The vertex, the common point at which two lines converge – or diverge – , is a primordial element in the graphic representation of all kinds of phenomena. It is first and foremost a graphic symbol, one that in its essence is the synthesis of an event. It marks the point where a road separates, where two rivers come together, where one plane ends and another begins, a change of direction, a fold, a dilemma posed by two possibilities, the branching out of growth and evolution, the cross-linking of a plane, the planar deconstruction of a volume, an itinerary for logical reasoning, computational structure, algorhythmic formulation…
All of these phenomena, along with our language and our thought, can be represented by means of a graphic system thanks to the invention of this most basic element. Even for showing a succession of events in time, such as those in a genealogical tree, the vertex has proven to be the ideal graphic tool.
In architecture, the classic vertex is the right angle. This was not always so, however; primitive cultures tended to prefer the curve, owing in all probability to the greater cohesiveness that the circuar shape offered and to the possibility of placing a dome or cone over it. As Vitruvius explained in his treatise on architecture, it was the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who consolidated a rectangle-based architecture. Ever since, architects have been subjected to the tyranny of the right angle. For the solution to myriad problems – from apportioning urban property lots and roads, to the economic maximization of space and of prefabricated elements, including the materials themselves (starting with bricks), architects have no choice but accept the practicality of the right angle as an indispensable, given element in their work. This has resulted in a loss of subjectivity, limited expressiveness, standardization and, in a word, normalization.
And yet this game, The Right Angle, gives us a glimpse of the disturbing consequences that can result from this element’s ‘normality’ and ‘objectivity’ when a right angle, instead of being a simple figure devoid of meaning, functions as a kind of accident. A subtle turn, a change in order, a moment’s disturbance, toying with its obvious function; any such action is enough to transform it into a new event – one with unforeseeable consequences.
Objects that we are drawn to – personal adornments, ornaments in general, a feathered embroidery, a necklace, a capital, an eave… - are more often than not imitations of models found in nature: a flower’s petals, a plant’s leaves, a bird’s plumage…We’re struck not only by the beautiful colors of these objects but also by the arrangement of their different elements. When we take objects that are seemingly identical and try to create something new with them we have no choice but to subject ourselves to the laws of physics, letting them guide us in our effort to create something that will mirror the beauty and harmony that exist in nature.
The cube, an orthogonal parallelepipedic prism of six equal sides, is inextricably linked, from the time of the very first civilizations, to open, inhabitable spaces. For such a simple, sparse and symmetrical shape to achieve any sort of expressiveness there must be some irregularity involved or some relationship with its surroundings.