deep architecture and the intense darkness of the individual it

Mullion was a new building in Yurakucho that housed two department stores and five movie theatres. With so much within its walls, it couldn’t help becoming one of the centres of the bustling district in which it was located, but because there was nothing really unhealthy about it – nothing linked to the darker side of pleasure – it had a sterile feel to it. It was flavourless, lacking in depth.

– Taichi Yamada (In Search of a Distant Voice, trans. M. Emmerich, Faber and Faber, London, 2006, p. 147)

Depth is the intensity of being, or vice versa. … the external witness to the intensive origin … the synthesis of time which acts in depth. … at the risk of falling into an “ethics” of intensive qualities. … The power of a Waterfall or a very deep descent is required to go that far and make an affirmation even of descent. Everything is like the flight of an eagle: overflight, suspension and descent. … High and low are … only a manner of speaking. It is a question of depth, and of the lower depth which essentially belongs to it. There is no depth which is not a “seeker” of a lower depth … Every time we find ourselves confronted with qualified oppositions and in an extensity in which these are distributed, we must not count upon an extensive synthesis which would overcome and resolve them. On the contrary, the constituent disparities or enveloped distances inhabit intensive depth. … Only depth resolves, because only difference gives rise to problems. … oppositions are resolved in time and extensity only to the extent that the disparates have first invented their order of communication in depth … Difference, distance and inequality are the positive characteristics of depth as intensive spatium. … it is in the nature of of the surface to cancel difference, but only on the surface. …

– Gilles Deleuze (Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, Continuum, London, 2004, pp. 290-30)

He found it hard to believe there was anything unimaginable in the environment he lived in. In present-day Japan no one felt anything, for instance, like the terror, the indifference, the egotism, the murderous rage, and the confusion that they say soldiers experienced on the battlegrounds of the Vietnam War. And yet, if he accepted what the woman had said, then even here, within the seemingly unremarkable bustle of Tokyo, there were stagnant pools of inconceivably intense solitude, sadness and ugliness.

– Taichi Yamada (In Search of a Distant Voice, p. 177)

These references have not been collocated to assert resemblance or its accident, its irony, across disciplines, times, places. The second bounces off and remembers the first and bounces back to the last.

There is, in the first instance, in fact nothing in Taichi Yamada’s novel, at least on its surface, that links to “the darker side of pleasure.” Not like you’d find in a Ryu Murakami, where this particular dirty depth would be thoroughly plumbed: and measured on the surface. And no, In Search of a Distant Voice, doesn’t, as a result, lack depth.

It is rather about seeking depth, trying to find the intensity of the eponymous voice: and being unable to get its measure or to identify its distance. Because you want it to have this kind of unhealthy depth, you follow, you participate in the search. Like the text itself your desire is for a self-canceling depth, before it’s for self-immolation in a direct encounter with intensity. The source of the voice, of the intensity, is presented in the image of self-cancellation, an absent face.

But there’s something anyway attractive about the idea of depth requiring a hidden abuse of health, a connection to the dark and that this idea is architectural. I suppose you could say that the architecture that most makes – and makes the most of – this connection is the baroque, and thereby be flipped back into the fold of Gilles Deleuze. Perhaps it helps to think of Taichi Yamada’s novel as a ghost story, as being about the desire for a direct encounter with a ghost. Then the link to a building, to the Mullion, to an architecture, to Tokyo, deals with the super-nature of haunting, the ghost’s relation to place.

A place, a house, a building will be haunted by its uses and these, if they have the intensity of unnatural acts, of unhealthy, morbid attitudes, or dark pleasures, will increase depth, as if by increased density of the shadows, by chiaroscuro. Because architecture as an art appeals as much to the light, to the eye, as it does to the tactile and spatial senses, which operate in the dark.

Then, what is the spatial sense, in particular? Is it sensitive to the haunting of depth? The density of volumes? The intensity of the spatium on its own, as a sort of self-canceling zone, a house for intensity, for depth? It is definitely not the abstraction of spatial extension to which a spatial sense can be sensitised and only in its reduced capacity can it be called recognition of resemblance, of symmetry, of classicism. The spatial sense can be applied to a block of identical apartments and find an intensity that does not come from their unity, from the whole or from their identity, one to the next, but from a different sort of difference. If, over time, the block is occupied, it can feel human life going on, in all its variety, and with life, anti-life, affirmed in the fabric of the space.

Then if depth is to be imagined as a seeker after ever lower depth, won’t it go looking for the negative, and affirm that too, just as Gilles Deleuze suggests? That it can be plumbed, after all, relies upon it being there. The distances will be enveloped. Its constituent disparities will continue to inhabit it. And no solution will be offered up out of it by either of them.

If, on the other side, depth were mere surface effect, it would possibly only be said to be so because it would be unimaginable otherwise, than on the surface, the plane, of the land, the elevation, the language or the text. But then, such planes are soft. They reside as representations in depth. Imagine an architectural blueprint. If it holds any interest for you at all, you might be able to judge its intensity. And as you measure it, imagine the space being plumbed, between yourself looking and the plan. At each step, along the way, there are depths over which you are suspended. There are holes in the blueprint through which a different sort of difference may be discerned and something else sensed. All surface effects and at the same time, step by step, all depths. The world is reducible to an image because it is not, after all, an image.

Adolescence is supposedly the time when the image of the adult is formed. But, at the same time, there’s another sort of work going on. Besides the plumbing and the re-appropriation of the plumbing, to a darker, perhaps more unhealthy design, you look down into the depths. And you try and find out how far down it goes, the image, the soul, the it.