The Translation of Architecture, the Production of Babel Author(s): Mark Wigley Reviewed work(s): Source: Assemblage, No. 8 (Feb.

, 1989), pp. 6-21 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 18/03/2012 15:41
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There seems to be no translation. Its reading seems the most distant from the original texts. the last resting place of deconstruction? The question of translationis. Can deconstructionsurvive architecture? 1. 1930 . This appearsto be the last discourse to invoke the name of Derrida.a hesitation whose strategicneccessity must be examined . its limit if not its closure. the final addition to a colossal stack of readings. FromRdve d'une petite fille qui voulut entrer au carmel. Deconstructivist Art. an addition that marksin some way the beginning of the end of deconstruction."Marcelineand Marie (of one voice): 'It seems to me the sky is falling into my heart . What is left to translate?Or. After such a long delay .Mark Wigley Translation of The of Babel Architecture. a question of survival. wasthe associate of curator the show.What remains of deconstruction for architecture?What are the remains that can be located only in architecture. . The hesitation does not seem to have 7 1. Museumof Modern Architecture. How then to translatedeconstructionin architecturaldiscourse? Perhapsit is too late to ask this preliminaryquestion.. the Production Mark theory Wigleyteachesarchitectural anddesignat Princeton He University..a straightforward from outside architectureto the practicaldomain of the architecturalobject. It is now over twenty years since Derrida'sfirst books were published. more important. after all. But it is a readingthat seems at once obvious and suspect. Suddenly his work has startedto surface in architecturaldiscourse. Deconstruction is understoodto be unproblematically architectural.there is now such haste to read Derrida in architecture.but just a application of theory metaphoric transfer.and of coeditor the catalogue. Suspect in its very obviousness. Max Ernst. what is always left by translation?Not just left behind but left specifically for architecture.

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The abuse of the text is called for by an abuse alreadywithin the text. Language is necessarilyimpure. alreadydefining an economy whose pathological symptoms can be studied. They are within the surface itself. These hidden layersare not simply below the surface.The translationconstitutesthe original it is added to. no translation. it just lives on. following Walter Benjamin'sThe Taskof the Translator. a unity. There is no hygienic startingpoint. seems the most detached from the original work. no superior logic to apply. Translationsurfacesin deconstructivediscoursewhen Derrida. The recent reception of Derrida'swork follows the classical teleology from idea to material form. within the surface itself. andforthe notionof translation. where the other comes to the surface. the most suspect of the applications. knotted together to form the surface. it neither has its original life-giving intention revived (presentation)nor is it displaced by a dead sign (representation). it is a matterof following some circu- lar line of inquiry. The last layer. thatthe signifying instrument There is some kind of gap in the original which the translation is called in to cover over. a transliteration.But one cannot simply consider translationoutside and above either deconstruction or architecture. Alwaysdivided. Its violence to the original is a violent fidelity. . On the contrary. a 'transport' puresignifieds of from or one language another. Nevertheless. subordinatesitself as impure.Just a literal application. the material representationof an abstractidea. The question immediately becomes complicated. arguesthat translationis not the transference. one textby another.Architectureis understood as a representationof deconstruction. the translationabuses the translation. as the original is alreadyexiled from itself. the last ornament that cannot application. of circulating within the economy.This survivalis organizedby a contractthat ensures that translationis nei8 . one can only enter the economy and trace its convoluted geometry in order to describethis scene of translation. in so doing. Translationexploits the conflict within the original to present the original as unified. and in factneverhavehad. just an addition. the translationconstructsitself as secondary. In constructingthe original as original. This can be done by locating that moment in each discourse where the other is made thematic. It is the translationthat producesthe myth of purity and.Architecture. . The original only survivesin translation. Yet. There are no principlesto be found in some domain that governs both deconstructive discourse and architecturaldiscourse. The original is not some organic whole. But how to translate?Deconstruction is no more than a subversionof the architecturallogic of addition which sets into play a certain thought of translation. certain exchanges are alreadyoccurring between them.or image of an original. It is a matterof identifyingthe logic of translationthat is alreadyin operation. it survives. The line of argumentthat surfaces there can then be folded back on the rest of the discourse to locate other layers of relations. The supplementarytranslation which appearsas a violation of the purity of the work is actually the possibilityof that very purity. translationand deconstructionare alreadybound together. Architecture. a violence called for by the original preciselyto construct itself as pure.alreadyfissured. wouldhaveto substia regulated of transformation one tute a notionof transformation: of We by language another. it remains foreign to itself. withinone andthe samelanguage. To answerthis call. Rather. from initial theory to final practice. no task for the translator. 2. from presence to representation.the most material of the discourses.assemblage 8 been produced by some kind of internal resistanceon the part of that object.there is no evidence of work. in translation.the text neither lives nor dies. transformingit. The original calls for a translation which establishesa nostalgiafor the innocence and the life it never had. The translationis not simply a departurefrom the original. Consequently. neverwill have. reproduction. It is alreadycorrupted.exiled. Since there is no safe place to begin. As there are no principles above or below the convoluted folds of this surface. a veneer maskingas much as it reveals of the structurebeneath. To locate them involves slippage along faultlines ratherthan excavation. we . to wouldleavevirginand untouched. the representational influence the tradition it is added to.

