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Fragments in Libeskind and Wittgenstein

  Rossen Ventzislavov

My paper explores the similar role that fragments play in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy and in Libeskind’s architecture.  The fragment is an infraction of traditional linear approaches to architecture and philosophy and thus affords an alternative critical glimpse into the fabric of each respective field.  The fact that some philosophy and architecture use this device and its critical stance bodes well not only for the futures of the two disciplines but also for the embattled connection between them.  In my paper I try to show that the break with linearity Wittgenstein and Libeskind engage in effectively replaces the ivory towers of architecture and philosophy with texts that help create novel conditions for mutual understanding and appreciation. 

Key Words
architecture, fragment, Libeskind, philosophy, Wittgenstein

1. Introduction

In this paper I will try to outline some continuities between the philosophical method of the late Ludwig Wittgenstein and Daniel Libeskind’s approach to architecture.  My entry point into this is the idea that the works of both the late Wittgenstein and Libeskind constitute a conceptual playing field where accidental occurrences are as welcome as essential ones. While both of my subjects seem prone to pursue unexpected theoretical and material tangents, their doing so speaks of a different concept of order rather than of a preference for absolute anarchy.  The fact that the later Wittgenstein manages to say anything in philosophy and that Libeskind’s theoretical meanderings have led to the creation of tangible buildings testifies to the order I am referring to.

The question of why this new type of order thrives in part on fragments merits attention.  My preliminary answer is that, when introduced intentionally, the fragmentary argument in philosophy, quite like the fragmentary blueprint in architecture, are tools used to externalize the inner workings of the philosophical or architectural process.  The result is that the philosophical problem and the architectural idea incorporate the critical dimension the work affords into the work itself.  I see this as a healthy development in both fields towards a self-reflexivity that makes the relevant works at once more communicative and harder to understand.  In this paper I hope  to justify and elaborate on my answer and, through this, to make a small contribution to the reinvigoration of philosophy’s relevance for architecture.

2. Some general considerations

When one dwells on the crossroads of philosophy and architecture, it is only natural to look not just for overlap but also, hopefully, for a solid connection.  The possible answers to the questions “What is architecture?” and “What is philosophy?” make the demarcation of such a firm common ground a challenging affair.[1]  For example, to  say that architecture is different from philosophy on account of its utilitarian concerns is to simultaneously inform and delimit.  There is no productive way of thinking about architecture as essentially utilitarian, just as it is not expedient to view philosophy as fully divorced from material application.  The counter-examples to such possible argumentative tangents are numerous enough to render the tangents elastic at best. As to philosophy, it is enough to refer to its often legitimate claim to a central role in the advancements of science and society at large. 

An alternative way of approaching the difference is the idea that, in architecture, material utility is always intentional while in philosophy it is very often accidental.  This idea, however, relies on traditional notions of the two practices that fail to bear on most philosophy after Descartes and a great deal of architecture after Le Corbusier. A third possible tangent is the belief that while architecture aims at beauty, philosophy strives for truth.  This particular argument, and specifically the claim that architecture should be mainly concerned with aesthetics, is aptly undermined in Karsten Harries’ paper “Philosophy and the Task of Architecture.”  Ultimately, the fact that architecture and philosophy so often and so maniacally oscillate between theoretical beginnings, formal concerns, and practical ends, instead of settling on the traditional unidirectional progression from theory to utility, with a secondary undercurrent of aesthetic consideration, speaks to the common ground between the two practices, but not enough. 

Instead of exploring the respective sine qua non conditions of philosophy and architecture to find the overlap within them, I have chosen to turn to a shared feature that has historically been anything but essential for the existence of each practice. In fact, the feature in question seems to militate against most of philosophy and architecture as we traditionally know them. The fragment—a device of expression used to subvert argumentative, aesthetic, narrative, and material continuity—is a good candidate for analysis because its intrusion into philosophy and architecture is equally accidental.  By locating the fragment as a common challenge, I hope to be able to outline some notion of overlap that is heretofore unexplored. After all, if a meeting ground should exist for architecture and philosophy, it may be as likely to be found at the core as in the perceived margins of each field.

