The Full Text of My Panel Talk on Book and Project by Ivaana Muse

The MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA
October 12th, 2018


As an architect, the essential argument I would like to talk and discuss on her project is its potential for “ontological architecture” as opposed to its commoditization and its influence on spatial practice in today’s world: As a mother (1) and a woman artist (originally from India in the U.S.), her creative articulation of “her ontic presence”, “her being and experience” in the MIT architectural spaces along with her open intercultural and inclusive mindset offer us this significant potential. In order to elaborate this argument, I would like to begin my talk with her final sentence in her project concept which is related to MIT and its architectural spaces:

          “I have finally opened the pathway of my soul to share what I have felt, heard,                     seen, touched and smelled - to heal, feel transformed and empowered.”

In her project concept, these sentences clearly reflect her sensuous experience during her creative process and her ontological sensitivity to architectural space and built environment which she has experienced. In this respect, one can ask these following questions:

1. What is the importance of ontological sensitivity to architectural space and built environment in today’s world?

2. What is the importance of her project within such a context?

For the first question: In his recent book, “Genealogy of Architecture”, Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture, architecture historian and critic at Columbia University) (2) underlines “problem with the current pervasive drive to commodify the entire world” and its critical influence on architecture. In spite of this critical situation, according to him, “architecture is a singular material culture with its potential to resist this problematic fact. At that point, the focal point for him is “Ontological Architecture” (3). On this basis, he emphasizes that “architecture is consummated by the body-being” at both a sensuous and a referential level rather than as an aesthetic manifestation that is exclusively visual and abstract. In parallel to these comments, in his review on this book, Carlos Brillembourg states that ontological sensitivity and the concept of  “body-being” are linked to our mobility in ‘space’” through touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling while actively moving-reading the represented spatial sequence. (4).

Following these statements and comments in architecture, for the second question: If we turn our attention to project created and conducted by Ivaana, her engagement with architectural space extends beyond its formal, functional and structural construction and their manifestations along with her creative spatial awareness. Her experience and close reading on architectural spaces refers to a soulful connection with herself and her built-environment through her personal memories conversations with her past and in particular, her mom and dad exploration of her feminine creativity through her interconnected, diverse, multilayered intellectual perspective, poetic language, visual and aesthetic sensibility and illustrative skills. I think that one of the best examples of her ontic presence (with her son) in an architectural space is her experience at the Corridor Lab (Strobe Alley) in the MIT building 4, while visiting her past, her cultural background through a conversation with her dad. Having a display of personal artifacts from the life and works of Doc  Edgerton, she describes this architectural space as the most unusual place she had been to and articulates how her senses were awakened to the writing her narratives through the digital collections of Doc Edgerton, light, images and photographs in the Lab Environment.

All of those things invite her to think about Japanese porcelain with semi translucent design which was her dad's absolute favorite as well as the Rinpa Japanese School of Art, its interdisciplinary expressionism, multilayered meanings in the visual motifs and the dynamism of spatial compositions in art works produced by the school, and how all of them have influenced her creative expression. The Rotch Library at MIT can be regarded as another significant example within this picture: As she elaborates in her book, her presence at the Rotch library goes beyond visual, artistic exploration and allows her body and mind to surround emotionally and spiritually within this spatial context. Tracing what shadows and light mean to her, culturally, aesthetically and spiritually, she “visits” her personal memory with her mom and her eastern cultural upbringing. On the one hand, “her experience in this space” reminds Ivaana her mom who used to arrange candles and lanterns at the right places for them to never feel the constrictions of space in the absence of light. One the other hand, with 'celestial light” created by “William Wordsworth (one of the design architects of the building where the Rotch Library is located), she expresses how shadows were an important part of connecting a real experience to the purely imaginative consciousness in her eastern cultural upbringing. Finally, all of these pieces in her book and project become a creative part of her poetic expression, lyrical storytelling and her songs.

In addition to all of those things, she also invites us to remember and explore not only MIT scholars, professors and researchers but academicians and artists around the world who are somehow connected to MIT in some unique or magical way throughout her creative journey “here”.

With this “inclusive, interconnected and open intercultural mindset”, her creative journey from India to the US, more specifically, to MIT (with his son and spouse) also strongly underlines how “social, cultural, artistic and disciplinary diversity” is so crucial to go beyond “conventional limits of creativity. I think and believe that we strongly need such a “diverse, inclusive and multicultural” perspective not only in art but also in architecture, science, in our society and our world for our collective future. I think that her sentences, in my interview with her (5), clearly summarize this fact through her emphasis on “human existence”:

          “…I unbiasedly wish that our society can expand its perspective and that there is                an open intercultural exchange in every strata of human existence…”

Finally, I believe that her book and project will open up new horizons in students, scholars and professors in architecture education in order to comprehend spatial awareness and its creative, humanist potential, because the architectural design studio is a mental place of dialogue, where all sorts of knowledge (scientific, technological, and more importantly, humanistic), skills and attitudes are integrated.

As an architect, I have re-explored “the memory of MIT”, “its architectural spaces, their narratives”, and more importantly, how “interdisciplinary and multicultural mindset” can help us to “explore” the creative potential of spaces. Dear Ivaana, thank you for your dedication to this amazing project with your family, and for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts.
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Meral Ekincioglu, Ph.D.
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Notes:
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(1) As she underlines in my interview with her, her son who is a senior at MIT is at the very core of her existence. For my interview with Ivaana Muse on her project, see,
https://cdn.newswire.com/files/x/92/dd/93fe3d9d317d3a2e2b99cff5271c.pdf, accessed on October 12th, 2018.
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(2) Frampton, K., 2015, A Genealogy of Modern Architecture: Comparative Critical Analysis of Built Form, Lars Muller Publications, p. 27.
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(3) ibid. p.18.
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(4) Carlos Brillembourg, Kenneth Frampton tracks the evolution of modern architecture in his new book,https://archpaper.com/2016/08/a-genealogy-of-modern-architecture-review,accessed on October 10th, 2018.
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(5) See the link on my interview with Ivaana Muse .
Talk by Ivaana Muse on her project, the MIT Museum.
Book by Ivaana Muse on her project.
Panelists, the MIT Museum.
Book by Ivaana Muse on her project.
Presentation on her project.