This constitutional bond is neither a social contract nor a transcendental contract above both languages. the grounded structure. to faithfully recover some original."8 edifice of metaphysics is understoodas a grounded structure. it is other than cultural without being outside culture. Not only is the original alreadycorrupt. of ground-as-support. is that of standingup. It defines a scene of incomplete translation. a double bind.5Rather. Which is to say that one language is not simply outside the other. The question of metaphysics has always been that of the ground (grund) on which things stand even though it has been explicitly formulated in these terms only in the modern period inaugurated by Descartes. The architecturaltranslationof deconstruction is literally the production of deconstruction. Each of them designates"Being. Heidegger examines the way in which philosophy describesitself as architecture. ratio. undivided sense of deconstruction. any translationbetween architectureand deconstruction does not occur between the texts of architectural discourse and those of philosophical discourse. Metaphysics is the question of what the ground will withstand.2 The contract is the necessarilyunfulfilled promise of translation. The negotiable social contractswithin which language operatespresupposethis non-negotiable contract which makes language incompletion that binds the languages of the original and the translation together in a strangeknot. and constantly negotiatedwith it. It is these folds that constitute language."6The edifice of metaphysicshas fallen apartand is "in ruins"because it has been erected on "groundlessassertions" unquestioningly inherited from the philosophical tradition."which is understood as presence."9 metaphysics is no more than the determination Heidegger. A preliminarysketch of this scene can be drawn by developing Heidegger'saccount of the relationshipbetween architectureand philosophy. The motif of the edifice. Within each there is an architecturaltranslationof philosophy and a philosophical translationof architecture. It searches for "thatupon which everythingrests. The contract is no more than the geometry of these folds. and only afterwards enquire whether these foundations are reliable. To translatedeconstruction in architecturaldiscourse is to examine the gaps in deconstructivewriting that demand an architecturaltranslationin order that those texts be constituted as deconstructive. Metaphysics is the identification of the ground as "supporting presence"for an edifice. it is one of the abuses of the texts signed by Derrida that constitutes them as originals. but translationis alreadyoccurringacross those divisions.) for the ground. inhabited by the other. 3. of what can stand on the ground. Kant criticizes previous philosophers for their tendency to "complete its speculative structo tures as speedily as may be.4 Rather. Its history is that of a succession of differentnames (logos. This translationcontract is not independent of the languages whose economy it organizes. describesmetaphysics as an "edifice"erected on secure foundationslaid on the most stable ground. Because language is always alreadydivided. Neither cultural nor acultural. Translation occurs across a gap folded within ratherthan between each language. arche. translationis possible. This production must be organizedby the terms of a contract between architectureand philosophy which is inscribed within the structureof both in a way that defines a unique scene of translation. therefore. alreadydivided. Metaphysicsis no more than the attempt to locate the ground. It is inscribedwithin both languages. To restore a secure foundation.Wigley ther completed nor completely frustrated. etc. 9 . for it were.To translate deconstruction in architecturaldiscourse is not. it occupies and organizes both discourses. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. the critique startsthe "thoroughpreparation of the ground"'with the "clearing. establishingthe difference between languages while making certain exchanges between them possible.' The translationwithin a language makes possible translationoutside it. what For is always there for every being as its support. and The levelling of what has hitherto been wasteground. The gap between languagespasses through each language. Consequently. Heidegger argues that Kant'sattempt to lay the foundations is the necessarytask of all metaphysics. the organizationof the gaps.

Having cleared the ground. The metaphorof groundedstructuredesignatesthe fundamental project of metaphysicsto produce a universallanguage that controls representation."14 The edifice must be redesigned.16Philosophyis the attemptto restrainthe free play of representation establishingthe by architectonic limits providedby the ground.I3The form of the edifice changes as the ground changes. writing is subordinatedas of representation speech. But in Heidegger'sreading. which itself is beyond the reach of play. defined edifice. if it loses its bond with speech. The philosopher is an architect. The motif of the edifice is that of a structurewhose free play is constrainedby the ground.assemblage 8 Philosophy is the construction of propositionsthat stand up. the tracingof an outline. the standingof construction. structureit is added to. The "fundamental" question of metaphysics(why there are ratherthan nothing) asks of a being "on what does beings it stand?"'1 Standing up through construction makes visible the condition of the ground. The link between structureand presence organizes traditionalaccounts of language. The ability of its constructsto stand is determined by the condition of the ground. Phonetic writing. It searchesfor the most stable ground in orderto exercise the greatest control over representation. Architectureis the figure of the addition. attachedto the structurelike an ornament referringaway from the structure. it is a matterof abandoningthe traditionalstructureby removing its foundation. If writing ceases to be phonetic. Interrogating condition of the ground defines certain architectoniclimits. certain structuralconstraintswithin which the philosopher must work as a designer.The protocol of metaphysicssustainedby the traditionalaccount of language as thought/speech/phoneticwriting/nonphonetic writing is establishedby the architecturalmotif of ground/ structure/ornament. Relaying the foundations establishesthe possibilityof a different edifice.a building does not stand on a ground that precededit and on which it depends. The means by which language is grounded is always identifiedwith structure.12 Rather. Heidegger identifies the original sense of the word logos as "gathering" in a way that lets things stand. as the representation of is identified with ornament that representsthe speech.a logos. the structurallayer.Every referenceto structureis a referenceto an edifice erected on a ground. Kant must reassessits loadbearing capacity and "lay down the complete architectonic plan" of a new philosophy in order to "build upon this foundation. The kind of ground clearing Kant attempts does not simply precede that construction of the edifice. philosophy'ssuccessive relayingsof the foundation do not preservea single. the historyof philosophy is that of a series of substitutionsfor structure. Rather. For Heidegger. the designing of an edifice. it becomes representation detached from pure presence." The ground is constituted ratherthan revealedby that which appearsto be added to it. its supportingpresence. This interrogationis the projection of a plan. it is the erection of the building that establishesthe fundamentalcondition of the ground. the drawing. endlessly attemptingto produce a grounded structure. While speech is promotedas leges speech presentationof pure thought. Consequently. 10 . controlled. The ground is not simply independent of the edifice. Speech is identified with structure which makes visible the condition of the ground it is bonded to. an edifice from which the ground cannot simply be removed. Heidegger repeatedlyidentifies presence with standing. a play constitutedon the basis of a fundamental immobility and a reassuringcertitude. To locate the ground is necessarily to construct an edifice. Metaphysicsmaintains its protocol of presence/presentawith an account of languagethat privition/representation over writing. In these terms. Its structuremakes the ground possible. the laying of the foundation is the "projectionof the intrinsic possibilityof metaphysics"'5 through an interrogationof the condition of the ground. the the drawingof the design out of the ground. constructiondoes not simply make visible a ground that precedes it. The play of representations is limited. one element supportedby another. For Heidegger. by presence:"The concept of centered structureis in fact the concept of a play based on a fundamental ground. Metaphysicsis dependent on an architecturallogic of support. The edifice is not simply added to the ground. it is not simply an addition.

It re-presentsitself. its ungrounded condition.Art is subordinatedby being located furthestfrom the part of itself outside itself to bind the whole. the presentationof the ground to which the artworkis added as a representation. even while philosophy describes itself as architecture. As Derrida argues. plays a curious strategicrole. to fill up or to heal the whole which has suffereddetachment. Philosophy drawsan edifice. Architectureis constructedas a material reality in order to liberate some higher domain."" It is the "support" which the artworkis added. Structuremakes present the ground. and thereby. dispatches an emissary. Philosophy attempts to tame ornament in the name of the ground. in reading Kant'suse of the architectural metaphor."'8It does so to cover up some kind of gap. It subordinatesthe arts. The most materialcon11 4. non-material truth. it translatesitself as architecture.It projectsan account of architectureoutside itself which it then appeals to as an outside authority. Metaphysics'sdeterminationof ground-as-support also determines art as a merely representative "addition" to a utilitarianobject. Metaphysicsunderstandsitself as a grounded structureto which is attached the representa- . It produces an architectureof groundedstructure which it then uses for support. the threat to the overall structurediminishes. itself.The limits of philosophy are establishedby the metaphoricalstatus of architecture.producing itself in the translation. Metaphysicsorganizes itself around an account of the object as grounded structure. The architecturalmetaphor organizes this relationship:"It seems almost as though the thingly element in the art work is like the substructureinto and upon which the other. It is able to pass between philosophy and art in a unique way. detaching itself from the ground in order to representthat which is other than the structure. then. As material. But it is not just the internal structureof the art object that is understoodin these architecturalterms. then subordinatedas a metaphor in order to defer to some higher. With each additionallayer. philosophy "represents itself as part of its as an art of employing the verticalhierarchy dependent on a certain understandingof architecture. Metaphysicsproduces the architecturalobject as the paradigmof ground-assupportin order to veil its own lack of support. tional ornament of art. It is involved in a kind of translation. It literally producesan architecture. to Heidegger argues that art is actually "foundational" the philosophical traditionthat subordinatesit to the level of ornament. it is also the status of art as a discourse. and therefore architecture. The structureis bonded to the ground more securely than the ornament is bonded to the structure. ratherthan drawson an edifice. complicating them as it folds back on itself. to authentic element is built. Heidegger notes that metaphysadded to the substrucics treatsart itself as a superstructure ture of philosophy. The strategicimportance of the architecturalmetaphordiscussed above emerges when Heideggerexamines the status of art. The edifice is constructed to make theory possible. This convolution is doubled in the case of architectureitself. some internal division. It is the structure/ornament relationshipthat enables us to think of support. in turn. to control representationin the name of presence.Philosophy describesitself in terms of that thing which it subordinates. a "superstructure" added to the "substructure" which. which enables art to be subordinatedto philosophy. A convoluted economy is sustained by the descriptionof architectureas ornamentedstructure. The idea of support. The vertical hierarchyis a mechanism of control that makes available the thought of the ground-as-support which is metaphysics. Philosophy representsitself as architecture. But as the distance from the ground becomes greater.Wigley Metaphysics'sdeterminationof the ground-as-support presupposes a vertical hierarchyfrom ground through structure to ornament. is dependent on a certain view of architecturewhich defines a range of relationshipsfrom fundamental (foundational)to supplementary(ornamental). detaches part. The philosophical economy turns on the status of ornament. submission to the authorityof presence. Structureis grounding. Architecture. is added to the ground.The metaphorcirculates between and within the two systems. leaning on it. Ornament either representsthe grounding of structureor deviates from the line of support. the bond is weaker. to think of the ground. of structure. it is but a metaphor. restingwithin it.

cultural artifactnor an atemporal.assemblage 8 dition is used to establish the most ideal order. Metaphysicsis the determinationof architecture as metaphor. the formal and the material.The figure of the grounded structureis but an illustration.a useful metaphor that illustratesthe nature of metaphysicsbut outlives its usefulness and must be abandonedin the final form of metaphysics. Architecturalfigurescannot be detached from philosophicaldiscourse. which drew on the canons of the philosophical tradition to identify the properconcern of the newly constituted figure of the architectwith drawing(disegno)that mediates between the idea and the building. The translationcontractbetween architecture and philosophy worksboth ways. an open frame that is the very possibilityof a closed structureto which it then becomes an unnecessaryappendage. the theoretical and the practical. The metaphorof the grounded structurein particularcannot be discardedin order to reveal the ground itself. Scaffoldingis that piece of structurewhich becomes ornamental. aculturalprinciple. They are metaphorical. the earthas the support an artificial for structure. it produceseach discourseas a discourse. it organizesthe traditionof philosophy that claims to be able to discardit... the criteria a classification philosophical metaphors areborrowed froma derivative discourse philosophical . Whatis fundamental and to for a corresponds the desire a firmand ultimate ground. More than the metaphorof foundation. When philosophy reflects upon its own completion. The statusof material oscillates.Architecture. theory. But can architecturebe so simply discarded? The use of the figure of structure"is only metaphorical. the bedrock.In each there is this moment of inversion. for of Thus. a trace that lacks substancebut is structurallynecessary. When the spatialmodel is hit upon. Metaphor "is the essential weight which anchors discourse in metaphysics"20 ratherthan a superfluous ornament. the bridgebetween the two. terrain to buildon. Philosophy treats its architecturalmotif as but a metaphor that can and should be discardedas superfluous. Architecturaltheory thus constructsarchitectureas a bridge between the dominant oppositionsof metaphysics and constitutes itself by exploiting the contractualpossibil12 ..In so doing. it defines architectureas metaphorical. This primal contract. which is neither a contingent. nor a liberal art operatingin the realm of ideas. But metaphor is never innocent."'9 The very attempt to abandon metaphorinvolves metaphors. but is their reconciliation. This metaphororganizesthe statusof Metaphysicsgrounds itself in the metaphorsit claims to have abandoned. Each constructsthe other as an origin from which they are detached. so architecturecannot be abandoned in favor of the fundamental. architecture flips from privilegedorigin to gratuitoussupplement. a representationto be separatedfrom the fundamental presentation. . The architectural metaphor is not simply one metaphoramong others. from foundation to ornament. In this inversion. a frame that traces the outline of the building. not in the sense of an agreementsigned by two parties. The metaphor of the ground. It is thereforenot simply a metaphor. when it functions. More than the terms of exchange within and between these discourses. critical reflection restswithin it. the fundamental. the base. It orients researchand fixes results. Certainly. Even the concept that the metaphoricalcan be detached from the fundamental is itself metaphorical.a kind of scaffoldingto be discardedwhen the project is complete. establishes the possibilityof a social contractthat separates architectureand philosophyand constitutesthem as discourses. but a logical knot of which the two partiesare but a side effect. less than ideal. The other is constructedas a privileged origin which must then be discarded. material. the everymeta-metaphorics. Each identifies the other as other. it will be said.architecturaldrawingis neither simply a mechanical art bound to the bodily realm of utility. invertsto become base in the sense of degraded. The vertical hierarchy inverts itself.2' Philosophy can define only a part of itself as nonmetaphoricalby employing the architectural metaphor. . which is then bound to reject it as merely material. the soul and the body. valuesof resisting a concept. Metaphor is fundamental. The "fundamental" an is architecturalmetaphor. The bond is contractual.. The eventual status of architectureas a discipline began to be negotiatedby the first texts of architectural theory. The architecturalmotif is bound to philosophy. it is the foundational metaphor.

the deferralof the origin which preventsthe completion of the edifice by locating the untranslatable. It is not a matterof simply generatinga new descriptionof the architecturalobject in architecturaldiscourse but ratherof locating the account of architecturealreadyoperativewithin deconstructivewriting. transformingthe representationof its construction.22this account can be located precisely in the discussion of translation . As architectureis bound up into language.the dissimulation of the object. of architecture.The collapse of the tower marksthe necessity for a certain construction."26Deconstruction identifies the inability of philosophy to establish the stable ground. to trace the impact of another account of architecture hidden within the tradition. it also inhabits the figure of the tower.25 subversionis found within the conditions for philosophy.Wigley ity alreadywritten into the philosophical traditionwherein it describesitself as architecture.which is to say the necessity for controlling representation. Derrida'saccount of translationis organizedaround an architecturalfigure:the tower of Babel. Inasmuch as deconstructiontamperswith the philosophical ideal of translation. it tamperswith the ideal of architecture. but ratherto show that the condition effected when philosophy infects itself from outside by drawing on architectureis internal to architectureitself. the free play of representation. a violent imposition of a single language.The terms of the contract are the prohibition of a different description of the architecturalobject. what relationshipdoes deconstruction assume with the account of architecturerepressedby that tradition? The translationof deconstructionin architecturedoes not divide. or rather.a certain theory. It is the difference between this account and that of traditionalphilosophy that marksthe precise nature of deconstruction'sinhabitation of philosophy. It is lodged in the tower. deconstruction is the subversionof translation. subvertingit from within. Architectureis cut from within. and thereby operatingin terms of the contract. It is simply occur across the philosophy/architecture occurring within each discourse.The necessity of translationis the failure of building that demands a 13 5. the incompletion of the tower:"The deconstructionof the Tower of Babel. As the desire for translationproduced by the incompletion of the tower is never completely frustrated. Inasmuch as philosophy is the ideal of translaThat tion.the multiplicity of languages. The figure of the tower acts as the strategic intersection of philosophy.24The necessity of philosophy is defined in the collapse ratherthan in the project itself. gives a good idea of what deconstruction is: an unfinished edifice whose halfcompleted structuresare visible. But the tower is also the figure of architecture. itself. The question is.23 ideal of is an imposed order. But the univocal language of the builders of the tower is not the language of philosophy. and philosophy unwittingly appeals to architectureprecisely for this internal torment. and translation.the edifice is never simply demolished. It is not simply that architecturehas some familiar unambiguous material reality that is drawn upon by philosophy. The limits of deconstructionare establishedby the account of architecture it unwittingly produces. Rather. The concern here is to locate certain discursivepractices repressedwithin the pathological mechanisms of this economy. architecture. The building project of philosophy continues but its completion is foreverdeferred. The failure of the tower marksthe necessity for translation. It achieves its force precisely by inhabiting the tradition.deconstruction. philosophy drawsan architecture. letting one guess at the scaffoldingbehind them. Deconstruction is not outside the tradition. The tower is the figure of philosophy because the dream of Philosophy is the philosophy is that of translatability. To describe the privilegedrole of architecturein philosophy is not to identify architectureas the origin from which philosophy derives. moreover. The tower is also the figure of deconstruction.presentsa certain understanding. Since deconstructioninhabits philosophy.that which lies between the original and the translation.

the origin is seen as a stable crisis. at least it does not suffer insofar as it is the very structureof the work. The structureis no longer simply standing on the ground. This mechanism must be embedded in the scene of translationwhich bears on the status of structure. Translation between the discoursesis made possible by a breakdownin the sense of structurethat is the currency within them. and translation. to locating the difference. is producedby groundlessness philosophy'sancient determinationof the ground as supare port for a structureto which representations added."29 There is a gap in the structurethat cannot be a gap that can only be covered over. he raisesthe possibilitythat the ground (grund) might actually be a concealed "abyss" (abgrund)so that metaphysicsis constructed in ignorance of the instabilityof the terrainon which it is erected:"we move over this ground as over a flimsily covered abyss. translationalso marksthe necessity for architecture(representation). but a convoluted line. an architecturethat representsthe ground in its absence: "If the tower had been completed there would be no architecture. always already markedby a flaw inasmuch as it is a tower. ground as supportingpresence to which the world is added. Undermining the division between building and architecturedisplaces the traditionalsense of the ground: "But the nature of the erecting of buildingscannot be understoodadequatelyin terms either of architectureor of 14 .metaphysics is groundlesspreciselybecause it determines the ground as support. The architecturalmotif of the groundedstructure is articulatedin a way that effects this concealment."3' Metaphysicsbecomes the veiling of the ground ratherthan the interrogationof it. the need for a building/architecture distinction. The building stands on an abyss. Man is alienated from the ground preciselyby thinking of it as secure. Heideggerattemptsto subvertthis mechanism by rereading the status of the architecturalmotif. Since the tower is the figure of deconstruction. He arguesthat the thought of architectureas a simple addition to building actually makes possible the thought of the naked ground as support. The tower is filled. undivided.Architecture is the translationof building that representsbuilding to itself as complete."27 of architectureis bound up with the foreverincomplete project of philosophy.assemblage 8 supplementation by architecture. Structureis no longer simply grounding. The tower is deconstructedby establishingthat "the structureof the original is markedby the requirementto be translated"28 and that it "in no way suffersfrom not being satisfied. Derrida argues that the incompletion of the tower is the very structureof the tower. the need for architecture. understoodas building (presentation).This translation substitutedthe original sense of ground with that of the sense of ground as support. the ground ratherthan an abyss." Metaphysicsconceals this violence. With metaphysics.The original sense of logos has been lost. Only the incompletion of the tower makes it possible for architectureas well as the The possibility multitude of languages to have a history."we misjudge most readilyand persistentlythe deceitful form of its violence. The "modern" of the age of technology. In doing so. Just as it is the precondition for philosophy. The vertical hierarchyis a mechanism of control that veils its own violence. Because of the very familiarityof the principle of groundas-support. secure. but as a representationthat speaksof the essence of building. He argues that philosophy has been in a state of ever "groundlessness" since the translationof the ancient Greek terms into the language of metaphysics.31For Heidegger. Structuralfailure produces the need for a supplement.32 The crisis of representation producedby the very attempt is in to remove representations order to reveal the supporting presence of the ground. the identity. This is a displacement of the traditionalidea of structure. architecture. Philosophy requiresthe account of building as grounded and architectureas detached precisely because of this incompletion. Heidegger'slater work developed this possibilityinto a principle. It is no longer a vertical hierarchy. The once discrete domains become entangled to the extent that the task becomes to identify the convoluted mechanism of translationthat producesthe sense of separateidentities. the question shifts from identifying the common ground between them. This argument follows Heidegger'sattemptto dismantle the edifice of metaphysicsin order to reveal the condition of the ground on which it stood.

