MOBILE YET IMMOBILE

GEORG FASSL

Architect & Researcher,
Founder of the Daedalus Observatory

“Maybe life is just another great concept like space and time, ranged in the category of the possibility.” - F. Hebbel (1759,  Diary-Entry ) The Daedalus Observatory is looking up to see them, contemporarily – not just to register, but to get in touch!  The Daedalus Observatory is a space for architectonic research on the  Mobile  and  Immobile  based at the Department for Architecture Theory and Philosophy of Technics at the Vienna University of Technology.

“Maybe life is just another great concept like space and time, ranged in the category of the possibility.” - F. Hebbel (1759, Diary-Entry) The Daedalus Observatory is looking up to see them, contemporarily – not just to register, but to get in touch!

The Daedalus Observatory is a space for architectonic research on the Mobile and Immobile based at the Department for Architecture Theory and Philosophy of Technics at the Vienna University of Technology.

Seeing comes
before words

[…] It is seeing which establishes our place in the world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.

— John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin, 1972


Recognition is an important part of our visual perception, but it is not the only one! Yes, without it things may stay invisible even being just in front of our eyes. But on the other side something perceived may become a source of inspiration itself, interpreted with our ability for free associations we may truly open our eyes. When 1884, 30 years before Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity[1], the british schoolmaster and writer Edwin A. Abbot opens up higher dimensions and depicts the importance of time to explain spatial phenomena in his novel Flatland[2] - it is powerful and it is important! Imagination is curiosity, is sensitivity, is activity! And Einstein himself said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”[3], and thereby didn’t neglect the importance of knowledge, but rather pointed to the close relation of both concepts. 

To ‘look’ and to ‘see’ are two possible translations of the greek word ‘theorein’, the etymological root of the english term ‘theory’. Considering that, it is quite irritating to hear Hans Blumenberg’s statement: “Theory is something one does not see.”[4] So we could say that everybody is a speculator, looking for something that can’t be seen… And yes, just because something can’t be seen doesn’t mean that it isn’t there yet or can’t be there in general, or in the words of physicist Richard Feynman: ”Turn some knobs on the box to get the swashing just right, and you hear Radio Moscow! And you know that it was there. How else would have it get there? It was there all time. It's only when you turn on the radio that you notice it. But that all these things are going through in the room at the same time. Everybody knows, but you've got to stop and think about it, to really get the pleasure about the complexity, the inconceivable nature of Nature.”[5] And taking a further step, following Jacques Lacan this complexity just reflects inside of us: “Inside we are a formless continuous stream of consciousness made up of speedings, thoughts, desires and images we are polysexual, chaotic ever changing and ambivalent to the core but on the outside we seem like a more or less stable entity with composed and symmetrical features that betray almost nothing of what is going on within.”[6] In his understanding words are our way to bridge that gap – to speak to the world. But remembering John Berger’s saying: first we need to see it!

Astronomy without eyes[7] 

“Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.”[8] “The way we see things is constantly changing.”[9] And sitting there, one could ask: Where is that change happening? Is it inside of us, in the things surrounding us, or in the in-between? When what we know conditions what we are and how we look – we change our world, things and universe with every sight we take on them (or not). Not in uncovering underlying structures, but in abstracting from them! Or as Socrates put it: “Those intricate traceries in the sky [the paths of the stars and planets] are, no doubt, the loveliest and most perfect of material things, but they are still part of the visible world.”[10] So lets “use the embroidered heaven as an example to illustrate our theories – just as one might use exquisite diagrams drawn by some fine artists such as Daedalus.”[11] And S. Toulmin and J. Goodfield were adding: “A theory of the Heavens must not just describe how the stars and planets appear to move: It must make sense of those movements.”[12] Watching them with half-opened and half-closed eyes – being outside and inside at once, like in an observatory. Right in “the middle of field and laboratory”[13], where both “sight and study might embrace within one and the same perspective the greatest possible number of objects and their greatest possible diversity.”[14] A place to orientate and disorientate ourselves, a place for observation and speculation, a place where “thinking means inventing.”[15]

