Glass Beyond Transparency


Marc Werner

In the 1960s, Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky managed to inscribe themselves in the history of architecture. There claim that there is another type of transparency that could be thought as a form of intransparency, which does not denote a physical quality of material but perceptual complexity, was deeply influential and still echoes today. Furthermore, it provoked a lot of different reactions from theoreticians such as Anthony Vidler, Detlef Mertins, Robert E. Somol, Rosalind Krauss and Terence Riley, amongst others.
Two of them are of specific interest: while Detlef Mertins questions the accuracy of Rowe and Slutzky’s opposition of a literal and phenomenal transparency, Terence Riley is suggesting that their effect of a suggested spatial complexity can be achieved by means of a flat surface operating with manifold transparent to translucent materials, combining aspects of both, literal and phenomenal transparency. By referring to these two critiques, I would like to extend their argument:

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it seems that Rowe and Slutzky’s strategy to differentiate between two oppositional forms of transparency - phenomenal and literal - is not only questionable due to the imprecision of the terms, but also due to their constant interlacing. In view of Terence Riley’s considerations, I will show that already glass itself undermines the opposition and has the capacity to act as both. By looking at this fascinating material, it becomes even evident that its performance goes beyond the notional disjunction carried out by Rowe and Slutzky, by providing potentials to create a specific phenomenology affecting the viewer’s perception and therein her/his emotional and intellectual cognition. However, even though this approach certainly undermines the conceptual construct of Rowe and Slutzky’s essay, its huge theoretical impact and relevance should be taken seriously:

Glass Beyond Transparency


Marc Werner

for the first time there existed a specific awareness that the concept of transparency can be taken both literally and figuratively. With regard to my investigation of glass, I would like to ask, whether the two concepts of literal and phenomenal transparency appear as sometimes coexistent variations in various particular post-modern works in art and architecture. This finally leads to the questions, if specific methods of transforming purely transparent glass can be used as kinds of “operational methods” to create different situations of perceiving complexity in terms of a fluctuating spatiality and visual relationships, simultaneity and superimposition, as well as different modes of ambivalence.

 

Advisors: Nasrine Seraji, Wolfgang Tschapeller, Stefan Gruber, Lisa Schmidt-Colinet, Angelika Schnell

 

Glass Beyond Transparency


Marc Werner