Philippe Rahm (F)

 
 

Constructed atmospheres


"We live submerged at the bottom of an ocean of air."
Evangelista Torricelli, 1644
 
Architects regularly claim that the main subject of their discipline is “space.” Indeed, this is traditionally what differentiated architecture from sculpture: we can enter inside a work architecture where we have to stay outside of a work of sculpture: in front of it. If sculpture deals with the solid and its forms, architecture must treat the void and its atmosphere. But until recently, the architects have been unable to define the void in another way than designing the solid around it, because they had no real knowledge of the space, they didn't really know this hollow in between the walls that they could neither catch nor see. But the vacuum has gradually won thickness: with Torricelli and Blaise Pascal in the17th century the air has became heavy; in the 18th century, with Antoine Lavoisier and Daniel Rutherford, it became chemically decomposed into elementary particles of oxygen or nitrogen; it was charged by bacteria of a biological value with Louis Pasteur in the 19th century, and modulated by electromagnetic waves in the 20th century.
 
If the architects of the past were reduced to work on the solid, today we are more and more able to work directly on space itself and to design its atmosphere by shaping temperature, smell, light or steam. For Philippe Rahm architectes, architecture is becoming the art of building atmospheres.

photo by Schlomoff