Articulating the sky

The “indeterminate action of the power of thought comes together in a word as a faint cluster of clouds gathers in a clear sky.”[16] “Language is an activity”[17], drawing from the full source of possibilities. It is neither nature nor culture, but it is both – laying at the center of their differentiation.[18] And as it is with separations, the virtue of language “relies on the fluency, exactness and accordance of its divisions and connections.”[19] Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote: “Articulation is the very essence of language, everything it contains can be a part or a whole in it.”[20] And the same can count for architecture! Taking an ancient greek perspective, one like Daedalus’s, we would see that “every process of creation entails a process of differentiation from primordial chaos”[21], or nowadays’s noise. “Structure is not about framing or making skeleton, but about giving meaning to connectivity.”[22] 

“It was the discovery of fire that originally gave rise to the coming together of men, to the deliberative assembly, and to social intercourse. […] And as they kept coming together in greater numbers into one place, […] upright and gazing upon the splendour of the starry firmament, […] they began in that first assembly to construct shelters.”[23] When Vitruvius pictured communication and architecture at their very first spark, it appears not to be just about safety, but rather about chances. Observing the abundance of the universe and sizing our place in it, over and over again. Architecture is not just reaction, it is action – or better an activity, unseparable interwoven with each moments knowledge, dreams and ideas of living with one-self and with each-other. Le Corbusier meant: “To search for the human scale, for human function, is to define human needs.”[24] Our spaces and objects are laying as much outside as inside of us, hence architects need to master them just as life itself – they simply need to be masters of their time, “observing the sky, but visiting the world“[25]!


[1] Albert Einstein, General Theory of Relativity, 1915
[2] Edwin A. Abbot, Flatland. A Romance of Many Dimensions, Seeley, 1884
[3] Albert Einstein, Interview in The Saturday Evening Post1929
[4] Hans Blumenberg, Das Lachen der Thrakerin, Suhrkamp, 1987
[5] Richard Feynman, “Seeing Things”, Video-Interview in Fun to Imagine,
BBC, 1983 
[6] Jacques Lacan, Video-Commentary in Psychotherapy - Jacques Lacan, The
School of Life, 2016
[7] Michel Serres, “Gnomon”, in A History of Scientific Thought, Blackwell,
1955
[8] John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin, 1972 
[9] David Hockney, Interview in David Hockney (Ed.: M. Livingstone), Thames
and Hudson,  1996
[10] Socrates, Quote in The Fabrics of the Heavens (Ed.:S. Toulmin & J.
Goodfield), The University of Chicago Press, 1999
[11] Ibid.
[12] S. Toulmin & J.Goodfield, The Fabrics of the Heavens, The University of
Chicago Press, 1999
[13] S. Le Gars & D. Aubin, “The Elusive Placelesness of the Mont Blanc
Observatory (1893-1909)”, in Science in Context, Issue 22, 2009
[14] Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, Zone Books, 1992
[15] Michel Serres, “Information and Thinking” (Trans.: J. Visser), Lecture at 
Philosophy After Nature Utrecht, 2014
[16] Wilhelm Humboldt, Quote in Dictionary of Untranslatables (Ed.: Barbara
Cassin), Princeton University Press, 2014
[17] Wilhem Humboldt, Schriften zur Sprachphilosophie, Wissenschaftliche
Buchgesellschaft, 2002
[18] Jürgen Trabant, Artikulationen, Suhrkamp, 1998
[19] Wilhelm Humboldt, Über die Buchstabenschrift und ihren Zusammenhang
mit dem Sprachbau
, Dümmler, 1926
[20] Ibid.
[21] John Hendrix, Architectural Forms and Philosophical Structures, Peter
Lang Inc., 2003
[22] Cecil Balmond, Facebook-Post, 2.11.2012
[23] Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture, Harvard University Press, 1914
[24] Le Corbusier, The Decorative Art of Today, MIT Press, 1987
[25] Michel Serres, Intro in Thesaurus der exakten Wissenschaften (Ed.: M.
Serres & N. Farouki), Zweitausendeins, 2001


