Passage: The Temporality of an Artifact

by Marian Macken

Writing on the temporality of architecture predominantly refers to the life of the building—its construction, inhabitation, and ruin—and the lives lived within the building. But this accounts for only some aspects of architecture’s temporality. There is a multiplicity, a plurality, of “times” that may be acknowledged within architecture, that are separate and different from the built work. These relate to the representation of architecture and the design process, the exhibition and archiving of architecture, and its dissemination. This paper seeks to address these aspects of temporality and hence, to broaden the temporal territory of architecture and of associated spatial practices.

The multiplicity of times will be examined through the case study of selected drawings that document John Hejduk’s Wall House 2 (Bye House). This project, originally designed in the 1970s for a site in Connecticut, USA, was built in the Netherlands 28 years later, and one year after the death of the architect. The project reflects Hejduk’s theoretical position regarding temporality, but more than this, the aberrant design and construction processes allow for an extension of this thinking.

Through examining particular drawings, or artifacts, within different contexts—as a made object, as part of a series of iterations of one scheme, and within the architect’s oeuvre, then as an archived, exhibited, published image—Edmund Husserl’s notion of a “thickened” present is examined: rather than looking for evidence of temporality within the frame of one drawing or building, the drawing as an artifact demonstrates the passage of time through different temporal contexts. The relationship between built space, documentation and ramifications for the wider field of spatial practice will also be discussed.


Marian Macken is a designer and educator, trained in architecture, landscape architecture and visual art. She is currently Associate Professor of Architecture at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China. Marian’s research examines temporal aspects of spatial practice, and the role of artists’ books as documentation of architecture, with particular interest in the implications and possibilities for architectural drawing and exhibition as design outcome. Her work has been acquired by various international public collections of artists’ books, including collections at Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, UK, and Urawa Art Museum, Japan, and she has undertaken visiting artist residencies in London, Tokyo and Wellington, New Zealand.