A method, when stat­ed as straight­for­ward­ly as pos­si­ble, is a few things at once. It is char­i­ta­ble, in that it seeks to give oth­ers a means to suc­cess­ful­ly pro­ceed. It is self-cen­tered, in that it seeks to estab­lish the method, and the voice that states it, as the cen­ter of author­i­ty. This despite any protes­ta­tions of flex­i­bil­i­ty – for what will hap­pen if we stray from the out­line? Per­haps, some­where between these two, it sim­ply seeks to per­pet­u­ate itself. 

Now, let me hes­i­tate over that. When we state things this way – one guess, two guess­es, a guess in-between guess­es – we see them rhetor­i­cal­ly, and not yet method­i­cal­ly, nor quite as a pic­ture of the world. That is, we raise issues pro­vi­sion­al­ly and with­out any sol­id com­mit­ment. A state of even­hand­ed­ness, of both­ness, like this exists as a tran­si­to­ry posi­tion in text, but rarely becomes so fixed as to be a posi­tion to occu­py in the world and in thought. 

That is, we are very uncom­fort­able with both. Both is a fail­ure to artic­u­late, and a fail­ure to decide – to us, it has the same wishy-washy qual­i­ty of a dou­ble expo­sure. It is fun­da­men­tal­ly a species of trick, played less to out-and-out deceive than to sim­ply cast doubt. The crit­i­cal text must strug­gle between the two or more sides of the both to resolve itself; it must list, how­ev­er slight­ly, to one side by its con­clu­sion. A par­tic­u­lar­ly exalt­ed sort of text leads the read­er to believe that their own pre­ferred slant is prob­a­bly the right one. Oth­er­wise, you have been wast­ing time in read­ing it; because, implic­it­ly, you have not gar­nered anoth­er propo­si­tion to fit into your own inescapable both. 

That points to the base prob­lem with both – it is not sat­is­fy­ing as a propo­si­tion. The either-or set­tles, excludes, clar­i­fies; the both-and paus­es at a counter and orders every­thing on the menu. At its purest, it does not dis­crim­i­nate, and does not decide.

Both is allow­able when con­struct­ing a mod­el. Here, instead of a super­im­po­si­tion, the two sides are shown in bal­ance through a cut­away dia­gram of the prob­lem being described. Such a per­cent­age of this, such a per­cent­age of that. This is also one type of syn­the­sis, a set of bal­anced scales gen­er­al­ly con­struct­ed in order for its mak­er to rest a fin­ger on one side. This is not quite the both I am after, which is an irre­ducible dual­i­ty; the third posi­tion of Indi­an catuskoti log­ic, A and not A. 

Our jus­tice sys­tem puts forth that one is either guilty or not (well, prob­a­bly not) of a crim­i­nal offense; if you are guilty, your sen­tence is raised or low­ered depend­ing on the cir­cum­stances. This sat­is­fies some aspects of what we want soci­etal­ly, but fails oth­ers. It gives a mea­sure word to help us with a mass word – you are two years guilty, or twen­ty years guilty. Here, every­one can rec­on­cile them­selves to the sit­u­a­tion; the deci­sion is either wrong or right, and the argu­ment must either be con­clud­ed or forcibly resus­ci­tat­ed. But the judi­cial deci­sion also los­es the unbound­ness of the mass word, guilt – the sense in which there are liq­uid con­tours to every case of guilt, liable to shift depend­ing on the shift­ing atti­tudes of the ones involved. Any guilt, at any giv­en point in its body, may be seen to fold in some lay­er of – if not inno­cence, then incul­pa­bil­i­ty. Acknowl­edg­ing such a both means trail­ing off, means think­ing fur­ther at some oth­er date; it means defer­ment, and noth­ing being done.

Turn this around to our social guilt. No one cares great­ly to prop­er­ly pros­e­cute me of what I am guilty of; there is no prop­er mea­sure to it. Imag­ine mea­sur­ing forty megarads of racism. Even a car­bon foot­print is coun­ter­weight­ed against oth­er vices and virtues. In the same way, util­i­tar­i­an argu­ments over pop­u­la­tion founder over the notion of lives nev­er lived – for well or ill? – because good­ness can­not be count­ed and quan­ti­fied in cer­tain of its forms. It is not the same sort of problem.

Come back, I’m get­ting to the point here! A land­scape, to be sure, is not worth mak­ing if no one enjoys it, and no one makes use of it. Once any some­one slips through the cracks, the nego­ti­a­tions begin. Martha Schwartz makes a rooftop gar­den in Cam­bridge for a biotech com­pa­ny. This Splice Gar­den, an arrange­ment of green geo­met­ric forms, is intend­ed to be both mod­ern and baroque, vir­tu­al and actu­al. The result is a genet­ic chimera – it reg­is­ters as a viable enti­ty, and it lacks clear lines of demar­ca­tion between each merged indi­vid­ual. It is not so much that it has a snake for a tail and a goat’s head between its shoul­ders. Rather, it has a mod­er­ate rash of scales, and snatch­es of goat’s beard around its body. 

Upon com­ple­tion, the gar­den is seen by no one with­out busi­ness with the com­pa­ny or spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion from the com­pa­ny. It is report­ed to be aging poor­ly – the ini­tial bar­gain of the arti­fi­cial mate­ri­als hav­ing failed over time with weath­er­ing. The images made of it, though, avoid dete­ri­o­ra­tion through dupli­cat­ing them­selves. Might the project have enjoyed this mul­ti­pli­ca­tion with­out being built? Sure – it’s com­mon enough for archi­tec­tur­al projects. But this one was cast forth into space and time, becom­ing not only a move played in a career, or an utter­ance in the pro­fes­sion­al and the­o­ret­i­cal dis­cours­es, but also a phys­i­cal record of what a par­tic­u­lar sort of com­pa­ny in a par­tic­u­lar place was will­ing to pay for and main­tain to a par­tic­u­lar stan­dard. That a client rela­tion­ship pro­duces such things makes them less reli­able indi­ca­tors of issues with­in the sphere of design, but ulti­mate­ly, to me, more inter­est­ing propo­si­tions. If we are inter­est­ed in boths, this project is not only a for­mal both, but from being built becomes both a place and a propo­si­tion. Squint­ing to see them both is a way to make out some­thing of the integu­ments that hold the two together.

Sim­i­lar­ly, Tilt­ed Arc con­tin­ues to rever­ber­ate, not only from being a Ser­ra, a move that Ser­ra played, but from antag­o­niz­ing office res­i­dents, from occu­py­ing press space, and aca­d­e­m­ic space, from under­lay­ing Schwartz’s work, now in turn interred under another. 

Back to method, where we start­ed. If this excur­sion tries to add a word to our vocab­u­lary, it does not try to add a method. The won­der­ful thing about crit­i­cism, to me, is that it is straight­for­ward­ly a space for both – that it may forth­right­ly dou­ble around on itself with a min­i­mum of hurt feelings.

(June 2016)