Author Archives: Rojia

Form Is All We May Ever Need


Form is All We May Ever Need

‘As I descended into impassable rivers/ I no longer felt guided by the ferrymen’ (1) the opening Rimbaud quote of the film Limits of Control (2) tells us where we are about to go a journey or descent into the unknown, a place to surrender where the boat takes control. But the boat is drunken of course and the impassable rivers are forceful. The force of film is that it may draw you into the rapids of another reality. What creates that draw? What are the limits of control? Do we need a plot, a narrative to steer us through the film? What are the impassable rivers that make the ferryman redundant?

In an airport lounge, the hit man is briefed on a mission. ‘Ud. no habla español, verdad?’ is what he is first asked; a sentence that becomes a recognition code throughout the film, as with his later contacts too, always delivered in Spanish regardless of their native tongue. They exchange matchboxes, alternately red and green, from a brand called Le Boxeur, except the one time that the matchbox contains diamonds; they always contain a small encrypted message on paper, which the hit man reads, chews and then swallows. He flies to Madrid, takes a train to Seville and another train to rural Almeria where a heavily guarded fortress stands. Possibly a residence of an organisation connected to the helicopters that hover everywhere throughout the film. All recognisable objects of a thriller film are present for us to recognise, but have either been made empty and void of meaning or have acquired an out of place bend; a surplus hidden meaning. The narrative is being fed and stripped at the same time by ways of absence and nonsense. The cool collected detached hit man, in a tailored suit, is chased by kids who ask him if he’s an American gangster. We come to understand neither the meaning of the codes that he gathers, nor his business with the diamonds and matchboxes. We don’t even know his name. No character has a name in the film every character is just a familiar type and is assigned a label that appears in the film credits; Lone man- is our hitman, French, Violin, Nude, Blonde, Molecules, Guitar, Mexican, and American. Many references are made which trick a strange familiarity that is out of place.

A Bourne movie and a Bond movie unfold within the space and span of the film. Every thriller film you know is replayed but without action or drama. Limits of Control is an action movie with no action, and a suspense movie with no drama. Lone man is mostly seen doing tai chi, lying awake in bed or walking towards the next strategic position of his mission. Eventually when time comes for him to take final position at the heavily guarded fortress to complete his task, we only see him once he is already inside, on a sofa, calm and collected. The American asks him the same question, which preys on our minds ‘How the fuck did you get in here?’ Lone man simply responds in a colourless voice, familiar to us by this point in the film ‘I used my imagination’. According to Jarmusch ‘The twenty-five pages didn’t really have any dialogue, but they were a map of the story.’ he points out the screen play, ‘ was very, very minimally written on purpose. I even tried to make the language very minimal, not very descriptive at all. So I started with that’. The dialogues are indeed minimal, kept to a minimum and even meaningless, or perhaps containing a hidden message. They are reminiscent of one of Last Year in Marienbad’s (3) enigmatic monologues ‘Conversation flowed in a void, apparently meaningless or, at any rate, not meant to mean anything. A phrase hung in mid-air, as though frozen, though doubtless taken up again later. No matter. The same conversations were always repeated, by the same colourless voices’.

Limits of Control is announced as a Point Blank Production. Jarmusch clearly pays homage to Boorman’s Point Blank (4) .  The overwhelming trace of Point Blank is atmospheric and created by a heightened awareness of the abstract qualities of people, objects and environments in a strangely depopulated world. Characters and their surroundings almost become one, through similar shades of colour and emptiness; cinematic types are coined. But as Jarmusch indicates, there are other elements within the film that are indicative of a plot; Point Blank is ‘a lone guy on a mission, he’s angry and out for revenge, we drained all that from this story.’ What Jarmusch strips further are the motives of Walker the equivalent of Lone Man, and also the sense of place present in Point Blank. San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Rock of Alcatraz are important; you could even go as far as to say the film is a portrayal of those places. Whereas in Limits of Control spaces are emptied to such an extent that even with references to landmark building, images of the city and Spanish art, it all seems as it truly is; an artificial film set. The addition of de-contextualised characters makes the places even less believable. Lone Man is black, the only black person in the land and his contacts range form Japanese to Palestinian. As an aftereffect of content having been purged at different layers and scales in the film, Lone man appears as an even stronger centre. He is a lone wolf in the empty landscape of the film.

