Farshid Moussavi in her book The Function of Style says that the question of style in architecture has been concerned with only representational aspects. These representational aspects include the following: 1) Representation of internal narratives: technics from different practices of an era, a culture, a region etc. 2) of an autonomous internal order of building systems: architectural elements arranged in particular systems based on their capacities. 3) of time: how forms and values change over time. 4) of authorship: strategies of formal devices of an individual architect seen in the set of works of an architect. 5) Nationality: which is very similar to internal narratives, but this time explicitly concerned about national identity of architecture. 6) of unity: each grouping of style either by era, or nation, culture, and so on has been so far seen as a question of a coherent narrative of a time, era, place, or culture.
Moussavi challenges these ideas by identifying the fact that today architectural ideas and forms are not determined either by geography, climatic region, nationality, culture etc., they don’t show any sense of unity. They also do not hold true that the architect is the sole genius of the project. She proposes a non-representational approach to style -to which she proposes to consider the idea of affects
Affects for Moussavi are “autotelic, non-representational -they have a purpose in and not apart from themselves- and therefore are like a language, prior to words, or a form of indirect speech that is perceived by different people in different ways.” Yet, for Moussavi that affect is only experienced by the inhabitants, a.k.a humans who move around the building everyday. We will return to this correlation further in the essay. For now, it is safe to say that for Moussavi affects are means of a language prior to words, indirect speech, perceived by different people in different ways.
Arrangement is the champion idea of Moussavi’s project: of program, of form, or elements, and ultimately even of affects. To produce new arrangements -for living, shopping, working, learning, viewing, shopping, and traveling- is what is so important about the agency or the function of style in architecture for Moussavi. For Moussavi, like DeLanda, the idea of habit or routine is not in the empiricist tradition but in the Deleuzian reinterpretation of the idea of habit. In many ways, one can say that habit is Deleuze’s idea of the day-to-day or the everyday routine of things -which maintains the identity of the assemblage.
Moussavi’s move here is to locate the capacity of architecture to rearrange the spatial configurations that engender existing habits and bring new meaning to established routines and habits. It is in these rearrangements that it is possible to break the established routines and habits, make room for new experiences and encounters and hence for architecture to be political in taking a stand on the questions of who gets to experience new aesthetic qualities offered by buildings in a city -an idea that Moussavi aligns with , if not borrows from, Jacques Ranciere’s The Politics of Aesthetics (2010).
But how does this arrangement affectively engage the inhabitants’ perception, their daily lives? The arrangement of spaces and elements in buildings -what is accessible, what is hidden, what is closed and open, the colors, the geometries and the structures that are present: “This presence manifests itself as a cluster of affects, or intensities, which spread outward from the “thisness” of form, not communicating anything or signifying a specific meaning.”
So what the building communicates, according to Moussavi, in our day to day living is not one exclusive meaning or a concept, but a plethora of affects that become part of our lives, our perception, without us being aware of it. Style in that sense for Moussavi is not about the visual similarities and visible compositions but about the habit and the habitual and more importantly, about the indirect or discrete or background mode of perception.