I started analyzing the first location, the binckhorst in The Hague. I recorded the environment sounds starting from the The Hague HS station all the way to the cemetery in the center of the binckhorst. The goal of this sound analyze was to capture the atmosphere, find unique sounds and establish the sound borders of the location. The data I have collected I will used to create two different approaches.
For this approach I take the wave diagram of the recordings and place them over the route I walked. I have placed the routing in a abstract version of the area. In this map I can see the loudness and intensity of the sounds in the area in combination with the locations of the sound source.
But the this map only gives me data in the form of numbers, and not a atmosphere of the location. In order to “catch” the atmosphere I wrote a story, based on the book of Jose Saramago, Blindness. In his book a infectious disease blinds all the people in a city. In order to quarantine the disease, the government locks up the blind in a old asylum, until they can find a cure. After things come to a climax and the asylum burns down, all the blind find them self in the city what now have turned completely blind. Now the book follows the main characters in their journey into the city, but I split up from this point and write a story of three individuals who, after escaping the asylum and found themselves lost in the world, each came to one of the three location I chosen. They will experience the area blind, meaning that my the story will focus on the other senses. These three stories, together with the analytical data from the sound map, will give me a understanding of the locations not only of the intensity, loudness and source of the sounds, but also about the experience of the area through the senses.
(beginning of the three stories: "You tell the blind, you are free, you open the door that separates them from the outside world and repeat, you can go, you are free, but he does not go, he stands there in the middle of the street together with the other, they are terrified, do not know where to go, there is just no comparison between life in a rational labyrinth, what a asylum by definition is, and going without guidance in the crazy labyrinth what we call a city, where memory will not do you any good, because at its best it shows you places, and not the roads leading towards them. The blind stand in front of the building, flames come from every direction, they feel the heat waves slamming at their faces, just like the walls before meant also imprisonment as security....
I stand admits the blind, like everyone else confuse, afraid, lost............")
In order to compare these data, and the experiences, with the data of the other two areas (Rotterdam and Schinnen). I create a linear diagram of the map, showing the same information as the first map, together with the experience of the story. Creating this linear diagram gives me the opportunity to compare the three locations.
For my research on how we perceive the blind throughout the years I decided to look at the greek mythology. The blind are common in these stories and always connected to the divine. Here is a small summary of blind people in greek mythology:
Polyphemus- What? Cyclops in the story of Odysseus. How? He was blinded when Odysseus escaped the island of the cyclops.
Phineus- What? King and seer in the story of Jason and the Argonauts. How? Phineus was given the gift of prophecy by the goods, but had to choose between being blind and living a long life or seeing and have a short life. This because he revealed the discussions of the gods to the people. The god Helios, the god of the sun, was angry for Phineus to choose the darkness over 'his' sun and sends his harpies to prevent Phineus from eating more than necessary. His torment ends when Jason kills the harpies.
Tiresias- What? Blind prophet from the stories of Odysseus, Oedipus and others stories . How? There are two stories of how Tiresias became blind. The first story tells that he got blinded as punishment for revealing secrets of the gods to the people. The second story tells that he was blinded by the goddes Athena, after seeing her naked taking a bath.
Oedipus- What? Son of the king of Thebes and lateron King of Thebes. How? The story of Oedipus is a tragic story about a prophecy (by the blind seer Tiresias) of the king and queen of Thebes who will get a son, and this son will grow up to kill his father and marriage his mother. After the queen gave birth of a son the king gave the son away to a shepherd with the assignment to kill him, in order to stop the prophecy. Instead of killing the boy the shepherd gave the boy away to another family, who raises him as there own. After a couple of years, when he founds out he is adopted, he travels to the blind seer in order to get some information. Tiresias tells him the same prophecy and scared that he would do these horrors he decided to leave. In his travels, on a crossroad, the father and son meet each other and they quarrel over who may pass first. In the fight that happens Oedipus kills his father without knowing he is his father. Oedipus continuous his travels and on his way he defeated the sfinx that haunted the travelers of Thebes. Because the king of Thebes was dead by a unknown killer and because Oedipus killed the sfinx the people of Thebes crowned Oedipus to be there new king. He married the queen without knowing she was his mother. And together they got 4 children. After a couple of years disaster stroke the city of Thebes and the oracle told that only punishing the killer of the old king could bring back peace. After a will Oedipus found out that the man he killed was the old king and his father. The queen found out at she married her son and killed her self. After Oedipus found his wife / mother dead he poked out his eyes and let his daughter guide him out of the town in order to stop the curses that befell the city of Thebes.
