Category Archives: Richard Aoun

‘We’re all made of lines’ || Deleuze

Title: “The Rhizome / A Thousand Plateaus”

Author: Gilles Deleuze / Felix Guattari, 1980.



Photo from Faire Rhizome


Deleuze and Guattari introduce the concept of the rhizome as a metaphor for understanding politics, social life, literature, history, and sexuality. A rhizome is “a rootlike subterranean stem, commonly horizontal in position, that usually produces roots below and sends up shoots progressively from the upper surface” (from, accessed March 16, 2011, based on the Random House Dictionary, Random House 2011). The rhizome “connects any point to any other point” and has “neither beginning nor end, but always a middle from which it grows and which it overspills”. The rhizome morphs, changing in “dimension” and “necessarily… in nature as well.

This is contrasted an “arborial” or tree metaphor which is much more like a hierarchy (roots to trunk to branches to leaves). It is hard to get away from thinking in this more tree-like way, but the rhizome concept forces you to start from the middle, rather than from the bottom or top, and to think in terms of “plateaus” rather than beginnings or endings. The rhizome is made of lines or “lineaments”, but these are not the orderly reporting lines in a “structure” (or hierarchy). As a “plateau is always in the middle, not at the beginning or the end,” a rhizome consists of plateaus. This is a confusing shift of metaphor—to understand this best, do not picture an actual plateau of land but rather the concept of something short of a summit or climax but still other than a beginning or base. The main metaphor is still the rhizome, but the plateau concept essentially means that one is always in the middle, neither at the start nor at some end-stage or goal.
In writing a book as a rhizome, the authors claim that it was written in a non-linear manner; “each plateau can be read starting from anywhere and can be related to any other plateau”. In true interpretive form, the barrier between observer and observed is blurred: “There is no longer a tripartite division between a field of reality (the world) and a field of representation (the book) and a field of subjectivity (the author).” Instead, “an assemblage establishes connections between certain multiplicities drawn from each of these orders”.
Finally, the rhizome is suggested as a model of history, in contrast with a state-centered, hierarchical approach. The state structure reflects “the sedentary point of view”; “What is lacking is a Nomadology, the opposite of history”.



Personal Question:

In this excerpt the authors do not indicate how this rhizome metaphor might be deployed, how an alternative history or “Nomadology” might be written, or what implications the metaphor has more generally. However, it bears a striking similarity to the concept of the network (inspired by the Internet), which has been suggested as an alternative to the hierarchy for organizations. It may be due only to the ingrained metaphor of the pyramid (or the tree, these authors would say) that we find it difficult to imagine other ramifications of the rhizome or network metaphor. What other implications or applications of this metaphor might we identify?

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An introduction into the understanding of atmospheres in architecture. From Semper and Frank Lloyd Wright through to the Situationists. Through understanding of decors people such as Debord and Costant analyzed the city and proposed projects where atmospheres could be controlled. Even Le Corbusier is claimed to have dealt with atmosphere, albeit through the removal of decor. Essentially the claim is that atmosphere permeates all architecture regardless of intent, though it is hard to pinpoint and is almost approached tangentially.


This apparent referential truth of architecture provides a rich source domain for the metaphorical power of the architecture; both Denis Hollier and Mark Wigley argue that the metaphor of inside and outside provides a general framework for representation and reason: it provides the structure to prevent thinking from collapsing. Thus the referential and metaphorical understanding of interiors in this framework eludes a sense of ‘being’ known through “a reinforced geometrism, in which limits are barriers” which reinforces a boundary between inside and outside.

However, the metaphor of inside and outside does not just order thinking alone. It also organizes our bodies, and consequently our subjectivity. It orders relations physically and symbolically: to close down, to structure, through the definition of inside and outside and finally to define zones of inclusion and exclusion. The traditional figure that divides interior from exterior is the house. The house as a figure stands for the outside where the inside contains something quite -other. Architecture, the outside, in this scene of representation, for Wigley, is seen as a pure object distanced from the impure, clamorous and heterogeneous relations represented by the body: architecture is cultivated beyond the needs of the body, and in doing so transcends the body.Contained on the inside, in the interiors, is ‘woman’ guarded and contained within architecture by a law that precedes both her and the home.

The law that domesticates her is the law of the father, the law of surveillance that centres on the taming of desire. This act of positing the feminine within the home is maintained as such, through the citation of the law, a law that is framed as beyond question. A number of distinctions are made apparent through the citation of the ‘law of the father’: a chain of signification, which frames the housing of gender as normative and natural. Men are embedded within the meaning of the exterior of the house, whereas women are confined to the inside of the home. Within this spatial displacement and confinement of the subject to particular spaces – occupation is negated.


To conclude, historically occupation is defined in relation to a solid, reassuring object which has a boundary between inside and outside. Occupation in this framework is either negated or it is about a movement solely between private and public. The first part of this paper looked critically at the historical framing of this line between inside and outside which is framed by the solidity of boundaries. We then looked at the notion of atmosphere and how it has been framed as a conceptual tool to disrupt static and representational modes of spatial thinking; through its very formlessness, its intensities, transient qualities; which questions the identity of objects and subjects as discrete envelopes, and foregrounds instead a dynamic relationship between occupation and interior architecture. These ideas were explored and tested through a studio. The attribution of the interior with atmospheric qualities in this studio was communicated through various means that more often eluded to an interior that is understood as a ‘fleshiness’ of space, circumfusing the subject and creating a series of spaces; a series of enclosures overlapping and enveloping each other.


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