1986 15 .The Late 19C. Hani Rashid.Wigley 2.

meaning that dis"not a destructionbut preciselya destructuring mantles the structurallayers in the system. Translation is understoodas presentationof Derridadestabilizesthe edifice by arguingthat its fundathe ground. them borrowing At the verymomentwhen Heidegger denouncing is translation . to make tremble in Solicitation is a form of interrogationwhich entirety.The threatto metaappearsto employ an account of translationsimilar to Derrida'sinasmuch as he argues that the violation of the physics is underground. Deconstruction is neither unbuilding nor demolition. because always one and inhabits. and mistranslationis understoodas loss of supmental condition. edification. art is not simply added to philosophy.Theyarenot possible effective. the momentwhen.ture. of translation. The is vertical hierachy of ground/structure/ornament convoluted. it is the "soliciting" the edifice of metaphysics.'WhatI havejusttoo hastily called'metaphor' concenof Rather. He takes the Heideggerianline furtheruntil it folds back on the concealport. Deconstructionsubvertsthe edifice then he attemptsto go beneath this sense in order to erase it inhabits by demonstratingthat the ground on which it is the violation. detachment from ground.' at Of leastone metaphor. The movements deconstruction not destroy of do structures from the outside. in of the groundfor justanything?35 old Latin means to shake as a whole. Heidegger original ground fracturesthat undermine its structure. Deconstrucundermines itself when dealing with the translationof the tion destabilizesmetaphysicsby locating in the bedrockthe into the idea of the edifice. The architecturalmotif undermines itself. restoresa traditional erected is insecure:"the terrainis slipperyand shifting.The linear logic of addition is confused."4' the fissuresin the ground that But to have undermined. its structuralpossibility.lacking this'trans. he retains it in the very account of translationhe uses to identify its emergence. he also makesuse of a 'metaphor. and. lation. at any rate. And this ground is. by essence.It is itself no more than a certain account weaknessesthat are structural. that is. of the foundation the ground. nor in terms of a mere combination of the two. mined and undermined. the structureof strucThe in groundof the Greekexperience he says. is. 6.36Heidegger'saccount of translation all the sedimentarylayershave been removed. confirming the traditionallogic by looking for a stable structure. meaning "to take apartan edifice in orderto see how it is constituted or deconstituted. The edifice of metaphysicsclaims to be establishesthe necessity of translationas one of reconstrucstable because it is founded on the bedrockexposed when tion. The collapse of the tower ment of an abyss."40 The thought of ground-as-support not just producedby a is shakes structurein order to identify structuralweaknesses. can theytake and nor accurate thosestructures.assemblage 8 engineering construction. But while certain Heideggerianmoves subvertthe logic of addition by displacing the traditionalaccount of architecture.37 rebuildsthe edifice he appears He an underground. Derrida argues that Heidegger is unable to abandon the tradition of ground-as-support.39 into LatinWords. all the morewhenone doesnot suspect Operating it."and Abbau.borrowing the strategic economic all and of resources subversion fromthe old structure.he declares The concern here is with the way deconstructioninhabits Greekspeechto be lost. "Deconstruction" a "translais tion" of two of Heidegger'sterms:Destruktion. . Derrida departsfrom Heideggerpreciselyby following him. in so doing. trates the difficulties come:doesone speak all to 'metaphorically' the soliciting of structure"in the sense that Sollicitare. aim. the ornament is not simply added to the structure."38 Derridafollows Heidegger's or disturbs argument that this "destructuring" "unbuilding" a traditionby inhabiting its structurein a way that exploits its metaphoric resourcesagainstitself. Heidegger ultimately contradictsthat possibility. that and the structureof the edifice."34 The thought of that which is neither nor architecturemakes possible the original building ground that precedes the ground as support. exceptby inhabiting Inhabiting them in a certainway. transformingitself.. necessarily fromthe inside. 16 . The building is not simply added to the ground.The subversionof presence is an is alreadythere in the Greek original. account of translation. But original ground undergroundoperation. structurally. mistranslation.

But it is not to simply abandon the traditionalarchitectonic. it demonstratesthat each of its divisions are radicallyconvoluted.thatthis is not the essenceof deconstruction. Ratherthan abandoninga structurebecause its weaknesshas been found (which would be to remain in complicity with the ideal of a grounded structure). a thought that subordi17 . is not simwho knowshow to de-construct the techniqueof an architect ply whathas been the momentwhen imminentdanger our concentrates visionon the of the both keystone an institution. stonewhichencapsulates the and the fragility its existence. It appearsto be a form of analysis that dismantles or demolishes structures. has infiltrated already supplementarity always presence. is Structure perceived the through incidenceof menace. disruptmetaphysicsin this way is to disruptthe status of architecture. an abyss. presentationand representation. An entiretheoryof the structural of will necessity the abyss in of be gradually the constituted our reading. a probing but whichtouchesupon of metathe techniqueitself. It is the internal fracturingof the edifice. Deconstruction is not simply architectural. deconstructionappearsto locate in metaphysics the fatal flaw that causes its collapse. couldsaythatthereis One but than nothingmorearchitectural de-construction.Wigley crack the structureare not flaws that can be repaired. Derrida identifies the "structural necessity"of the abyss: And we shallsee thatthisabyssis not a happy unhappy or accident. structureand ornament. . One looksat a system Platonic/Hegelian and examines how it wasbuilt. Flaws are identified in the structurebut do not lead to its collapse. of from abyss(the indefinite multiplication) representation.and alongcomesa de-constructor destroys stone and the it. Now the conceptof de-construction resembles architecan itself turalmetaphor. it is a displacement of traditionalthought about architecture. indefinite process . It is this convolution that makes possible the thought of a ground that precedes the edifice. is. that is. philosophical thing system. whichangleof of visionsupports authority the system. Consequently. This operation called(fromthe Latin)soliciting. flaws that are structural. It appearsto be an undoing of construction. Deconstitutes own architectural its phorand thereby construction not simply.analyses structure dissolves Oftenenough this is the case. Structurebecomes "erectedby its very ruin.they are the very source of its strength. Far from causing its collapse. The architecturallogic of addition is subvertedby demonstratingthat it is made possible by precisely that which frustratesit."43 interrogationthat shakes structurein order to identify structuralflaws. and it culture. a has been constructed.It seemsto me. Each distinction is made possible by that which is neither one nor the other. Somea a tradition.Derrida displaces the architecturalmotif. Rather. There is no more stable ground to be found. howthe It ever. also nothing lessarchitectural.But this obvious sense misses the force of deconstruction. Architecturealways already inhabits and underpins the building it is supposedlyattachedto.Structure of then can be possibility threatened order be comprehended to more in methodically but clearlyand to revealnot only its supports also thatsecret nor placein whichit is neitherconstruction ruinbut lability. the of etc. The abyss is not simply the fracturingof the ground under the edifice. is oftensaidto havea negative It attitude. Representation the abyssof presence not an accident presis of in bornfromthe ence. . The structuredoes not simply collapse because it is erected on.It displaces the concept of structureitself by locating that which is neither support nor collapse.Rather. On the contrary.44 is The edifice is erected by concealing the abysson which it stands. Derrida identifies the constitutionalforce of the weaknessof a structure. This repressionproduces the appearanceof solid ground.uponthe authority the architectural rhetoric. the convolution of the distinction between building and architecture. whichkeystone. There is no unflawed bedrock. It is in this sense that it is most obviously architectural. This subversionof structuredoes not lead to a new structure.42 Deconstruction leads to a complete rethinkingof the supplemental relationshiporganized by the architecturalmotif To of ground/structure/ornament. the fracturingof the ground is the very possibility of the edifice. by stone.It is not the demolition of its nameseemsto indicate the is of whenit is able to conceive construction technique a reversed for itselfthe ideaof construction. held up by what never stops eatDeconstruction is a form of ing away at its foundations.45 representation the representation. the strengthof a certain weakness. and fracturedby.the desireof presence on the contrary.

But this is not to say that this disruptionoccurs outside the realm of objects. The translationcontract on which those discoursesare based underpin a multiplicity of cul18 7.Rather. slipperyobjects that make thematic the theoretical condition of objects and the objecthood of theory. As metaphysicsis the definition of architecture as metaphor.ideal/ material. but not to some end. It is preciselythat which is neccessaryto structurebut evades structuralanalit ysis (and all analysis is structural). Rather. is the breakdownin structurethat is the possibilityof structure.It has no prescribedaim. Architecture makes possible its own subordinationto building. the structuralneccessity of architecture.assemblage 8 nates architectureas merely an addition. Such gesturesdo not simply inhabit the prescribed domains of philosophy and architecture. Inasmuch as translation is neither completed nor completely frustrated. nor simply practical. Deconstruction is concerned with the untranslatable. but do not abandon. To translatedeconstructionin architecturedoes not lead of simply to a formal reconfiguration the object. but. Hidden within the traditionalarchitecturalfigure is another:the architecturalmotif is requiredby philosophy not simply because it is a paradigmof stable structure.While philosophical discourse and architecturaldiscoursedepend on an explicit account of architecture. Building always harborsthe secret of its constitutional violation by architecture. the disruptionof architecture's metaphoric condition is a disruptionof metaphysics. on the contrary. or a source of legitimation. a locating ornament'sviolation of structure. the difference. do not disappear. there is a series of nonlinear exchanges within and between these domains. exchanges which problematize. a subversion that cannot be resistedbecause architectureis the structural possibility of building. It is a displacement of structurethat cannot be evaluated in traditionalterms because it frustratesthe logic of grounding or testing. The telologies of theory/practice. requiredprecisely For this reason. to translatedeconstructionin architecture is not simply to transformthe condition of the architectural object. not by integratingit in some classical synthetic gesture. Objects are alreadybisected into theory and practice. etc. That is to say. it calls into question the condition of the object. a strangestructural condition. Such a gesture does not constitute a method. objects whose theoreticalstatusand objecthood are problematic. Deconstruction is a concern with theoretical objects. Deconstruction marksthe structuralnecessity of a certain failure of translation. It is not a project. Deconstruction traces architecture'ssubversionof building.the edifice of metaphysics is neither building nor architecture. at best.the remainderthat belongs neither to the original nor to the translation. a constitutional violation that can only be repressed. the distinction that is at once the contractualpossibility of architecturaldiscourse and the means by which to repressthe threat posed by that discourse. It is. is also it for its instability. Such gesturesare neither simply theoretical. it problematizesthe condition of the object without simply abandoning it. It is thereby possible to operatewithin the traditional descriptionof architectureas the representation of structurein order to produce objects that make these enigmas thematic.46It is not strategic. but neverthelessresideswithin both.nor the means of producinga new architecture. an analysis.they have no unique claim on that account. . It locates ornament within the structureitself. an event. The repressionof certain constitutionalenigmas is the basis of the social contractthat organizesthe discourse. Ratherthan offeringa new account of the architectural object.Deconstruction is the location of that violation. but the uncanny effacement of the distinction between them. deconstructionunearthsthe repressivemechanisms by which that figure of architectureoperates. Architecturebecomes the possibilityof building ratherthan a simple addition to it. its objecthood. Which is not to say that it is aimless.a violation that cannot be exorcised. It moves very precisely. neither presentationof the ground nor detachment from it. They are neither a new way of readingfamiliar architecture. It is neither an application of something nor an addition to something.

