Transgressing the Bounds of the Physical Dimension

In an attempt to establish an alternate speech for means of equating the digital world to our own physical, architecture, an early ingress was made into the semiotic work of Claude Saussure. To bridge the two dimensions, our vocabulary must serve as a link for these realms possess little unification save for metaphor through a shared language, English. Such metaphoric approximations can be established through the extension of différance with specific relation to architectural speech.

Where language is ‘a principle of classification’[1], Claude Saussure states that it cannot be ‘confused with human speech’ which is ‘many-sided and heterogeneous[2]. It is this exact heterogeneousness that we must build upon to adapt our architectural vocabulary to the digital realm. Influenced by Saussure, Jaques Derrida explains speeches ‘many-sided[ness]’ through the concept of différance; ‘meaning is created rather than given’[3].  Hence the Signifier can easily become distorted when becoming the signified within the mind of the receiver through a structural contrast ‘with other related meanings’[4].

Geolinguistical studies, ‘concerned with the spatial distribution of linguistic phenomena’[5] may further evidence the concept of différance. Language varies with respect to social class or occupation[6] hereby generating variations of dialects within a containing language. Thus, we may determine architecture speak to function as an expressional subset, or dialect of a language. Architectural dialect consists of terms such as structure, materiality, program, envelope, etc.[7] While these terms belong to the English language, when referenced in an architectural environment they are influenced by other words with other architectural meanings hereby skewing the overall ‘contrast’ of potential signifier definitions towards an architectural connotation. Thus, evidencing différance.

Consider the notion of structure – in architecture, structure is polysemic. Structure may refer to building elements which support the built weight. Alternatively, structure may refer to the rules and regulations referenced by the architect in conceiving the building.

The structure of the home is created by the architect to direct the user in a specific fashion. For example, to move from ones bedroom to the living room, one must walk through a connecting space. They must abide by the homes inherent design such that their journey becomes structured by the architect. This may potentially relate to the digital realm and how algorithms are structured to direct users to specific media. Hence suggesting the possibility of a nexus between the digital and physical worlds through an expansion of différance with respect to an architectural dialect.

[1]   Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, trans. and ann. by Roy Harris (London, England: Bloomsbury, 2013), 11.

[2]   Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, ed. by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye trans. by Wade Baskin (New York: Philosophical Library, 1959), 9.

[3]   Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Jaques Derrida” by Editors of Encyclopaedia, accessed March 26, 2021.

[4] Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Jaques Derrida” by Editors of Encyclopaedia, accessed March 26, 2021.

[5] Peter Trudgill, “Linguistic Geography and Geographical Linguistics”, Progress in Geography 7, (1975).

[6] Pier Paolo Giglioli, Language and Social Context (Hammondsworth, England: Penguin, 1972).

[7] Rory Smith, “150 Weird Words That Only Architects Use,” ArchDaily, October 19, 2015, accessed March 26, 2021,