There are a number of limitations to my study.  First and most obviously, by drawing an analogy between an architect and a philosopher, I risk misunderstanding the precise scope of the intended comparisons.  I may partially alleviate this by qualifying my understanding of fragments in a way that allows for the concept to encompass disparate aspects of the respective theoretical and material practices.  Second, my study is also limited in that it does not tackle the differences between architectural theory and architectural practice in the detail they deserve.  This is partly because the particular architect I discuss is, himself, fond of erasing the difference, but also because of the constraints of my chosen format. Finally, many of my conclusions will be a little hurried; they merit further illustration and explication.  I hope that my general direction will be inspiring enough for readers to pursue these tangents towards a position of greater clarity.   

3. Fragment or whole?

Why the fragment?  It is important first to note that my understanding of a fragment strays from the dictionary meaning of the term.  Etymologically, the word is drawn from the Latin fragmere, whose primary meaning is ‘to break.’  A fragment is thus a piece or, strictly, a piece of debris.  This meaning of the word fails to capture the nature of fragmentarity as I see it.  First, in the primary sense there is the implication that a fragment, be it already broken off or simply potentially separable, always retains the mark of the whole:  it is a fragment of something greater.  In this sense a fragment is  necessarily incomplete and subordinate to the whole that completes it.  Each piece of a jigsaw puzzle can thus be looked upon as a fragment of the puzzle as a whole, every side of the piece contoured so it fits into a general structural program.  But it is clear that, while philosophical and architectural fragments do often lend themselves to such subordination, they are just as often able to resist the expected unity, their outer contours suggesting alternative puzzles or none at all.  Second, the primary meaning of the term differentiates between the essential and the accidental. If a fragment is strictly subordinated to the whole, then it is integral to it as a part of its essence.  This would mean that fragments will be missed if they are, perchance, broken off, but also that errant fragments cannot be easily added to a perceived whole.  Again, this is very much at odds with the accidental nature of the philosophical and architectural fragments I will discuss. 

As a philosophical device, the fragment assumes the critical responsibility to reveal and question the demand for logical linearity.  Constructing an argument, be it syllogistically or in any looser manner, usually involves a strict departure point (wonderment, question, puzzle), an investigation (proof-finding and proof-giving), and finally a destination (conclusion or impasse).  A philosophical fragment would very often refuse this structure in favor of a different kind of unity, one identified as a “chaotic universality.”[2]  It is important thing to notice that philosophical fragments do not neatly fit the dichotomy of whole versus part.  While breaking up established unities or universalities, they can piece up alternative ones.  If a fragment did not communicate with other fragments, that is, if ‘fragment’ were not always used in the plural, it would have to instead be read as an aphorism.[3]  The unity implied by such communication, however, is decidedly not syllogistic or linear. It is instead an opening through which linear arguments are rendered as fields of argumentation, rational constructions that conscript the disparate and often extraneous elements of a context into the statements that the context is brought to illuminate.   

In architecture, in turn, the fragment appears to endanger the classical symmetry between concept and execution.  In the emergence of an architectural plan, only considerations of site, material, design and purpose are absolutely mandatory. The process of arriving at decisions about these is, significantly, most often left out of the final result.  This is not to say that creative conceptualization is immaterial to the final product but only that it is strictly subjected to the futuristic concerns of actual construction.  In architecture, there is a strict temporal order of before and after and, historically, success is measured by the end product.  This criterion, however, has been challenged in the architecture of the last century.  In the early work of Zaha Hadid, for instance, the question “What if the architect designs a building that cannot possibly be built?” fails to mount a reliable normative critique.  In light of such work, the unbuildable is shown, in many ways, to be as architectural as the already built.

In this challenge to the unity of before and after, plan and execution, the fragment plays an important conceptual and material role.  In the material sense, the fragment is an architectural trope as old as architecture.  Any physical structure can come apart, and our imagination reconstructs most that have done so and then judges them on the evidence of the remaining fragments.  This is explained by the fact that, at least in traditional buildings, fragments are usually fully integrated in the aesthetic/utilitarian purpose of the whole.  But this is true only if we choose to accept the whole-versus-part dichotomy I refer to above.  If we do not, there are ways of seeing architectural fragments as ruptures in the homogenous body of a building, that is, as self-standing commentaries on the building’s place in the larger world of designers, builders, and inhabitants.  My discussion of Libeskind’s projects will show that such ruptures are not only conscionable but are already available in the work of the contemporary architect.

