Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky. Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal p ‘Transparency,’ ‘space-time,’ ‘simultane- ity,’ ‘interpenetration. Two Modes of Transparency: Literal & Phenomenal. The key aspect to Rowe and Slutzky’s seminal essay on Transparency: Literal & Phenomenal, is the .. Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky in their essay ‘Transparency: Literal. ‘tltlder the tille “Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal”. The significance of this lematic of Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky’s co-authored writings under the title.

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Rowe and Slutzky, quotes Gyorgy Kepes for defining transparency as a result of transparent figures interpenetrating each other without optical destruction, but transparency also implies something broader coln optical effects, as it also includes spatial effects.

This overlapping and interpenetrating of figures conjures an ambiguity or contradiction of spatial dimensions. The concepts and conditions of transparency parallel movements of Relativity theories and their implications; where space-time relativistic thinking allows for two objects to co-exist simultaneously in the same space and time, as such transparency is a space-time condition of betweeness, a simultaneous perception of space.

Perceptual vs Conceptual Transparency: Eye vs Mind, Looking vs Reading. To introduce new terms into the dialectic of transparency, one can appropriate the terms of Sol Le Witt, and the Conceptual Art movement of the s, in order to reinterpret Transparency as being perceptual or conceptual. Perceptual transparency is a transparency of looking literql, as the transparent conditions arise due to an overlapping of material or substance, whereas Conceptual transparency is a transparency of readingthus engaging the mind of the viewer or reader, in order to interpret and understand successive layered spaces as modes of transparent phenomena.

To reiterate the dialectical overlapping and multiple readings of conditions of transparencyliteral transparency is a perceptual and actual transparency of seeing or of substance, whereas phenomenal transparency is a conceptual and implied transparency of reading or of organization. The Futurist artist, Umberto Boccioni, in his representation of movement, studied and employed the simultaneity and consequent interpenetration or compenetration of planesforce-lines, and the decomposition of objects, in order to produce dynamism in both painting and sculpture Coen, They blur their arbitrary boundaries.

The axonometrics demonstrate the layered configurations of both works; they appear to stretch out and expand the various constituent layers of their flattened conditions as painting or elevation. Adolf Loos states that his architecture is not conceived in plan, but rather in terms of spaces or cubes, hence the Raum — or Space — planwhich achieves a merging of storeys and spaces into a contiguous and continuous space. This reiterates the notion of transparency as a seeing- or passing-through, that is, a journey, a penetration, or a passing through of the gaze.

The diagonality is important, as the arrows in both the plan and section refer to the same view, that is, both arrows are in effect the same, as ilteral both denote the same sequence of framed vistas. The subject in the building engages in a theatrical voyeuristic gaze passing through the pheno,enal spaces.

The Raumplan demonstrates a framing of frames, a seeing or penetrating through the successive frames of view. Hence, phenomenal or conceptual transparency is achieved, following what Rowe and Slutzky mentioned with regards to the notion of stratificationthat is, the sequential layering of coin planes and spaces.

Hence, there exists two modes of transparency, two modes of layering, the Layering of Planes and the Layering of Spaces.

Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal | Arch

The two modes of transparency can be combined, fused and integrated to achieve a doubling of transparency, a simultaneity of modes of transparent operations.

Literal Transparency occurs through the layering and stacking of the physical material of the walls and surfaces, whereas Phenomenal transparency occurs through the layering, overlapping, and superimposition of axes and gridded spatial orders, thus producing an ambiguity of spatial organizations, resulting from a sequential ordering or a successive stratification and layering of space.

A doubling of transparency, both literal and phenomenal, perceived and interpreted. One sees through, sees pass the overlapping glazed or meshed facades, exterior and interior, and one reads and interprets the layered spatial arrangement. An act of inter-modal transparency, literal and phenomenal, actual and implied, seen and read, perceptual and conceptual, co-existing together; a multi-penetration of transparencies, multi-transparent, multi-interpenetrative and interpretive, multi-moded transparency.


Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal

Transparency is a condition of passing or seeing through. Transparency is connection and continuity ; it is a dialectic between revealing and concealing, as well as between seeing and reading. A transparent medium, substance, or matter allows, permits, and invites light, air, and sight to penetrate through. Transparency relates to diaphaneitytranslucency, and layering. Translucency can be defined as the condition existing within the continuum between opacity and transparency, between the two polarities of obscurity and clarity, between solid and void.

Translucency is where light sifts, filters and penetrates through the successive additive effects of layered, stacked, overlapped or superimposed planes, glazed surfaces, films, or veils. The filtering and penetrating effect of light through translucency achieves a layered glowwhere natural light passes through, slows down, softens, bleeds and diffuses from one space to the next, from exterior to the interior, and through different layers of the interior, creating a superimposed pyenomenal penetrative effect, bringing daylight further and deeper into the space.

Rowe and Slutzky makes a distinction between two types, modes, or conditions of transparency in their seminal essay on Transparency: Two liferal more transparent figures overlapping each other produces a contradiction or ambiguity of spatial dimensions ; simultaneously seeming to advance or recede, appearing closer or further, where space continuously fluctuates and oscillates.

