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Ch. 2, p78–87

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  • I’m currently on vacation and my airplane book was Jin Yong’s A Hero Born. The next was Tomihiko Morimi’s The Tatami Galaxy. The former is part of a series of fifteen books that every Chinese person knows about. (Vol. 1 of the first series has sold 800 million copies.) Jin Yong was the Balzac of Chinese literature, with these books being first written and serialized in the 1950s. Set in the 13th century, most of what we know about kong-fu via Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies, and even – especially – Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster is through the lens of these books that tell us about the rivalry between northern and southern schools, the difference between inside and outside moves and such. The other book is contemporary Japanese fiction about some misfit university slackers who seek (and will probably fail to live) their perfect campus lives even with the help of a Groundhog Day type plot device. They’re both excellent translations. With the former, Anna Holmwood took on the challenge of translating something that had been thought untranslatable but reading it is effortless but strange kong-fu move names such as Nine Yin Skeleton Claw and Heartbreaker Palm keep it exotic. Emily Balistrieri’s translation of the latter is similarly transparent. While you never forget you’re reading about characters and a story set in another country because of names and descriptions that just describe things matter-of-factly and never appear as local color added by the shovelful like so many novels anywhere. A third book (for the flights back to China) is A Midsummer’s Equation, by Keigo Higashino who’s a crime author and said on the cover of my copy to be “The Japanese Stieg Larsson”. (?) I expect it to be similarly transparent.
  • I’ve only ever translated legal and technical material so I’m fascinated how fiction translates. Some authors as well as translators say fiction has to be completely rewritten when it is translated into another language while others say that no trace of the source language should remain and that the work should read as if written in the destination language. What I’ trying to say is that I hope you can get the sense of what Riken Yamamoto is saying and where this book is going, and that my clunky translation doesn’t intrude too much.

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4 Community Housing System

Fourier Collective Housing

There was also a worker housing plan that went against this “one house for one family idea”. It didn’t isolate families by having separate houses for each family, but was a types of collective living. Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was influenced by the collective housing type known as the phalanstère. Fourier was one off the three persons identified by Engels as “ideal socialists”. The phalanstère was definitely a form of housing that nobody until then had seen. A phalange was a collective society and its composition was finely divided into classifications based on children’s education and ranging from babies (from 0 to 1 year old), infants (from 1 to 2 years old), toddlers (2 to 3), pre-schoolers (3 to 4) and so on, to older people such as teachers, elders and elderly who had their respective tasks determined in detail in a system configured so that everyone could be productive. (Fourier, C., “The Industrial Cooperative Society of the New World” p. 559) The phalanstère was the architectural space for these phalanges. “Agricultural production was the central activity but many other diverse activities such as drama and reading were also collectively organized for individuals to participate in in rotation so there would be no special activities in which certain people were specialized and thus divided”, “there were meeting places, a parade ground, and “emotion exchange” [motivational centre?] and such designed to promote resident interaction”, “agricultural buildings such as sheds and barns, craft workshops, a library, a church and theatre and other facilities to ensure communal activity”. (Nakano, T. “Residents of Prague”, pp.17-18) This “emotion exchange” was called a passioneé (Fourier, Charles. Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinees generales (Theory of the four movements and the general destinies)), although the word enthusiasm is closer in intent than passion. Fourier divided human drives and emotions into people into “destributed emotions” and “mechanical emotions” incorporating the twelve systems of “conspiracy”, “mixed emotion”, “shifting emotions”, and so on. (The “driving” emotion is an idea borrowed from Newton.) [For Fourier], Enthusiasm was the source of activity, and the Emotion Exchange was where they could be exchanged or converted, and was a place designed to promote emotional harmony. Fourier wrote that “The world is exquisitely harmonized, from the laws of The Universe to each of the organs of the body.”

Work is the aesthetics of harmony

For Marx, labour was unified labour and that labour was simply consumed. “[For their efforts] to be consumed is the fate of the worker. (Arendt, The Human Condition, p. 186) Unlike Marx, for whom “to free people from labour” (ibid., p.160) was what needed to be done, Fourier saw labour as having an aesthetic of harmony. “Fourier depicted the harmonious beauty of an agricultural society but it reads like a child’s brightly colored picture book. “In a collective state and the most undefiled case of work, it is possible to have a special luxury. What pulls up the grey color of farmers and the blue color of the moncement wers is an attractive cart decorated with edging, feathers and other things of little value. All these decorations are flavored with the grime of work. If we were to place in some beautiful valley a garden in the style currently known as the English Style [in which gardens for the pleasure of strolling in a Nature designed to appear as if not tended by the hand of man], and we were to see one group walking with banner and tools, another group walking while singing a hymn, and so on while working, such a scene would appear magical as if it came from Olympus the home of the gods.” (“The Beauty of Agriculture”, in Passage Theory, Vol. 4, pp.193-194) “This is difficult to imagine today but some young sovereign and some young average people just might. It would be like a type of horseback competition for one type of production. This competition would validate the energy and skills of the competitors and enable them to shine in front of the crowd.” (ibid. p. 190-191) [“I’d like to apologize for the spot of turbulence just then caused by a layer of overheated French trapped below a cooler one of Japanese and another of English. Hopefully, the remainder of our journey will be smooth.”] For Fourier, work was not a means but the purpose of existence, and the shape of labour within the société of the phalange itself was beautiful. Buildings had to be beautiful in natural environments, urban environments and their relationship with their historical context.

Around 1900, architecture was mired in discussions about style and stylish. This emphasis on style and stylish was heavily criticized in later decades but, when compared with modernist architects, it can be said that there was a higher awareness of the surrounding environment and aesthetic harmony with the surroundings. In the same way, the phalanstère was important not only for its architecture, but for the beauty seen in the buildings harmony with everything around it.

The phalanstère, realized

Jean Batiste Godin (1817-1888) was an industrialist who ran a company manufacturing cast iron stoves, was influenced by Fourier’s thinking, and decided to build workers housing modeled on the phalanstère in the town of Guise about 150 kilometers to the north of Paris. The first building was completed in 1860, and all three buildings were completed in 1871. Godin was critical of “architects who wanted residential spaces to be mutually separated and, wanting buildings to respect the social relations of the citizens, took part in their design himself.” (Nakano, T. “Residents of Prague”, p.21) This design was a strong criticism of the type of worker housing that had been constructed at Mulhouse. The name familistère was given to this collective housing that had the possibility of becoming another prototype for worker housing. (Figure 6)

Fig. 6: Familistère ① (Source: Nakano, T. “Residents of Prague”, p.22) The baths, laundry and pool building can be seen on the banks of the River Oise. The factory buildings spread out to the right. The entirety is the phalanstère.

The buildings were configured around central courtyards, with all dwellings in the four-storey buildings facing the courtyards that were covered with glass roofs. In other words, the housing was arranged around four-storey high atriums. [Of the two models for worker housing,] the familistère therefore had a far more overwhelming spatial impact (appearance). (Figures 7–9)

Fig. 7: Familistère ② (Source: Benevolo, L., “The Origins of Modern Town Planning” , pp. 104, 105)
A: Shops, dwellings, etc., B: Nursery, C: Kindergarten, school, stage, D: Shops, E: Pool, F: Gym
Fig. 8: Familistère ③ (Source: the author) Dwellings around the sides of the atrium that was used as an event space.
Fig. 9: Familistère ④ (Source: the author) Exterior view of the familistère. Behind the people in the photograph are the plaza and the school.

The central block was constructed after the block on the left side, and had 150 dwellings arranged around an atrium with an area of 900 sq.m. The phalanstère was symmetrical around a clock tower and observation tower, with the entire building designed to resemble a palace. In fact, this building was called “paresocial” (from “Le familisterère de Guise”, translated by Sugi, K. (Kiko?), as well as following quotes.) The ground floor rooms facing the atrium were used for a food store, a general store,, pharmacy and medical services so that residents who were separated from [the rest of society] could obtain items necessary for their daily lives. The atrium was where children gathered in the morning before heading for the school facing the front plaza, and also for celebrations for and other events depending upon the season. The atrium was overlooked by the access balconies and so could also be used as a stage for dancing, plays or award ceremonies. (Figure 10)

Fig. 10: Familistère ⑤ (Source: “Le Familistère de Guise) The dance was the most important event. The access balconies become galleries.

The employees are also members of the same association and, in addition to their salary, also have shareholders rights in the company in as mechanism whereby profits are returned to the employees. The employees gradually become the owners of the company and so need to support the directors and managers when dealing with industry issues as well as issues related to managing the association. As it happened, the familistère changed from the company imagined by Godin, into a corporate structure managed by the association. The associates continued to manage the company until 1968 (the year of the May Revolution) when there were succession problems as well as the influence of price competition due to the opening up of European markets.

It was a mechanism that enables participation in management as well as living in the same space as educational and facilities to support daily life, and an attempt to realize the sociétaire envisioned by Fourier. The familistère was architectural space for the sociétaire.

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  • Although Benevolo gives them a mention, the phalanstère and familistère don’t feature much in the history of modern architecture, and this may be because they are contrary to the Henry Robert’s model for workers within an industrial-capitalist system and which proved to be the dominant model for the 20th century. My first acquaintance with the phalanstère was an essay by one of the contributors to Koohaas/AMO’s 2020 “Countryside, A Report: Countryside in your pocket!” I remember the essay treated them as historical curios, as a kind of page-filling content rather than as something to revisit as Yamamoto does, and find in them some clues for improvements to how we might better live now.
  • I like the way Yamamoto always ends his sub chapters with what his takeaways were so we have a sense of where this is all leading.

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2024/06/16 Ch. 2, pp.78-87
2024/06/02 Ch. 2, pp.69-78
2024/05/05 Ch. 2, pp.66-70
2024/05/05 Ch. 2, pp.58-66
2024/05/05 Ch. 1, pp.46-55
2024/04/28 Ch. 1, pp.35-46
2024/04/21 Ch. 1, pp.23-35
2024/04/07 Ch. 1, pp.18-23
2024/03/31 Ch. 1, pp.14-18
2024/03/24 The Space of Power vs. The Power of Space: Preface pp. 7-11

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Revisited this week:


  • I honestly cannot understand how it is possible for a single person to compile and publish every week [EVERY week] such well-written essays with elaborate text and rich illustrations that are a joy to read, even on indifferent subjects.
    I am most impressed by such rare talent and productivity.

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