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The Translation of Architecture, the Production of Babel Author(s): Mark Wigley Source: Assemblage, No. 8

The Translation of Architecture, the Production of Babel Author(s): Mark Wigley Source: Assemblage, No. 8 (Feb., 1989), pp. 6-21 Published by: The MIT Press

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Mark Wigley teachesarchitectural theory

and design at Princeton University. He wasthe associate curatorof the show, and coeditorof the catalogue, Deconstructivist

Architecture, Museumof ModernArt.

1. Max Ernst, "Marcelineand

Marie (of one voice): 'It seems

to me the sky is falling into my


petite fille qui voulut entrer au

carmel, 1930







Architecture, the




How then to translatedeconstructionin architecturaldis-

course? Perhaps it is too late to ask this preliminaryques-

tion. What is

always left by translation?Not just left behind but left spe- cifically for architecture.What remainsof deconstruction for architecture?What are the remainsthat can be located only in architecture, the last restingplace of deconstruc- tion? The question of translation is, after all, a question of survival.Can deconstructionsurvivearchitecture?

left to translate? Or, more important, what is


It is now over twenty years since Derrida'sfirstbooks were published. Suddenly his workhas startedto surfacein architecturaldiscourse. This appears to be the last dis- course to invoke the name of Derrida. Its reading seems the most distantfrom the originaltexts, the final addition to a colossal stackof readings, an additionthat marksin some way the beginning of the end of deconstruction, its limit if not its closure.

Aftersuch a long delay - a hesitation whose strategic nec-

cessity must be examined -

readDerridain architecture.But it is a reading that seems at once obvious and suspect. Suspect in its very obvious- ness. Deconstruction is understoodto be unproblematically architectural.There seems to be no translation, but just a metaphorictransfer, a straightforwardapplication of theory from outside architectureto the practical domain of the architecturalobject. The hesitationdoes not seem to have

there is now such haste to


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been producedby some kind of internalresistanceon the part of that object. On the contrary, there is no evidence of work, no taskfor the translator, no translation.Justa literal application, a transliteration.Architectureis under- stood as a representation of deconstruction, the material representation of an abstractidea. The recent reception of Derrida's workfollows the classical teleology from idea to material form, from initial theory to final practice, from presence to representation.Architecture, the most material of the discourses, seems the most detachedfrom the origi- nal work, the most suspect of the applications, the last application, the representational ornamentthat cannot

influence the traditionit

much as it revealsof the structurebeneath. The last layer, just an addition, no translation.Yet.

But how to translate?Deconstruction is no more than a subversionof the architectural logic of additionwhich

into play a certain thought of translation.But one cannot simply consider translationoutside and above either deconstructionor architecture.The question immediately becomes complicated. There is no hygienic startingpoint, no superiorlogic to apply. There are no principles to be found in some domain that governs both deconstructive discourseand architecturaldiscourse. Nevertheless, certain exchanges are alreadyoccurring between them. Architec- ture, translationand deconstructionare already bound together,alreadydefining an economy whose pathological symptoms can be studied. It is a matterof identifying the logic of translationthat is already in operation. Since there

is no safe place to begin, one can only enter the economy and trace its convoluted geometry in orderto describethis scene of translation.

is added to, a veneer masking as


This can be done by locating that moment in each dis- course where the other is made thematic, where the other comes to the surface. The line of argument that surfaces there can then be folded backon the restof the discourse

to locate other

not simply below the surface. They are within the surface

itself, knotted together to form the surface.To

involves slippagealong faultlines ratherthan excavation. As there are no principles above or below the convoluted folds of this surface, it is a matterof following some circu-

locate them

layers of relations. These hidden layers are

assemblage 8

lar line of inquiry, of circulating within the economy, within the surfaceitself.


Translationsurfacesin deconstructivediscoursewhen Derrida,following Walter Benjamin's The Task of the Translator,argues that translationis not the transference, reproduction, or image of an original. The originalonly survivesin translation.The translationconstitutesthe original it is addedto. The original calls for a translation which establishesa nostalgia for the innocence and the life it never had. To answerthis call, the translationabusesthe original, transforming it.

