The Asignifying Affordance of Assemblage

 A Heuristic of the Energetics of the Exteriority of Relations


This is an outline of a research project on urban architecture cartography based on the Movement-Image and its exhaustion through enabling constraints/obstructions. The project was developed by Andrej Radman and Marc Boumeester, researchers at the Delft School of Design, Faculty of Architecture at the Delft University of Technology. It is an education program consisting of research driven design practice that strives to set up collaborative networks which include the Faculties of Architecture at Cambridge University, Nanjing University, University of Liverpool and AA London.












Urban architecture cartography is governed by the following pragmatic 'rules' of composition:

#1 Against transcendence:

Identify and subtract the 'unique' or hegemonic meta-signifier


#2 Against overcoding:                 

Construct a multiplicity using only a number of available dimensions


#3 Against structure(lism):

Prevent the fallacy of reducing a multiplicity to either One or Many


Program description










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23-02-2012 DSD MSc 3 AAA organizes research trip to Cambridge- London-Liverpool from April 21-26 2012

25-02-2012 This year’s International Architecture Exhibition - the Venice Biennale - hosts a special program called the “Biennale Sessions”, with the theme Common Ground. Under this special program, la Biennale offers the possibility to stipulate an agreement granting a number of benefits to groups of at least 50 participants (teachers and students) from any single educational institution. Under the title AAA Urban Architecture Cartography, TU Delft, Delft School of Design, will take part in the program in the form of a workshop/seminar and site visit by MSc 3/4 students





                                                                       ≠ Signifying/General


                                                                       = Significant/Singular (Extraordinary)



                                                                       ≠ Function


                                                                       = Relation (Pragmatic)



                                                                       ≠ Object


                                                                       = Objectile (Event)



                                                                       ≠ Method


                                                                       = Trial & Error (Aesthetic)



                                                                       ≠ Extensive


                                                                       = Intensive (difference which makes a difference)



                                                                       ≠ Anthropocentric

EXTERIORITY of Relations

                                                                       = Ecological (Life-form + Environment)





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As Robin Evans diagnosed, the peculiar disadvantage under which architects labour is that they never work directly with the object, but through an intervening medium which is almost always the drawing, "while painters and sculptors, who might spend some time working on preliminary sketches and maquettes, all end up working on the thing itself." The paradoxical separation between the doer and the deed often causes architects to commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness by treating concrete actual entities as if they were categories of thought or representation. AAA seeks to invigorate radical empiricism (speculative pragmatism) as a means of tapping not into the solipsistic world of design, but into the relation of exteriority or the design of the world. Such anti-representational disposition resonates strongly with Felix Guattari's Ethico-Aesthetics, or ecological experimentation, that seeks to challenge all-too-reductive egological conceptions of power relations, be they neoliberal democratic or Marxist revolutionary, constituted by the Habermasian consensus or conversely by Mouffe’s agonism.


AAA is shorthand for what contemporary neuro-cognitive sciences classify under the dynamic system theory (DST). Perception cannot be considered independently because it is defined as an evolved adaptive and constructive assemblage of the life-form and its environment. The founder of the ecological school of perception James Jerome Gibson insisted that perception is for action. Consequently, the environment - as the lawful source of information about the risks and opportunities afforded - cannot be considered independently of perception either. The traditional chasm between the "two cultures" -- quasi-objective scientific empirical and quasi-subjective humanistic speculative -- as well as the categories of the knower and known, become obsolete. Gilles Deleuze's advice is to start from the middle (milieu) instead, hence the importance of the current Affective Turn, between the too abstract (infinity) and not abstract enough (finitude).




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This daring trial-and-error approach was adopted by the Danish film director Lars Von Trier in the psycho-cinematic experiment “The Five Obstructions” (2003), where he challenged the epic cinema-veteran Jørgen Leth to remake his highly original short film “The Perfect Human” (1967) no less than five times. As soon as Leth produces a version Von Trier enforces a new set of obstructions. Ultimately, the product results in the complete surrender of all authorship notwithstanding Leth’s responsibility for it. The purpose of this game is to 'rid ourselves of ourselves' #1. As much as this is a film about film, it is also a film about embracing constraints (Nietzschean amor fati). As there is no distinction between the process, content and production #3, the precedent will serve as the guideline for the AAA project.


