The Silence Of The Large Hadron Collider Philosophy
The world that cannot bear silence and does not understand the contemporary events anymore has stopped waiting for the revolution. It is only waiting for another accident to occur.1) 'The machinery of society, profoundly out of gear, oscillates between amelioration, of historical importance, and a catastrophe. '2)
Le Corbusier in his first book 'Towards a New Architecture' recognized the opportunities that the new century had brought to the world, but he could also sense a possible disaster waiting for a man to lose control over this new power. This essay looks at how this predicted catastrophe shapes the contemporary history. How do the rules that Le Corbusier believed would made a perfect design, apply to contemporary architecture and what are? The essay considers how the experience of the late twenty and early twenty first century has resulted in a lack of understanding of either present or future. How is architecture supposed to look into the future and create a new style3)? Is preservation of history the only option left in the field of architecture that can keep it alive? Should we cherish what we understand and ignore the existing situation? In this essay I will write about disturbing reality, where society cannot make sense out of anything and how science has found its comfortable place outside of ethical limits. I will look at Le Corbusier's guidelines for a creation of new style and their application to the twenty first century. I will show how the LHC unintentionally became the architecture of the zeitgeist, an extraordinary place where scientists are breaking limits in a search for the ultimate answer to everything.
At the beginning of the twentieth century architecture felt a strong need for a new style. Art had already responded to the contemporary situation fallowing the industrial revolution through various styles e.g. Dadaism, Impressionism or Futurism. In two parts of the world two architects were speaking about the same radical way of looking at the new style and the problem of the style itself. In 1924 in his third book "Style and Epoch"5) Moisei Ginzburg talked about the new muse of architects of the twentieth century- the machine. One year earlier in Switzerlad the architect Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) has written his first book6) treating the same issue in much more revolutionary tone.
Young Le Corbusier had a deep faith in order and harmony, as it occurred in nature which he passionately studied in his early years. He believed that humans should learn from existing order. Architecture, he said, is a sign of human taking control of the surrounding his world and when he applies the laws he observed in the world to his design, the architecture becomes a true work of art.7) At the beginning of his career Le Corbusier studied and mastered several of the styles, including classical (his project for a Museum of Beaux- Arts, La Chaux- de- Fonds from 1913). In-depth analysis helped him to understand that style did not exist in separation to the contemporary situation and by the time he wrote his first book he claimed that "Architecture has nothing to do with the 'styles'"8). In the mid-twenties his design La Scala Cinema (1916), he was already getting away from a classical and heading toward a modern architecture. He quickly realized that after the industrial revolution, when machine became a part of everyday live, it was vital to search for inspiration in the design of the machine. To him the machine and Parthenon, both shared the same spirit, both were timeless and organized in the chaotic world and were symbols of the same- power of order. He has achieved the emotions that he has had experienced, when he approached the Parthenon for a first time, in the design of The Unite d'Habitation by the strict proportions applied to him building.9) The cold mathematical calculation that ruled the final appearance of ships or planes seamed the right way to define good architecture. He had seen the forces and movement of the body of the machine as a natural occurrence. It made the machine an independent organism head to head with the creations of nature. Architects should learn from them as they used to learn from the world around them, he said.10) In practice of design he believed that every part of the building should be produced in a factory and standardized. The new architecture should focus on providing shelter, all required spaces, structural necessities and ignore the ornament as an unnecessary waist. "Architecture is not a decorative art" wrote Le Corbusier in 1923.11) He opted for architecture with a sublime proportions to help organize spaces in the most beautiful and powerful way. As a result he released Le Modulor in 1948, followed by Modulor 2 in 1955 to explain the system of measurement to help improve architectural design. In depth analyses of metrical and imperial systems of measurements combined with golden section applied to an 'English mans' body resulted in two series of proportions- red and blue that he later applied to his buildings. 12)
The harmony and order in architecture arise from different theoretical sources in different epochs, but always remain as an essential part of a design. The origins of architectural harmony are based on mathematical qualities as well as contemporary science; both came from Euclid, the 'father of mathematics'13). The human understanding of the laws of nature is enclosed in a language of mathematics that he learns from an early stage of his education. "Maths is a codification of symmetry that allows you to describe the universe" 14). It is understood and applied to created objects or theories. Most styles seem to take from mathematical order. It is what Le Corbusier believed held the key to a perfect design he was so much looking for.15)
Considering the social situation in Europe that Le Corbusier was witnessing, he understood that it was essential to standardize the living space. He envisioned that housing should be a great architectural design for any social class. His calculation for the Modulor, based on the proportions of human body, reduced living space, standardised measurements, and prefabricated elements were meant to be a solution to the housing problem and create a 'machine for living16)'. It applied to the architecture of dwellings as well as the style of life people were about to take. The technological innovations of the second half of the twentieth century have radicalized the communication and the way that information could reach increasingly more people in a shorter time. In his books 'Information Bomb' and 'Art and fear' Paul Virilio points out that the world we live in has been flooded with information to the point where the understanding of time and space has changed in modern society.18) The vivid pictures of violence delivered by news services or films combined with sounds that human gets exposed to on a daily basis led to dehumanization of perception of surrounding. The nineteen century art viewer fainted overwhelmed by a power of a romantic painting. The twenty first century man will not show any emotion exposed to an execution shown in the evening news. The cruelty and horror of war became a part of everyday live in modern society.19) The viewer exposed to the world based on fear and hate since the early stage of his life has lost its sense of ethics and aesthetics. 'It is not the sigh that masters the picture; it is picture that masters the sigh'20).
The way we view events has changed. The understanding of the world's geography, in which the events occur, has also changed since the Internet allowed us to communicate with each other all over the globe in cyberspace. The faraway countries are the ones which are technologically least advanced, not necessarily the ones thousands of kilometres away. The speed of the happenings in such created space accelerates every day and the time in which the information is delivered evaluates its quality.21) While the time travels faster the silence has lost its voice in the modern world. Wherever we go the sounds are always with us, whether it is a shopping centre or a gallery, the music in the background will be there, most of the times, unnoticed. Silence has become an odd experience; it bothers us more than noise.22)
It is in human nature to ask questions about the surrounding world. As he moves further with his bravery and lack of consideration for his actions, the scientific research results in more and more powerful creations. The nuclear weapon, so destructive that paradoxically makes it impossible to use23), terror of war and cruelty of human extermination are just a minor examples of the accident that human created for himself. The horror of the Second World War, gas chambers, tanks and weapons, all of which created by a human himself led to the nihilistic era of the twentieth century. As the technology moves forward it is unavoidable to get into a crisis of a global reach.24) The possibilities for a disaster that human creates take places at all levels of life in a modern society. Simply, from the nuclear reactor that can cause a disaster that wipes a human race of this planet to the crash of the stock exchange that does not kill, but results in millions of people to lose their houses. Humanity creates the possibility of an accident himself and refuses to recognize the damage he caused. Religion used to stand in the opposition to a scientific experiment. "They say the purpose of (the) ethics is to slow down the rate at which things happen".25) God is long dead and nothing dares to stop scientists.
Human, placed in the odd space-time of the modern world has lost the understanding of the events, becoming dehumanized and has lost his sensitivity. Any attempt to make sense out of occurring events seems pointless as circumstances change every day and a picture of a global situation will become passé by tomorrow. In a noisy heartless society the zeitgeist is either a depressing vision of a lost society or simply remains impossible to recognize. The vision of the future in a present day has changed over the last fifty years. We have gone from optimistic pictures of technologically advanced utopian societies, trough apocalyptic scenarios, finally coming with the lack of any vision at all.26) Since architecture supposed to look into the future and there is nothing really to look at it has fallen into a nostalgic image of what architecture used to be desperately preserving historical monuments. CRONOCHAOS, a project by OMA/AMO exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2010 had raised a problem of a bizarre and selective preservation of history.27) Preservation became a way of getting out of the problem of a present situation. At the same time it is the problem itself. Fairy-tale central squares all over Europe are precious islands that rule the architectural arrangement in the area and exclude it from the possibility of development. On the other hand modern buildings are chosen to be demolished, often because of their origins associating them with a social and economic situation of a country that is seen as a bad era. While one part of the history is kept safe, the other is slowly disappearing.28)
While architects struggle to understand and respond to the present situation, science comes to a golden era of creation. Since it does not have to care for a social situation and improves based on a previous experience it can only accelerate speed of the development. Under the Swiss- French border scientists have built an extraordinary place - the Large Hadron Collider, which started running in 2008.29) The accelerator was designed on the basis of the knowledge of a teams of scientists of all nations.30) Since no question is forbidden by the ethical restrictions, the purpose was one; to find an answer to the question of the beginning of the universe and the source of its entirety. At the same time the place is everything that contemporary culture cherishes- it breaks the limits; the biggest size, the greatest speed, even the temperature beats the records.31) It is a place where sound does not exist nor silence and light is a measurement of speed of events that happen in their own dimension of time. Once sealed, his physical body cannot be accessed. It starts to exist only as the virtual image of the occurring events. If to include that data that the collider produces in record quantities gets to be analysed all over the globe twenty four hours a day using hardware resources spread over five continents it is the biggest up-to-date technological achievement.32) The accelerator received two votes in the Vanity Fair's World Architecture Survey in June 2010 as 'The most significant work of architecture created so far in the 21st century' and 'The most important buildings, monuments, or bridges completed since 1980' 33)
The theory of quantum mechanics, that plays a key role in the construction of the accelerator as well as in the research and experiments undertaken in the LHC, is not understood by the scientists as they openly say.34) It contradicts the laws of classical physics, even though is successfully applied and used in a process of understanding the bigger picture. With the Large Hadron Collider, aesthetic was not a concern. However, due to the fulfilment of all the required criteria for the accelerator to do the job, the proportions of the LHC are designated with unprecedented precision. Neither the Parthenon nor the Unite could compete with the complexity of the calculations used in the design. The limits that it breaks had to be broken to achieve the expected results. It also has raised a lot of voices against its construction. People feared the LHC for several reasons such as the creation of a black hole as a result of an experiment or the radioactivity around the twenty seven kilometres long accelerator.35) Although the concerns did not affect the construction of the LHC. The research undertaken in the collider may lead to a conclusion that the science that created that place was incorrect and overthrow the theories because of which it was built in the first place. That is where the science riches its apogee.
Dehumanized society goes towards the unknown with an increasing, uncontrolled speed. In the twenty first century it is hard to look into the future, almost impossible if we consider the fact that the situation of the present day got too confusing to draw conclusions. We do not observe events from a distance any more. We are drawn into them and become a part of them as much as they are a part of our reality, simultaneously shaping the present. It affects the lack of a clear reference to the modern situation in architecture. The distorted sense of aesthetics has limited future vision for cities to a nostalgia of preservation and disabled creativity. It has resulted in a chaotic order of the present history. Instead of moving towards the new architecture we desperately try to save what it used to represent. As an effect building have been a taken out of their original context, but become an object that finds its comfortable on the front of postcard. While architecture struggles to find its track in the contemporary world, scientists are unconsciously taking over with the design of the Large Hadron Collider. It is the place where humanity tries to find an answer to more than just the present-day situation. A Place successfully built on theories too illogical to be understood. What makes it all work is the great speed of events, globally spread information, high technology. An impressive architecture with no regard for impressing. The aesthetic qualities are purely accidental, informed by functional necessities. While the world struggles with the unknown picture of the future, it is exactly this which makes the scientists most excited- unpredictable events. What an exact image of the twenty first century. On top of everything the Large Hadron Collider creates the possibility for the catastrophic accident that we have not witnessed before. All of that may be the most accurate picture of the twenty first century enclosed in one building.