. andforthe notionof translation, we wouldhaveto substi-

tutea notionof transformation: a regulated transformationof one

languagebyanother, of one text by another.We neverwill have,

andin factneverhave had, a 'transport' of puresignifieds from

one language to another, orwithinone andthe same language, thatthe signifying instrumentwouldleave virgin anduntouched.

There is some kind of gap in the original which the trans- lation is called in to cover over. The original is not some organicwhole, a unity. It is alreadycorrupted,already fis- sured. The translationis not simply a departure from the

original, as the original is already exiled from itself. Lan- guage is necessarilyimpure. Alwaysdivided, it remainsfor- eign to itself. It is the translationthat produces the myth of purityand, in so doing, subordinatesitself as impure. In constructing the original as original, the translationcon- structsitself as secondary, exiled. The supplementary trans-

lation which appears as a violation of workis actually the possibility of that

lence to the original is a violent fidelity, a violence called

for by the originalprecisely to constructitself as pure. The

abuse of

the text. Translation exploits the conflict within the origi-


the purity of the verypurity. Its vio-

the text is called for by an abuse already within

to present the original as unified.

Consequently, in translation, the text neither lives nor dies, it neither has its originallife-giving intention revived (presentation) nor is it displacedby a dead sign (representa- tion). Rather, it just lives on, it survives.This survivalis organizedby a contractthat ensuresthat translationis nei-


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ther completed nor completely frustrated.2The contractis the necessarily unfulfilled promise of translation.It defines

a scene of incomplete translation, an incompletion that binds the languages of the original and the translation together in a strangeknot, a double bind. This constitu- tional bond is neither a social contractnor a transcenden- tal contractabove both languages. Neither culturalnor acultural, it is other than culturalwithout being outside culture. The negotiable social contractswithin which lan- guage operatespresuppose this non-negotiable contract which makes language possible, establishing the difference


between them possible.

languages while making certain exchanges

This translationcontractis not independent of the lan- guages whose economy it organizes. It is inscribedwithin both languages. Not only is the originalalreadycorrupt, alreadydivided, but translationis alreadyoccurring across those divisions. The gap between languagespassesthrough each language. Because language is alwaysalreadydivided, inhabited by the other, and constantlynegotiated with it, translationis possible.' The translationwithin a language makes possible translationoutside it. Which is to say that one language is not simply outside the other. Translation occurs acrossa gap folded within ratherthan between each language. It is these folds that constitute language. The contractis no more than the geometry of these folds, the organization of the gaps.

Consequently, any translationbetween architectureand deconstructiondoes not occur between the texts of archi- tecturaldiscourseand those of philosophical discourse.4 Rather, it occupies and organizes both discourses.Within each there is an architecturaltranslationof philosophy and

a philosophical translationof architecture.To translate deconstructionin architecturaldiscourseis not, therefore, to faithfully recoversome original, undividedsense of deconstruction.5 Rather, it is one of the abusesof the texts signed by Derridathat constitutesthem as originals. To translatedeconstructionin architecturaldiscourseis to examine the gaps in deconstructive writing that demand an architecturaltranslationin orderthat those texts be consti- tuted as deconstructive.The architecturaltranslationof deconstructionis literally the production of deconstruction.


This production must be organizedby the terms of a contractbetween architectureand philosophy which is inscribedwithin the structureof both in a way that defines

a unique scene of translation.


A preliminary sketch of this scene can be drawn by devel-

oping Heidegger's account of the relationship between architectureand philosophy. Heidegger examines the way

in which philosophy describesitself as architecture.Kant's

Critiqueof Pure Reason, for example, describesmeta- physics as an "edifice"erected on secure foundationslaid on the most stable ground. Kantcriticizes previousphilos- ophers for their tendency to "complete its speculative struc- tures as speedily as may be, and only afterwardsto enquire whether these foundationsare reliable."6The edifice of metaphysics has fallen apart and is "in ruins"because it

has been erected on "groundless assertions" unquestion- ingly inherited from the philosophical tradition.To restore

a secure foundation, the critique startsthe "thoroughprep- arationof the ground"' with the "clearing, as it were, and levelling of what has hitherto been wasteground."8 The edifice of metaphysics is understoodas a grounded structure.

