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Otto Paans:

"A good example of relational thinking is the set of architectural connections between object and context. If an object (let’s say, a building) is seen as a discrete entity in a surrounding context, the part-whole assumption is silently smuggled in. Granted, a building has walls that clearly demarcate it, but that is not where its embeddedness in the context stops. The notion of a building as an open, interactive entity sits uneasily with our cemented categories of thinking. Terms like “object” and “context” are often theoretically treated as separate entities, but in reality, they are makeshift notions that obfuscate as much as they reveal. After all, to speak of an “object” in a “context” is to oversimplify the complexity and multiplicity of the relationships between the two. To conceive of an object as something that can be artificially separated from its context is to make a distinction for the sake of theorizing, but this move pays the price of oversimplification. It is one of the defining features of designed objects that this neat distinction is an impossibility. The reciprocal relations between a context and the objects embedded in it are central to their aesthetic and functional qualities. And again, even in making this point, we have to resort to terms like “object,” “context,” and “embedded.” Although these terms are certainly useful as linguistic placeholders, they do scant justice to the actual and manifold interactions between the terms of the description.

A better word for the interactions of any entity embedded in a given context would be assemblage:

- the notion that all components of a given entity are intimately and dynamically related;

moreover, that in actualizing their relationships, they bring something genuinely new into the world. 

All components of the assemblage can be identified, but their functioning cannot be analysed apart from the relationships they have to the other components. If we transpose this into architectural terms, we can say that the object cannot be analysed in a meaningful way apart from its context. Thus, an entity like a building is irreducibly entangled in different assemblages resulting in a singular engagement with its context."


More information

* Book: A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. Manuel De Landa. Continuum, 2007