ABSTRACT

It is as a direct descendent of nineteenth-century historicist thought that architecture is still seen to traverse time along a linear course that both guides the orientation and momentum of its history progressively towards the present whilst also, via inverse lines of chronological trajectory, exposing the contents of its past to the comprehension and experiences of the present. In particular, these flows of temporal advancement and return enable us to conceive of architecture as a continuous and accessible subject of historical knowledge. Thus we can speak chronologically of recurrence and coherence; of heritage and exemplification; and of architecture's trans-historical properties of meaning, value and purpose. But to what extent do these meta-historical conventions portray architecture's actual conditions of chronological being, or fully describe the more complex, transitory and fragmentary interactions of time, built form and human space? And to what degree do these temporal flows of tradition comprise no innocent or positive dynamic of chronological transmission and immersion, but a ruthless instrument of subjugation for maintaining an illusory, fetishistic and conceited ideal of architecture by denial of all that is contextual and everyday to the historical possibilities of built and lived space? The following discussion will consider these questions critically around the concept of flows, historiography, and how to rethink our understanding of the temporal subject of architecture.