Adria Daraban

Adria Daraban

Figures of the Fragmentary

Architecture-specific concepts of the fragmentary in modernism

The attraction of the fragmentary as a topos of art, literature and philosophy seems to have been unbroken at least since its theoretical fixation in early Romanticism. Remnants, cracks, gaps or breaks give art a new expression; silenced voices, broken gestures, unfinished verses in fragmentary writing, dissonances, alienations and distortions change the sound and expression of all forms of representation. The fragment embodies the radical gesture of liberating art from the idea of the aesthetically beautiful, harmonious and whole.

This paper aims at an extended definition of the fragmentary in architecture. As the fragment develops an event character, its sphere of action also changes. The focus increasingly shifts from a pictorially contemplative reflection on the relationship between fragment and whole to an experience of fragmentation. For architectural discourse, this turn means that the category of the fragmentary moves from a form of expression to the expression of an open and unstable (dynamic) architectural order, thereby developing its own architecture-specific characteristics.

To enable the investigation of this relation, the theory of the early Romantic fragment in literary and philosophical discourse is chosen as the starting point for this work. In order to analyse and make effective the contents of this theory with regard to architecture, the idea of the theoretical reduction of Romanticism is used as a model. This creates a bridge to enable the transfer between the discourse of Romanticism and other, “non-discursive areas of actualisation of the ‘Romantic’[1] . In this way, the reduction and synthesis of the main theses on the early Romantic concept of fragment according to Schlegel should succeed, in order to then transfer and examine these theses in the field of architecture with the help of the concept of figure. The connections can be outlined as follows: While the fragment conveys characteristic phenomena of Romantic thought, the figure describes the structure of possible constellations of fragments. With the figure of the fragmentary, then, we speak of a (con-)figuration or constellation of fragments. The figural description of fragment constellations is not only intended to be a systemic and normative representation, but also to symbolise the concept.

With the aim of sketching an architecture-specific definition of the phenomenon of the fragment, figures of the fragmentary are examined and put into relation by means of creative architectural productions – buildings, designs, sketches and other types of notation. The works and theoretical formulations of the architects Hans Scharoun (1893-1972), Hans Hollein (1934-2014) and Peter Eisenman (*1932) are used to test the figures of the gap, the line and the trace as a poetic basis. A new reading of the architectures can thus emerge through the identified definitions of the fragmentary. The heterogeneity of the examined positions and strategies in dealing with the concept of the fragmentary should thereby determine the scope of the conceptual definition.

The thesis underlying the theory in this work is: the fragmentary is a quality of architectural order. On its basis, a distinction was made between the fragmentary as an architectural quality and the image of the broken form – the insignia of the fragment. In this way, an operative[2] fragment concept unfolded for architectural theory, which is transformed from a design-oriented to a process-oriented concept. The aim here was to make the outlines of a coherent thought complex recognisable in the sense of the condition fragmentaire.

In this way, the investigation can be understood as a theoretical constellation of the fragmentary in architecture elaborated in the Schlegelian sense. If the fragmentary is interpreted for architecture against this background as a quality of spatial order, then an instrument for generating space and an instrument of poetic spatial reflection can be gained. In other words, the fragmentary provides a theoretical foundation for the architectural work, while the work develops the theory. It is therefore a theory of the fragmentary in the work and with the work.

[1] Sandra Kerschbaumer; Stefan Matuschek: Romanticism as a model, in: Daniel Fulda; Sandra Kerschbaumer; Stefan Matuschek (Hrsg.): Enlightenment and Romanticism. Epochal interfaces, Paderborn 2015, p. 141–156, here p. 155. Kerschbaumer and Matuschek lead the DFG Research Training Group at Friedrich Schiller University Jena “Model Romanticism. Variation – Reach – Actuality”. The author of this work has been an associate member of the Kolleg Modell Romantik since 2018.

[2] With reference to Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory in: Niklas Luhmann: The artwork and the self-reproduction of art, in: Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht und Karl Ludwig Pfeiffer (Hrsg.): Style. Histories and functions of a cultural studies discourse element, Frankfurt a. M. 1986, S. 620–672.