Heideggerargues that Kant's attempt to lay the foundations

is the necessary taskof all metaphysics. The question of

metaphysics has always been that of the ground(grund) on which things stand even though it has been explicitly for-

mulated in these terms only in the modern periodinaugu-

rated by

attempt to locate the ground. Its history is that of a succes- sion of differentnames (logos, ratio, arche, etc.) for the ground. Each of them designates"Being," which is under-

stood as

of the ground as "supportingpresence" for an edifice. It

searchesfor "that upon which everythingrests, what

is always there for every being

Heidegger, metaphysics is no more than the

of ground-as-support.

Metaphysics is the question of what the ground will with- stand, of what can stand on the ground. The motif of the edifice, the groundedstructure, is that of standingup.

Descartes. Metaphysics is no more than the

presence. Metaphysics is the identification

as its support."9 For



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Philosophy is the constructionof propositions that stand up. The ability of its constructsto stand is determined by the condition of the ground, its supportingpresence. Heideggerrepeatedly identifies presence with standing. The "fundamental" question of metaphysics(why there are beings ratherthan nothing) asksof a being "on what does it stand?"'1Standing up through constructionmakesvisible the condition of the ground.

But in Heidegger'sreading, constructiondoes not simply make visible a ground that precedes it. The kind of ground clearing Kant attempts does not simply precede that con- structionof the edifice. The ground is not simply indepen- dent of the edifice. The edifice is not simply addedto the

ground; it is not simply an

building does not stand on a ground that preceded it and on which it depends. Rather, it is the erection of the building that establishesthe fundamentalcondition of the ground. Its structuremakes the groundpossible." The ground is constituted ratherthan revealed by that which appears to be added to it. To locate the ground is necessar-

ily to constructan edifice. Consequently, philosophy's suc-

cessive relayings of the foundation do not

defined edifice.12 Rather, it is a matterof abandoning the traditionalstructure by removing its foundation.I3 The

form of the edifice changes as the groundchanges.

addition. For Heidegger, a

preserve a single,

Having cleared the ground, Kant must reassessits load- bearingcapacity and "lay down the complete architectonic plan" of a new philosophy in orderto "build upon this foundation. "14 The edifice must be redesigned.Relaying the foundationsestablishesthe possibility of a different edifice. For Heidegger, the laying of the foundationis the

"projection of the intrinsic possibility of metaphysics"'5 through an interrogation of the condition of the ground. This interrogation is the projection of a plan, the tracing of

an outline, the drawing, the

drawing of the design out of the ground. Interrogating the condition of the ground defines certainarchitectoniclim- its, certain structural constraintswithin which the philoso-

pher must workas a designer. The philosopher is an architect, endlessly attempting to produce a grounded structure.

designing of an edifice, the

assemblage 8

In these terms, the history of philosophy is that of a series of substitutionsfor structure. Every referenceto structureis

a referenceto an edifice erectedon a ground, an edifice from which the ground cannot simply be removed. The motif of the edifice is that of a structurewhose free play is constrained by the ground. The play of representations is

limited, controlled, by presence: "The concept of

structureis in fact the concept of a play basedon a funda-

mental ground, a play constitutedon the basisof a funda-


is beyond the reach of play.16Philosophy is the attempt to

restrainthe free play of representationby establishing the architectoniclimits providedby the ground. It searchesfor

the most stable ground in orderto exercisethe greatest control over representation.

The metaphor of grounded structure designates the funda- mental project of metaphysics to produce a universallan- guage that controls representation, a logos. Heidegger identifies the original sense of the word logos as "gathering" in a way that lets things stand, the standing of construc- tion. The link between structureand presenceorganizes traditionalaccounts of language. The means by which lan- guage is grounded is always identifiedwith structure.

Metaphysics maintains its protocol of presence/presenta- tion/representation with an account of language that privi- leges speech over writing. While speech is promoted as presentation of pure thought, writing is subordinatedas representation of speech. Speech is identifiedwith struc-

ture which

bonded to.

speech, is identifiedwith ornamentthat represents the

structureit is addedto. If writing ceases

it loses its bond with speech, it becomes representation

detachedfrom pure presence, attachedto the structurelike an ornament referringaway from the structure.The proto- col of metaphysicssustainedby the traditionalaccount of language as thought/speech/phoneticwriting/nonphonetic writing is established by the architecturalmotif of ground/ structure/ornament.

