An Abstract

Chez Etym. is a nascent architectural publication considering alternative perceptions of place. To provide a point of difference and deeper inquiry, the understanding of place will be viewed with a supplementary consideration for time, as both an external discrete sibling and an internal object to the phenomenon. Motivated by an inherently architectural will, the publication will employ a multidisciplinary approach. Place and time are phenomena experienced in all facets of life and expression, and thus the architectural nature of each will be examined through a broad spectrum of media and disciplines.

From the essay to the memoir, Chez Etym. is a publication of high calibre and breadth, with a tone which seeks to be approachable and inclusive. Equally at home on a domestic bookshelf as the catalogue of a university library, the content is less bound to convention than it is to honesty and urgency.

Veering away from an image-saturated reductionist approach, Chez Etym. turns toward the literary with a zeal for meaning layered through language. This is a dual response: firstly, to a lack of substantial and stimulating critical discourse on architectural place occupying the space between academic literature and casual periodic print; and secondly, to the nature of much architectural print (and the profession itself) tending towards a simplistic, form honouring interpretation of the discipline.

Conceived as a body of work, the contributions within Chez Etym. are tied together under the principle of the Etymology of Place. This principle was catalysed by parallels found between the etymology of the word ‘site’ and three distinct facets signified within Chez Etym.’s consideration of place: landscape, the urban fabric and culture.

site (n.) "place or position occupied by something," late 14c., from Anglo-French site, Old French site "place, site; position," from Latin situs "a place, position, situation, location, station; idleness, sloth, inactivity; forgetfulness; the effects of neglect," from past participle of sinere "let, leave alone, permit," from Proto-Indo-European si-tu-, from root tkei- "to settle, dwell, be home."*

Thus by extracting the etymons of ‘site,’ we arrive at emotive and textured meanings which underpin the roots of place in the context of Chez Etym.:

  • sinere, the Layer of Landscape
    The genus layer, the landscape as a physical entity isolated on a primordial and cosmic scale from human culture and history; or conversely, arguably the most instinctive and primitive relationship upon which all developments and abstractions of the lived-experience hinge.
    Refer: (1) Sedimentary City (Andresen and Francis, 2010); see here
    (2) Residue (Desire Machine Collective, 2011); see here
    (3) Finding Country (O’Brien, 2012); see here.

  • situsthe Urban Layer
    The built form and urban landscape, naturally interpreted in typical architectural fashion through form, function, and socio-political programme. However, this is expanded to consider the architectural and urban as ‘objects in time,’ borne of the instinctive and human desire to ‘create’ architecture: edifices, interventions or traces - works past, present and future, real or imagined, and their memory as physical objects in space.
    Refer: (1) “Terrain Vague” (de Solà-Morales, 1995)
    (2) The Monuments of Passaic (Smithson, 1967)
    (3) On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time (Mostafavi and Leatherbarrow, 1993).

  • si-tu-, the Cultural Layer
    Social, political and cultural relationships and their intersection with individual and collective memory and identity. The manifestation of the human lived-experience, from the indivdual, through progressivley more fractal networks, to a single body spanning generations immemorium. At its most rudimentary, it is a layer both defined by and transcending life and death.
    Refer: (1) Geography of Time (Tan, 2015); see here and here
    (2) Some Prefer Nettles (Tanizaki, 1956)
    (3) Toward a Minor Architecture (Stoner, 2012).

These etymons are viewed not only as derivatives but as strata which incessantly build and solidify time. Each hold a unique relevancy and set of concerns when considering the places in which we inhabit. While discrete, they are fundamentally linked and by nature inseparable, and their relationships can be interpreted equally as cyclical, circular, or should one etymon be muted, duets. This conceptual understanding forms the thematic framework for Chez Etym. and thus provides opportunity for a broad breadth of work which can be carefully curated within the overall theme of place.

Editors’ note:
At present, Chez Etym. is developing work with a number of architects, landscape architects, artists, poets, photographers and academics throughout Scotland, England, Australia, Italy and Norway.

Chez Etym. is a project which has come out of a deep desire to engage in intelligent discourse which positions honest relationships between people and site at the forefront of conversation. We approach it with relentless energy and feel humbled by the support and enthusiasm we have received thus far. Through personal and tailored communication with contributors, we aim to build relationships which foster and reward.

We are incredibly appreciative of the time that you have taken to read this, and look forward to the opportunity to discuss your potential involvement and support of Chez Etym.

*Online Etymology Dictionary. 2018. “site | Origin and meaning of site by Online Etymology Dictionary.”