The empiricist approach may be said to have had its design counterpart in the English landscape garden, which emerged as the antithesis of the French garden where plants were pruned into neat geometrical shapes and objectified – against their nature. Whereas architecture can be construed as an independent object – as an autonomous figure cut off from the ground – a garden is a continuum, the ground itself. Since architects had been corrupted by an object-oriented way of thinking, it was left to members of a new, untainted profession to develop an empiricist design method in the form of the landscape garden.
The English landscape garden was conceived as a series of qualitatively different experiences rather than as a single entity ruled by some overarching geometry. Any inconsistencies in those experiences were of no consequence. A masonry pavilion in a medieval European style might occupy one spot, a Chinese pagoda another. From above, these mutually incompatible fragments were seen to be connected by a continuous path. An observer (that is, the subject) followed this path around the garden and at any one moment was able to experience only the fragment that was before his eyes. This was the condition imposed on each individual, so these fragments, no matter how diverse and incongruous, never seemed inconsistent. The landscape garden made manifest the position of empiricism.
The dichotomy between subject and object has frequently troubled architects in the past, causing the pendulum to swing between styles, between object/objectivity and subject/subjectivity. The Renaissance was a period when architecture was object-oriented, conceived as a rigorous and transparent structure based on mathematical proportions. When a subject was introduced into the space, this was revealed as an illusion. The rigorous composition and proportions existed only when seen from upon high, from a godlike viewpoint. The moment the viewpoint was lowered to ground level all geometries lost their effect. Premised on this human viewpoint, design became a matter of deciding how to distort and deform architecture effectively. Architecture gradually became more subject-oriented. The painstakingly transparent structures of the Renaissance were transformed into distorted, exaggerated objects, that is, baroque architecture. Design came to be based, not on geometry, but on perceptual effect. Instead of the rigorous circles and spheres favoured by classicism, space was organised around ellipses, which had greater perceptual impact. The baroque style was, in turn, eventually supplanted by neoclassicism, where a building was typically an independent object standing in the midst of nature. The Petit Trianon in the gardens of Versailles is a representative neoclassical work – a pure form in stark contrast to the palace proper, a grand, distorted exercise in the baroque. Neoclassical buildings were typically designed to be viewed from a distance, thus avoiding the distortion inherent in perspective and solving the problem of the dichotomy between object and subject. (At least on the outside: the interiors were another matter.) Architects were well aware that the neoclassical solution was ineffective when the distance between object and subject could not be maintained, so they had no qualms about abandoning geometry and adopting the naturalistic and ornamental rococo style for interiors.
The Renaissance technique of perspective was considered to be part of the same conceptual framework as the neoclassical approach, which was to govern architecture through geometry. As a mathematically based method of drawing, perspective induces a rigorous geometrical composition. Yet it contains an inherent contradiction: it introduces into space an extremely subjective and singular viewpoint. At a stroke, the objectivity of the neoclassical world is destroyed. The dichotomy between consciousness and object is exposed, expressed in the disparity between the space depicted through perspective and the space actually experienced by the subject. At the centre of the perspective, the disparity is so small it can be ignored. However, on the margins of the drawing it takes the form of an enormous distortion. If the subject begins to move and shift his viewpoint, the static spatial perception achieved through perspective is rendered practically useless. This shows how complex an operation the perception of three-dimensional space really is.
Taut made it his life’s objective to translate the philosophy of Kant into architecture. This philosophy was based on an awareness of dichotomies – Kant searched for them everywhere, avoiding all facile preestablished notions of harmony. This set him apart both from Descartes, who preceded him, and from later philosophers such as Hegel. Kant proposed a distinction between the phenomenal world and the noumenal world, between the objects of our experience and ‘things-in-themselves’, which are unknowable as they exist apart from perception. Taut saw himself as torn between romanticism and objectivism, between visionary tendencies and a faith in technology. Kant would no doubt have characterised this as the reflection of a more fundamental dichotomy between subject and object.
I am opposed to the presence and atmosphere of certain works of architecture that I have chosen to call objects. Whether or not a building is an object is determined by its character rather than its architectural style. To be precise, an object is a form of material existence distinct from its immediate environment.
Taut not only took on the project, but expressed his satisfaction with the result in a letter he wrote to a friend in Berlin.  To understand the reason for Taut’s pride, we must first examine the idea of architecture as an object. Ordinarily, a building is considered an object – an independent material object distinct from its environment. The public perceives buildings to be objects, and that is also the perception of most architects. When one speaks of a beautiful work of architecture, one generally means the work in question is a beautiful object. By an excellent architect one generally means an architect with the ability to design beautiful objects. Taut questioned such a conception of architecture. He abhorred objects, believing that architecture was more a matter of relationships. The Hyūga project gave him a rare opportunity to experiment with the relationship between architecture and the environment. The basement is half-buried in the ground and connected to its surroundings. It is incapable of being perceived as an independent object. One might even liken it to a parasite, living off its environment. It is an anti-object.