Ut farae: A Building Performance

  • 2012 
  • Siletz Bay, Oregon, USA
  • In collaboration with Kagan Reardon

As a temporary sacred structure, there are only two appropriate ways to discard of a sukkah--either by burning it, or by disassembling it and wrapping each piece meticulously in paper before putting it into the garbage.

We chose fire.

According to Vitruvius, man lived ut farae—like wild beasts—before the discovery of fire led to the formation of human society, and that to the beginning of architecture. This simple origin story is repeated centuries later by Laugier, Le Corbusier, and Reyner Banham: a tribe comes across a clearing in the woods at night, where it finds fallen branches and some wood. The tribe must choose whether to use the wood to build a small shelter, or to use it to build a bonfire. They, too (according to this myth), choose fire. This stands at odds with the Alberti’s origin story of “a roof and walls” that mark the beginning of spatial congregation. For Luis Fernandez-Galiano, this distinction between “hut and fire, construction and combustion, [is] inextricably linked to the history of habitation, a unique combination of constructed order and combustible disorder.” The same energy that brings architecture into the world as matter, he writes, burdens it with the inevitability of consumption, temporality, and death—or, the transformation into other energy.

This is revealed in a building performance that returns a ceremonial hut to the pre-architectural origin of architecture.