Fragments also seem to dissolve the distinction between essence and accident.  What is essential to a blueprint and the possible building are the basic structural forms (point, line, plane, and curve) and their particular aesthetic and technical arrangement in alliance against the pull of gravity, the obstructions of the site, and the demands of projected use.  A fragment, if it manages to transcend the whole, is an accidental feature.  This is not to say that accidents of this sort do not themselves occur by design, but only that the design they serve spills outside the boundaries of the particular blueprint/building.  Therefore, if such fragments should ever come to exist in the fabric of any edifice, accepting the accidental as essential in architecture becomes a matter of scope. 

Looking back at the conceptual aspect of architecture, fragments are even less bound by normative restrictions. The reason for this is that, in conceptualizing a project, the architect is often free to posit an edifice without having to commit to the crude realities of one.  Such positing involves intangible factors, such as the architect’s self-image, motivation to engage in the particular project,  formal considerations, and social entanglements, etc.  Again, these are as accidental to the final result, if it ever materializes, as they are essential to it.[4]  Based on these observations, the fragment becomes a good candidate for the proper medium of the playing out of such factors.

4. Libeskind’s fragmented philosophy

The architecture of Daniel Libeskind has been attacked on account of its seemingly haphazard manner of conceptualization.  In his essay, “Where Now the Architect?”, Neil Jackson expressed such outrage by problematizing the perceived gap between Libeskind’s theory and his built designs.  Jackson focused on the practice of architectural critique and its ever-changing subject.  He bemoaned a particular post-Modern shift whereby architects choose to draw inspiration and insight from philosophy instead of the history of architecture and its illustrious classical examples.[5]  This made it difficult for Jackson to analyze the architecture of someone like Libeskind as architecture.  When viewing the final product of Libeskind’s design of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Jackson suggested that a critic should focus on the building rather than on the arbitrary idiosyncratic forces that conspired into its design.  What is at stake here is the separation of these two aspects of the architect’s work and the need to reinstate the primacy of the end product.

Jackson, in fact, goes on to state that any functional critique of Modern and post-Modern architecture, which has for the most part been absent, should find continuities in the built work of architects and not in their theories.  Still, what Jackson does not seem to notice is that his own critical discontent with Libeskind’s building, voiced without any elaboration, is a function of his discontent precisely with the theoretical underpinnings of Libeskind’s design process.  This misstep becomes possible on account of Jackson’s insistence on the neat separation between architectural theory and practice. In his defense, he cited from Gropius, “The visual arts are being taught by historical and visual methods of ‘appreciation’ and ‘information’ instead of through direct participation in the techniques and processes of making things” (Gropius’s emphasis).[6]  The focus on making things and looking at things made misses the important point that an architect’s web of appreciation and information is also a thing made by the architect.  Furthermore, it is clear that none of Libeskind’s buildings would be the way it is if it were not for the influence of some relevant “immaterial” theoretical modalities.

Jewish Museum in Berlin Façade

It is, admittedly, easy to find cryptic expressions in the writings of Libeskind and often in his buildings, too.  Most such expressions fit the notion of fragmentarity discussed in Section 3 in that they subvert all manner of temporal and structural linearity.  In Jeffrey Kipnis’s Preface to Libeskind’s The Space of Encounter, he placed some of Libeskind’s work entirely outside the tension between unity and fragmentation.[7]  Though Kipnis does not explore the nature of the fragmentary or the perception of it in Libeskind, he implicated “the haphazard mixture of matter and events that constitute Daniel’s single life” into the erasure of that tension.[8]  But even though this erasure is understood to sweep through fragment and unity alike, I think it is precisely the fragment that enacts the haphazard intrusion of the architect’s life into his architectural projects.

