Work title: Habit-Autix (0001001912)
Globalization. Liberalism. Consumption. Erasure of scientific, political, and religious boundaries are the terms commonly used to describe our contemporary society. What befalls the individual in this flurry of individualization? Change tends to take effect so quickly and so radically that one could inquire:
What if people searched for harmony not in the ego ideal anymore but in direct satisfaction?
What if people were not influenced by representation anymore but by simple presentation?
What if people were to stop symbolizing?
These questions have been raised by Charles Melman, psychiatrist and founder of the Association Lacanienne Internationale, when he refers to the “new psychic economy.” Elaborating on this train of thought one could inquire: What if the ultimate reaction towards a world without limits, where the collective has ceased to be relevant and the only moral left is a subjective moral, were to reside in a pathology: autism.
In 1943 Leo Kanner first defined the pathology of autism when he described the characteristic desires of certain individuals for “aloneness” and “sameness”. In fact autistic people seem to exist in a world that does not include the Other (l’Autre), a bidimensional world that prevents them from using symbolization. For the autistic subject there is no clear boundary between the self and the environment; rather, the world becomes an extension of oneself with the potential for annihilation that states of “aloneness” and “sameness” prevent. It is now accepted that the etiology of autism has relevant genetic components in addition to environmental factors that explain the extreme variability of cases. According to recent epidemiological studies, the prevalence of the disease is increasing markedly in North America and Canada¹. This current trend provokes the question: what if we are facing a genetic pandemic, part of the evolutionary progression of our society that we should support and not suppress?
We propose a new form of settlement initiated by a partnership between two divergent societal institutions: pharmaceutical companies and the institution of the church. The geographic and financial influence of the pharmaceutical industry makes it a viable primary agent for global change. Fuelled by profit margins and success at marketing its product to the largest target base possible, ‘big pharma’ would invest in a new form of treatment architecture that could potentially be patented and sold as a drug.
Settlement throughout France, our chosen case study area, initially grew around the formation of villages marked by the location of churches scattered across the country. A map of churches provides a satellite formation of sites for future intervention. Today the church as a symbolic institution of a higher and divine power is no longer relevant. The church as ruin and as a physical site for architectural intervention is of primary interest. Churches have become sites of the “third landscape,” a term Gilles Clement refers to in his manifesto L’Autre Fable as “lots (or “unproductive lands”) [that] issue from the abandonment of previously exploited ground.”²
We propose a form of architectural intervention that is concerned with the phenomenological existence of the subject, an architecture that relates to the senses and is devoid of any stylistic or idealistic tendencies. Our contemporary culture favors the visual with mass-produced and consumed imagery inclined toward the fantastical. We wish to foster a process of dismantling the existing predominance of vision by creating a primal existence for the subject through confinement, thus creating a basis for “sameness” and “aloneness.” The initial primal hut is made of the stone recycled directly from the ruins of the church on site. The envelope of this new architecture is not a boundary, but a constantly evolving substrate that conducts increased levels of sensory information. The path of the individual becomes increasingly complex as it intersects with the paths of others and enters a communal setting.
Gilles Clément describes the diversity of life common to the third landscape: “A young abandoned lot quickly hosts pioneer species that soon will disappear to the benefit of more and more stable species until equilibrium is attained“.³ This new settlement, which is initially engineered to pacify the underlying fears of autistic persons would later be inhabited by a more diverse sector of the population. Certain parallels can be drawn between autism and the existential experience of demographics including the elderly, the homeless, and culturally displaced peoples. Indeed under certain circumstances the search for “sameness” and “aloneness” is a universal predilection that certain mores in our society suppress. The therapeutic settlement would ultimately become an alternative for any individual wishing to escape and start anew. Strengthening one’s core persona through a process initiated by a period of isolation and further developed by a base existence of survival would eventually lead to the formation of new modes of communal interaction.
¹Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. USA.GOV, 2010. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.
²³Clement, Gilles. Manifesto of the Third Landscape. Editions/Collection “L’Autre Fable” Paris, 2005.