14 1440: The Smooth and the Striated , Deleuze and Guattari

In Chapter 14 “The Smooth and the Striated” of A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari describe the difference and connection between striated and smooth space. Turning to music, mathematics and many more other examples they propose different definitions for smooth and striated spaces.  Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari distinguish between two kinds of spaces: smooth space and striated space. This distinction coincides with the distinctions they draw between the nomadic and the sedentary, between the space of the war machine and the space of the state apparatus. While Deleuze and Guattari consider these two spaces to differ fundamentally in nature, they also believe that the two spaces in fact exist only in mixture.

(They also point out that striated space is inherently hierarchical, by which they mean we count such spaces in order to occupy them. This is not to suggest that striated space is inferior to smooth space; actually, in the context of design I believe some striation of space is necessary to allow for informed concrete design decision to be made. )

They defined space with two systems: one that is State-oriented and static, the other nomadic and fluid.

In their writing Deleuze and Guattari have spoken of “ smooth space”  as a space of the nomad, a space which stands in opposition to the striated space of the state and which is characterized by a form of free flowing occupation ( the nomad creates territory by  ‘distributing himself in open space’) which over codes the forces of institutionalizations. Smooth space, the desert and the steppe, a space free from codifications which determine behavior is a metaphorical allusion to types of occupation which resist the political restrictions the city places upon us.

When the nomad/State opposition is applied to space, the basic principle is that nomad space is ‘smooth’ and heterogeneous, while State space is ‘striated’ and homogeneous. Deleuze illustrates these concepts with an example from technology: woven fabric is striated, that is, with the threads of warp and woof; felt is smooth, as it consists of entangled fibers;

Note: They use the term ‘smooth’, meaning something along the lines of ‘full of potential’.

“Smooth space is filled by events of haecceities, far more than by formed and perceived things. It is a space of affects, more than one of properties…it is an intensive rather than an extensive space, one of distances, not of measures and properties (479).”

Striated space is gridded, linear, metric, optic, state space; smooth space is open-ended, nonlinear, intensive, haptic, nomad space: “The striated is that which intertwines fixed and variable elements, produces an order and succession of distinct forms, organizes horizontal…lines with vertical…planes”

Another example that might be useful to understand Deleuze and Guattari’s point is the example of the culture. The culture spreads like the surface of a body of water, spreading towards available spaces or trickling downwards towards new spaces through fissures and gaps, corroding what is in its way. Although the surface has a tendency to be interrupted and moved, but these instabilities and disturbances will leave no trace, as the water is charged with pressure and potential to always seek its equilibrium, and thereby establish smooth space.

Striated space can also been seen as the traditional space of architecture. I think that Spatial definition results from the inter-relations of elements, including form, scale, proportion, surface, shape, openings, light, view, and acoustics. Such elements are the critical means of architecture; their manipulation by the architect articulates and defines spatial identities, or chunks. This function of delineating striated from smooth space is particular to architecture; it is this functional and intrinsic relationship to space as medium that defines architecture as the art of space

More Examples of striated and smooth space can be :

Disciplinary societies (striated) yield to societies of control ( smooth)

As capital flows out from enclosure (striated) into global production and circulation ( smooth), empire emerges as a correlative political response.


In his article “Means of Correct Training + Panopticism,” M. Foucault argues that the principal functioning of disciplinary power is to train. It links forces together to enhance and use them; it creates individual units from a mass of bodies. The success of disciplinary power depends on three elements: hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and examination.

Hierarchical observation: He gives an example of military camp, where the observatories are all arranged, a model also found in schools, hospitals and prisons. Disciplinary institutions created a mechanism of control. The perfect disciplinary mechanism would make it possible to see everything constantly.

Normalizing judgment: It is here that each individual is punished based on their actions, movements and behaviors. Art of punishing differentiates individuals from one another, in term of the overall rules.

Examination: “The examination combines the techniques of an observing hierarchy and those of a normalizing judgment….it establish over individuals a visibility through which one differentiates them and judges them. That is why in all the mechanisms of discipline, the examination is highly ritualized” ( 197) .

Foucault explores disciplinary power and its operations, in order to discover how individual cells or bodies are created out of a group. The individual is a modern invention, a construction of power. It is a body that is observed, and compared to a “norm” of average behavior. He talks about the operation of discipline in terms of observation and training, rather than exercise.