a hesitation that surfacesprecisely within its most confident claims about architecture.architecturedoes not occupy the domain alloted to it. Inasmuch as deconstructionis abused in architecturaldiscourse. Possibilitiesemerge within architecturaldiscourse that go beyond the displacement of architectureimplicit in deconstructivewriting. To locate these possibilitiesis to (re)producedeconstructionby transformingit. Ratherthan the object of a specific discourse. the figure of translation."trans. There is a need for a strong reading which locates that which deconstruction cannot handle of architecture. Totally translatable. While Derrida repeatedlyargues that deconstruction is not philosophy. even as a foreigner. Notes This is the first part of a two-part study. exhibits incompletion. he also notes that it is not nonphilosophy either.even within what is believed to be one language.Wigley tural exchanges. its theory of translation. coherence construct. it cannot simply translatedeconstruction. impossibility of finishing. . deconstructiondoes not simply survive architecture. . Consequently. Such a transformationmust operate on the hesitation deconstruction has about architecture. Press. It is to participate in the dominant reading of Derrida that resiststhe force of deconstruction. Thus triumphant translationis neither the life nor the death of the text. Deconstruction cannot be considered outside the texts of philosophy it inhabits. Cf. Architectureis at once given constitutive power and has that power frustratedby returningits status to mere metaphor. 1981). needs to be rethought. Deconstruction is considered here in the context of philosophy.But an inquiry needs to focus on why an architecturalreading of deconstructionis "easy"and what is the "certainpoint" beyond which it becomes unjustified. trans. Thereis then (let us translate) like limitto something an internal an of It formalization. Which. Here the tower. a body of language [langue]. as as disappears a text. "Atextlivesonly if it liveson [sur-vit]. To simply claim that deconstruction is not philosophy is to maintain philosophy by appealing to its own definition of its other. James Hulbert. is to say a figure that does not simply representdeconstruction. the status of the translationof deconstruction in architectureneeds to be writing. The concern becomes the strategicplay of the architecturalmotif in these exchanges." trans. 5. Positions. But perhapseven such an abusive reading of Derrida is insufficient. the architecturaltranslationof deconstruction. Totally untranslatable.of totalizing. it dies immediately. The second part will be published in a subsequent issue of Assemblage. That force is produced by identifying the complicity of the apparentlynonphilosophical within the philosophical tradition. This cultural production of architecturedoes not take the form specified in the architecturaldiscourse. A more agressive reading is required.which is to say its theory of abuse. is itself understoodas a translation. It is so implicated in the economy of translationthat it threatensdeconstruction. "Me An Psychoanalysis: Introductionto 'The Shell and ithe Kernel' by 19 . Jacques Derrida. completing of of something on the orderof edification. only or alreadyits living on. Deconstruction occupies the texts of philosophy in order to identify a nonphilosophical site within them. . Consequently." Jacques Derrida. "For if the difficulties of translation can be anticipated . and it lives on only if it is at once translatableand untranslatable. . architectural and construction. is also a structural order. system architectonics. sites that alreadyoperatewith a kind of architecturalviolence. Because of architecture'sunique relationshipto translation. 3.the architecture it resists. in Derridean terms. 4.A patient reading needs to force the convoluted surface of deconstructivewriting and expose the architecturalmotif within it. incompleteness the constructure. Whatthe multiplicity idiomsactually of limitsis not only a 'true' a and intertranslation. architectureis a series of discursivemechanisms whose operationscan be traced in ways that are unfamiliar to architecturaldiscourse. 102. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Nicolas Abraham. Richard Klein. Diacritics (Spring 1979). saturating. transparent adequate it a of expression. in Deconstructionand Criticism (New York:SeaburyPress. wouldbe to easyand up to a certainpointjustified see therethe translation of a systemin deconstruction. but is its possibility. Derrida writes: The 'Tower Babel'doesnot merelyfigurethe irreducible of mulof it an the tiplicity tongues. 1979). Chicago 2. its life after life. There is an implicit identity between the untranslatable remainderlocated by deconstructionand that part of architecture that causes deconstructionto hesitate . Jacques Derrida.47 This passageculminates symptomaticallyin a sentence that performsthe classical philosophical gesture. its life after death. "Living On: Border Lines. 1. one should not begin by naively believ- 20. an architecturaltransformation of deconstruction that drawson the gaps in deconstruction that demand such an abuse. .