As to the specifics of Libeskind’s fragments, they are emphatically autobiographical in two distinct ways.  The first is presented through tangible points of contact, that is, invitations into Libeskind’s life experiences in and outside of architecture. For example, the musical notation sheets he used for the presentation of his Jewish Museum in Berlin are a direct reference to his earlier career as a professional and critically acclaimed accordionist.  As he pointed out in his remembrance of the actual presentation and its reception by the evaluating committee, a conversation that was supposed to be about architecture turned, on the pivot of Libeskind’s use of the musical sheets, into a conversation about music.[9] 

A similarly autobiographical fragment, this time in the form of an anecdote, appears in Libeskind’s proposal for the design of the Felix Nussbaum Haus.[10]  In another project, entitled “Three Lessons in Architecture:  The Machines,” Libeskind explores, possibly via Le Corbusier’s famous pronouncement, the architectural imperative to engage in making a machine. Midway in what appears to be a standard theoretical exposition, he abruptly switches to first-person narrative mode:  “We got up at the crack of dawn, four o’clock in the morning.  We built the machine in a small place without any power tools, just with hand tools; with no electricity, just with candlelight.”[11]  Such sudden digressions, even when directly involved with the project, stand out as fragments of first-person narrative immersion; while revealing something, they reveal someone, that is, the architect at work.

Libeskind’s buildings, themselves, are no less dependent on autobiographical references.  Based on his writings, it becomes clear that the psychological condition of displacement that he retained throughout his family’s relocations is a material influence on his built projects. Therefore, it is safe to speculate that this might be the condition that Libeskind’s architectural voids attempt to comment on.  Another example of biographical reference appears in the official informational release for the unveiling of his Jewish Museum in Berlin, where Libeskind confessed to being personally implicated in the architectural program.[12]  The broken Star of David featured in the building’s overall plan and in the numerous ruptures along its façade can  be looked upon equally as an aberrant architectural shape and an autobiographical fragment.   

Jewish Museum in Berlin Exterior Detail

The second way in which Libeskind’s fragments carry his autobiographical stamp is by his liberal inclusion of all manners of free association into the fabric of his proposals. When, for example, Libeskind interrupts his exposition on machines to tell the story of Cervantes’ gentleman and the eight books he carried in his satchel, the central axis of the essay is temporarily suspended.[13]  The Cervantes fragment, with its suggestion of the virtues of intellectual asceticism, is only relevant to one of the themes in Libeskind’s essay, and only so by implication.  In other words, the unexpected reference demands not only the reader’s attention but also involvement in decoding, together with the author, the logic of the associative stream.  A multitude of similar fragments appear in “Proof of Things Invisible,” a lecture Libeskind gave at the Humboldt University in 1997. The whirl of association here introduces references as disparate as Nabokov’s description of a Berlin beggar, Einstein and Szilard’s attempts at patenting a refrigerator, and the “English heritage lodged in the honeycomb cells of the gigantic, brick clock called London.”[14] 

It is through such disjointed inclusions that our appreciation of each of Libeskind’s projects is routinely brought to question itself—the discontinuous object of scrutiny suggests its own explosive, non-linear manner of criticism. In fact, depending on our readiness to personally engage Libeskind’s intricate character and his fully externalized thought process, our reaction to the works planned or built can fall anywhere between a sense of intimate congeniality and what John Knesl has identified as “formless despair.”[15]  

On the positive side of the scale, where all evaluating committees that have green lit Libeskind designs have hopefully stood, there is the strong sense that Libeskind’s vertiginous prose and his disorienting buildings are a step forward in architecture.  James E. Young proposed a defense of what is identified, in a quote from Vidler, as “the intimation of the fragmentary, the morselated, the broken.”[16]  Young recognizes the infamous voids in Libeskind’s Jewish Museum as a revolutionary way for architecture to engage the visitor/inhabitant:  “They are not meant to instruct, per se, but to throw previously received instruction into question.”[17]  If this is even partially true, Libeskind should be given credit for having cast in concrete the iconoclastic sense of wonder that good philosophy casts in words.    