Metaphysics is dependent on an architectural logic of support. Architectureis the figure of the addition, the structural layer, one element supportedby another.


immobility and a reassuringcertitude, which itself

makesvisible the condition of the ground it is Phonetic writing, as the representation of

to be phonetic, if


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Metaphysics's determinationof the ground-as-supportpre- supposes a vertical hierarchy from ground through struc- ture to ornament. The idea of support, of structure, is dependent on a certain view of architecturewhich defines

a range of relationships from fundamental (foundational) to supplementary(ornamental). With each additional layer, the bond is weaker.The structureis bonded to the ground more securely than the ornament is bonded to the struc- ture. But as the distance from the ground becomes greater, the threatto the overall structurediminishes. The vertical hierarchy is a mechanism of control that makesavailable the thought of the ground-as-support which is metaphysics.

Structuremakes present the ground. Structureis ground- ing, submission to the authority of presence. Ornament either represents the grounding of structureor deviates

from the line of support,detaching itself from the ground

in orderto represent that which is other than

the structure.

Philosophy attempts to tame ornamentin the name of the ground, to control representation in the name of presence. The philosophical economy turns on the statusof orna- ment. It is the structure/ornament relationship that enables us to think of support, and thereby, to think of the ground.


The strategicimportance of the architectural metaphor dis- cussed above emerges when Heidegger examines the status

of art. Metaphysics's determinationof ground-as-support also determinesart as a merely representative "addition"to

a utilitarian object, a "superstructure" added to the "sub- structure" which, in turn, is added to the ground. The

architectural metaphororganizes this relationship: "It seems almost as though the thingly element in the art work

is like the substructureinto and upon which the other,

authentic element is built."" It is the "support" to which

the artworkis added, the presentation of the ground to

which the artworkis

added as a representation.

But it is not just the

is understoodin statusof art as a

ics treatsart itself as a superstructure added to the substruc- ture of philosophy. Metaphysics understandsitselfas a grounded structureto which is attachedthe representa-

internalstructureof the art object that

these architectural terms, it is also the

discourse. Heidegger notes that metaphys-


tional ornament of art. It subordinatesthe arts, and there- fore architecture,by employing the vertical hierarchy dependent on a certain understanding of architecture.Art is subordinated by being located furthestfrom the ground.

Architecture,then, plays a curious

to pass between philosophy and art in

strategic role. It is able

a unique way. It is metaphor circulates


between and within the two systems, complicating them as it folds back on itself. A convoluted economy is sustained

by the description of architectureas ornamented structure,


while philosophy describesitself as architecture.Philos- ophy describesitself in terms of that thing which it


in a kind of translation.The

enables art to be subordinatedto philosophy, even

Heideggerargues that art is

philosophical traditionthat subordinatesit to the level of

ornament. This convolution is doubled in the case of

architectureitself. Metaphysicsorganizes itself around an


account of architectureoutside itself which it then appeals

to as an

ture. As Derrida argues, in reading Kant'suse of the archi- tectural metaphor,philosophy "represents itself as part of its

part, as an art of Architecture.It re-presentsitself, detaches

itself, dispatches an emissary, one

to bind the whole, to fill up or to heal the whole which

has suffered detachment."'8 It does so to cover up some

kind of gap, some internal division. Metaphysicsproduces

the architectural object

support in orderto veil its own lack of support, its ungrounded condition. Philosophyrepresents itself as architecture, it translatesitself as architecture,producing itself in the translation.The limits of philosophy are established by the metaphorical statusof architecture.

actually "foundational"to the

of the object as grounded structure.It projects an

outside authority. It literallyproduces an architec-

part of itself outside itself

as the paradigm of ground-as-

Philosophy drawsan edifice, ratherthan drawson an edifice. It produces an architectureof groundedstructure which it then uses for support,leaning on it, resting within it. The edifice is constructedto make theory possible, then subordinatedas a metaphor in orderto defer to some higher, non-materialtruth. Architectureis constructedas a material reality in orderto liberatesome higher domain. As material, it is but a metaphor. The most materialcon-


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dition is used to establishthe most ideal order, which is then bound to reject it as merely material.The statusof


rock, the base, the fundamental, invertsto become base in the sense of degraded,material, less than ideal. The verti- cal hierarchy invertsitself. In this inversion, architecture flips from privilegedorigin to gratuitoussupplement, from foundation to ornament.

