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Architectural Design Research PROJ EC T-BASED DESIG N R ESEARCH A ND D I SC O U R SE O N D E SI GN

Editorial This journal promotes the publication of architectural design research, focusing particularly on project-based research and associated discourse on design. Design is a core activity of the architectural discipline, and yet there are few refereed publications committed to disseminating design-driven research. The term design research is often accounted for as a design science, relying primarily on empirical analytical methodologies drawn from outside the discipline. This journal offers an alternative model.

V ol u m e 1, N u m b er 1 , 2 0 0 5 Is s n 1448-9007

ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN RESEARCH Project-based design research and discourse on design. Architectural Design Research is an international refereed academic journal featuring project-based design research and discourse on design. All research projects and articles published in the journal are double blind refereed by scholars actively engaged in project-based design research and in discourse on design research and practices. Architectural Design Research is affiliated with the Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia (AASA). The journal is supported by contributions from all of the member Architecture Schools and Programs in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Copyright: All rights reserved. Except as permitted by the Copyright Act, no part of this publication may be printed or reproduced or utilised in any form by electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing by the copyright holder. The authors of manuscripts that appear in this journal take responsibility for securing written permission for the publication or re-publication of any copyright material included in their work and also assume responsibility and liability for any libellous,

Editors: Brent Allpress, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. Michael Ostwald, University of Newcastle, Australia. Communication Design Editors: Lisa Grocott, Studio Anybody, New York, USA. Stuart Geddes, Studio Anybody, Melbourne, Australia. Editorial Board: Mike Austin, Unitec Shane Murray, RMIT John Macarthur, University of Queensland Mark Taylor, Victoria University Sarah Treadwell, University of Auckland

unlawful, or injurious statements that may appear in their work. All opinions expressed in material contained in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Architectural Design Research, the Association of Architecture Schools in Australasia (AASA), the Editorial Board or the Editors. Š 2005 Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia (AASA) Copyright of all drawings and photographs is held by the authors unless otherwise indicated. ISSN 1448-9007

Editorial correspondence and subscription enquiries should be addressed to: Brent Allpress, Editor, ADR, School of Architecture + Design, RMIT, GPO Box 2476v, Melbourne 3001, Victoria, Australia. Email: Architectural Design Research is published annually in full colour, with occasional special issues. Detailed submission details can be accessed on the Architectural Design Research website:

Editorial Continued

research articles are refereed by scholars actively engaged in project-based design research and in discourse on design research and practices.

Architectural Design Research is founded on the premise that the activity of designing constitutes a crucial mode of research specific to the architectural discipline. It primarily aims to publish architectural research undertaken through the design of projects where the research is embodied within the project-based design investigations and outcomes. Accompanying exegesis plays a role in situating, framing and clearly communicating the contribution that the project makes to knowledge within the field of architectural design. The exegesis may be text-based but it may also encompass other disciplinary modes of representation such as diagrams and drawings that also play a framing exegetical role. The editors welcome the submission of project-based research undertaken through design investigation and speculation, and scholarly reflection on research embodied within a contributor’s design practice and projects.

This first publication is an open submission issue that features a diverse range of projects and positions that reflect the particular design research cultures and institutional contexts of the contributors. There is a long lineage of precedent within the discipline of architecture for design investigations undertaken through unbuilt design speculation, where nominated design research concerns and constraints can be engaged with selectively. A number of the projects published in this issue employ this approach.

