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Process versus Product: What about an Architectural History of µThings in the Making¶?
I understand the architectural avant-garde of the 1950s and 60s as part of a cultural movement of µsingularity negotiating universality¶ differently then during the Modern Movement¶s µheroic¶ period before World War II. In this paper my point is that in the 1960s perhaps out of a need to counterbalance the growing dominance of cognitive reasoning and its instrumental rationality that came into the design processes through advances in building technology and particularly through the growing complexity of building programmes architects increasingly started to use new design instruments. Recent research points towards the 1950s and 60s as a period that conceals an unwritten history of modernity in architecture. It is my opinion that the history of 20th century architecture is a history more of concepts than of anything else. After World War II this becomes apparent, although its origins lie in the 1920s and 30s. These concepts operate at an intermediary diagrammatic level of the design process between the aesthetic choice for a final form of a building and the analytical cognitive logic of increasingly complex programmatic requirements. Robert Somol (1999) acknowledges this as follows ³... the procedure of architectural knowledge has seemingly shifted over the second half of the twentieth century, from the drawing to the diagram.´ This paper will explore as an example the diagrammatic design process of Le Corbusier¶s La Tourette, the Dominican monastery, in relation to his earlier concepts for the µVilla Savoie¶ and the µPavillon Suisse¶. An interesting feature is that the µPavillon Suisse¶ was originally µmisunderstood¶ and left out of The International Style catalogue by the authors, because it appeared unexplainably different from the µVilla Savoie¶. In search for µa style¶ they failed to see that there was a conceptual consistency between them from a point of view of µthings in the making¶. In this context my point of departure is: what would it mean for architectural history to think in relation not to µthings made¶ but to µthings in the making¶? This perspective of µthings in the making¶ is in this paper understood: 1. as a discourse of the process of designing itself ( as µprescriptive¶ mode) 2. as connected to a conceptual diagrammatic level of designing and 3. representing a shift in the idea of architectural composition (the joining of parts). The question that follows is: can an internal discourse of architectural design, of projects and how they were thought exist? Eisenman addresses this as architecture¶s µinteriority¶. ³Rarely has architecture theoretically examined its own discourse, its interiority. My work on the diagram is one such examination. It concerns the possibility that architecture can manifest itself, manifest its own
In his introduction to Peter Eisenman¶s Diagram Diaries Robert Somol (1999) traces the history of the diagram and states about its actuality that: ³In general the fundamental technique and procedure of architectural knowledge has seemingly shifted over the second half of the twentieth century. but simply that it has only been in the last thirty years or so that the diagram has become fully ³actualised´.interiority in a realized building. points to the fact that within the world of design a rupture between descriptive (design products) and prescriptive (design processes) modes of operation seems to exist. The increasing importance of the concept as an idea within the field of professional imagination. and what can be called architecture¶s interiority. transforms and materializes concepts there is increasing evidence that the concept and its illustration through a diagram (and no longer a plan) become the generator of form.an activity that works in and among the world of things . Although it is often argued that the diagram is a postrepresentational form. which is different from historical imagination. They guide the concrete decision-making process in a design. This is not to suggest that a diagram of one form or another was not always constitutive of architecture at various points in its history. many see its initial emergence in Rudolf Witkower¶s use of the nine-square grid in the late 1940s to describe Palladian villas«. to its own rhetoric «. a real building. As a generative device in a process of design the diagram is also a form of representation. Based on the idea of design as a material practice . as . 7). The diagram is part of a process that intends to open architecture to its own discourse.that condenses. that it has become almost completely the matter of architecture. from the drawing to the diagram. In an analytical role. But unlike traditional forms of representation. Actuality of the Diagram In the past five years an increased interest in the diagram has led to a series of publications and conference presentations.´ He continues ³The diagram is not only an explanation. Proceeding with halting steps through serial obsessions with form. In his Diagram Diaries Peter Eisenman reflects on the nature of the diagram: ³While it can be argued that the diagram is as old as architecture itself. perhaps alternative way of dealing with architecture¶s history. in instances of explanation and analysis the diagram is a form of representation.´ (Eisenman 1999b. the diagram represents in a different way from a sketch or a plan of a building. In architecture the diagram is historically understood in two ways: as an explanatory or analytical device and as a generative device. in both its millennial and desperate guises for architectural production and discourse. even though it is not a conventional structure itself. For example a diagram attempts to uncover latent structures of organization.´ (Somol 1999. one not founded on resemblance and return to origins but on modes of becoming. language and representation « the diagram has seemingly emerged as the final tool. This entails a shift away from style and towards knowledge central to the generation of form. like the nine-square. This position marks a different. 37). the diagram as a generator is a mediation between a palpable object.