" Martin Heidegger. 60. nor even a presentation. "With this problem of translation we will thus be dealing with nothing less than the problem of the very passageinto philosophy. Note how Derrida argues that the universityis "built"on the ideal of translation(Derrida. Albert Hofstadter(New York:Harperand Row. 21. James S. 33. 18. 9."Heidegger. .. and orientationof Greek philosophy. 14. 14. But it should be said in passing that even within Greek philosophy a narrowingof the word set in forthwith. Kant and the Problemof Metaphysics. but as the possibility of thought about language. 2 (1984): 91-154.equally authentic experience of what they say." 23 (emphasis added). Heidegger.93. Joseph F. Ibid." 25. the universaltongue would have been a particularlanguage 20 . 27. Heidegger. "The Origin of the Work of Art." trans. but is the production of the world.. "White Mythology:Metaphor in the Text of Philosophy. ed. Kant. no. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. McDonald (New York:Schocken Books. 17. Derrida. "Force and Signification. Jacques and the InstiDerrida.290. ed. An Introduction to Metaphysics. Alan Bass (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press. trans. 36. marks the firststage in the processby which we cut ourselves off and alienated ourselvesfrom the original essence of Greek philosophy. Craig Owens. 224. The Ear of the Other.for example in the Leibnizian sense . but that what is as a whole is brought into unconcealedness and held therein." trans. Domus671 (1986): 28. BarbaraJohnson (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press. This degeneratetranslationis based on a degenerationthat alreadyoccurredwithin the original Greek. Cf." Martin Heidegger. although the original meaning did not vanish from the experience.. October 9 (1979): 7. "Structure.assemblage 8 ing that the word 'deconstruction' correspondsin French to some clear and univocal signification." in Writing and Difference."Heidegger. 15. Martin Heidegger.. trans. . a trans-lationwithout a corresponding. 1971). 27. Cf. Alan Bass (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press. "Restitutions of the Truth in Pointing." Jacques Derrida.An Introductionto Metaphysics. 19. 1. "Letterto a JapaneseFriend. Man and World7 (1974): 213.a transparent language to which everyone would have access.An Introductionto Metaphysics. 1978). The Ear of the Other."Recherche Semiotique/Semiotic Inquiry4." 6. "The Origin of the Work of Art. 20. Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. Kant and the Problemof Metaphysics. Ibid. Thinking. This does not mean that something is correctly represented and renderedthere. "Had their enterprisesucceeded. Ibid. Churchill (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 279. "Letterto a Japanese Friend.. Jacques Derrida. "Languages et tutions of Philosophy. 1985). 1981). The edifice is neither a representationof the ground. 1985). . begins to totter."in Writing and Difference. Ibid. 37." in The Truth in Painting. 93-94) in the same way that he argues that it is "built" on the ideal of ground as support (Jacques Derrida. 23." Jacques Derrida. 16. Language." Derrida. 13. . 4. "We are not merely taking refuge in a more literal translation 72. Dissemination. 32. 1962). . knowledge. The rootlessnessof Western thought begins with this translation. Graham (Ithaca:Cornell UniversityPress. What happened in this translation from the Greek into the Latin is not accidental and harmless. . the reservesof the word. requiringa returnto a more primordialorigin: "Butwith this Latin translationthe original meaning of the Greek word is destroyed." Diacritics [Fall 1983]: 29. There is already in 'my' language a serious ('somber')problem of translation between what here or there can be envisaged for the word. 102. 24. 1985). 10. Joseph F." 19. trans. 159. "The perfection of technology is only the echo of the claim to the . a system of objects to which language theory can be applied. Heidegger. 219. Thought. . 22. Critique of Pure Reason. 1982). Thus. JacquesDerrida. "[A]ndthe question of deconstruction is also through and through the question of translation. Thought. 184." Heidegger. Not in the sense of the structuralistconcern for architectureas a kind of language. "[T]he foundation of traditional metaphysicsis shaken and the edifice . trans. Critique of Pure Reason. Living On: BorderLines. Jacques Derrida. . 608. 12. ed. JacquesDerrida. Jacques Derrida. trans. 34.. this is true not only of the Latin translationof this word but of all other Roman translationsof the Greek philosophical language. 26. Norman Kemp Smith (London: MacMillan and Co. 31. by force. Jacques Derrida. 11. 30. JacquesDerrida. Immanuel Kant. "Building. 17. trans. .204. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press. trans. 11-20). 182. 35." in Poetry. Language. Ibid. 47. "Principleof Reason:The Universityin the Eyes of Its Pupils. "Beneaththe seemingly literal and thus faithful translationthere is concealed ."The Principle of Ground. 8. Dwelling. the characteristic domination of the principle of ground then determines the essence of our modern technology age. Martin Heidegger. completeness of the foundation. "Architecture Where the Desire May Live. 129. 13. 5." Jacque Derrida.."The Origin of the Work of Art. 2.. . David Wood and Robert Bernasconi (Coventry: ParousiaPress.. the Greek temple in "The Origin of the Work of Art":"Truth happens in the temple's standing where it is.. and the usage itself. . trans. "Des Tours de Babel. 1987)." Martin Heidegger. It would not have been a universal language . Christie V." in Poetry. 1929)." trans. imposed by violence. 7. "[I]tis precisely the idea that it is a matter of providinga foundation for an edifice alreadyconstructedthat must be avoided. 101. . in Differencein Translation." in Derrida and Differance. John Macquarrieand Edward Robinson (New York:Harperand Row. Graham. Ibid. 25. Keith Hoeller. 1962). "The Parergon."in Margins of Philosophy.

38. Of Grammatology. Jacques Derrida. 168. Of Grammatology. 1982). 86. 1976). 43. trans. where 42. like that of analysis. (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press. Reve d'une petite fille qui voulut entrerau carmel. Figure Credits 1. Barbara Johnson." 6." 165. Limited Inc. 24. Ibid. "Fors. Jacques Derrida. 52 (emphasis added)." trans. . 2. it is not an analysis in particular because the dismantling of a structureis not a regressiontoward a simple element. no. unexperienced and unthought. 40. Derrida. 1 (1977): 40. 39. 21 . "[I]nspite of appearance. in The Ear of the Other. Peggy Damuf. Jacques Derrida. underliesour familiar and therefore outworn essence of truth. A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil (New York:George Braziller. are themselves phi- losophemes subject to deconstruction." in Margins of Philosophy. 1977). Courtesy of the artist. We are reminding ourselves of what. 163. "Difference. 45. Max Ernst. Of the word "deconstruction": "Among other things I wished to translateand adapt to my own ends the Heideggerianword Destruktion or Abbau.Wigley of a Greek word. "Force and Signification. The Georgia Review 31. Jacques Derrida." 18. Derrida. Derrida. deconstruction is neither an analysis nor a critiqueand its translation would have to take that into consideration. "Letterto a Japanese Friend.. "Letterto a Japanese Friend.. Jacques Derrida." Derrida. Dorothea Tanning.. 46." 4. 21. "Roundtable on Autobiography. Each signified in this context an operation bearing on the structureor traditionalarchitecture of the fundamental concepts of ontology or of Western metaphysics." 1. towardan indissoluble origin. "Architecture the Desire May Live. Derrida. "Des Tours de Babel. These values. English trans." Derrida. GayatriChakravorty Spivak(Baltimore:Johns Hopkins Press. 47.. 41. 44."trans.

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