He emphasizes observation and that it undergoes a further change, however: now it is a mechanism that coerces, rather than the process. Foucault’s point is that you can be forced to do something by being observed constantly. Not only do you feel self-conscious, but your behavior changes. This is an excellent example of the operation of power: an effect occurs on your body without physical violence.

He also discussed the idea that the position of judgment changed in the pre-modern period. Judgment now concerns a random standard: pupils, soldiers and prisoners are observed and measured against this standard. It seems now that what is normal is good, and what is abnormal is bad and must be corrected. For Foucault, the norm is an entirely negative and harmful idea that allows the oppression and silencing of deviants and the “abnormal.” it seems that he wants us to realize how unnatural this process is.

Foucault’s negative conception of individuality: Advertising and the mass media tend to praise people seen as “individuals,” but for Foucault the individual is a damaging device constructed by power. The more unusual and excluded you are, the more individual you become: “Discipline “ makes” individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individual both as objects and as instruments of its exercise”(188)

‘Panopticism’ :

For Foucault, the panopticon represents the way in which discipline and punishment work in modern society. It is a diagram of power in action because by looking at a plan of the panopticon, one realizes how the processes of observation and examination operate.

Foucault argues that more sophisticated societies offer greater opportunities for control and observation. This explains the reference to liberty and rights. Foucault assumes that modern society is based on the idea that all citizens are free and entitled to make certain demands on the state: this ideology developed in the eighteenth century, along with the techniques of control he describes.


Total Accident &  Endocolonization and the State-as-Destiny, P. Virilio

In his articles I think that it’s the architecture of war that Virilio points out that captivates the reader and question the point that he is talking here. It is interesting that Virilio uses the example of the war bunkers to talk about some of the ideas in architecture on our modern world.

The bunker is, for Virilio, the symbol of modern times .what he calls “the architectural figures for the twentieth century”, at once the space of concentration and removal. Here people could be put to death or “allowed” to starve to death. Virilio’s point is simple: the thickness of the bunker’s concrete wall – five feet thick, at its thinnest! – “translates” the frightening power of modern weaponry. Thus, the bunker does not represent safety – it represents death, starvation and the enormity of total destruction.

He point out that we’re in a state of Pure War: “war which is not acted out in repetition, but in infinite preparation” (92).Virilio points out that the foundations of the world around us are entangled in the fabric of war, or that is to say, they are the fabric of the war we exist in. He speaks about the cities we live in, the economy we participate in, the technology we use and love and the speed at which this is all happening.

Situationist Space , Tom McDonough

This article discusses the maps, The Naked City, produced by Guy Debord of Paris, showing the city through a psychogeographists eyes. Here McDonough portrays the maps as “as narrative rather than as tool of universal knowledge.”

The Situationist International aim was to create a plan of Paris in order to bring a new light to the erection and organization of the way that the city grows.

The map did not show every places of the town, rather it only illustrated important places: “ the naked City does not cover all of Paris as we would except of a “good” map” ( 248). It is also worth mentioning that the map is viewed from the top, which means that one is not able to experience the places within since they are only viewing it from top.

Space is theorized as a social product and thus as inseparable from the functioning of society. Space houses social relationships. This means that whatever these spaces are has an impact on how we see them and also on the activities that will happen in these spaces. Space such as paris is inhabited by people where “space becomes a part of a process: the process of “inhabiting” enacted by social groups.”

“Debord describes this map as an example of “a modern poetry capable of provoking sharp emotional reactions (in this case indignation at the fact that there are people who live like that).” “…the city should be experienced not as a homogeneous field but as an emotionally ambient milieu of possible trajectories.” (pg. 3)


The Production of Space, Henri Lefevre

Some notes on the reading:

Bauhaus did more than locate space in its real context or supple a new perspective on it: Bauhaus produced developed a new conception, a global concept of space.  It is about the awareness of space and its production.

Bauhaus people realized that they are going to create a space and that this is not possible without taking everything into account. Such as moveable (furniture) or fixed (buildings) it’s about the relation of one to the whole Temporal sequence consequences: Consciousness of space where space is explored by reducing it into its elements and details, facades as a directed face toward the observer, and global space which was established in the abstract as a void, waiting to be filled.

Bruno Zevi explains that space is empty and it gets occupied by visual messages. He talks about how geometrical space is “animated by the gestures and actions of those who inhabit it” which means that space is activated when there are people are in them or actions going on. This idea is developed more and he points out how buildings in architecture have an exterior and interior which results in an inside – outside relationship of the building.

Zevi argues that this is all about the space that is visually stricted and he calls it “logic of visualization”. He argues that the result is all based on how the viewer sees the palace and how he observes it.

In his article , Lefevre argues that “[T]here there are different levels of space, from very abstract, crude, natural space (‘absolute space’) to more complex spatialities whose significance is socially produced (‘social space’).” The main idea being that space is a social product. Social space is a social product. And that every society produces its own social space. The social production of urban space is fundamental to the reproduction of society (its social control). [e.g. Soviet Union failed to produce a socialist space.”

Perceived (first), Conceived (second), and Lived (third). Perceived space is the materiality of space. Conceived space is the ways in which space is planned; normative representations of space. Lived space is the emotional experience of space that develops through the imaginary and through lived experience of the first two spaces.

Spaces don’t just exist anymore he says, they’re produced in/by the overarching bureaucracy. However, spaces aren’t products like chairs, tables  because they also shape action and interaction. Space is both product and producer. The ‘natural’ space has all been used up, he says. And think about it; even the national parks have been sectioned off, advertised and produced in a sense.

The idea of greater expressive figuration and what is figured is something concrete, a specific place, in Martin Heidegger’s sense of the term dwelling. A discussion about place involves the notion of identity of self or of community.

As Heidegger states in his essay “Building Dwelling Thinking” (we might find that the absence of commas in Heidegger’s title is meant to suggest the unity of these three elements): “. . . spaces receive their being from locations and not from ‘space’. . . . Man’s relation to locations,and through locations to spaces, inheres in his dwelling. The relationship between men and space is none other than dwelling . . .”

It was intriguing how Heidegger defined dwelling and the way he started to relate dwelling to humans. He talks about how we activate buildings and without dwelling we are not able to build anything: “The nature of building is letting dwell. Building accomplishes its nature in the raising of locations by the joining of their spaces. Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build. . . . Here [lies] the self-sufficiency of the power to let earth and heaven, divinities and mortals enter in simple oneness into things . . .”(361)

Heidegger also emphasize the importance of language and communication in his article: “ it is language that tells us about the essence of a thing, provided that we respect language’s own essence” ( 348).

His great example of the bridge opens a new gateway for the reader to understand his definition for the value of the landscape in which we build and call it space: “the bridge brings stream and bank and land into each other’s neighborhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream.

Heidegger suggests that natural archetypes can guide our building, Bildung ;  the art of building privileges meditation, not dialogue. Heidegger seeks a true home for us where some inner harmony with our true self identity and deepest needs will be achieved. This profoundly contests the deconstructionist notion of place.

“Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.” ~ Martin Heidegger


The Phenomenon of Place, Christian Norberg-Schulz

Norberg-Schulz  article Outlined a vocabulary for reading and interpreting a place through the construction of architecture, landscapes, and cities. His language stemmed from everyday things and phenomena that constituted the character and structure of a place that differentiated a place from a space. The principal proponent of a phenomenology of architecture, Christian

Norberg-Schultz , draws  attention to tectonic aspects of architecture to explain the environment. In addition to a focus on site, phenomenology in architecture is concerned with how things are made with emphasis on dwelling and historical connection. It is here that he points out the importance of a phenomena such as feeling that one has when they experience a place and find out how he feels in that place: “When man dwells he is simultaneously located in space and exposed to a certain environmental character. But he also has to identify himself with the environment, that is, he has to know how he is in a certain place”(417).

Norberg-Schultz argues that from the beginning man has recognized that nature consists of interrelated elements which express fundamental aspects’ of being. Landscape has structure and meaning which he classifies as modes of natural understanding found in “the definition of the character of natural places, relating them to basic human traits.” Structure is described as variations in surface relief which give character and meaning to place. He describes a place in terms of “space” and “character” where “space denotes the three dimensional organization of the elements which make up a place, character denotes the general atmosphere which is the most comprehensive property of any place” (418).

Norberg-Schulz also comments and uses the example of the bridge used by Heidegger to explain that a bridge is a building “which visualizes, symbolizes, and gathers and makes the environment a unified whole.”

