Materiality and containment

November 6, 2013


The essay Container Technologies by Zoë Sofia discusses  the function and the common view of the container and the contained through history by a handful of philosophers and thinkers as Lewis Mumford, Gregory Bateson and Martin Heidegger. She concludes that the phenomena of containing has been labeled as feminine and she sees that this is one one criteria that have made the word “passive”, in contradiction to the masculine and “active” tools. But she also argues that that is not the full story, and continued:

The problem is not just bad metaphysics or misogyny but the structure of production and reproduction itself. The container is a structurally necessary but frequently unacknowledgeable precondition of becoming. (Sofia p. 188) 

One of my big interests in architecture is the relationship to the skin/outside/container and the flesh/inside/contained. The materiality of the container specifies how that relationship is configured and the question of materiality interests me. As Sofia points out as her fourth point when she discusses Heideggers essay “The thing”, the discussion of containment also includes the phenomena of incontinence. The skin of a human is an organ in it self and the exchange between our inside to the outside is in a constant flux and one could say that the human skin is leaking.

Not all containers are designed to be impermeable or like the jug capable of outpouring: some are are for slow leakage, some for soaking up drips, other for what we hope will be permanent containing. (Sofia, p. 192)

Our buildings have facades that is the equivalent of the human skin, to contain the inside and protect from the outside. The activity inside the buildings affect the facade/the skin just like the flesh and the inner world of the body affects the skin/the facade, and how we handle that is a question of materiality and vision. Today we strive for totally controlled and closed facades, but what if we could be more innovative and play with the materiality and aspects of exchange between the container and the contained?

I feel like I could go on forever. The aspect of materiality is also interesting to keep on discussing in relationship to the aspect of containing, also because of the notion that the word materiality comes from matter –> materia (wood, timber, matter) –>mother (because the woody part was seen as the source of growth) and how this relates to the concept of becoming which is linked to the containing…


Matilda Schuman


Zoe Sofia, ‘Container Technologies’ in Hypatia Vol. 15, No. 2, Spring 2000, pp. 181-200.
Definition of matter

One Response to “Materiality and containment”

  1. ninelniazi Says:

    It is an interesting post, I think quite similar to you while I was reading the text. I just want to response to the human’s skin. It reminds me the architect who is similar with the skin. It is architect who creates the possibility of the relation between inside/outside, outdoor/indoor or people/the individual and the space. He leaks the problems and all possible aspects and comes up with a solution.
    Ninel Niazi

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: