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Forêt DesCartes – A Postcard Stand as Metaphor of Architectural Visual Knowledge


Filippo Cattapan

Forêt DesCartes is a prototype of a postcard display designed by Belgian architect Christian Kieckens in 1995 as part of a larger series of objects titled Jardins Divers. It is a rather small MDF board with maple veneer on which are inserted 16 postcard holders made of bent iron rods and arranged in a regular 6×4 cm grid.

This curious object evokes Kieckens’ habits and practices: the collection of images and their arrangement in space, the journey as a form of disciplinary exchange with several communities of practice, the transmission of knowledge through the medium of illustrated books and exhibitions, the teaching of architecture by means of quotes and visual references.

Forêt DesCartes can be seen as an experimental spatial device for producing disciplinary knowledge. The title of the object is a play on words that combines the term ‘forest’ with the name of René Descartes. Through its basic structure, the object metaphorically represents the fundamental tension and interaction between the two terms as a free landscape of images composed on a regular Cartesian grid. The two elements correspond respectively to intuition and rationality, or to analogical and logical thinking, which means also to implicit and explicit forms of knowing, with their opposite as well as complementary epistemological modalities.

The pictures assembled on the podium mirror in turn the varied as much as fragmented landscape of Kieckens’ architectural imagery, at the intersection between local Flemish culture and a wider network of European and international communities of practice.

Forêt DesCartes is therefore the image of a complex and substantially visual knowledge paradigm, but also of the corresponding disciplinary culture made of parallel ideas, themes and references.

This object will be presented at the TACK Conference in the object session LINEAGES, 20 June 2023 between 17:30 – 19:00 (CEST) at ETH Zürich (Auditorium HPV G5).

Filippo Cattapan is PhD candidate at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, working within the framework of the EU-funded ‘Communities of Tacit Knowledge’ network.