Destructive Knowledge: Tools for Learning to Un-Do

Critical, Curatorial + Conceptual Practices in Architecture, Thesis

Marcelo F. López-Dinardi

Mark Wigley, advisor

As architects, we are moved by a genealogical momentum that drives us towards doing. Our tools – the known unknowns that we share as a discipline– are thought to be the medium to build-up, to construct, to accumulate, in the end, to do. We are taught to conceive something where there is none, to give it form, to materialize it, to fill the white and empty paper. I might say, following the principle of doing, that we build our disciplinary knowledge in the process while we “do,” while performing the discipline. Architectural knowledge supports the idea that it must always be constructive, but it is being continuously building up, in both theory and practice, upon historical evidences on top-of or on the debris of a previous form of knowledge, as such, is always a destructive knowledge.

Gordon Matta-Clark, the artist of the well known piece Splitting (1974), was the son of a Surrealist artist trained as architect and a Cornell University architecture graduate himself, prior to jumping over to his career as artist. Matta-Clark, essentially, kept working with and within the tools of architecture, yet some of his work is dedicated to undo, to un-build, as he called it. For him the architectural tools were instruments to undo, something he was accused by architects for opposing the principle of doing. By acting this way he aimed, among others things, to expose and make visible what can be called the entrails of a mode of architectural knowledge–in the form of building. Beyond the well accounted artistic production of this work, there still exists a dimension informed by the banality of the everyday life that will drive this research. This thesis considered the processes and multiple media employed in the mentioned work by Gordon Matta-Clark as a tool for interrogating the layers of knowledge implied in their production, and, how are these intertwined with the level of disciplinary docility in them, if any. The result of this thesis –Replacing Splitting– aimed to explore the possibilities of non-disciplinary architectural knowledge by un-doing, and therefore, suggested a path for a form of destructive knowledge for architectural thinking.