This meaning, connected to carpentry, comes more originally from the Sanskrit taksan, also referring to carpentry and columns. It is in Homer that we find the first reference to this term, applied to the art of construction in general. But tekton also has a poetic connotation, being used by Sappho as a metaphor for the poet, the true builder of the world who still echoes in Hölderlin's famous verses according to which "What remains, the poets found". The fundamental Greek change has to do with the passage from a specific practice, connected to the technology of construction, to a confusion with poesis, the general making. All making is tectonic in the sense that it is materially expressed, coming into existence and furnishing the world. In a more extreme meaning, the world itself is a construction. This ambiguity crosses the whole of Western history, underlying the very notion of architecture. In fact, architecture associates the arkhé - the essential beginning or beginnings - with tectonics or construction. It can be at once a particular practice or a general construction, which led the ancients to define God as the great architect. Therefore, tectonics is unconscious or conscious, general or particular. Perhaps the crucial difference could be summed up as follows: before modernity, tectonics was unconscious in its relationship with the world, and particular in relation to construction; after modernity, it becomes thinkable or conscious in relation to the world - modernity is the age of programs and projects - and general in relation to construction. The singular gesture of the architect becomes problematic when removed from the people and specialized.
The constructivist principle dominates modernity entirely, underpinning the idea that the real is programmable and plannable. However, its origin dates back to the beginning of culture, being clarified in the age of Greek metaphysics, namely with Plato, underlying the allegory of the cave. For Plato, the world was a false construction, based on the projection of "images" and "sounds" on a surface which served as a screen and hid the very process of construction, purely unconscious for the inhabitants. This tendency grew until modernity, leading Japanese writer Kojin Karatani to maintain that "Western thought is characterized by the will to architecture which re-emerges and is renewed in times of crisis" (Cf. Architecture as Metaphor: Language, Number, Money, MIT, 1995). Hence, architectonics dominates modern thought. Both Hobbes (1588-1679) and Vico (1668-1744) argue that we can only truly know what we ourselves did. With Kant, constructivism has a decisive moment, namely through his distinction between the real, the things which escape knowledge, and the phenomena determined by the categories and concepts of thought, constructed through the model of reason. It is around this difference that everything is played - in it echoes the primitive divide between the human and the Physis - as it becomes apparent in the way Fichte centers knowledge on the projection of the human subject upon the "real". In fact, there are two forms of constructivism, one mitigated and another strong. For the first, the model is Kant, in the sense that he maintains the original difference and permanently develops it, whereas the strong version is clearly manifested in the projects of Fichte, Hegel and Marx. In Marx, the idea of a total construction of the world tends to predominate. The lineage that comes from Plato to Hegel allows us to understand that constructivism depends entirely upon the projection of concepts on the real and upon their integral mathematization. The omnipresence of digital mathematics and computers in the world today is the culmination of the constructivist tendency which has a critical moment in the logical constructivism of Bertrand Russell and Rudolf Carnap, reaching its most radical formulation in Wittgenstein's Tractatus: "The facts in logical space are the world". The ability revealed by computers to mathematically process the real made Georges Bataille's critique of "architecture" - while tendency to include the world in a "mathematical frock coat" (sic) and to impose a "mathematical order upon stone" (sic) - prophetic. For Bataille, "every time architectural composition is found elsewhere than in monuments, be it in physiognomy, dress, music or painting, we can infer a predominant taste for human or divine authority". (Cf. Georges Bataille, Dictionnaire critique, 1929-1930). Mathematics is the automatism of the constructivist program.
Therefore, there is an undeniable tectonic element in culture that goes beyond construction and architecture, and that refers to the need of safety but, above all, of control over nature and, in general, of everything that seems to exceed human forces. One of the essential conditions for the emergence of the human goes through the suspension or deferment of the panic connected to the chthonic forces of the earth and to the dangers that come from it, such as natural catastrophes, etc. As Carl Einstein states, "before the earth, destined to an inevitable death and to the ephemeral creatures that men are, an unbreakable "hereafter" is fabricated. Metaphysics functions in these horizons governed by rules. Every religion or civilization contains an anti-naturalist tendency, which means man seeks to create figures that escape the mortal conditions of his usual reality". (C. Einstein, Braque, 1932). In this sense, the setting up of forms and concepts is part of tectonics, where the need to calculate and anticipate danger - or to minimize it - is supported. That is why the tectonic will is a true arkhé of culture.
General tectonics, or tectonic reason, implies a total constructivism which only corresponds to a possibility, but always aims at becoming absolute. It is known how the ancients feared the constructing hybris, as well testified by the myth of the Tower of Babel, that absolute building meant to reach heaven. For mythology, every human construction corresponds to a ruin of that excessive project of control. However, in modernity the tectonic will became decisive and the struggle around it is a battle around the destiny of the world. Something of the ancient mythology against Babel still withstands in The Builder (1891) by Ibsen, or in the splendid novel by Andrei Platonov against the constructivist Stalinist utopia. In The Foundation Pit (1930), Platonov shows how the will to create absolute foundations for the total house of humans leads everything to remain buried in the immense open hole for foundations. The absolute building which was meant to rise anti-gravitationally remains locked up in the depths of the earth.
It would be necessary to distinguish between general tectonics or tectonic reason - which aims at a total construction of the real - and "architecture". One of the most consistent attempts emerges from virtual architecture, with William J. Mitchell, for instance, who praises the "dematerialization" of that type of architecture, stressing "the use of the immersive virtual reality to create virtual experiences which are completely separated from physical construction, matter and tactility". Stability, since always targeted by the tectonic, would thus end as now "forms and space relations can be programmed to be changed and re-formatted in whatever way the designer wishes". Although it is true that the virtual adds interesting possibilities to constructivist technology and poetics, this standpoint misses an important fact: that mathematics and geometry are the base of tectonic reason, which does not necessarily have to be based on stability, being all the more invasive as better able to include the plasticity and movement of life. It would be necessary to clarify and interrupt tectonic reason, and of little use here are general programs like those of "deconstruction" (Cf. Mark Wigley, The Architecture of Deconstruction: Derrida's Haunt, MIT, 1993) or the attempts to return to the solidity of construction, as Kenneth Framton claims (Cf. Studies in Tectonic Culture: The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture, MIT, 2001). Everything indicates that it is in the singular gesture of the "architect" and in a poetics of unique works that the unstoppable will to dominate the world and nature can be interrupted and moderated, so that what Hölderlin declared is true: "Man dwells poetically on this earth".