“The Fort” project by Michael Ostwald, Chris Tucker and Michael Chapman is a polemical design proposal for the restoration and extension of an historical military site. As advances in military technology have made defensive fortifications obsolete, this project explores how military architecture is The journal also publishes and promotes discourse on architectural design, being co-opted into the representational role of providing a politicised media to bring project-based design research setting, evoking defence. It could be and discourse into a productive and informed dialogue. The editors welcome argued that the iconoclastic attacks on state and corporate buildings in the the submission of scholarly design U.S.A on September 11th 2001 were research articles addressing significant contemporary architectural design prob- also part of the same over-determined lematics, emerging design strategies and representational economy. practices, scholarly critiques of contem“Drafting Pier 40” by Yoryia porary design practice and projects, and Manolopoulou is an investigation into extended articles by authors on their the role of chance and indeterminacy in project-based design research. the architectural design process. Pier 40 on the Hudson River, New York, provides The journal is published as an annual a vehicle for the proposed design of a issue with an open call for work addressing the above criteria. It will also new public urban space for the local publish occasional special issues with a community. Prescriptive formulations of functionally determined program thematic call for work. All submissions are questioned, and interdisciplinary of design research projects and design 1

“chance” operations are tested in order to displace compositional design procedures and enhance the incidental experiences of subsequent inhabitation.

means to organise adjacency relationships in the arrangement of architectural elements and conditions. Minifie gives priority to relationality as an account of our mediated engagement with the world. Design is reframed as the curation of relational domains. This design research was undertaken within the framework of the RMIT Master of Architecture (research by project) program. The built project received the RAIA Victoria State Chapter Institutional Award in 2004.

“Fire/House” by Luke Douglas is an example of design research on and through drawing that has been maintained as a distinctive lineage within the Auckland School of Architecture over many years. This project engages with the uncanny to inform an exploration of the effaced status of disciplinary drawing practices as a set of constitutive design actions. “Fire/House” reframes a speculative design that was undertaken as an honours level research project. The ADR journal supports and welcomes submissions of exemplary design research by emerging scholars.

“Architectural Design and Discourse” by Shane Murray is an article critiquing the relationship between architectural discourse and design practice internationally. It reframes research undertaken through the RMIT Architecture PhD (research by project) program. Murray argues that architectural theory has increasingly been employed as a source of external authorisation of design, drawing on the authority of discourses outside the discipline to legitimate outcomes. He proposes other models for design discourse as a means to reflect on, frame and disseminate the disciplinary design processes and practices that architects undertake when doing design, particularly design development. Murray offers a clear account of the complexities involved in accounting for the contribution to knowledge in the field of architectural design made by designers and practitioners. This essay raises issues of relevance for any subsequent contributors to this journal who are framing the research embodied within project-based architectural design investigations and outcomes.

“Sewing Architectural Fragments” by Julianna Preston, explores operative design procedures to test the role of ornament in contemporary design and construction. The Eiffel Tower is nominated as an engineering construction that retains an ambiguous architectural status as a tectonic urban composition where construction has figurative implications. Textile fabric and sewing techniques are drawn on as analogous models for reconsidering the compositional status of detailing, joint and fragment at the urban scale, informing the design of the Tower plaza and ground plane. “Instantiating Design Domains” by Paul Minifie frames design research embodied within a built project for the Victorian College of the Arts, Centre for Ideas, by Minifie Nixon Architects. Voronoi diagramming was trialled as a compositional procedure in this project, providing a digital representational

Brent Allpress RMIT Architecture


Communication Design Editorial

that respected the weight and associated rigor of traditional architectural academic publications, while capturing the progressive agenda of the contemporary discourse that surrounds research by project. We decided to celebrate the multiplicity of practices represented through designing a different layout for each research project or article, rather than boxing all submissions into one fixed grid. In studying a century of architectural journals we soon became aware of how immediately the various visual languages of the different eras communicated the discourse of those times. The design layouts appropriated for this journal seek to reference this historical discourse, but the interchangeable grid design also sets out to explore a fluid contemporary practice that cannot be framed by one generic structure.

