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There is often confusion as to what architecture is and a need to justify it through reference to another discipline. Many of today's avant-garde architects argue for their work in terms of data, statistics, for example. I would like the challenge the pseudo-scientific approach to design and promote a "return to nature" -- to the materiality of architecture. In 1998, working on the Chamberworks installation for a moder art gallery RAM in Oslo, I had the fortune of meeting Oyvind Andreassen, a mathematician studying the formulae behind liquid phenomenon such as waves and votices. I immediately fell in love with the overwhelming complexity and sublime beauty of his flowing animations. Together with my colleagues, I convinced him to lend us the software and along with it some of his storm modesl to be used as inspirational materials for our installation design. What is the relationship of mathematics, architecture, or another other form of creative human activity to the sublime phenomena in nature? Kant identified two types of sublime: the "mathematical sublime" and the "dynamical sublime". The dynamical sublime is found in nature: the experience of nothingness in the face of the force and complexity of a waterfall. The mathematical sublime emerges over the dynamical sublime as something superior to nature, the realm of Ideas and Reason. Gilles Deleuze, however, said that Ideas are not superior or transcendental to nature but immanent to experience itself. For Deleuze, the mathematical sublime is inherent in the human experience of the sublime in nature. Deleuze's notion implies that all knowledge is specific to the materiality of its discipline and all disciplines bear a relationship to the sublime. Architects should be at ease with thinking in terms of precepts and affects rather than concepts and data. Architecture is capable of creating new knowledge bound to its own materiality.
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The correct citation for this paper is:
Kivi Sotamaa, "Driven by the Sublime", pp. 13-20 in Nexus V: Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams and Francisco Delgado Cepeda, Fucecchio (Florence): Kim Williams Books, 2004.
Kivi Sotamaa - Driven by the Sublime