Deconstruction and Tea

Thanks to some great entries over at City of Sound and That Brutal Joint about a piece by Nikos Salingaros posted at 2blowhards.com, I’ve been spurred on to catalogue a piece written by myself and a couple friends a few years ago for the Birmingham School of Architecture student magazine.

It’s with recognition of the astute observations about the characteristics of weblogging that promote useless iteration and reiteration by Submit Response that I restrain myself (for the moment) from joining in with the much deserved lambasting of Salingaros’ piece about Bernard Tschumi.

There is, however, space for this.

Anyone embarking on an architectural education (or stupid enough to go to a party with some architects) will eventually discover the phrase ‘deconstruction’. The following text helps to,

a) stop any conversations on this subject before they go too far, and

b) explain what’s happening in that strange park in North-East Paris: ‘Parc de la Villette’

Just remember that deconstruction is all about word play and the questioning of perfectly sensible hierarchies, such as up/down, left/right and alive/dead. Anybody who’s seen ‘Night of the Living Dead’ has seen deconstruction in action. Zombies exist in an interstitial space between life and death. The zombie horror genre of movies can become a critique of popular culture unfettered by the restrictions of predefined values or ideology.

The best way to understand a new idea is often through metaphor. If deconstructivist architect Bernard Tschumi (architect of Parc de la Villette) made tea, he would probably do it like this:

Tea bags and disjunction

The hierarchy imposed by the term ‘tea’, prevents those of us involved in tea making from acknowledging the paradox which is inherent within the word play. Tea is not tea.

The rational act of tea-making is made sensuous by working within the program of water and leaves. The modernist tea maker may strive for a monovalent concentration on an individual element – either leaf or water – the Platonic tea. Yet, the tea event is derived by the collision of each element, rather than allowing the dominance of, let us say, the tea leaf. Instead the breaking down of these accepted hierarchies within the water/leaf dialectic, creates real tea pleasure.

This pleasure can only be found within the bondage of order. The institution of tea drinking is established by the systemic rules: cup, tea leaf, water, and the dairy produce variable. These rules do not limit us, but rather, provide the possibility of brewing through disjunction. It is the interstitial space between these elements that defines a new paradigm of drink.

The action of introducing these bi-polar conditions can be performed in numerous ways. However, the postrationalisation of cinematographic methods of control – fade in/fade out, cut/splice, pan/freeze – can be used as diagrams for the deconstruction of the joy of liquid consumption.

For it is only by recognising the institutional tea rule that the subject of drinking will reach the full depth of experience and its sensuality. Like eroticism, sweet tea, needs both system and excess. Which can be seen as a kettle/sugar dialogue.

To really appreciate white tea, you may even have to run out of milk.

This was previously posted at the mighty e2.

In the unlikely event that there is any confusion over my position in the argument about Tschumi’s worth to architectural theory, I should point out that I still occasionally reach for my signed copy of Architecture and Disjunction just to caress its cover and stare, wide-eyed, in a Homer Simpson style, at its pages.

Hmmmm, deconstruction….

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