The Wittgenstein Foundation and the Language Game
An Antitractatus Space

Given that the object of this exercise is to apply the idea of a “language game” to and architectural design, I started to think about the concept of music as a language that implies a specific sense of perception with multiples ways of representation.With this idea in mind, and since the building to be designed would be a kind of homage to Ludwig Wittgenstein, I decided to study the piece that Maurice Ravel composed especially for his brother Paul.

Paul was a great pianist who lost his right hand on the 1st World War. Even though he hadn’t any expectations that he could continue his career as a concert pianist, Ravel composed his “Concert for the left hand alone” for him. The piece was premiered in Paris in 1933, and caused a big ovation. According to those present, during the performance one couldn’t notice the lack of the right hand because it seemed as if it was there playing as well. Let us say that the inexistent hand, its shadow, was playing within the memory of the spectators, as an element that our perception can not see but our consciousness is able to perceive.Exploring this fact and putting it in relation with the Philosophy of Wittgenstein, for whom a picture becomes the representation of a subject, that is to say, it depicts the reality by representing a possibility of existence (or non-existence) of the reality itself, I came to the following association of ideas.

If the “logical picture” of facts is a thought, the logical picture of the fact of playing music will be the perception of the music itself. In addition, if the element that plays the music is the hand, which follows the logic of music represented on a score, in terms of Wittgenstein, the hand could be the picture of this “logical form”, and its shadow will be the element that constitutes its “pictorial form”. The shadow will be the element that talks about the essence of the subject, therefore in this case, the hand.

At this point, and following the logic of the score, I mapped on each chord the image that the hand will have at the instant of playing them, and studied the progression of its shadow when moving over the piano keyboard.

If the movement of the hand occurs on a certain section of the keyboard, I placed the light in the middle point of this section in order to achieve this study of the hand’s shadow. A bigger duration of a chord will imply a bigger image, therefore a “bigger space”. Playing with those images I created different “families of shadows”, in which, as Wittgenstein would say, each element of the family has a resemblance but no one is exactly the same.

I started studying these shapes, the relationship between them and how they could be transformed into an architectural form, at the same time, I tried to limit the use of these shapes and the reference of a site.

The site should have a special condition of duality: a site of two sites that will be opposite and similar at the same time, just like an object and the shadow that follows it. I found this place in the Lower East side. They were two similar empty spots located diagonally and therefore with different orientation. I established there my language game using the new formal elements, “the words” I found in the process.

I noted the number of stories of the buildings around the site and draw the fields of numbers according to these numbers of stories. The crossing of these fields was giving me combinations of numbers within the range from 1 to 5. As a matter of fact, 1 to 5 are the numbers piano players use for digitations, every finger of our hand has a number assigned to it so, the combination of these numbers were giving me a certain image of the hand that was using those fingers to play a certain chord. As a result, I was getting a “palette of shadows” I could use.

At the same time I studied a circulation system on the site, and started to overlap not only combinations of shadows but both systems.

Even though in order to arrive to this point, I used the Philosophy of Wittgenstein as a tool of research and meaning, one of the aspects that I most liked about the site and the neighborhood itself, is its condition of daily life that may well seem to be in opposition with the character of the early Wittgenstein.

The second hand shops, the flea markets, the parks, the young people, the amount of children… I was feeling more comfortable in that world rather that in the perfection of the logical world presented by Wittgenstein. Life is something else. The project needed to reflect the lively part of that neighborhood, which is in fact a space full of life, full of imperfection, an “antitractatus space”.

I basically decided to build a park where children could play and a building where neighbors could meet, share and enjoy from different cultural events. In reality, both aspects serve the same functions because it is possible to have playground areas on the ground floor of a building or organize cultural events on a park.

The building will have a public library at the upper level, as a representation of the intellectual and logical world of Wittgenstein that tries to get detached from the world, with physical structural elements that seem to push it down towards the ground. Spaces that seem to be floating over reality, over mundane activities that are performed on the ground floor in a multipurpose space with different areas for projections, eventual concerts, flea markets… Those will be dynamic spaces, extensible, changeable.

The shadow of this complex, its reflection, will be a park, a “no building” in opposition to it. It will be a landscape that springs from the ground, with areas that are a distort projection of the object they reflect. In fact, they represent elements that we can not directly see, but our consciousness perceives. Since a world too perfect would be a non livable world.