5. Wittgenstein’s architectural fragments

Wittgenstein’s is not the most prominent example of fragmentary philosophy.  The title belongs to Nietzsche, whose fragments have historically challenged and inspired a much wider and more varied audience.[18]  However, there are two reasons why the example of Wittgenstein is far better suited to my purposes.  The first reason is that Wittgenstein’s philosophical career admits of the same internal conflict that characterizes the work of Libeskind:  they both are compelled to reckon with and then refuse a paradigm of linearity. Where the architect’s fragments, both in theory and practice, subvert the traditional architectural understanding of utility and continuity, Wittgenstein’s fragments from the Blue and Brown Books and onward present a substantial challenge to the Tractatus’ compulsive order.  Wittgenstein is thus, quite unlike Nietzsche or any other thinker, a philosopher where both meanings of the fragmentary—the dictionary one and the alternative one I have proposed—find their place at different times.

The second reason why Wittgenstein gains entry into my discussion is the unique autobiographical dimension of his later work.  As is the case with Libeskind’s “search” for each of his buildings, from a certain point in Wittgenstein’s career, his search for philosophical arguments gained a personal, even confessional dimension.[19]  The analogy carries through the two kinds of autobiographical intervention I have identified above.  Just as with Libeskind, Wittgenstein’s later work is replete with accounts of concrete personal experiences and a wealth of intimate and fanciful mental associations.   

From the preliminary studies for his Philosophical Investigations, and onward,  Wittgenstein’s prose favors what he identified as a method of “sketches and landscapes” over traditional cohesive argumentation.[20]  These sketches stand in sharp contrast to his method in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, whose numbered paragraphs add up to a veritable logical progression.  The change in method is informed by a change in Wittgenstein’s philosophical outlook. The philosophy of the Tractatus assumes the viability of a procedure whereby our world can be mapped in language with the help of logic.  A corollary of this is the belief that philosophical problems can be discarded if they do not conform to logic or can be solved if they do. 

Wittgenstein’s subsequent writings abandon this neat picture altogether.  A recurrent motif in his late philosophy is the notion of our bewitchment with language. The latter is invoked with reference to our futile attempts, in and outside philosophy, to do precisely what the Tractatus suggested we could do, that is, map the world in language.[21]  This ambition and the bewitchment thereof give way to a different concern, that of mining the world and language for insight.  In this, however, language and the world it hoped to capture are not taken to be two separate entities in a symmetrical relation.  Instead, language is recognized as a part of our world and thus inadequate in its attempts to fully elucidate the world.  Wittgenstein’s sketches of landscapes are consequently restless attempts to reckon with a far less logical world than the one the Tractatus imagined.  Just as certainty can effectively be demoted to a “tone of voice,” our willful imposition of our logic over the world is best replaced by the painstaking process of reckoning with all manner of external contingency.[22]  The impenetrability that Wittgenstein’s sketches are often charged with belongs as much to them as it does to their very object of study.

The notion of fragmentarity I discussed above about architecture is fully applicable to Wittgenstein’s sketches. Like Libeskind, Wittgenstein managed to create tangible edifices that rely equally on structure (the landscape) and on fragment (the sketch).  The world of books like Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty at all times retains the first-personal dimension so typical of Libeskind, but it is also as dialogical in its demands on the reader as Libeskind’s written and built works are.[23]   With Wittgenstein, the autobiographical manifests itself through both direct and veiled references to his life but also, and much more frequently, through the compulsive use of wild examples and mental associations.[24]  In his book Mysticism and Architecture:  Wittgenstein and the Meanings of the Palais Stonborough, Roger Paden argued about the biographical and its place in Wittgenstein’s later work.[25]  Paden stated that the autobiographical dimension is not only easy to detect in the works themselves but was also openly embraced by their author.  In fact, on the evidence Paden provided, Wittgenstein seems to have seen his philosophical inquiry as inextricably connected to his life.[26]  

