as a mechanism for social order.  Then architecture and formlessness are oppositional categories.
  10. Blur Building: Architecture of nothing. Obfucates visuality. Pursue non-form or temporary form through making their architecture from material from each situation – the human subject, climate, the object, and territory. (this is differennt from formlessness)
  11. Robert Morris: “What art now has in its hands is mutable stuff which need not arrive at the point of being finalized with respect to either time or space.”
  12. Software-generated architecture à neologism ‘performalism’. Works of Greg Lunn, Gehry, Eisenman, Open source, Reiser & Umemoto, etc. “Digital architecture’s formalism, realized through a multidimensional use of performance, offers a field of action by far wider than mere formalism, actually defining new needs and a new inessential concept of subjectivity.” (Grobman and Neuman, 2008 as cited in (Kaji-O'Grady, 2012))
  13. Frei Otto: finding form through experiments intended to arrive at the optimization of materials and structure.
  14. Performalism: (1) curvilinear and complex form Cartesian geometries. (2) some of which are not yet contructable, some are considered ‘ugly’ and formless by architects that remained commited to the orthogonal forms of modernism.
  15. Catherine Ingraham: computatuional naturalism perpetuates a classical formalism in which programme, inhabitant, and occupant are cast aside from form-making.

In conclussions: formalism is neither a dead argument nor a fixed moment in history but it constantly reworked in light of new theories and practices. Formalist practice as a means for achieving some expression of resistance to the instrumentalism of capitalist society. (Kaji-O'Grady, 2012)



Pada dasarnya, kaum yang mementingkan duniawi adalah bodoh, ceroboh, dan dangkal pikirannya. (Yahya: 2004)