1. Introduction

Fig1a.TIFrchitectural history can be written from many different angles and each setting will lead to other results. The approach inspired by the four-fold division, or by its modern derivative known as the quadralectic way of thinking, is – from that perspective – just another way to describe architectural features. But the independent line of thought, which is presented here, has a special place amongst the efforts and viewpoints of the past. There is, in fact, a convincing argument to assign an important place to the four-division in the world of building.

The crucial word is squareness, which is the hallmark of a quadrilateral perception. It cannot be denied that a majority of houses, all over the world, have a square layout and a rectangular sub-division in common. The word quarters is a synonym for accommodation, rooms and chambers.

The artist Athena TACHA (1977) has a major point, if she stated that ‘our vertical position when standing and our horizontal perception of the ground are closely connected to our sense of stability and balance, which has become second nature. This, in addition to practical reasons, accounts for the extraordinary predominance of the rectangle in human-made environments, and for its becoming our instinctive measuring unit of space. Rectangular architecture and urban design have so saturated our vision that we tend to feel disoriented in an environment made of tilting planes or ambiguous curves.’

The rectangular type of building is elementary human. Other animals make their shelter in a more natural way, and none of them lives in self-made boxes. Insects drill some sort of hole in the ground or find unstructured cover under leaves or in plants. The notable exceptions are the honeybees in their hexagonal wax dwellings and the ants and termites, which also build elaborate structures. The majority of birds prefer a round nest, built from scattered pieces of wood, stacked in a circular way. And reptiles and mammals use all types of shelter, from the weaving of branches into a stable construction to the shells of other animals, like the hermit crab (and many other solutions in between). However, none of them is concerned with the demarcation of space into cubes and/or a devotion to the ‘Four Corners’, like the human race.

Four is a truly human number because it indicates the practical boundaries of apprehension. Karl MENNINGER (1969) pointed out that the number four was an ancient limit of counting. His examples from the Czech, Russian and Turkish languages and the linguistic peculiarities (of inflected adjectives up to four) seemed to convince enough. However, the basic reason for such a perimeter lies in the ability of the mind to see a maximum of four separate entities without counting. Communication is, at best, a double dialectic interaction (of subject and object) seen at the same time. Higher numbers (of division) are theoretical possible, but impractical. The thinking process becomes cumbersome when every observation has to run a course through more than four ‘compartments’.

The present excursion in the world of tetradic architecture has to be of an exploratory nature. The main problem for the choice of the appropriate examples is the sheer abundance of them. The composition of this book reflects in all aspects the perplexity of the modern world: how can we see the wood for the trees? All over the world and throughout the ages are buildings, which carry signs of the four-fold. Some are a deliberate attempt to please the observer by a balanced symmetry. Others use the fourfold as a means to achieve certain practical objectives in the division of space.

The journey is recorded in four stages, as could be expected in view of the nature of the subject. The first part of the trip starts in the quiet environment of the landscape. We will visit some of the beautiful gardens, which are scattered over the world and contemplate their tranquility. Some attention will be paid to the use of water in the gardens. Furthermore, the role of fountains,  symbolizing the feeling of abundance, will be described briefly.

The second part of the trip, or expedition, starts in the days of a distant past. Large rocks were dragged over long distances. Erratic boulders were collected by unknown people in order to build their places of worship. The suggestion is made, that these early architectonic structures functioned as spiritual instruments in a pagan awareness, rather than as astronomical calendars. The human need to find an answer to the questions of life was further materialized in temples and churches, which often carry a message of division-thinking. Places of contemplation can also be found in public places like the amphitheater, hospitals, prisons, graves and museums. They offer appropriate study material for division-thinking.

The organization of the multitude in form and function is covered in the third stage of this book. Various types of cities and their characteristic features are briefly discussed. The city, in all its variety, is a living example of the versatility of human imagination and practicality. It is here, in the day-to-day visibility of city life, that a cultural entity offers the greatest insight in its personality.

Finally, there is – in the fourth stage of the journey – a view of the position of quadralectic architecture in a wider setting, pointing to the essential outlook and its consequences. In the modern order rules a gracious kind of consciousness. This survey will reach its purpose if the reader could only see a glimpse of this spectacular panorama.

1 Response to 1. Introduction

  1. Ha Marten,
    Ik ben net gestart met het lezen van de wordpress versie van je Quadralectic Architecture. Ik ben al in het bezit van de eerste uitgave van de nulde druk die je mij op mijn verjaardag in 2004 hebt gegeven en van een aantal gebonden delen die je me later hebt geschonken. In die tijd was ik echter nog een leek in het verdelingsdenken. Na ‘De Tuinen van Epicurus’, ‘Visions of four notions’, ‘Four’ en ‘The theoretical aspects of quadralectic thinking” verheug ik me erop Quadralectic Architecture aandachtig te herlezen. Ik neem er de tijd voor tot het eind van het jaar, zodat er genoeg ruimte overblijft voor aanvullend leeswerk. Ik zal mijn overpeinzingen met je delen.
    Wat me nu al opvalt is de ‘klassieke’ inhoudsopgave: 1. Introduction, 2, Tranquility (landscapes), 3. Contemplation (buildings) 4. Representation (cities) 5. Essentials. De opbouw en eenvoud nodigen uit tot lezen.
    De belangrijkste reden om er weer aan te beginnen is van ‘filosofische’ aard. Als het waar is dat ‘the human need to find an answer to the questions of life’ zich materialiseert in de vormen en inrichting (architectuur) van de leefwereld van mensen, dan is het goed die leefwerelden door de geschiedenis heen aandachtig te observeren en te overdenken. Wellicht werpt dat vanuit de view van het vierdelingsdenken licht op de ‘questions’ in onze tijd, maar ook op nieuwe antwoorden die de huidige denkkaders naar mijn gevoel niet lijken te kunnen bieden.


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