compositional thinking now extends itself to the subsystems or components of a building design and particularly to the relationship of these components to each other. In other words composition has become a professional .´ (Eisenman 1999a. For example. a student dormitory and a cloister for Dominican monks. (3) the enclosure (or skin) and its system of openings and (4) the circulation that are four complementary subsystems of the building. It means that instead of what was traditionally the subject of formal composition and such as the proportions of the façade. and (b) even more important is how they particularly relate to each other. As a generator there is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between the diagram and the resultant form. taken from the introduction of Francis Ching¶s classical schoolbook on form and order is not new and was widely applied by Richard Meier in his early works. This illustration of interacting components. but as a double set of relationships: (a) each represents a relationship in itself. but it also acts as an intermediary in the process of generation of real space and time. We can understand these components not just as separate layers. but more as a composition. But (b) it also constitutes an uninterrupted strip window as opening system.something that comes after. Starting with the Villa Savoie we see (fig 1): PROGRAM STRUCTURE ENCLOSURE CIRCULATION (spatial layout) (load bearing system) (skin + openings) movement) (system of four axonometric drawings representing respectively (1) the program or spatial layout. but show a certain conceptual consistency. the Pavillon Suisse (1932) and the monastery of La Tourette (1960). For each of the projects exist similar diagrams that allow to understand how the projects were conceived through a set of relationships. Together they make up ± they literally µcompose¶ ± the entire building. Thus we can understand the µplan libre¶ not just as a configuration. as structure the µplan libre¶ (free plan) expresses (a) an independent relationship of load bearing columns and non-load bearing walls. These three projects are the Villa Savoie (1929). 27-28) Le Corbusier as Case To illustrate the existence of a conceptual and diagrammatic level in design processes I make a case for the relationship of three projects of Le Corbusier that appear totally different in style. (2) the structure (or load bearing system). of complementing systems. They represent three very different programs: a villa.
because it appeared unexplainably different from the µVilla Savoie¶. This aspect of Le Corbusiers thinking is a different interpretation of his 5 Points for A New Architecture and has in my opinion largely been overseen. structure. VOLUME Complementarity of program and circulation system STRUCTURE Steel skeleton on elevated concrete base of columns PROGRAM based on the standardization of a student room . But he concedes that while writing the book that served as catalogue for the exhibition in 1932 they were not clear about how far Le Corbusier with his Pavillon Suisse would go beyond the principles that they were trying to establish with International Style. but left out from the The International Style: Architecture Since 1922 (1932) catalogue by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson. In this context the following small anecdote reveals a perhaps important clue: in 1932 the Pavillon Suisse was already finished. Particularly the thick. In his preface to the 1966 edition of The International Style Henry-Russell Hitchcock admits that they in 1932 had had difficulties including Corbusier¶s Villa de Mandrot into the exhibition. Although construction was well under way and more or less ready it seems that the Pavillon Suisse was left out from the exhibition for this reason. He explains that particularly the rubble wall of the Villa de Mandrot caused them problems and was finally accepted as an aberration of the three main principles of International Style. In search for µa style¶ they failed to see a consistency with his approach to the µVilla Savoie¶. rough concrete and sculpturally shaped pilotis (columns) under the building were unexplainable (Hitchcock 1966). They are the beginning of a systematic diagrammatic thinking through which the notion of composition shifts to a more abstract level of joining the parts of a building conceptually. enclosure and spatial layout.concept of the potential arrangement of these components that define a building in terms of circulation. because it violated the principles of International Style they had just created.
