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Physical > Virtual? The Deconstruction of Space in the Postmodern City

Part 2 Dissertation 2014
Matthew McCreith
University of Lincoln Lincoln UK
For a long time architecture has been relying on a commonplace: the very idea that space is almost a physical substance and that, consequently, can be manipulated at will. Yet, with the emergence of computed technologies, the very notion of space, at least the way we used to think and address it, is rapidly disintegrating. This, despite of the market keeping alive a simulated version of what space – as a founding principle of architecture - used to be.

My dissertation addresses for the first time a constantly neglected and by no means by-passable issue: the paradigm shift affecting architecture nowadays, i.e. the disappearance of space as a symbolic, tridimensional realm in favor of an abstract domain where the notions of depth and centre make no sense.
This has incalculable fallouts on architecture because, whereas over the Enlightenment project the horizon of linear perspective used to substantiate the idea of history as a the bridgeable distance between the observer’s standpoint and the vanishing point on the perspective window, the ubiquity of space caused by the spreading of mobile interfaces collapses the former into an eternal here-and-now.
It is in this regard that the research rests on the deployment of a post-structural methodology, deconstructing the binary opposition defining “real” space as opposed to “virtual” space. Such opposition is thus inverted.

By pushing forward the theoretical underpinning set by the French sociologist Henry Lefebvre with regard to the social production and reproduction of space, the research suggests that no longer is the notion of space built on the opposition arbitrarily set with the notion of virtual or fantasy space, but that the former is now produced and reproduced by the latter. Real space becomes, in other words, but an extension of virtual reality.

In a world where more and more human beings become fully integrated with technological interfaces (everybody is the “terminal” of an endless, infinite and intangible communication system, according the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard), the very question arises of whether architects fully consider the changes affecting society during the past few decades.

Matthew McCreith

Dr Francesco Proto
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