Age of the Masters, Reyner Banham

I believe that this article is part of the chapter “space” of the book where Banham explores the idea of space in architecture to lend an understanding to masters in and their contributions to the environment. Banham takes the reader through different times in history where space was considered in a different ways. He quotes that “for most of history, space has existed only inside structures-outside was only nature, chaos, the unmeasurable” (50). The three primary qualities of space that Banham suggests are that space is infinite, measured and its special relationship to the observer. The place is infinite and extends unrestrainedly in all directions. It is measured and defined by geometry. The geometric order of the space is shown through columns in Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoie. The space also has a relationship to the viewer where the interior spaces “are to be experienced as a series of partitions of infinite space by an observer moving through them on prescribed route” (55). Here Banham emphasizes the use of route in le Corbusier Villa Savoie which is indicated by “stairs, platforms, ramps” (55). The idea of the route in the build was mentioned in the presentation of the frank Lloyd rights building as well. The article has great definition of space and provides a good range of examples in order to recognize different forms of space and how master architects defined space in the past.

Towards a plastic architecture, Theo van Doesburg

The Dutch De Stijl movement was founded in 1917 by a group of Dutch artists and architects, under the leadership of painter Theo van Doesburg. He was also the editor of the De Stijl journal which was used to express the artist’s philosophy and theories as well as to publish their views on the implications of their work in De Stijl.

One the great works of this movement was the Schroder House by Gerrit Rietveld.   This house was quite the direct translation of Van Doesburg’s 16 Points of a Plastic Architecture published during the completion of the house. It fulfilled his prescription of being elementary, economic and functional; unmonumental and dynamic; anti-cubic in its form and anti-decorative in its color.  In his article, Van Doesburg defines plastic architecture through different points focusing on general and specific facts about new architecture. He begins by pointing out the important points such as forms, elements and other general facts about architecture and then moves on to more philosophical meanings about the design such as space and time, openness of architecture. He also points out differences of the new architecture with the old architecture: “the new architecture has eliminated monotonous repetition…”

The Rietveld Schröder House (Dutch: Rietveld Schröderhuis) (also known as the Schröder House) in Utrecht was built in 1924 by Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld for Mrs. Truus Schröder-Schräder and her three children. She commissioned the house to be designed preferably without walls. The house is one of the best known examples of De Stijl-architecture and arguably the only true De Stijl building. Mrs. Schröder lived in the house until her death in 1985. The house was restored by Bertus Mulder and now is a museum open for visits. In the year 2000 it was placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.[1]

The article focuses more on the Ecological design which is an emerging field that aims to recalibrate what humans do in the world according to how the world works as a biophysical system. Design in this sense is a large concept having to do as much with politics and ethics as with buildings and technology. David Orr describes the scope of design, comparing it to the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Orr goes on to describe the critical role educational institutions might play in fostering design intelligence and what he calls “a higher order of heroism.

Orr talks about great impacts that design will have when the designer or the architect engages in a dialogue with the site in an attempt to identify its potentiality. He describes ecological design as “a kind of navigation aid to help us find our bearings again.” He goes on to say that “getting home means remaking the human presence in the world in a way that honors ecology, evolution, human dignity, spirit, and the human need for connection” (Orr, 30).

David Orr has suggested for all architecture curricula, “a more sophisticated and ecologically grounded understanding of place and culture” (Orr, 23). An understanding that helps to foster design solutions that are not abstract impositions upon the landscape, but that derive from explorations of a specific place and the ways that built form could reveal and possibly reinforce a cultural narrative. In this case the measurable indicators would fall into two broad categories: the ability to go beyond the more traditional methods of site analysis and represent the experiential character of the site, and the ability to use these perceptions in the sensitive integration of buildings within the landscape.

The article is a very easy read which demonstrate that it is not only for people who are engaged in the design or any related field but for everyone.

The School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore

The School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore got a new building designed by CPG Consultants. It’s covered with a green roof that blends with the environment and serves as a gathering place. The unique form of the roof elegantly touches the ground making it easy to access. What is more, it also insulates the building and collects rainwater to irrigate itself an the surrounding landscape. The glass facade provides a lot of daylight for studios and classrooms and at the same time cuts off the heat. The shape of the building is simple. The whole concept is made out of three curvy shapes that form an atrium in the heart of the school which is being cooled by pools of water and fountains. Flawless.( http://www.arnewde.com/architecture-design/green-turfed-roofscape-school-of-art-by-cpg-consultants-in-singapore)

Formal Strategies 2009

September 16, 2009