Prof. Roman Ingarden n n n n n n Rabka Zdrój, January 8, 1964
n Krakow Biskupia 14
n n Dear Sir,
n n n n n thank you for sending me the article by J. Sławińska, which I just read with interest. At the moment, I am too far from the issues of aesthetics, and the theory of architecture in particular, and it would be difficult for me today to answer Mrs. Sławińska with an article. However, I think that it may be useful if I make a few comments in a letter form to you, so that you can announce them, only just as a that.
n n 1. I suspect that the main source of doubt that arises for Mrs. Sławińska about the claim that works of architecture are intentional objects and not real buildings or other physical objects lies in the fact that Mrs. Sławińska does not take into account in her remarks how difficult a question is that of which objects can actually be attributed the nature of a real being and be considered physical or material. It seems what Mrs. Sławińska considers to be real and material are, seemingly, certain macroscopic blocks of stone and steel, concrete or bricks considered to be physical and real in everyday life. Well, it is doubtful whether these types of objects that are not only blocks, but are also colored, hard or soft, rough or smooth with specific planes or curves, surfaces, etc., can already be attributed the nature of reality. What is truly real – as it would seem – are elementary particles, or, in the best case scenario, atoms or molecules of complex structure. Yet, without denying that the physical foundation of the existence a work of architecture are clusters or clouds of atoms in the understanding of modern physics, I cannot equate this work with such an atomic cloud, just like I cannot believe that e.g. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 is a kind of a system of elastic medium waves, even such a professional physicist as Max Born has recognized that. However, these blocks of steel, concrete or bricks, which architectural constructors operate with and which are used by technicians are not identical to those atomic clouds, on which they are in fact only partially existentially dependent, because the necessary factor for their constitution are certain selected multitudes of acts of perception and thought acts that co-determine them. They are not identical, for both are assigned different value systems, which are at least partly mutually exclusive. Whoever would like to equate them would have to recognize some contradictory items. How to name these new items, such as blocks of building materials, and even more so, such as architectural works of art, whether their nature and their mode of existence should be defined the way I did it in my sketch on the work of architecture or in a different way – is a secondary matter. What is important, however, is that in their whole set of characteristics they differ from atomic clouds and if these clouds are real and material / physical /, then architectural works are not them.
n n 2. What connects me with constructivism or functionalism in the theory of architecture is that I share their most important arguments and postulates regarding the construction of architectural works, and what separates me from them is that I consider these postulates neither necessary for all architectural works – instead only for a certain type of them – nor sufficient for a certain work to be a work of architectural art.
n n 3. Building coffers in the way it happened when rebuilding the Wawel castle, is undoubtedly hackwork from a technical point of view. Nevertheless, if this is done in such a way that viewers absolutely do not suspect the existence of this hackwork, if in the aesthetic perception there is in no way “awareness of the inauthenticity of the material” – as expressed by Mrs. Sławińska – then this completely hidden inauthenticity has no significance for the work of architecture, and this was what I had stated in my sketch / by the way, written in 1928 and published in 1946, and not 1958.
n n 4. It is certain that there are many buildings built based on the same design, but if they are works of architectural art, it seems doubtful, to say the least. Some examples, e.g. in some cities in England, are repelling. What Mrs. Sławińska writes with regards to “repeating” the same element / e.g. high-rise building / in the construction of housing complexes, which becomes different due to a different arrangement in space, does not seem to me an argument against my claims. For in this case these “elements” are no longer works of architecture, but what are these instead are the entire complexes, which are uniformly composed, and in which these “elements” – only seemingly the same – play the role of some components, and different ones at that, as they have a different function in the whole. We are dealing here with architectural works of higher order. That such a thing exists is evidenced by modern architecture so closely related to the so-called “urban” moments. Whoever knows the entirely new whole neighborhoods in the suburbs of Rome will agree with this view, but here too, e.g. when composing new districts, e.g. the south of Wrocław or the Krakow City Design project, such superior architectural entities are at least implemented in the project. Individual buildings play as non-idependent a role in them as, for example, columns in a Greek temple. This overarching whole constituting a work of architecture – it is only that which has its own separate, essentially unique nature, which repetition is not essentially different from the phenomenon of plagiarism, copies and which makes an artistic impression such as that of, for example, certain state palaces in the USA.
n n 5. I have always written my sketches on ontology of art with an attitude of and effort for faithfulness to my aesthetic experience. I am not saying that I have always succeeded or that this experience has never let me down. I am only saying that I did not bend the claims I made to some xxxxx concepts assumed in advance. That is why, in my opinion, the types of intentional objects and their relations to existentially autonomous objects differ so much in different arts. What is true in this respect in literature is not true e.g. in architecture. I think this to be the strength of the views I present, and not – as Mrs. Sławińska repeatedly calls it – their “inconsistencies”. Putting them all into one mold, bringing them down to a single concept, that is what I actually tried to avoid. At the same time, I do not think I have made any claims leading to a contradiction or said “inconsistency”, but of course I cannot prove it here.
n n n I am returning the article along with my thanks to the author and to you, my Honorable Colleague, I send my true respect
n n n n n n n n n n /Roman Ingarden/