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Intertwining In Architectural Thinking

Aslı Alanlı

Published Apr 14, 2021

Intertwining, as a concept, borrowed from Steven Holl, is used to define possible relationships between concepts. Holl establishes the relationship between the body and the world through the idea of intertwining. For him, intertwining is a concept to express a “between” between the body and the substances of architectural space (Holl, 1996, p. 16). In a way, architecture is the consequence of intertwining of the body and the architectural space; it is hidden in such relations where “intertwining” acts as a means to give meaning to them. Also, Alberto Perez-Gomez (1996) refers to “intertwining” as the relationship between man and things in the world, as a kind of reciprocal relationship between them.

This expansion may be taken as a step that goes beyond Holl’s and Perez-Gomez’s understanding of “intertwining” which structures the relations between man and things in the world. Here, this concept comes to the architectural agenda as a way of “thinking,” which makes architectural thinking being materialized in an intellectual extent. Concepts’ coming together and producing a plane of concepts has become a medium for the expression of architecture. It is possible to say that constructing such a plane with intertwined and complementary concepts enriches the conceptual plane and brings alternative new concepts to that plane. Also, such complementary concepts, intertwining concepts, lead to a diverse form of architectural thinking and create a field of interaction in which these concept-pairs would productively collide. Such thinking would provide the necessary transfer from the constructed to the blurring field for the discipline of architecture. It promotes a movement from the dull to the dynamic, energetic, and inexhaustible, thus obliterating boundaries of the discipline of architecture and promoting thinking beyond boundaries.

According to Hegel, only one concept could not show the truth as a whole, even if this concept is the highest. One concept renders just partial truths. The knowledge and truth constitute a dynamic process that consists of a system of concepts. Based on this, the thought may spring out of another thought. Also, yet another thought may lead to a contradiction, and it may complete the other thought to bring new thoughts to the field (Cevizci, 2015). In other words, to approach the concepts separately bereaves possibilities of understanding them deeply. So, concept-pairs have a character of fertility that produces endless new thinking. They hold all the possibilities in themselves. These possibilities boost the energy of the interaction field, which then makes this field inexhaustible and regenerable.


Many architects have used complementary concepts/concept-pairs as a form of looking at architecture, as noted in many expressions. In a way, they produce particular forms of intertwined concepts through their discourses. It is valuable to look at these sorts of expressions as ways of concepts’ complementing/knitting/intertwining with each other.

In this sense, through expressions of many architectural scholars, rational and intuitive can be approached as the concepts that complement/intertwine each other to strengthen the understanding of architecture. As noted by Garret Eckbo (2002, pp. 51-52), “a man and nature, objectivity and subjectivity, the rational and irrational, meet, merge, and dance together in ever-shifting, ever-changing, ever-variable patterns that are truly the reflection and the fit environment for the dance of life itself.” Also, Merleau-Ponty (1964, p. 63) used the term “irrational” to define a new way of thinking beyond rationality in indicating that: “it was he who started the attempt to explore the irrational and integrate it into an expanded reason which remains the task of our century.” Accordingly, irrational does not mean unintelligible or contradictory. By remarking “irrational,” Ponty means the non-rational, non-cognitive, and emotional and lived, concerning feelings and intuition (Priest, 1998). Also, as mentioned by one of the classical theoreticians, Carl Jung, “intuition does not denote something contrary to reason, but something outside of the province of reason” (Paprika, 2007, p. 61). In this respect, these concepts can be seen as complementary/intertwining concepts to compose a whole rather than opposing each other.

Such intertwining of concepts in the discourse of architecture can be shown as proof of a generative way of thinking. In this sense, exploration of the potential intertwining concepts based on the notions of “rational and intuitive” and making these expressions visible are valuable, which would contribute to the meaning of “intertwining.”

For example, Rick Joy (2002) explains his design approach as “a synthesis of the logical aspects of the design and a visceral understanding of the experiences—transcending the theoretical.” In this sense, “synthesis” as specified by Joy can refer to the “intertwining” between them. That shows how the notion of “intertwining” appears in such manner through the term “synthesis.”

Another attempt to define a relation between concepts may be found in the statements of Pallasmaa. He expresses; “I like to see how far architecture can pursue function and then, after the pursuit has been made, to see how far architecture can be removed from function. The significance of architecture is found in the distance between it and function” (Pallasmaa, 2005, p. 62). Here, Pallasmaa argued that the value of architecture could root in the distance between itself and function. The degree of the distance to function, program, or rational approach can be related to how much the “intuitive” approach is allowed.

Also, one of the expressions of Tadao Ando tries to explain a relation between the intellectual and emotional side of architecture. He notes that designs are not only the result of intellectual processes but also emotions and intuitions (Ando, 1993). He emphasizes that it is essential to try to uncover the side of architecture that can be defined as transcendental compared to function, detail, and style (Çevik, 1999). Thus, it can be said that the rational side of architecture brings the “transcendental” side of it to the field, which makes architectural thinking consider them together through the term of “intertwining.”

Lastly, the expressions of Zumthor may contribute to the meaning of “intertwining” over the concept of “interplay.” Zumthor (1999, p. 20) defines the design process as an “interplay of feeling and reason.” “The feelings, preferences, longings, and desires that emerge and demand to be given a form must be controlled by critical powers of reasoning, but it is our feelings that tell us whether abstract considerations really ring true.” In this sense, this may be explained by the fact that feeling and reason trigger and complement each other, so “intertwine” with each other.

Eventually, based on the pair “rational-intuitive,” the pairs mentioned, logical-visceral, function-intuitive, function-transcendental, reason-feeling, can be seen as consequences of the way of establishing relations by bringing together two concepts (Figure 1). All these examples -which are also possible to increase in the number- try to show how the intertwining of concepts is crucial for the discourse of architecture, which allows the field of interaction between them. Similarly, such pairs are also possible productive means to construct a conceptual plain which would promote alternative ways of thinking in architectural design studios. In this respect, it is possible to say that each concept tends to come side by side with another concept and may evolve to intertwine with each other. Such relationships are also related to the evolution of the interaction field into a field of desire. It is the conceptual plane produced by all these concepts, which becomes the productive core of architectural thought. Therefore, along with the notion “intertwining,” architectural thinking will be more likely to produce new modes of thinking, new grounds, and new planes. At this point, this concept will be considered as a means for the materialized form of architectural thinking and gain importance in the discipline of architecture.

[i] Fertility can be related to the term “pregnancy” that is defined by Merleau Maurice Ponty. Lingis (1968, p. 50) explains “pregnancy” referring to the words of Ponty in the book “The Visible and The Invisible.” “‘(…) And pregnancy, Merleau- Ponty tells us, means not only typicality, but also productivity, or generativity — not only the establishing of a type by ‘a certain manner of managing the domain of space over which it has competency’, but generative power, ‘the equivalent of the cause of itself’.”

[ii] It is possible to find out similar concept-pairs under the following subheadings “focus-whole in harmony, accumulation-content” in the master thesis of the author.

*This paper is a part of a master thesis entitled “An experimental approach to the understanding of architecture through concept-pairs” in Master of Architecture at TOBB University of Economics and Technology, supervised by Prof. Dr. Nur Çağlar.


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