The contracted joint
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Rykwert argues a correlation between Jean-Jacques Rousseau's account of the origin of civil society and Marc-Antoine Laugier's account of originary architecture. This paper will speculate on the architectural construction of collective identities with reference to the material practice of jointing; and apply this speculation in a New Zealand context. In his drawing for the 1755 edition of the Essay on Architecture, Laugier's hut is conspicuous for its structural self-sufficiency. The individual elements: the still-living columns, the cross-beams and the rafters, all rest together naturally, without pins or bonds. Simplicity of structure is a lack of ties. These joints express the same tension between natural unconstrained freedom and the desire to institute co-dependence which we see at the beginning of Rousseau's Social Contract (1762): a text that begins with chains, and remains entangled in questions of binding. In place of bondage, Rousseau seeks a relationship of free dependence which inaugurates collective identity and motives. This elemental social relation begins in the family hut, when familial bonds are replaced by the maintenance of a joint contract. The joint Rousseau seeks is held, but not constrained - a freely chosen dependence which could be withdrawn at any time. We might describe this kind of connection as a structural logic of the 'contracted joint'. In Looking for the Local (2000) Clarke and Walker discuss the idea that 'straightforwardness' is a specific characteristic of architecture in New Zealand. Conspicuously, this argument turns on the condition of the joint, which is seen once again in primitivist terms, and recalls the mythical status accorded to isolation in New Zealand. This paper explores the correlation between the proper jointing of architecture and proper social relations, and concludes by raising the question of the crowd (understood in some accounts as an improperly-jointed social construction) and collective space in New Zealand.