Philosophy treatsits architecturalmotif as but a metaphor that can and should be discardedas superfluous. The fig- ure of the grounded structureis but an illustration, a use-

ful metaphor that illustratesthe

outlives its usefulness and must be abandonedin the final

form of metaphysics, a representation to be separated from the fundamental presentation, a kind of scaffolding to be

discardedwhen the project is the outline of the building, a

is structurallynecessary, an

possibility of a closed structureto which it then becomes an unnecessaryappendage. Scaffolding is that piece of structurewhich becomes ornamental.When philosophy reflects upon its own completion, it defines architectureas metaphorical. Metaphysics is the determinationof archi-

tecture as metaphor.

The metaphor of the ground, the bed-

natureof metaphysics but

complete, a framethat traces trace that lackssubstancebut open framethat is the very

But can architecturebe so simply discarded?The use of the figure of structure"is only metaphorical, it will be

said. Certainly. But metaphor is never innocent. It orients

researchand fixes results. When

upon, when it functions, critical reflectionrestswithin it."'9 The very attempt to abandon metaphor involves metaphors. Even the concept that the metaphorical can be detached from the fundamentalis itself metaphorical. Metaphysicsgrounds itself in the metaphors it claims to have abandoned. Metaphor "is the essential weight which

anchors discourse in metaphysics"20 ratherthan a superflu-

metaphor of

ous ornament. Metaphor is fundamental.The the grounded structurein particular cannot be

orderto reveal the ground itself. The "fundamental"is an architectural metaphor, so architecturecannot be aban-

doned in favorof the fundamental.


Thus, the criteriafora classificationof

areborrowedfroma derivative philosophical discourse

the spatial model is hit



assemblage 8

are metaphorical,resistingeverymeta-metaphorics, thevaluesof

a concept,foundation, and

corresponds to thedesirefora firmandultimate ground, a terrain

to build on, the earthas the support foran artificialstructure.2'

Philosophy can define only a part of itselfas non- metaphoricalby employing the architectural metaphor. This metaphororganizes the statusof metaphor. In so doing, it organizes the traditionof philosophy that claims to be able to discardit. Architectural figures cannot be detached from philosophical discourse.The architectural metaphor is not simply one metaphoramong others. More than the metaphor of foundation, it is the foundational metaphor. It is thereforenot simply a metaphor.

The architecturalmotif is bound to philosophy. The bond

is contractual, not in the sense of an agreementsigned by two parties, but a logical knot of which the two parties are but a side effect. More than the termsof exchange within

and between these discourses, it

a discourse.The translationcontractbetweenarchitecture and philosophy worksboth ways. Each constructsthe other as an origin from which they are detached. Each identifies the other as other. The other is constructedas a privileged origin which must then be discarded.In each there is this moment of inversion.

This primalcontract, which is neither a

turalartifactnor an atemporal, acultural principle, estab- lishes the possibility of a social contractthat separates architectureand philosophy and constitutesthem as dis- courses. The eventual statusof architectureas a discipline began to be negotiatedby the firsttextsof architectural

theory, which drewon the canons of the philosophical tra- dition to identify the proper concern of the newly consti- tuted figure of the architectwith drawing(disegno) that mediates between the idea and the building, the formal

Whatis fundamental

produces each discourseas

contingent, cul-



material, the soul and the body, the




practical. Architecture -

architectural drawing -

is neither simply a mechanical art bound to the bodily


ideas, but is their reconciliation, the bridge between the two. Architectural theory thus constructsarchitectureas a bridge between the dominant oppositions of metaphysics and constitutesitself by exploiting the contractualpossibil-

of utility, nor a liberalart operating in the realm of


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ity already writteninto the philosophical traditionwherein it describesitself as architecture.

It is not simply that architecturehas some familiarunam-

material reality that is drawn upon by philosophy.