Interesting about all these examples from the greek mythology is that their blindness is a punishment. In the stories of Phineus and Tiresias it was the sin of meddling with the affairs of the gods. While in the story of Polyphemus and Oedipus it was done by man. Prophets and seers are often pictures as blind men. They are often respected for there knowledge and wisdom, but they where also feared, because of their divinity.
I found the book: The Blind in French Society from the Middle Ages to the Century of Louis Braille , by Zina Weygand and Emily-Jane Cohen. Like the title suggest, the book gives a overview of the developments of the blind in France. The chapters I could read so far described the image of the blind in de middle ages. He starts with explaining the number and the causes of blindness and he compares this with the present causes and numbers in third world countries. "Malnutrition , lack of hygiene and infectious diseases"(p.11) together with violence and accidents are causes for blindness. But also blindness was a punishment inflicted on thieves. From the church there was a believe that the blind were people which got punished for a sin they have done (or their parents).
All these causes brought forth a image of the blind that was especially negative.
"the lame and the blind ... are too lowly to be mentioned in front of good and honourable persons; if nature has refused them to this point and stigmatized them, it is because they have a sin expiate."(p.16)
This negative image was visible in theatres were the blind provoked laughter at their own expense. Blind people were there "to poke fun at them"(p.13)One play tells about a blind man and a young boy: The blind man wants a help and finds it in the form of a young boy. But the story turns in deception and the boy steals the saving money of the old man. This money was gathered by began. The old blind man used his disability to collect charity money from the rich, thus making him rich. When the play develops, the blind man shows more of his real nature, as a drinking lying man. This is why the audience doesn’t feel pity when the young boy steals the money of the blind man.
"The public, therefore, will not pity him when his valet strips him of his possessions, taking leave with these words, which express all the competent that could be had for blind beggars at that time."(p.14)
These were the condition the blind had to live in the medieval ages. But these times were not only this cruel. “the church demonstrated much more charitable behaviour towards them at the same time”.(p.17) The care of the (poor) blind, in these times, was done by the church. In hostels (and later on almshouses) the blind, together with people with other disability, the sick and the mentally ill, were taken care off. Religion used these hostels to cure the people in the name of god, which brought the blind to seek them out for forgiveness and salvation. This charity of the church was adopted by rich and wealthy in order “to show off their riches and grandeur” (p. 18), leading to the first institutions founded especially for the blind in the eleventh century. The first blind institute was the Quinze-Vingts (=300, stands for the number of beds available for the blind).
The negative view of the blind, of drunk and lying beggars, stayed for long. Until the humanist Juan-Luis Vivès wrote his theory about the fact that everyone who can work, must work. Vivès believes that even disabled people, like the blind, can work.
“Not even the blind shall be allowed to remain idle; there are many things they can do. Some have literary disposition, provided that someone read to them. Let them study, for we observe that a number of them make progress in erudition ... In sum, if they neither wish to be unemployed nor to flee work, they will easily find something to keep them self occupied. Laziness or indolence, and not a bodily defect, is the only excuse they may put forward for doing nothing.” (p.28)
By claiming “the law the lord imposed on all mankind”(p.29) Vivès makes the blind (and other disabled people) equal with healthy people. Seeing them as ‘a whole”(p.29). He was one of the first to claim this. The enlighment period which brought forth a rational worldview changed the negative image of the blind into a possibility to integrate into the ‘normal’ world.
Interesting is the image this book sketches of the church. At one hand the religion contributes to the negative image of the blind, by claiming that blindness is a punishment for a sin. At the other hand it is the church that provides shelter and care for the poor blind. He sketches this duality also for the charity houses of the rich and wealthy, which are for charity and for showing off wealth.
