MINIMALIST
PHENOMENOLOGY:
BYE HOUSE
&
FUN PALACE

John Hejduk's Bye House and Cedric Price's proposed Fun Palace present contrapuntal yet not necessarily dissimilar situations reflecting phenomenal experiences of minimalist art. A closer examination of specific elements in each case establishes a dialogue of qualities of minimalist art and by extension, the experience of each particular case. In Bye House, it is unified separation given by the phenomenal transparency of the datum wall and its function as a binding element for disparate programs. In the Fun Palace it is disordered unification given by separate static modules bound by a dynamic, literally transparent structure. A balance of minimalist experiential output is observed by both projects through theatricality, or autonomous recognitions, and temporality, a necessary prerequisite for theatre. Essentially, transparency in conjunction with theatre and its temporal requirement becomes a basis for the experience of the following cases in much the same way as the experience surrounding minimalist painting and sculpture.

A phenomenal transparency becomes apparent when examining the effect on an observer of one of Hejduk's "first principles", a traditional architectural element, the wall. The House's datum wall makes two important distinctions in lieu of its dominating scale and austerity. The first is an acknowledgement of boundary or the separation of program from circulation. "Life has to do with walls... the thing we're always transgressing..." an established continuity by unifying discontinuous modules alludes to the effect that minimalist sculpture has on its beholder - a phenomenon dependent on timelessness, and therefore demanding movement rather than static observation from its beholder, which also recognizes the theatrical quality of sculpture-beholder autonomy. In the House, spiral circulation through the datum simulates an infinite experience, monotonous repetition while moving from program to program. Despite its literal boundary, the datum becomes phenomenally transparent in its failure to delineate a dynamic boundary or a case in which the experience of movement within would be "finite", such as in a corridor which requires static moments in time to experience disparate programs.

The second distinction is functional clarity. Aside from its scalar domination among its adjacent modules, the use of color on non-circulation modules not only reinforces the separation of program but broadly distinguishes circulation from program. Additionally, color enables a more pictorial reading of the building as a whole, but precedes in priority the scalar dominance of the datum and thereby distributes the phenomenal experience from experiencing (circulating) to simply reading the datum as a type of frame - a border in the pictorial sense. The act of reading the House, like reading a minimalist painting, becomes dependent on its border - a type of phenomenal transparency which effectively allows the beholder to see through imagery to pure form. In essence, the wall obscures itself in simply being a building element as functional as any of the curvilinear volumes - the other shapes on the canvas - while also clearly remaining a foundational or functional element in itself. Consequently, as a defining element of the House the datum unifies while separates on the basis of phenomenal effects initially apparent in the experience of minimalist art. Different ways of experiencing or reading are accomplished by identifying the datum as theatre, as frame or building as painting.

While the House was Hejduk's attempt at reinterpreting the traditional configuration of a house, Price's Palace was an experiment in reconfiguring a house (or palace). The basis of the Palace experience rests on continual disassembly and reassembly - a continually discontinuous experience as in the House - of modular elements which comprise programs. Activity spaces, or more generally volumetric function, become dynamic along a mechanical and structural framework, as opposed to one-off spaces adjacent to the stationary datum in the House. Structure is variable while program is mapped to various modules, and circulation is reduced in priority to a means rather than a focus. In this case, the flexibility of space is what houses action, rather than demands it as in the datum's situation. Disordered unification is then achieved by a dynamic and static tandem. The Palace's unenclosed steel structure, in contrast with prefabricated modules, suggests a literal transparency in accordance with a dynamic, changing system of separate programs. Much like the datum the experience of disparate programs depends on the timeless theatricality of a unifying element; however, unlike the datum, the Palace embeds action or activity in structure and technology rather than proposes or demands it in a singular relatively static element. The intention therefore implies passivity of the beholder while the structure creates action by acting. As in minimalist sculpture, the setting emphasizes timelessness through repetitive activity - configuration and reconfiguration, a constant shuffling of modules. In this way, the Palace becomes literally transparent by necessitating a recognition of itself or its program allowing its dynamism to actively invite the occupant as opposed to forcing a choice. Put simply, the beholder is given a flexibility of choice or control, as in the observation of minimalist sculpture which pushes a practically infinite, timeless, field of choice.

Each case establishes experiences or readings of form and function or program with parallels to the experiences of minimalist sculpture and painting, which apparently arise from the two types of transparency.Neither case assumes a minimalist experience but rather the phenomenal experience of minimalist art becomes apparent in the act of experiencing or reading and identifying the type of transparency inherent in the qualities of the aforementioned elements - datum, module, and structure. While there is congruence in modularity across both projects - in one case presented as a pictorial, passive cubism and in the case of the Palace a more dynamic, active cubism, neither case can be presented as Cubist per se. Rather, the elements of datum wall and dynamic structure paired with their respective integral modules suggest corresponding phenomenal and literal transparencies in support of a minimalist phenomenology of space and form as in that of minimalist art.

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"John Hejduk. Wall House 2 (A. E. Bye House) Project, Ridgefield, Connecticut, Isometric (1973)." MoMA. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=810.

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