Paden was also interested in the particular ways in which Wittgenstein’s scholarly work drew from his life and vice versa.  The main example here is the embattled connection between Wittgenstein’s first-hand experience as an architect and his work in philosophy.  Paden recognized two different camps amongst Wittgenstein scholars:  those who see the Palais Stonborough as a three-dimensional variant of the Tractatus, one which Wittgenstein’s sister Hermine tellingly called a “house turned logic,” and those, like Anders Munch and Nana Last, who prefer to reverse the causal order and look at the house Wittgenstein built as a bridge “from the linguistic essentialism of the Tractatus toward the pluralism of the Investigations.”[27]  Both can be substantiated with compelling examples.  It is as likely that the stern, mathematical order of the Tractatus was stylistically influential on a house of right angles and punishing symmetries as it is that the very experience of building it may have inspired the paragraphs on the builders’ language game in the beginning of the Investigations.  Ultimately, whichever direction one favors or whatever reconciliation one seeks, it is clear that Wittgenstein’s scholarly endeavors are often readable into his personal life and vice versa.    

All of this is not to say that the connections between Wittgenstein’s fragments and his life are anywhere immediately available.  In fact, it is often even hard to sort out the connections between the fragments themselves.  The formal and substantive subversion of linearity that accounts for the divided reception of Libeskind’s fragments is almost equally present in Wittgenstein’s fragments.  When, for example, in Philosophical Investigations, § 568, Wittgenstein inserted the statement “meaning is a physiognomy,” he placed it under the core paragraph in a double parenthesis. The reader barely needs the punctuation signs to notice that the statement has no direct bearing on anything that comes before and after it.  A similarly disconnected fragment appears amongst a cluster of paragraphs in On Certainty devoted to a discussion of doubt.  The fragment in question reads, “Any ‘reasonable’ person behaves like this.”[28]  It is only through having read the rest of the book, outside the scope of the paragraphs on doubt, that one can begin to understand this interjection.  But still, the very need for an interjection of any import reveals Wittgenstein’s preference for what Avrum Stroll aptly called “the broken text” over traditional linear exposition.[29]

Wittgenstein’s broken text, quite like Libeskind’s architectural equivalent, invites arbitrariness amidst perpetual attempts at articulation.  The accidental element, however, seems to be equally mandated by design and by necessity.  As Wittgenstein explained in his Preface to the Investigations, the multi-directional remarks he compiled are “connected with the very nature of the investigation.”[30]  On the evidence of the book as a whole, the investigation in question is nothing less than an attempt to decipher the world through narrative instantiation and questioning.  In this, the reader’s role is assumed to be an active stance of immersion rather than a passive one of apprenticeship.  In a passage that addresses our predicament in reading Wittgenstein, Peter Hughes cautioned against the common-sense assumption that Wittgenstein is “trying and failing to write a systematic treatise.”  If the reader assumes this, he or she “would become rather like the traveler in a strange country (the example is Wittgenstein’s) who assumed he was looking at fragments and rubble because he had not encountered the sculptural convention of busts, the architectural convention of ruins.”[31]  As I hope I have shown, Wittgenstein’s fragments are necessary for the conveyance of a certain non-linear, topographic unity.  The equivalent feat in architecture is the high probability that, as we speak, Libeskind’s fragments are rewriting the conventions of how we will experience ruins in the future.


Rossen Ventzislavov

Rossen Ventzislavov is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Woodbury University.  His main interests are in aesthetics and the history of philosophy.  His current research focuses on lyrical nonsense in music and on the aesthetic implications of curatorial practice.

Published on May 7, 2012.


[1] In his essay, “Philosophy and the Task of Architecture,” Karsten Harries exposes the challenge at hand in the following way:  “But what does philosophy have to do with architectural concerns?  The question leads to another: what is philosophy? In the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein wrote that philosophical problems have the form ‘I don’t know my way about.’  Of course, not all problems having that form are therefore philosophical, for example,—e.g.  to have lost one’s way in some strange city hardly suffices to make one a philosopher; nor does not understanding some new technology.”  (Karsten Harries, “Philosophy and the Task of Architecture,” Journal of Architectural Education (1984-) Vol. 40, No. 2, Jubilee Issue, Winter, 1987, 29-30.)