In effect what Jarmusch does is creation by means of decreation. This mode of reduction goes as far as arriving at a module whose elements can be replaced to create variations. Jarmusch indicates ‘the film’s certainly constructed, to a large degree, in the editing. In the shooting, scenes were kind of modular. We tried to put them in different orders in the editing and found the musical rhythm of the storyline.’ The module of the reduced form is repeated in the hit man’s many encounters. The repetition of these variations plus the ending; the completion of a task, produces the film in mere form. All meaning is absent and this is not kept from us; we are made aware of the fact that we do not need meaning to enjoy the film. ‘The ending is kind of a convention because he […] completes his mission. But even that, what does it mean?’. We know no more about the plot at the end of the film than we knew initially in the beginning, but we have experienced the suspense and have been drawn into it’s familiar yet strange world and followed it through its form. ‘Point blank’ is an expression in gunnery meaning, ‘aimed directly to the mark, not having, or allowing for an appreciable curve in trajectory’. Is this trajectory the form of a thriller that need not be deviated by ways of narrative and content and can generate the plot or lack thereof, in the film?


Also subject to redoing, made through selective destruction and reduction, House (5)(Rachel Whiteread, 1993) gives us the opportunity to speculate about content and form in an altogether different medium and dimension. In this house, form and content become one. Whiteread inverts content into form. House is the inverse of a house. When first approached it is recognised as a building. However once you climb the front stairs there is nowhere to go. It is impassable. In that close proximity you are encouraged to inspect the walls, where you recognise wallpaper patterns and light switches as tiny recessed spaces. There is a sudden shift you realise that you are in fact facing the interior. The interior becomes a barrier that keeps you out. What seemed known is suddenly unfamiliar and unknown. This happens regardless of the fact that you had approached the house with prior knowledge to it being a ‘Rachel Whiteread’, and a cast of the interior space of a building. House can be read in two entirely different ways: an object with volume and indeed mass or a more intellectual reading as the representation of the internal space of a house, a house inside a house or outside it perhaps we are confronted with form, but where is the content? Can a reading of House guide us to make speculation about what content in architecture or even a contentless architecture could be, an architecture created through loss?

We are disoriented not unlike in Limits of Control, we are going nowhere, and even so there are familiarities to guide us. These familiarities become a source of understanding but also act as points that draw us through the experience and not abandon the route we have set off on, even if there is no content or meaning to be disclosed. We cannot even be sure whether we are standing against a solid object or an interior turned exterior guarding a mystical interior that we will never have permission to penetrate. The familiarities and their repetition are what creates form and what suggest a nonexistent content. The familiar is seductive and makes it difficult to remember that what you encounter is a representation of space.

A cartoon published in Time Out, depicts Turner Prize jurors standing outside House, in the first frame, one tells the others that as a work of art there is one thing that spoils the experience. In the next frame we see, arms, legs and asses cast into the windows of the House; the squatters of course. Could we then perhaps conclude that people are in fact the content of architecture? Is that what draws a line between sculpture and architecture between object and space? House offers no way in ‘when we’d finished casting’ Whiteread emphasises, ‘we got out through a four-foot square in the roof. The construction people said that it could just be patched over with wood, but I insisted that it had to be cast so that it would be a completely sealed space’.

Italo Calvino tells us about a similarly sealed space ‘What makes Argia different from other cities is that it has earth instead of air’ (6), solidity, mass and weight replace air, space and motion. ‘The streets are completely filled with dirt, clay packs the rooms to the ceiling, on every stair another stairway is set in negative’. Here the doubling as redoing has happened but without the reduction. ‘Over the roofs of houses hang layers of rocky terrain like skies with clouds’. Here things happen on another scale we have a collection of Houses. ‘The dampness destroys people’s bodies and they have scant strength, everyone is better off remaining still, prone, anyway, it is dark’. People and all other things come to halt, content is frozen if not removed. Dynamic space is solidified into an object, an object of pure form. Whiteread and Calvino capitalise on mass and weight. A presence is indicated by mass and weight, the presence of an object. ’Nothing of Argia can be seen; some say, ‘it’s below there’ and we can only believe them’. The distinction between inside and outside is what is at stake. Architecture always has an inside; inside is where the content is. What does content consist of besides people?