These transparent planes, objects, or surfaces interpenetrate each other. Filtering and diffusing light through perforous patterned screens or facades, creating a myriad of patterned shadow effects as the sun changes its position during the course of a day. Henry Plummer describes Atomization as the sifting or filtering of light through a porous screen Plummer, Dematerialization is the dissolution of matter through or by light, where thick, heavy, and massive, construction or cladding appears to be dissolved, eaten, or consumed by light itself.

Mesh screens or other finely patterned porous transparrency have the capability to disintegrate objects into light and air. Screens could be more porous or less porous according to the desired or necessary amount of solar exposure.

The control of certain parameters, such as the proportion of solid to void, the relationship between the opaque surface and the porous openings or holes can achieve a seemingly gauzy and mysterious, yet luminous and brilliant, experience phenomnal the screen. Atomized illumination through the fine screens of wood lattice, metal mesh, or other porous surface makes the view outside less clear, less solid, and instead more disintegrative, more vaporous.

One only gets a glimpse of the outside through the perforated mesh of fine dots. Light corrodes and dissolves the solidity of mass. The perforous screen like the diaphanous veil or the layered transparent planes simultaneously reveals transpagency conceals, connects and divides in a mode of contiguous discontinuity. Transpagency in his description of pulverized light mentions.

The real wall and building mass appear to fade awayleaving behind a mesmerizing sensation of energy that seems to vibrate…. Indirect daylighting explores the articulation of the formlessness of light. There is no clear boundary between what is lit and not lit; the distinction between light and non-light is undecidable, indeterminate, and ambiguous. The boundary is blurred. Light can be explored to enhance form, make form more pronounced, or alternatively, light can be manipulated to dematerialize form, transpaarency away at the geometry, and make form less distinct.

Light is captured by the indirect lighting mechanisms, whether they literwl carved voids, fingers of light, or channeled networks, and is transported yet transformed as the illumination gets redelivered into the interior space.

Plummer refers to the Canalization of light as being the channeling of light through hollow mass, where artificial routes, labyrinths, and tunnels are carved out for natural forces to penetrate the inner depths of a building.

Formless light is given a memorable character whereby the radiation and energy from the sky is collected and sculpted.

The flow of light is conducted through daylit voids, cavities, and porous masses, while distributing yet moulding the illumination as it hits the surface Plummer, The inner linings of these detached screens or baffles can be made reflective or coloured, which in turn will have an effect on the redirected light.


In the various modes of indirect lighting, such as slots, tubes, conduits, light shafts, light funnels and scoops or some other labyrinthine configuration, the incident light arrives mysteriously as it is reflected or redirected from the inner surfaces of the light baffle, concealing the window or opening. The opening of light is concealed and hidden away from view, the channel or shaft forces the light to bend, to reflect, and to become more diffused while entering the space.

These concealed light sources and hidden apertures can help choreograph or direct a journey, a promenade architecturalewhereby the indirect sources of light are points of command leading one further and deeper into a building.

Raumplan as a succession of layered spaces. Having the property of transmitting light without scattering to that the objects lying beyond and behind are seen clearly; allowing passage of a specified form of radiation; fine or sheet enough to be seen through-diaphanous.

As can be seen from the dictionary definitions, the term transparency implies the optical or observational notions of showing or seeing through. To resolve this contradiction one must assume the presence of a new optical quality.

The figures are endowed with transparency: Transparency however implies more than an optical characteristic, it implies a broader spatial order. Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations. Space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity. The position of the transparent figures has equivocal meaning as one sees each figure now as the closer, now as the further one. Literal and Phenomenal, The mathematics of the ideal villa and other essays.

This other type of seeming or implied transparencythat is an interpretive transparency, or an interpretive mode of seeing-through, can be distinguished. Transparency may be an inherent quality of substance -as in a wire mesh or glass curtain wall, or it may be an inherent quality of organization -as both Kepes and, to a lesser degree, Moholy suggest it to be; and one might, for this reason, distinguish between a real or literal and a phenomenal or seeming transparency.

Hence the dual phenomena of transparency — literal and phenomenalreal or seeming, substantial or organizational, actual or implied transparency.

The painting depicts spatial ambiguities ; a property of transparency, due to an illusion of deep yet shallow space; a fluctuation of back and forth movement of objects and planes advancing and receding simultaneously. This continuous fluctuation of interpretative readings reaffirms the notion of seeming, or what will be later referred to as an implied transparency, as opposed to a real or actual transparency.

The fluctuation or oscillating planes or layers produces an ambiguity of spatial depth in its simultaneity of vision or perception of multiple or overlapping planes and readings. I do not design floor plans, facades, sections. For me, there is no ground floor, first floor etc….

For me, there are only contiguous, continual spaces …Storeys merge and spaces relate to each other. This thus reiterates the notion of space-time interpenetrative spaces of simultaneity.

It is such that transparency is a condition coljn betweeness in these terms of successive and continuous stratification, overlapping, layering, and superimposition of spaces. This interpretive study can be seen as a forerunner to his own investigative projects of layering planes and spaces, seen especially in his early house projects. Here the actual and the implied relationships of transparent modes or operations are seen in opposition to each other, creating ambiguous dialectic or double overlapping readings of planes and spaces.

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