For analyzing the three locations I came up with the following story: In the book 'City of the blind' by José Saramago creates a world where he transforms blindness into a metaphor for his critique on modern society. Blindness not only stands for the absent of vision, but for showing us what we are, in his eyes.
In the book the "crazy house", that houses all the blind that became infected by the blindness disease, collapsed and burns after the happenings inside reached its climax. The house, that sheltered and gave the people a place on earth, was gone. Most of the people where brought there blind and now have no idea where they are. They lost there link to the earth. Struggling to survive and re finding there place on earth again the story of José Saramago and my research intertwine. From here on we will follow three of the characters out of the book, how they will find there way around the chosen location of my project. There blindness will describe the area from there perspective. Sound, smell, touch, taste will be there world. Concept as time, distance, society, life and dead describe the area on a different level then you and me will see them. With the addition of sound maps and materials gathered from the area this story will provide a map of the area different from our view on the side.
Analyzing the areas on a sensory level and combining them with the story of 'the city of the blind' creates a concept not only formed by the absent of vision. But also one that criticizes modern society and our lack of vision.
The idea (until now!) is to finish the analyzes with a concept model for all three locations based on the analyzes of the area. In the msc 4 one off these models will be the base for the design which I will work out.
After thinking of possible locations for the blind institute I came up with three proposals, each with different qualities. The first one was already mentioned last in location proposal #1, namely the Binckhorst in The Hague. A interesting area, full of life and interesting sensory diversity. The master plan of the area shows that the area is transforming into dwelling, offices, companies and park. A contradiction to this location will be my second suggestion: around the koopgoot in Rotterdam. This area is surrounded by retail and leisure shops. It is a always busy and lively place, addressed to commerce. Different is the live around the koopgoot at night. The city of Rotterdam has a center where not many people live. How does this affect the blind? At day busy, lively, hasted, everything is addressed to this commercial way of life. At night empty.
Contradicting both The Hague and Rotterdam is my third proposal: Ter Borg in Schinnen. Ter borg is an old farm and castle located in Limburg at the border of a forest, surrounded by farming land. Close to the location is the train station of Spaubeek and the A76 highway from Eindhoven to Aken. How different is this area then the first two. The people, the work, the commerce, the hasting, the lively surrounding are not to be found here. Here nature takes that place. The forest, the air, the animals create a different kind of lively surrounding.
To select the best location for my institute, I will analyze the three location not only on traditional ways (think of mapping activities, routings, connections etc.). No I'm interested in the blind, so I will analyze the locations on a way a blind person will learn a area. Sound mapping, touching the surrounding and smelling the environment. But also creative writing, exploring an area through different perspectives. All these methods and more will give me an image, or maybe image is not the right word, give me an understanding of the location like the blind have and so choosing the best location.
Because my project is focussed on the methodology and not on a site, I am capable of choosing my own location to work on. But how to choose? A idea is to take 2 or 3 different sites. Each with there unique character and possibilities. The plan is to analyze these location on there diversity of senses, showing their lived space through analyzes through hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. But also through various literary techniques like creative writing and working with different characters, perspectives and time. By these methods I'm mapping the lived space of all the locations and placing them next to each other, in order to select the location I will work with for my design.
My first location to investigate is a proposal from Klaske Havik and is the Binckhorst area in The Hague. This site is a old industrial area which the city of The Hague has big plans for. The architectural firm OMA is working on a study of the area and there is a diversity of function already present (cultural, dwelling, commercial, industry). The site is located close to Holland Spoor station and the train is running next to it, just like the river "trekvliet". The diversity of life, the old industrial character and the train and water borders makes this area an outstanding place for a diversity of senses.
"By use of word going through other realities. Art and poem open ways to new exciting worlds, searching for its borders."
//David Whyte, Irish poet //
The purpose of this Blog is to react and interact on my research in Literature and Architecture. This year (2009/2010) I started my graduation project at Explorelab 9 at TuDelft. The central question is: How can literature enrich architecture with an phenomenological understanding of space? Themes like architecture and literature, phenomenology and the body are central in my graduation project.