Supposing you could somehow get into the fort of the House, ’We do not know if the inhabitants [of Argia] can move about in the city, widening the worm tunnels and the crevices where roots twist’ How would it be different than any other house? If the director of the thriller manages to sustain identification for the duration of the film we live the lives of the characters and they are the agents of our desires, we can project our desires on the pure form of the plot without a narrative. Can the form of space do the same? Could we identify the same way with space, with building? Is that how we experience space? As Wolfflin would say, ‘If I understand architecture it’s because I have a body’. Through carving ourselves within and through space we project onto it ourselves. For better or for worse we are not let into House but the traces on the exterior that was interior not long ago, lead our imagination to the possible many tunnels and crevices shaped within the interior space. Content is what can be projected onto space.

It is often said as opposed to a sculpture, architecture has use. What this truly means is that there are people inside architecture, as opposed to a sculpture where people are outside, otherwise use implies a very utilitarian quality that does not concern the performance of a building. This utilitarian quality is referred to as the architectural ‘programme’. Programme is a building’s manual, almost a dictation of use and for the architect a tool for design with the empty promise of meaning. An escape from the fear of the tabula rasa, the blank canvas of an empty site. It wouldn’t be a far assumption if we were to say for example that at the London Olympic site the first thing done was to plot the circulation; The circulation of what and to where? None of these questions seem to matter when the logic of programme rules. The circulation will be the constraint that instructs where to insert things like buildings, or other programmes. As if before that arbitrary line was drawn all senses had been paralysed by the sight of the blank piece of paper. It is a prescriptive narrative; content that eliminates possibilities of other projections. Adrian Forty’s Words and Buildings (7) is a serious account of terms used in architecture discussion; art, form, ornament etc. It does not include programme. The word is thrown about within the profession, mostly acting as a smokescreen; it stands in for justifications for configuration, even for design or simply when there is no design. It seems impossible to say anything coherent about it.

One of the startling effects of the twentieth century had to be the experience of seeing the corpus of architecture destroyed. Architecture was taken apart and stripped of ornamentation, and the increasing clutter, before being reassembled. We could go as far as to say modernism was an attempt to rescue space from architecture, at least that aspect of modernism where emptying becomes the process of creation, rather than filling. The performance of a building and therefore its form gained significance in a way that content no longer did. At this liberation front stood of course, Mies.

In the Barcelona Pavilion (8) the elements of architecture are reduced to their bare minimum, but are still recognisable to us as what constitutes the form of architecture. Walls are purely perceived as walls, separators, we see them both in length and section. Columns are free standing, never imbedded, and their purpose is merely to hold up the ceiling. The ground plane is indicated as a podium, detaching the floors from the site it is built on. A statue’s hands shade her eyes and face from the sun, this space is for you to position yourself; scale is not forgotten. Every element remains separate and a point of reference and recognition but at the same time slips, and even altogether disappears.

On encountering inside and out, one recognises them at the same time as distinct yet united spaces. The area of the flat, reflecting, surface of the large pool is comparable to that of the interior space. The unbound space of the sky; that which is reflected and undesigned, and the designed space of the interior are given equal weight. The interior is exteriorised just as the exterior is interiorised: One single space of non-programme; a Pavilion.

Content, event and desire can be projected onto this space. Once you enter the grounds of the Pavilion it is as if you are within the space of a garden. Wonder. You are invited to stop, stay, linger, and shift, or is it the wall that shifts. Architecture steers you but then escapes you. Movement through this space is not unlike the film. Form creates suspense; there is a meaning that does not exist. Form will guide you through recognition and identification, only not to reveal meaning. This loss and less lends weight to the experience of space. Mies reaches out into the abyss in this ‘destitute time’ of less. He is Heidegger’s poet (9) ; the one who ‘must gather in poetry the nature of poetry’ who must ‘attend […] to the trace of the fugitive gods’. At the base of Montjuïc Mies gathers in architecture the nature of architecture. At the core of the pavilion lies an elusive hidden space of six meters by one; It stands at the centre but understated, perhaps it is only the broom room; an impassable wall that encloses a source of light from the heavens above. It is the trace of meaning we may never need enter again.