Rather,philosophy drawsan architecture,presents a cer- tain understanding, a certain theory, of architecture.The

terms of the contractare the prohibition of a different

description of

dissimulation of the object.

To describethe privileged role of architecturein philoso- phy is not to identify architectureas the origin from which philosophy derives, but ratherto show that the condition effected when philosophy infects itself from outside by drawing on architectureis internalto architectureitself. Architectureis cut from within, and philosophy unwit- tingly appeals to architecture precisely for this internal torment.


the architectural object, or rather, the

The concern here is to locate certaindiscursive practices repressed within the pathological mechanisms of this econ- omy, to trace the impact of anotheraccount of architecture hidden within the tradition. Deconstructionis not outside

the tradition. It achieves its force preciselyby inhabiting

tradition, and therebyoperating in terms of the con-


tract. The question is, what relationship does deconstruc-

tion assume with the account of architecture repressedby that tradition?

The translationof deconstructionin architecturedoes not

simply occur acrossthe philosophy/architecture divide. It is

occurring within each discourse.

ply generating a new description of the architectural object

in architecturaldiscoursebut ratherof locating the account


ing. It is the differencebetween this account and that of traditional philosophy that marksthe precise natureof

deconstruction'sinhabitationof philosophy. The limits of deconstructionare established by the account of architec- ture it unwittinglyproduces.

architecture alreadyoperative within deconstructivewrit-

It is not a matterof sim-


As architectureis bound up into language,22 this account can be located precisely in the discussionof translation


itself. Inasmuch as deconstruction tampers with the philo- sophical ideal of translation, it tampers with the ideal of architecture.

Derrida'saccount of translationis organized aroundan architectural figure: the tower of Babel. The failureof the tower marksthe necessity for translation, the multiplicity of languages, the free play of representation, which is to say the necessity for controlling representation. The col- lapse of the tower marksthe necessity for a certaincon- struction. The figure of the toweracts as the strategic intersectionof philosophy, architecture,deconstruction, and translation.

The tower is the figure of philosophy because the dreamof philosophy is that of translatability.23Philosophy is the ideal of translation.But the univocal language of the buildersof the tower is not the language of philosophy; it is an imposed order, a violent imposition of a single lan- guage.24 The necessity of philosophy is defined in the col- lapse ratherthan in the project itself. As the desire for translation producedby the incompletion of the tower is never completely frustrated, the edifice is never simply demolished. The building project of philosophy continues but its completion is foreverdeferred.

The tower is also the figure of deconstruction. Since deconstructioninhabits philosophy, subverting it from

within, it also inhabitsthe figure of

in the tower, transforming the representation of its con- struction. Inasmuch as philosophy is the ideal of transla- tion, deconstructionis the subversionof translation.25That subversionis found within the conditions for philosophy, the incompletion of the tower:"The deconstructionof the Tower of Babel, moreover,gives a good idea of what deconstructionis: an unfinished edifice whose half- completed structuresare visible, letting one guess at the scaffolding behind them."26Deconstruction identifiesthe inability of philosophy to establishthe stable ground, the deferralof the origin which prevents the completion of the edifice by locating the untranslatable, that which lies between the original and the translation.

But the tower is also

the tower. It is lodged

the figure of architecture.The neces-

sity of translationis the failure of building that demands a


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supplementationby architecture. Just as it is the precondi- tion for philosophy, understoodas building (presentation), translationalso marksthe necessity for architecture (repre-

sentation), but as a representation that

essence of building, an architecturethat represents the

ground in its absence:"Ifthe tower had been completed

there would be no

the tower makes it possible for architectureas well as the multitude of languages to have a history."27 The possibility of architectureis bound up with the forever incomplete

project of philosophy. Philosophy requires the account of building as grounded and architectureas detached precisely because of this incompletion. Structuralfailure produces the need for a supplement, the need for a building/archi- tecture distinction, the need for architecture.Architecture is the translationof building that representsbuilding to itself as complete, secure, undivided.

speaks of the

architecture. Only the incompletion of

Since the tower is

ture, and


ing the difference. The once discretedomains become entangled to the extent that the taskbecomes to identify the convoluted mechanism of translationthat produces the sense of separate identities. This mechanism must be

embedded in the scene of translationwhich bearson the statusof structure.

