Volume 42, 2018
Philosophy and Psychoanalysis
Ways of Inhabiting
The Historical Substrata of Identity in the City
In a text dealing with the relationship between Walter Benjamin and architecture, Winifried Nerdinger recalls the correspondence between Asja Lacis and Hildegard Brenner in which Lacis reminisces upon philosophy´s capacity to understand architecture as image. For Lacis, architecture expresses social conditions through its buildings, the layout of the streets and the use of certain construction materials, giving the example of the internal patios of Mietkaserne of the Ackerstraße and the Kudamm. As a stratified sample of social matter, the city thus appears to Walter Benjamin as the material form of the spacialization of thought, and as such, may be analyzed through architectonic and urban forms- ones which establish and condition how the city is inhabited. Following Benjamin’s approach, the current project is based upon the conception of the city as a space where the laws of our social and historical world are subject to sedimentation. As an objective, the paper proposes to analyze how the past and historic vision are received, understood and recovered via the city. The city is thus understood as a space where there is a simultaneousness of times in which different historical strata -or as Koselleck might put it, ‘time strata’- are interwoven and then ‘spacialized’ (or made into space). Each of these strata thus remains clearly separate and marked out from the other while allowing, as Benjamin might have done, for the discontinuity of historical time and the rupture of any type of linear conception of time. Yet not only is the past remembered in what we see: it is also embodied in what we believe. This sedimentation of historical matter (ruins, monuments, remnants) feeds into the reinterpretation of what is done with historical matter in the present (restorations, revival and historicist architecture, imitation ruins and remnants, eclecticism), taking into account people’s cultural identity and historic consciousness. As such, the second of objectives is to trace a relationship between the evolution of architectonic forms and how, with respect to the evolution of “the philosophy of history”, the past assimilates and adapts to the present within the fabric of the city.