References in Order Appearance

1. Verse from Drunken Boat, Arthur Rimbaud, 1871

2. Limits of Control, Jim Jarmusch, 2009

3. Last Year in Marienbad, Alain Renais, 1961

4. Point Blank, John Boorman, 1967

5. House, Rachel Whiteread, 1993

6. Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino, 1972

7. Words and Buildings: a vocabulary of modern architecture, Adrian Forty, 2000

8. Barcelona Pavilion, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1929

9. Poetry, Language, Thought, Martin Heidegger, 1971


For PDF of essay see link below

Form is all we may ever need


Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment

MA Thesis Final 2013 – Rojia Forouhar Abadeh


Prelude_ Field Hospital
A long never, ending night road slips beneath us and disappears under
the car. The ground of Tehran is escaping my grasp and as we get closer
to the airport there is less and less of it left.

– ‘I must hold the record of most trips to Imam Khomeini airport
without actually having left Iran. Well, apart from the airport Taxi
drivers that is, but they’re doing their job, it’s different’

This was Amirhossein’s way of lightening the weighing gloom that had
occupied the car. We laughed and then immediately remembered those
who had gone down this road and those who will soon make this trip.

Many are strapped to containers. They have swum the cold dark waters
of the English Channel to sneak into ferries and climb trucks disguised
in reflective aluminum foil. While drinking cheap liquor to warm up and
most possibly braven up before their final swim, they go over their
rehearsals and check once again the route. Laid out in front of them
drawn in pen and pencil is a map of the Calais ferry terminal that they
have configured through careful daily inspections. It is exciting, as if an
action film is about to unfold. But once they start swimming through the
chilled wet nightin their life jackets it is clumsy, dangerous, frightening,
almost doomed. Whether they make it to the other side or not they will
still be one ofthe non,existentlist ofthe unregistered many who escape
statistics and documentation; the uncounted. They endure so much for
the Promised Land1. Perhaps my plight wanes in the heavy shadows of
their exile.
Whatever the reasons and motives might be, whatever their impact on
what is abandoned and left behind, regardless of the place the
immigrant, the refugee, the expatriate comes into, ‘a man is running
from the worse towards the better. The truth of the matter is that from

exile―understatedly through the fragile and vulnerable act of writing:

‘Proof that inadequate, even childish measures, may serve to rescue one
from peril’10. I collect material sources sampled from many steps of the
earth, to which I anchor the story. I intend for them not to stand as
evidence, but instead to become embedded texture inside the
architecture of the writing. They stand in as form, and reflect perhaps a
different meaning―my reading, my story―to become an inseparable
part of the arrangement and mise en scene ofthe quilt.

I remember a long distance phone conversation with Amirhossein
months after I had left, he was telling me about a dinner with whoever
and whoever…

– ‘ Well dear it’s like a field hospital here, you have to make do with the
person lying in the next bed’.

He wrote to me that he would write a novel with that title.



For Full Thesis Click Link Below

Invisible Homes Without Here and There Where never will come near and go away from anything, all the steps of the earth_ Rojia


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Images for Imagination

It seems that image making as a way of thinking has been
long forgotten in architecture. These days images are no
longer ‘seductive’ but ‘sexy’ they are to sell but not to entice
and suggest; they are retrospective makeovers and not
explorative tools. Images can be a practice of architectural
production in themselves and the many unbuildable projects
of the architecture canon can be called upon to testify here
for they have never ceased to inspire because of the forever
giving power of their imagery. Representation can only lead
us to casual relations where as an image for imagination can
lead to a variety of relations that can be connected or
disconnected. Imagery can determine the framework and
outcome of a project and save it from fashion and cliché.
When representation takes over important issues of space
and time are replaced with the empty promise of
programme, and objectified categories such as tectonics,
envelop, and matter. To view and draw architecture in such
reductive terms is to forget that architecture actually
happens in their void.

For Full Essay, see PDF below.

Images for Imagination_Rojia Forouhar Abadeh


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Initial Thesis Abstract: Without Here and There – where never will come near and go away from anything all the steps of the world *

Only once home is left behind even destructed, can it be constructed. Reflection on home in exile as a condition of dislocation and displacement becomes a way to escape either nostalgia or amnesia without a physical journey back. The act of writing becomes a journey from site to site, each site constituting a collection of references.

For full text and images see PDF attached.