the figure of deconstruction,architec-

translation, the question shifts from identifying

common ground between them, the identity, to locat-

Translationbetween the discoursesis made possibleby a breakdownin the sense of structurethat is the currency

within them. Derridaargues that the incompletion of the tower is the very structureof the tower. The tower is

deconstructed by

original is marked by the requirement to be translated"28 and that it "in no way suffersfrom not being satisfied, at

least it does not sufferinsofaras it is the very structureof the work."29There is a gap in the structurethat cannot be

filled, a gap that can only be covered over. The alwaysalready marked by a flaw inasmuch as it This is a displacement of the traditionalidea of

Structureis no longer simply grounding. It is no longer a

a convoluted line. The structureis

vertical hierarchy, but

no longer simply standing on the ground. The building standson an abyss.

tower is is a tower. structure.

establishing that "the structureof the

assemblage 8

This argument follows Heidegger'sattempt to dismantle the edifice of metaphysics in orderto revealthe condition of the ground on which it stood. In doing so, he raisesthe

possibility that the ground(grund)might actually be a con-

cealed "abyss"(abgrund) so that metaphysics is in ignorance of the instability of the terrainon

erected:"we move over this ground as over a flimsily cov-


ground ratherthan the interrogation of it.

Heidegger's laterwork developed this possibility into a principle. He argues that philosophy has been in a stateof "groundlessness" ever since the translationof the ancient Greek terms into the language of metaphysics. This trans- lation substitutedthe original sense of ground with that of the sense of ground as support,ground as supportingpres-

ence to

physics is groundlessprecisely because it determinesthe ground as support. The original sense of logos has been lost. With metaphysics, the origin is seen as a stable ground ratherthan an abyss. The "modern" crisis, the groundlessness of the age of technology, is producedby philosophy's ancient determinationof the ground as sup- port for a structureto which representations are added.32 The crisis of representation is producedby the veryattempt to remove representations in orderto revealthe supporting presence of the ground. Man is alienatedfrom the ground preciselyby thinking of it as secure.

Because of the veryfamiliarity of the principle of ground-

as-support, "we

deceitful form of its violence. "

violence. The architecturalmotif of the grounded structure is articulated in a way that effectsthis concealment. The vertical hierarchy is a mechanism of control that veils its own violence.

Heideggerattempts to subvertthis mechanism by rereading the statusof the architectural motif. He argues that the thought of architectureas a simple additionto building actually makes possible the thought of the naked ground as support. Undermining the division between building and architecture displaces the traditionalsense of the ground:

constructed which it is


Metaphysics becomes the veiling of the

which the world is added.31 For Heidegger, meta-

misjudge most readily and persistently the

Metaphysics conceals this

"Butthe natureof the erecting of buildings cannot be understood adequately in termseither of architectureor of


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Wigley 2. Hani Rashid, The Late 1 9 C , 1986 15 This content downloaded from

2. Hani Rashid, The Late 19C, 1986


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engineering construction, nor in terms of a mere combina- tion of the two."34 The thought of that which is neither building nor architecturemakes possible the original ground that precedes the ground as support. The linear logic of addition is confused. The building is not simply added to the ground, the ornament is not simply addedto

the structure, art is vertical hierachy of

luted. The architecturalmotif underminesitself.

not simply addedto philosophy. The ground/structure/ornament is convo-

But while certain Heideggerian moves subvertthe logic of addition by displacing the traditionalaccount of architec- ture, Heideggerultimately contradictsthat possibility, confirming the traditional logic by looking for a stable

structure.Derrida argues that Heidegger is

don the traditionof ground-as-support.Indeed, he retains it in the very account of translationhe uses to identify its


unable to aban-

Atthe very momentwhen

intoLatin Words, at the moment when, at

Greek speech to be lost, he alsomakesuseof a

leastone metaphor, thatof the foundationandthe

ground of the Greek experienceis, he says,lacking in this'trans-

lation.'WhatI have

tratesall the difficultiesto

of the ground for justanything?35

Heidegger is

denouncing translation

anyrate, he declares

'metaphor.' Of at

ground. The

just too hastily called 'metaphor' concen-

come:doesone speak'metaphorically'

The thought of ground-as-support is not just produce