Synopsis

Gordon Matta-Clark has been described as ‘the only true Deconstructivist architect’, James Wines, The Slippery Floor, in Andreas Papadakis (ed), Deconstruction; Omnibus Volume, Academy Editions, London 1989, p.138 since he worked within existing buildings. The philosopher Jacques Derrida critiqued literary texts, by such figures as Plato and Nietzsche, by means of Deconstruction, describing these original writings as ‘archetexts’. It follows that a Deconstructionist approach in architecture would require identification of an ‘archetype’, acting in the same way as Derrida’s archetext. Since Matta-Clark worked within existing buildings, these could be considered to be his archetypes.

Deconstruction suggests a taking apart of structure, be it in literary terms, a conceptual structure, as in Derrida’s writings, or in building terms, a physical structure. However, Matta-Clark’s building incisions avoided damage to the structure, and as such could not be described as truly Deconstructive.

Mark Wigley believes Deconstructivist architecture to be related to the Russian Constructivism of the 1920’s. This Movement based its work upon the principles of space, time and distance, whereas paradoxically Wigley believes Deconstructivist architecture to be the result of some sort of ‘alien’ which has caused a contamination of the architectural form. Mark Wigley, Deconstructivist Architecture, in Andreas Papadakis (ed), Deconstruction; Omnibus Volume, op. cit., p.133

Using the same terms, Matta-Clark’s work could be described as a contamination of architectural composition, or de-composition. Decomposition is the breakdown of matter, and is inherently linked with entropy, the measure of disorder. This element of Matta-Clark’s work has similarities with the work of Robert Smithson, which was inscribed with an understanding of the processes of disorder and entropy.

Parallells have also been drawn between the work of Gordon Matta-Clark and the American architect Frank Gehry. in James Wines, The Slippery Floor, op. cit., p.137 Gehry’s work often exhibits a fusion of Constructivism and Cubism, giving the impression that the buildings are in a continuing flux of development;

…by emphasizing the feeling [of ‘freshness’] that the details are still in the process: that the building hasn’t stopped.

Germano Celant, Frank Gehry; Buildings and Projects, Rizzoli, New York 1985, p.134

This dissertation will examine the key works of Gordon Matta-Clark, placing this within the philosophical framework of Deconstruction and Deconstructivism, and also the artistic/architectural framework of the work of Robert Smithson and Frank Gehry.

The conclusions will aim to refine the definitions, and discuss the applicabilities to architecture, of the philosophies of Deconstruction and Deconstructivism.

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