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Extra resources for The Circus ABC

Example text

See how high I stand, straight up in the air. You, ground, are infrastructure; I am superstructure. I am over and above you; you are beneath me. ’ To which the ground responds: ‘You may think you are finished, but indeed, you are much mistaken. For whence do you think the materials have come from which you are made – the concrete, the steel, the glass? And do you think they will last forever in the forms in which they are presently cast? These materials have come from the earth, and it is to the earth that they will eventually return.

With the earth below and the sky above, and supported on the ground, the Gibsonian perceiver is placed in the midst of the phenomenal world rather than banished to its exterior surface. He is, in that sense, an inhabitant. He has air to breathe, and a platform to stand on. Yet an open environment, comprising the ground surface alone, would not in itself be habitable. Arguing this point, Gibson compares the ground to the floor of a room. In an empty, unfurnished room one could stand, walk or even run on the floor, but do little else.

In tectonics, by contrast, linear constituents are fitted into a frame that is held together by joints or bindings. One might think, for example, of the frame of a boat that has still to be covered with planks or skins, or the beams of a roof that has still to be thatched, slated or tiled. For Semper in his day, and now for us, the key question is about the balance – or the relative priority – of stereotomics and tectonics in the making or building of things. In tectonics, as we saw in the foregoing chapter, the knot or the joint is the root principle of construction.

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