[2] A recent entry on Schlegel in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explained the role of the philosophical fragment in the following way:  “For Schlegel, a fragment as a particular has a certain unity (“[a] fragment, like a small work of art, has to be entirely isolated from the surrounding world and be complete in itself like a hedgehog,” Athenaeumsfragment 206), but remains nonetheless fragmentary in the perspective it opens up and in its opposition to other fragments.  Its “unity” thus reflects Schlegel’s view of the whole of things not as a totality but rather as a “chaotic universality” of infinite opposing stances.”  (Allen Speight, “Friedrich Schlegel,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/schlegel/.)

[3] An aphorism is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a concise statement of a principle; a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment.”  The definitive trait of an aphorism is its structural and conceptual insularity from a whole or a context of any sort.  An aphorism can also be said to exhaust the need for further explanation, cross-referencing, and so on.   

[4] In his essay “The Dislocation of the Architectural Self,” David Goldblatt identified Eisenman’s method as textual architecture.  Apart from throwing light on Libeskind’s possible debt to his mentor, this concept announced the ascent of a new architectural condition:  “Such a textual arbiter may even be selected more or less at random and not itself really the product of the will of the selector.  This needs certain qualification, but means that although the selector does not know the full consequences of the text for the architectural project beforehand, he or she is nevertheless willing to accept those consequences even if they violate the architect’s good, traditional sense:  his or her tastes or preferences or those characteristics such as function or harmony, which are traditionally understood to constitute essential architectural conditions.”  (David Goldblatt, “The Dislocation of the Architectural Self,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Autumn, 1991), 344.)

[5] “It is to such universal pronouncements and to writers peripheral to architecture, such as Jacques Derrida or Jean-Francois Lyotard that many contemporary architectural commentators turn for reference, rather than to the built product.  The irony is that much of this writing is done by architects or those working within architectural education.  Surely they, more than anyone, are best equipped to address the building rather than the text?  Complex structures, such as Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin, might beg some explanation beyond the emotive if simplistic concepts upon which they are apparently based.”  (Neil Jackson, “Where Now the Architect?” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Sixth Series, Vol. 13 (2003), 208-9.)

[6] Ibid., p. 217.

[7] “Unity and fragmentation are the two major contrasted modes of twentieth-century composition in architecture as well as painting.  A classic dialectic pair, married and bickering, they are unable to carry on without each other.  The Chamberworks do not move towards unity, nor are they subject to fragmentation.  It took me a while to realize that there was nothing to be broken, no virtual space, no subject matter, no substructure, no geometry.  Lines that do not make bodies cannot be broken.  The discovery of this area outside of unity and fragmentation may be the greatest achievement of the series.”  (Daniel Libeskind, The Space of Encounter (New York:  Universe Publishing, 2000), p. 12.)

[8] Ibid., p. 13.

[9] Ibid., p. 54.

[10] “I remember how shocked I was when I lived in Israel as a child (after we emigrated from Poland), that when we spoke Yiddish on the streets of Tel Aviv—this was in the late 1950’s—somebody would say, “Shhh!  We are Israelis, this is a new place, this is not Poland.  You are in another place now.”  (Ibid., p. 95.)

[11] Ibid., p. 188.

[13] “Cervantes says that Don Quixote met only one gentleman in his travels in Spain.  In all this time (because he was old by the time he died), he met only one gentleman.  He said it was the gentleman in green; he was a gentleman because he travelled with a satchel of only eight books… I still have more than eight books at home but I am getting closer and closer to being Don Quixote’s gentleman.”  (Ibid., p. 191.) 

[14] Ibid., p. 149.

[15] “In Libeskind’s project the principal experience of being catapulted, extruded, and projected along tunnels of tightening space, abruptly intersecting, terminating, changing directions, could strengthen the relation between subject and object by disinstantiating the integration of the subject’s experiences and memories of experience… We are more likely to experience in these violent dislocations a sense of formless despair.”  (John Knesl, “Accidental Classicists:  Freed in Washington, Libeskind in Berlin,” Assemblage, No. 16, (December, 1991), 101.)

[16] James E. Young, “Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin:  The Uncanny Arts of Memorial Architecture,” Jewish Social Studies, New Series, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Winter, 2000), 19.

[17] Ibid., 19.

