Fiction of Representation

Fiction is critical for creating both linguistic narratives and emotive effects. Architectural values such as style, representation, theory, and concepts are fiction -as is when exquisite representations exist without the burden of solely recreating a built “real.” A conceptual iteration existing only on a piece of paper is architecture itself -since the very basis of architectural values are fictional propositions.

Compare two images of John Hejduk’s Wall House 2: the drawing and the photograph. Both show the same project but the drawing does not exist only to serve as a representation of the real. The drawing is as much of a valid architectural project as much as the built building in terms of expressing architectural values and concepts. Hejduk’s Wall House 2 is a concept existing in different iterations and those drawn iterations are as valid and valuable as the built iteration.  In support of this concept, Tina di Carlo writes: “…this technique moves the drawing toward the role of an intellectual investigation separate from practice, conferring on architecture the power to evoke the mysteries of everyday existence.”

The discernment between fiction versus fake applies to both the concept and the project. For example, many photorealistic computer automated renderings of building designs are often not fiction, but fake approximations of the real.

Musicians are not concerned with realistically portraying noises of the world, but rather concerned with the interplay of notes, keys, rhythm, and beats. Music is experienced on the merits of its temporal narrative.

Since photography, artists have been less focused on the representation of reality, but on representing the ineffable qualities of emotion, feelings, gestures, and abstractions. The understanding of fake versus authentic is judged on the merits of the effects.
Cinema transitioned from the Lumière brothers’ documentaries to fictional narratives in the early 20th century. When viewing Citizen Kane, one does not dwell on the realism of the special effects but rather on the larger than life characters occupying exquisite spatial compositions.

Architecture still privileges the real over fiction compared to other creative disciplines. This is because architects still assume that the unbuilt is merely a fake approximation of the built reality. The lack of discernment over fiction versus fake is to the detriment of architecture as a cultural discipline when liberating possibilities exist in embracing fiction in architecture.