The participants will be asked to re-make their cinematographic mapping -- the assemblages of mediascape, ethnoscape, ideoscape, technoscape -- according to a set of obstructions defined by tutors every time anew. In this way cartography becomes less and less extensive, making way for an exploration of extrinsic capacities/tendencies, rather than intrinsic properties. Chiseling away the number of dimensions rather than adding them #2 will allow the participants to act within the realm of the affective (connectivity and heterogeneity) in an unprecedented free and provoking way. The attunement to the rates of change is a crucial step towards the mapping of agencies, which is not to be confused with the agency of mapping. The participants will launch probes into the immersive post-humanist space, towards the intensive space which is the real (virtual) condition of possibility of the extensive (actual) space.


The participants will work collectively but will be individually responsible for specific sections of the process. Although the outcome and the medium will not be predetermined, a concrete result is expected nevertheless. The AAA project will consist of a colloquium, introductory lectures, collective viewings, collective field work and studio sessions. A detailed description of the program will be provided on request.




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Marc BOUMEESTER (Amsterdam, 1965) has been working for various major television- and film-producing companies and realized over 60 products, varying from commercials to drama series and feature films. Combining his affection for architecture with his knowledge of instable media resulted in a number of collaborative experimental research projects involving master-students and fellow researchers, situated in various countries around the globe.


Currently he is appointed as lecturer and researcher at the Delft University of Technology, Delft School of Design, he has co-founded (and leads) the department of Interactive / Media / Design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and he lectures in the field of media theory. His research focuses on the liaison between human perception, architectural conditions and instable media, in particular cinema.


Publications (selection):

- Boumeester, Marc, “Reconsidering Cinematic Mapping; Halfway between Collected Subjectivity and Projective Mapping” 2011, Urban Cinematics, (Intellect, Bristol), pp. 239- 56.

- Boumeester, Marc, “Bridging Alterities; Mediating Media” 2011, Film and Media Conference London, University of London, United Kingdom.

- Boumeester, Marc, “City and the Agency of Moving Image après Debord” 2011, Atmophere 2011, University of Manitoba, Canada.

- Boumeester, Marc, “Designing Paradigm Shifts; Follow and Lead” 2010, Cumulus Conference, Genk, Belgium.

- Boumeester, Marc, “Projective Mapping; using collected subjectivity to depict future memory” 2010, Mapping, Memory and the City Conference, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.

- Boumeester, Marc, “Cinematic Mapping Reviewed; Transitioning to ‘Collected Subjectivism’ by transferring media typologies” 2009, Film, City and Narrative Conference, University of Cambridge, UK



Andrej RADMAN (Zagreb, 1968) is a licensed architect who has won a number of awards from national competitions in partnership with architect Igor Vrbanek, including the Croatian Association of Architects annual award for housing architecture in Croatia in 2002.


Radman has been teaching design studios and theory courses at TU Delft Faculty of Architecture in The Netherlands since 2004. In 2008 he joined the teaching and research staff of the Delft School of Design (DSD) as Assistant Professor of Architecture. A graduate of the Zagreb School of Architecture in Croatia, he received a Master's Degree with Honours from the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture. His current doctoral research focuses on radical empiricism in general and J.J. Gibson's ecological approach to perception in particular. He is a member of the National Committee on Deleuze Scholarship.


Publications (selection):

- Radman, Andrej, "Figure, Discourse: To the Abstract Concretely" in Cognitive Architecture - From Bio-Politics To Noo-Politics, ed. Deborah Hauptmann and Warren Neidich (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2010), pp. 430-451.

- Radman, Andrej, "How did Neutelings and Riedijk in one decade pass from WHAT?-WOW! to WOW!-WHAT?" in Oris (No. 59, 2009), pp. 48-52.

- Radman, Andrej, "Phase Portrait of Public Interior; or How Uexküll Made Peaceful Active Coexistence Possible" in Čovjek i Prostor (Vol. LV, No. 1-2, 2008), pp. 64-66.

- Radman, Andrej, "Through the Forests and Mountains of the Epigenetic Landscape: The Importance of Being Weissmann" in Čovjek i Prostor (Vol. LIII, No. 5-6, 2006), pp. 28-31.