Mobile Yet Immobile Series

What counts as philosophy’s Being and Becoming or physic’s Movement and Rest, might be compared with architecture’s Mobile and Immobile. They are two of its most inner conceptions forming one of its major devices. They are a pair of opposites, a bi-functional entity producing energy and negotiating between its poles – architectural objects are charged with both of them, each in its very own way.

Lecture at ATTP Sophistication Conference #2: In »Lieu« of Statements, »Articulation«, Vienna, 2018

The ‘Mobile Yet Immobile Series’ is a sequenced research constituting the core of Daedalus Observatory’s activities:

  1. Lecture and Exercise (WS18/19): ON THE MOBILE

  2. Design Studio (S18): MOBILE STATUES

  3. Lecture and Exercise (WS18/19): ON THE IMMOBILE

The investigation seeks to approach both horizons – to observe and to speculate extensively on a present Mobile and Immobile character, separately yet inevitably entangled.


This is our FIRST VOLUME:

REPORT ON THE MOBILE

Lecturer: Georg Fassl
Tutor: Patrick Aprent

Students: Ludovica Battista, Nima Behzadafshar, Nikola Chytil, Alexandra Curti, Benedetta de Fernex, Zdravka Dzajic, Fabijan Farkas, Adam Gajdos, Martin Gajdos, Aleksandra Gajic, Aude Hacker, Elisabeth Maria Horodynski, Hrvoje Hrkac, Emre Kacar, Lucia Kamleitner, Merve Kara, Lovro Koncar-Gamulin, Domagoj Krhen, Julian Lietzmann, Marko Marisavljevic, Isabel Mayr, Branislav Miljus, Jovana Milojevic, Ayse Özsoy, Pinar Pakfiliz, Martha Luise Pilz, Anna Prüller, Petra Rohringer, Merima Sadzak, Nikola Tasev, Elveda Tasyürek, Marija Tomicic, Daniel Wegerer, Anne Wunderlich, Neda Zabihino & Zdravko Zivanovic

Download: REPORT ON THE MOBILE (PDF, 75MB)


This is our SECOND VOLUME:

CATALOGUE OF MOBILE STATUES

Lecturer: Georg Fassl
Co-Lecturer: Prof. Vera Bühlmann
Tutor: Patrick Aprent

Students: Maximilian Aelfers, Sorana Chiris, Felix Dauer, Despoina Grigoriadou, Ada Gulyamdzhis, Gerald Klammer, Julian Lietzmann, Martha Luise Pilz & Marie Schamböck

Download: CATALOGUE OF MOBILE STATUES (PDF, 365MB)


This is our THIRD VOLUME:

REPORT ON THE IMMOBILE

Lecturer: Georg Fassl

Students: Georgios Albanis, Alexander Authried, Vedrana Barovic, Jovana Beslac, Zois Alexandros Chionidis, Marina Cubela, Rabun Demir, Melanie Edlinger, Karolina Fessler, Alexander Garber, Darya Gladysheva, Raphael Julian Gregorits, Julia-Su Gürsu, Daniel Hamza, Lavinia Hoeck, Aljosa Iliskovic, Peter Jakubicek, Matthias Klapper, Mehmet Onur Köklü, Sedef Kücükandac, David Langermann, Katharina Lehr-Splawinski, Christophe Libar, Msto Mais, Kristina Mosor, Josef Nezmahen, Felix Redmann, Caroline Rösner, Marianne Sar, Philipp Schwarz, Elisabeth Sellmeier, Mert Ser, Pelin Sökmen, Sara Tahir, Atahan Ünal & Constanze Walter

Download: REPORT ON THE IMMOBILE (PDF, 80MB)