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Memory of Conduits
Memory of Conduits

An Accepted Pseudo-Absence of Conduits – the body of “building services”.

The theories and thinking concerned in this essay are based primarily on Martin Heidegger’s “Building Dwelling Thinking”; Christian Norberg-Schuls’s “The Phenomenon of Place”; Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s “Phenomenology of Perception”; Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” & Victor Hugo’s “This will Kill That”.

Perception is the background of experience which guides every conscious action. And man’s perception dwells in his memory. The built environment covers a huge territory in our perception of various senses. And within which, conduits of various kind of building services propagate a significantly large portion of domain within both the physical and perceptual territories. Despite Victor Hugo stated that Architecture will no longer be the dominating medium in comparison with the press and with more recent invention, the information network, perceptual influences of the built environment upon us do survive in its persistent and unavoidable manner.

Commonly one unavoidably starts his every day in the same room, walks in the same corridor, and travels through the same fragments of the urban fabric and repeats that every day on and on. The effect or message embedded in these everyday scenes, either by will or by the effect of butterflies, will unavoidably be absorbed by people who dwell therein, bits by bits, day by day. However one must take the initiative first to make contact with specific medium of press, or of electronics before they can be influenced by those media. Hence the influence of the built environment still persists, in its old ways. What is changed is only the content, anchor and perspectives, but not the nature of the environment as a media. While the influence of media other than the built environment is still, in varied degrees, subject to the recipients’ choices, the influence of the built environment is irresistible.

Therefore, the phenomenal qualities of the built environment would direct men’s perception of the world , of its phenomenon and hence their consciousness of what abuts them. In that sense, a willfully designed and constructed environment could irradiate specific perceptual effect which sustains men’s intensity of consciousness upon chosen issues, and consequently induces collective interest and gathers intellectual inputs upon those matters. In other words, if we construct the perceptual layer of the environment with purpose, the way we build, architecture can act as a catalyst of mankind’s intellectual progression by gathering men’s consciousness around favored issues. Ideas are transcribed into the environment and absorbed by men who dwell therein day by day.

However we should immediately notice that, with or without a willful purpose, the perceptual influence of the built environment will still continue to work. Its inertia is eternal. Hence if we lose track of what is transcribed and feedback in and from the built environment, we completely lose control of our consciousness of the world through “things”.

The pipes ducts & cables are the Things of which resources, energy and signals are contained and brought to proximity and existence around men within these objects. The ways that these things are designed set up our perception and consciousness pattern with the respective phenomenon they contain and channel.

Right now the conduits of our built world are commonly devalued as mere utilities; their forms and pattern are subjected only to efficiency and convenience. And due to their bizarre appearance resulted from untamed arrangement in comparison to other tectonic components, they are always concealed or left untreated, as if we all agree that they are “invisible”. We tried to construct an absence out of the conduits. However in our dense urban context, what is resulted perceptually is actually quite the opposite.

We must admit that the scenes constructed by the conduits form quite provokative impression perceptually. Its pattern has the aesthetic of its own. However quoting Marshall McLuhan, it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium. Right now what is cognitional (the message) about the conduits has nothing to do with what it has done to human life (the content). Our mind is easily imprisoned in the nostalgic appreciation of the bizarre appearance of the conduits pattern. It hindrances us from penetrating deeper into the origin of what has or should be transcribed into the conduits. And if we indeed surf our mind deeper into the messiness, we found that the aesthetics or the perceptual qualities were transcriptions of nothing related to human will. It is a result of a complete autonomy of the conduits themselves, resulted from a pseudo-absence that we have granted them since modernist’s rejection and escape from confronting the conduits.

This memory of an accepted pseudo-absence of the conduits has propagated quite thorougly among us. It severely diluted our consciousness in pioneering relationships between technology of habitation and architecture. This would impair the development of the twp, both singularly and mutually. Therefore we must look for a breed of architecture that acts argonistically to this decendent of pseudo-absence. This will be an architecture that construct the presence of the conduits; making sure that the content and the message shall cohere, and perceptually obvious of being an reacting force against its origin – the pseudo-absence.