- Radman, Andrej and Deborah Hauptmann, “Northern Line” in Deleuze and Architecture, ed. Hélène Frichot and Stephen Loo (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming)

- Radman, Andrej, GIBSONISM: Ecologies of Architecture (forthcoming).




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The Thesis of Immanence (AAA #1)

[Against transcendence: Identify and subtract the 'unique' or hegemonic meta-signifier]


At one time, PRACTICE was considered an application of THEORY, a consequence; at other times, it had an opposite sense and it was thought to inspire theory …


In any event, their relationship was understood in terms of a process of totalization. For us, however, the question is seen in a different light. The relationships between THEORY and PRACTICE are far more partial and fragmentary. …


The relationship which holds in the application of a theory is never one of resemblance. …


PRACTICE is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another and THEORY is a relay from one practice to another. …


A theorizing intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness. …


Representation no longer exists; there’s only action – theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.


(M. Foucault and G. Deleuze, 1977)





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The Thesis of Multiplicity (AAA #2)


Ever since Descartes, psychology has been held back by the doctrine that what we have to perceive is the PHISICAL WORLD that is described by physics.

I am suggesting that what we have to perceive and cope with is the world considered as the ENVIRONMENT.


We cannot hope to understand natural stimuli by analogy with socially coded stimuli,

for that would be like putting the cart before the horse.


(J.J. Gibson, 1979)



PHYSICAL WORLD                                  ENVIRONMENT


INDIRECT perception                                 DIRECT perception

Descartes                                                      Gibson


CORRELATION(ISM)                                 (EN)ACTION

interpretation                                                  involvement/synaesthetic & kinaesthetic

hermeneutic                                                   extended, embedded, embodied and affective


INTERIOR                                                     EXTERIOR

passive                                                          active/proporioception

computation                                                   resonance


MECHANICS                                                RECIPROCITY

general laws                                                   b/w life-form & environment


OBJECTIVITY                                              MULTIPLICITY

myth of the given                                          emergence/dynamic structure

properties                                                       capacities


DUALISM                                                     IMMANENCE

subject vs. object                                           milieu/middle

private mind vs. public world                         'superject' and 'objectile'

extended matter/unextended mind               continuum


MEANING                                                     PRAGMATISM

as inference/matter literally meaningless      affordance/signifiance

associative/bucket theory of mind                differential/searchlight TOM


LINEARITY                                                   RECURSIVITY

input/output                                                    feed-back-forward/transduction

space antecedent to movement                   space as derivative of movement

a priori                                                            (*)neither a priori nor a posteriori


REPRESENTATION                                   AFFECT

rationalism/mentalism                                   empiricism/pluralism

Cogito ergo sum                                            Sentio ergo sum

(I think therefore I am)                                  (I feel therefore I am)



Perception is DIRECT and therefore unmediated by cognitive processes. It is not an event enclosed within the perceiver's mind, rather, it is a detection of structures that emerge within the RECIPROCAL movement that plays back and forth across the perceiver and the environment. This is the Gibsonian challenge to the Cartesian mind-body dualism that continues to haunt the discipline of architecture despite (or perhaps because) of the so called digital turn.




BEING IGNORANT OF MOTION IS BEING IGNORANT OF NATURE                                                                                   

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The Thesis of Irreducibility (AAA #3)

[Against structure(lism): Prevent the fallacy of reducing a multiplicity to either One or Many]


            neither                                               nor                                                      nor


            MANY                                               ONE                                                   IN-BETWEEN


            Chicken                                            Egg                                                    Chegg

            micro-reductionism                         macro-reductionism                        hybrid

            undermining                                    overmining                                        romanticising the marginal


It is not about bringing all sorts of things under a (single) concept but about relating each concept (multiplicity) to the variables that determine its mutation.


            … rather


            ONE = ALL


Ignorato motu

ignoratur natura


T.Aquinas, 1224-1274











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Delft School of Design (DSD)


Royal Academy of Art (KABK)


Academy of Visual Arts (Artez-AKI)


Marc Boumeester (MB)


Radman Vrbanek Arhitekti (RVA)


Arhikord (AK)


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© 2012 Boumeester / Radman