Call for Papers: Faces 78: Neutral architecture, amodal architecture

Editors: Ido Avissar (guest editor), Paolo Amaldi, Adrien Besson

The upcoming issue of FACES magazine (no. 78, autumn 2020) will explore the theme of neutral and “amodal” architecture.

The word “neutral”, ne-uter in latin — literally neither one nor the other — describes a state of abstention or of a refusal to take sides in a conflict opposing several people, ideas or positions. This posture of apparent non-choice interests us today because we estimate it to allow an immediate experience of the real, without a framework of interpretation and without morals — allowing for a state of total receptiveness.

While the territories we inhabit are scattered and that our societies seem increasingly fragmented, this attitude of withdrawal might surprise. Indeed, this neutral gaze that we evoke does not try to put pieces back together, but to take notice, immerse itself and act within the chaos that surrounds us, potentially giving birth to an inclusive spatial idiom. It fully adopts Nietzsche’s proposal who invited us to « make the Universe crumble into pieces, lose the awe of the whole ».

This Neutral that we are searching for is not a fade complicity, but a necessity, and an urgency. But what is it made of and what form does it take? The Neutral we evoke is not an object, but a posture. It is not an architectural style, nor a formal paradigme, regrouping more or less grey, or not very expressive objects. On the contrary, this neutral posture can generate an expressive, even vivid architecture.

Roland Barthes, in his lectures at the Collège de France, talked about the Neutral as a philosophic and aesthetic ideal, that generally remains unattainable. It seeks to define a transparent relationship to the environment by invalidating the logic of the paradigm. This relationship is materialised through aesthetic experiences, close to a culture of minimalism, celebrating soft principles such as perishability instead of permanence, economy of means instead of technical demonstration, monochrome rather than colour, silence rather than sound. But this operation of rejection, tiredness, is not purely passive, because it is capable to generate, in a second phase, a creative mechanism: a counter-force, the other violence, that of seizing the contradiction. The Neural is not a simple retreat, it is also the retort.

This Neutral has its cultural roots in the Pollock’s all over principle, but is also based on a rigorous grid, largely exploited in the post-war years, and more recently, in an architecture resting on rules of assemblage that one does not necessarily see. The « amodal » architecture that interests us today, to quote Roland Barthes, is made out of parts or rests, is banal, put together without any desire of composition. It allows for collective appropriation.

But if the Neutral is a point of view and not an object, how can we identify it? Does it remain within the walls of the studio, in the process, in the conception phase of the project? We are persuaded that this Neutral leaves traces in the physical world, that it bursts today in a form of the theatricality of the Neutral, like in the case of the radical Italian architects, being staged more and more by itself.

Abstract proposals (maximum 5000 characters) can be sent in either French or English at by 30 August 2020  with a short biography of the author (500 characters).

The full call for papers with submission instructions and calendar can be downloaded here or accessed through Faces magazine website.



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