Modernist Architecture is characterized by a thaumaturgic (talent of miraculously curing) ambition which would heal the “diseases” of individuals and society. Although this ambition appears as obsolete and slightly ridiculous nowadays, after several decades of post-modernism that constituted in denying any other power of architecture than a merely aesthetic one. However, my thesis, that I have been developing though a reasonable amount of articles on this blog, is that architecture does certainly own a power, but rather than the power of healing, it might rather be the power of hurting. (see weaponized architecture)
In this regard, what appear to be the quintessential example of a set of norms and a residue of the modern ideology are the overwhelming diagrams proposed by the fascinating Architectural Graphic Standards (cf introduction cover page). Indeed, following the modern dream of an optimized built environment, those architectural documents consider a normative body –one could think of Le Corbusier’s Modulor- and advocate for an architecture that is perfectly adapted to this same body. This normative body is not an ideal body in the classical meaning of it (mostly based on aesthetic values) but can be considered as such, as it does not represent anybody’s body but rather constitutes an unreachable state of normality.
As we saw with the work of Arakawa and Madeline Gins (see my essay Architectures of Joy) , architecture can be considered within the time frame of human evolution and, this way, be designed in order to influence such evolution. The normative body of those diagrams constitute the exact opposite of Arakawa/Gins’ work that attempts to activate bodies in order to resist death. In fact, the normative ideology by choosing an oxymoronic normal ideal body as a model, refuse the very idea of the human evolution. This denial organizes a violence effectuated on the body as it makes it interact with an environment that forces it to remain the same. Such a normative environment also implies a normative behavior that implies a set of pre-defined activities relatively to each space and furniture.
One can dream (I do !) of a re-interpretation of those diagrams subverted by various activities and bodies that were not thought about by those normative documents (the coitus seems to be a good way to start them for example !).
The following documents and the first image are all extracted from the Architectural Graphic Standards. Hoboken: Wiley, 2000.