reveal a systematic approach to the programmatic requirements ± starting with a study of what a student room would need to be and how the circulation system works complementary to that. a dormitory for Swiss students in the Cité Universitaire in Paris. were simply superimposed over the plan of the private rooms located one floor higher and are totally independent of its structure. their main µmeditative corridor¶ becomes for Le Corbusier a circulation system that consists of ramps ± but this leads beyond the scope of this paper. but conceptually the composition of complementary subsystems as a relationship of parts that make up the building and bring its construction. moyens ou grands. These different uses were stacked on top of each other ± private rooms on the top two floors. had even advanced. For Le Corbusier both µplan libre¶ and µfaçade libre¶ now become compositional elements of the design process in combining these programmatic and spatial aspects of the project. It was..The analytical drawings of the Pavillon Suisse (fig. Thus a volume emerged that was translated into a steel structure and suitable for a µconstuction à sec¶ . il s¶agit de standardiser un système de structures «. This diagrammatic sketch shows how curved walls for the communal spaces. The enclosure and its opening system follow the potential of the steel skeleton and become large window panels with floor high sheets of glass. 2). this conceptual aspect becomes even clearer. completed in 1960. however. un système nouveau de structure assez riche de conséquences pour qu¶il puisse déterminer une variété infinie de plans. the making of it in unison with the compositional idea. « répondre à des programmes petits. Créer un système de structure. Figure 4 reveals how the principle of the µplan libre¶ at the communal level accommodates the spaces. (fig 5) There is more: the cloister for the monks. Le Corbusier himself expressed this in 1928 commenting on his Weissenhofsiedlung houses ³. On the outside. For architects of the post war period this stacking had become a typical problem accompanying the increasing programmatic complexity of their tasks. communal spaces below. but because the notion of composition had partly shifted to a conceptual level. stylistically there is perhaps an unexplainable break between the two. Thus I conclude that in the 1960s with modernism becoming mainstream.³ (Reichlin 1987) With the third example. this consistency was not directly visible. The program needs to combine the private quarters of the monks with their need for communal spaces and further Le Corbusier introduces a roof garden.. but it also reflected an increased will for achieving differentiation. the cloister of µSainte Marie de la Tourette¶. In other words conceptually the same principles that were demonstrated at the Villa Savoie had been employed. new diagrammatic and conceptual tools seem to . built with straight walls that never the less run completely independent of the column structure.a (dry) montage of panels.
The International . In: Diagram Diaries edited by Peter Eisenman.become necessary and architectural style becomes a more personal. Eisenman. Peter (1999b). In: Diagram Diaries edited by Peter Eisenman. Axonometric view of the dormitory rooms on top of the column and beam structure of the communal spaces. because it seems as if that element of discourse has shifted to a higher level of abstraction ± it has become a new tool. a mode of designing conceptually. Peter (1999a). Bibliography Eisenman. London: Thames and Hudson. singular problem. Hitchcock. ³Diagrams of Anteriority´. London: Thames and Hudson. Henry-Russell and Philip Johnson (1966 ). Le Corbusier¶s style may now change rapidly and no longer needs to express the progress and rationality of µa machine age¶. ³Diagram: An Original Scene of Writing´.
W. Bruno (1987). London: Thames & Hudson. The Pragmatist Imagination: Thinking about µThings in the Making¶. Bauen + Wohnen 74/41 (1/2): 36-39 Somol. Robert E. New York: W. Ronner. In: Daidalos Issue 74 (October 2000): 40-51 . Van den Heuvel. ³Standardisierung als Idee´ in: Werk. Dirk (2000). In: Diagram Diaries. Heinz (1987). Norton Ockman. Dummy Text. ³The Diagrams of Team 10´. (1999). or The Diagrammatic Basis of Contemporary Architecture.Style: Architecture Since 1922 . New York: Princeton Architectural Press Reichlin. Peter Eisenman (ed) . Joan (2000) ed. Bauen + Wohnen 74/41 (1/2): 29-35. ³Eine Strukturanalyse: Das Einfamilienhaus von Le Corbusier und Pierre Jeanneret auf dem Weissenhof´ in: Werk.
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