[18] For an informed look at the influence of Nietzsche’s fragments, see Stephen Barker, “Nietzsche/Derrida, Blanchot/Beckett:  Fragmentary Progressions of the Unnamable,” Postmodern Culture, Volume 6, Number 1 (September 1995).

[19] For more on the confessional nature of Wittgenstein’s later works, see Stanley Cavell, “The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy,” The Philosophical Review, Vol. 71, No. 1 (January, 1962), 67-93.

[20] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, G. E. M.  Anscombe, trans.  (Massachusetts:  Blackwell Publishing, 2001), p. ix.

[21]  “The propositions which one comes back to again and again as if bewitched—these I should like to expunge from philosophical language.”  (Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, G. E. M.  Anscombe, G. H.  von Wright, editors, (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1972), p. 6.)

[22] “Certainty is as it were a tone of voice in which one declares how things are, but one does not infer from the tone of voice that one is justified.”  (Ibid., p. 6.)

[23] M. W.  Rowe in his “Goethe and Wittgenstein” points to the similarities in the communicative approaches of his two subjects:  “One reason why both books encourage the slowest and most considered approach is that they are full of experiments which the reader has to break off and try for—and more specifically on—himself.  Wittgenstein’s tend to be thought experiments, e.g., ‘Make the following experiment: say “It’s cold here” and mean “It’s warm here.”  Can you do it?—And what are you doing as you do it?—And is there only one way of doing it?’” (M. W.  Rowe, “Goethe and Wittgenstein,” Philosophy, Vol. 66, No. 257 (July, 1991), 297.)

[24] Much of Wittgenstein’s associative imagery—the tea pot in the picture (PI, § 297), the loom (PI, § 414), the act of whistling (PI, p. 176), and so on—presents good candidates for oblique autobiographical references.  As to whistling in particular, the reference is double at the least to Wittgenstein’s reported prowess at whistling through elaborate musical pieces and to Ramsey’s famous dictum “What we can't say we can't say, and we can't whistle it either.”

[25] Paden’s book itself attempts a philosophical biography of sorts, revolving around the factors that influenced Wittgenstein’s personal one-off engagement with architecture as designer and building consultant of his sister’s residence.  As such, the book provides valuable insight into Wittgenstein’s approach to the theory and practice of architecture.  Very little of this insight, however, is directly relevant to my study.  In my references to the book I will thus confine myself to the topics in my paper which Paden can further elucidate. 

[26] “Second, Wittgenstein himself clearly did not compartmentalize philosophical problems from the problems presented to him by his own life.  For example, once, during a long evening discussing philosophy with Russell, Wittgenstein began pacing the floor, completely absorbed by some difficult problem.  After some time, Russell, somewhat exasperated, ask [sic] him if he was thinking about philosophical problems or personal problems.  Wittgenstein replied in a way that implied that he could see no way of separating them: ‘Both!’ Third, as I argue below, Wittgenstein himself was interested in the idea of biography and, in his later work, he wrote in a style that could be usefully understood as biographical.”  (Roger Paden, Mysticism and Architecture:  Wittgenstein and the Meanings of the Palais Stonborough (Plymouth:  Lexington Books, 2007), p. 9.)

[27] Roger Paden, Mysticism and Architecture: Wittgenstein and the Meanings of the Palais Stonborough (Plymouth:  Lexington Books, 2007), pp. 35-36.

[28] Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, G. E. M.  Anscombe, G. H.  von Wright, editors, (New York:  Harper Torchbooks, 1972), p. 33.

[29] In his book Moore and Wittgenstein on Certainty, Stroll identified the broken text as “a literary style of writing that is non-systematic, rambling, digressive, discontinuous, interrupted thematically, and marked by rapid transitions from one subject to another.”  (Avrum Stroll, Moore and Wittgenstein on Certainty (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 88.)

[30] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, G. E. M.  Anscombe, trans.  (Massachusetts:  Blackwell Publishing, 2001), p. ix.

[31] Peter Hughes, “Painting the Ghost:  Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, and Textual Representation,” New Literary History, Vol. 19, No. 2, Wittgenstein and Literary Theory (Winter, 1988), 371-384.