WHAT IS HOME 2013-06-02

I       n       v       i       s       i       b       l       e                     H       o       m       e       s       ;              W       i       t       h       o       u       t                     H       e       r       e                     a       n       d              T       h       e       r       e
W h e r e         n e v e r         w i l l         c o m e         n e a r         a n d         g o         a w a y         f r o m         a n y t h i n g ,         a l l         t h e         s t e p s         o f         t h e         w o r l d         *

The       thesis       is       a       reflection       on       home       in       exile       as       a       condition       of       displacement        and       not        dislocation:       An       attempt       to       escape       either
nostalgia        or        amnesia        without        a        physical        journey        back.        The        writing        becomes        a        journey        from        site        to        site,        each        site
constituting       a       collection       of       references       that       are       the       devices,       the       means       and       not       the       end       of       the       exploration.       The       escape       lies       in
the       relations       between       each       site       where       parallels       of       modern       art/architecture       with       the       condition       of       displacement       arise.

I              I       N       V       I       S       I       B       L       E

A        construct        built        by        de-­‐struction:        a        process        of        interruption        in        material        continuity        that        in        turn        reveals        that        which        is

The        earthquake        builds        home        through        its        very        loss;        when        I        am        standing        in        the        ruins,        home        leaves        behind        the        physical
bounds       of       the       house,       and       stands       stronger       in       their       absence.       Home       is       not       a       house.

In        the        absence        of        the        house        the        landscape        becomes        prominent.        Landscape,        light,        smells        and        sounds        each        in        turn        substitute
one       another       only       to       reveal       that       what       constitutes       home       is       not       material.

De-­‐struction        can        create        by        other        less        dramatic        means        such        as        traversing        space;        within        the        space        that        home        is        left       behind;
for       home       almost       did       not       exist       before       it       was       left       behind.

In       the       space       of       the       aeroplane       above       the       clouds,       home       appears.       As       if       once       you       gain        altitude,       memory       and       place       become,
and       only       can       be       retrieved       there.

II              W       I       T       H       O       U       T                     H       E       R       E                     A       N       D                     T       H       E       R       E

‘It       is       suicide       to       be       abroad       but       what       is       it       to       be       at       home?       (…)       A       lingering       dissolution’.

The        essence        of        home        takes        an        extreme        form        in        relation        and        tension        with       exile,        not        that        they        are        opposites        and        negate        one
another       and       therefor       can       delineate       the       limits       of       each       other,       but       because       they       both       work       towards       an       impossible       impasse,
side       by       side       –       outside       by       outside.

In        the        formation        of        home        through        this        mutual        relation,        the        space        and        time        of        the        border        are        essential.        Where        is        this
border,       this       margin       that       expands       and       thickens       in       time       and       space?

Distance       is       no       longer       definite       and       cannot       be       measured       but       is       relative       to       time       and       how       one       can       relate       to       the       place       of       either
outside.        ‘When        we        relate        ourselves        to        things        that        are        not        in        our        immediate        reach,        we        are        staying        with        the        things
themselves.       We       do       not       represent       distance       merely       in       our       mind.       Thinking       gets       through,       and       persists       through       the       distance       to
that       location.’

‘Everything       near       becomes       far’.              Goethe       refers       to       the       evening       twilight.              It       is       true       at       nightfall,       the       things       closest       move       away
from       my       eyes       and       instead       the       furthest       stars       are       in       my       grasp.       Created       by       night,       where       the       visible       world       has       moved       away
from       my       eyes,       perhaps       forever,       there       is       space       for       the       invisible.

Near        and        far        are        not        tied        to        location        or        the        removal        from        it        but        what        is        at        stake        is        an        idea        of        displacement,        that        goes
beyond       being       a       mere       state       of       being       and       can       form       a       tool       for       the       exiled       not       as       something       gone       wrong       but       as       a       process       with
its       own       form       and       possibility.        ‘The        only        way        he        or        she        can        cope       with       the       heavy       baggage       of        culture       is       to       subject       it       to       certain
kinds        of        displacement,        which        lightens        its        burdensome        weight.        (…)        In        this        effort        (…)        the        exiled        is        engaged        in        a        work        akin        to
that       of       the       modern       artist       whose       energies       have       in       the       last       century,       been       marshalled       not       so       much       to       represent       objects       as       to
displace       them’.

The       exiled,       the       inhabitants       of       the       thick       expanded       border,       can       subvert       their       displaced       state       of       being       into       a       device       that       can
find       home.

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La Tourette Visit

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Rojia Forouhar Abadeh

Rojia Abadeh is from Iran and received her undergraduate degree from the Architectural Association.

Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment