The Potentiality in Difference: an investigation into the notion of the subject-object problem in architecture, by Mollie Claypool

This paper will attempt to dissolve the autonomy of autotelic subjects and objects of architecture. This will be done through arguing for the constitution of a potentiality embedded in the dichotomy of the subject-object problem in philosophy, not by way of expanding on or attempting a reconciliation of this dichotomy, but through a tracing of various possibilities of engagement through difference in the narrative between the process of making architectural objects and the singular subjects embodied in them.

The subject-object problem of Humanism has been defined either by the subject as the controlling and originating agent of meaning, propelled towards the receiving, formerly stagnant object, or vice versa. Meaning is inserted into the architectural project. One relies on the other for an inherited meaning. Historically, architectural discourse has focused on lending sympathy towards the dissipating of this distinction between these two bodies [subject, object]. Rather than engaging in this discourse of dissolving the boundary between things, this paper wishes to uncover the potentiality in difference.

In a sense, this investigation will be an inversion of historical architectural discourse on the subject. The inversion will not be explicit, as we will embark upon an attempt to answer a series of questions, beginning with: How has the dichotomy of the autonomous subject and object of Humanism been rectified in Modernist architectural discourse? In the search for an answer, we will construct a counter-question which draws upon the implicit fallibility inscribed in the first, intuitive question, enabling us to then invert the subject-object architectural discourse in order to show the potentiality in difference, asking: Is it possible to break away from the constraints embedded within the imposition of the Descartian “I think, therefore I am” structure in the making of architectural objects?

Harvard Citation Guide: Claypool, M. (2010) The Potentiality in Difference: an investigation into the notion of the subject-object problem in architecture, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 23 May 2010, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].


  1. Douglas Reply

    Excellent writing, Mollie! I’ll search for more of your published or non-published. Ah, the AA — their history and theory program maybe interesting. Cheers from the states, Douglas

  2. Nathan Coppedge Reply

    I have observed for example, that there are forms of categorical thinking in the Eastern traditions. Maybe this is the kind of thing you are supposing.

    The resolution of some architectural problems seems both Zen and complex, something that is puzzling – – –

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