As a communication design educator I am interested in how we might communicate design knowing across the academy. But I am also a communication design practitioner so am equally curious as to how we design a communication strategy that would have agency for the practice community. So when the editors of Architecture Design Research approached Studio Anybody to work on the design of this new journal our interest in contributing extended beyond selecting typefaces and gutter widths for the publication. In fact we were drawn to the project because it played directly into our own research interests of exploring, through practice, innovative models for communicating and sharing design research. The vision for the journal was clearly defined by its commitment to acknowledging and substantiating the contribution that architectural design research projects can make to architectural scholarship. From the outset ADR distinguished itself from other historical and theoretical journals by recognising the importance of visually documenting the research projects, while distinguishing itself from professional magazines by reviewing projects with regard to their contribution to design knowing. The ambition of ADR to develop a critical forum for disseminating the rich architectural design knowing inherent in project-based research projects is exactly the kind of model that our research was advocating.

In subsequent issues of the journal the communication design challenge will clearly become about more than how to promote plurality amongst the projectbased research community. In designing this first edition the editors and the designers came up against several issues that pertain to the publication of project–based work. Within the academy there is a growing acceptance of the value of practice-based research for architecture, but ultimately the utility of this research will be evaluated by its potential to advance architectural design research and practice. To do this, the design researchers reviewed in this journal, and the others that follow, In this first iteration of the publication need to address an editorial submission our brief was to design a journal that policy that considers how successfully accommodated the breadth of submisthe researchers are articulating the sions - broadly positioning the journal as design knowing within their projects. I a publication that draws its community do not know how these future submisfrom across the many areas of projectsions might evolve, but it is an important based research. Our defining objective challenge facing the contributors, editors seemed to be to design a research journal 3

and publication designers of subsequent issues of ADR to explore potential ways of visually communicating the often tacit learning embedded within these progressive research projects. Architecture is perhaps the best-placed design field to negotiate this somewhat uncharted terrain, for architectural practice has always had to negotiate the space between the representation of the project and the built work. From the perspective of the communication designers the aspiration for ADR would be for the journal submissions to rework the extensive sophisticated vocabulary of architectural representation to communicate the often invisible knowing that these projects offer. For whether a research project plays out a theoretical inquiry through designing, discloses a new methodology for designing with specific digital technology, or investigates contemporary construction technology, it will not be through documentation of the project artefact alone that readers will begin to access the potential of the knowing for their own practice. In my opinion, scholarship in projectbased architectural research will have greater purchase for the practice community when the research community begins to explore through diagrams, drawings and models, new ways to visually articulate the substantive knowing that has been disclosed through the activity of designing. By being brave enough to not privilege the written word as the default text for translating the contribution of the research, this journal presents the ideal forum for this critical work to be undertaken. Lisa Grocott Studio Anybody


ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN RESEARCH project-based design research and discourse on design VOLUME 1, NUMBER 1, 2005

1 • Editorial BRENT ALLPRESS 3 • Communication Design Editorial LISA GROCOTT PROJECTS 7 • The Fort MICHAEL OSTWALD, CHRIS TUCKER AND MICHAEL CHAPMAN 19 • Drafting Pier 40: The Development of Chance as a Drawing Tool in the Process of Architectural Design YORYIA MANOLOPOULOU 39 • Fire/House LUKE DOUGLAS 53 • Sewing Architectural Fragments JULIEANNA PRESTON 63 • Instantiating Design Domains - shifting adjacencies at the Victorian College of the Arts. PAUL MINIFIE ARTICLE 83 • Architectural Design and Discourse SHANE MURRAY 103 • Notes on Contributors



Michael Ostwald, Chris Tucker and Michael Chapman

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The Fort

1. Site Plan


the fort

His eyes followed the rocky ridge around the sheer black cliffs of Fort Scratchley. They’d always viewed the Fort as more or less a joke in the old days - rather like playing toy soldiers. But now it was different. War had come to the Pacific, and some of the biggest guns on the coast were tucked away up there - not that they were ever likely to need them, whatever the “wise Alecks” said. — Dympha Cusack, 19771

The Fort

2. Plan of site model. All Photographs: Chris Patterson

On June 8 1942 the city of Newcastle came under attack from a Japanese submarine which fired 34 shells at the city. Fort Scratchley, which guards the city, returned fire driving the enemy sub out to sea despite being unable to lower its guns enough to shoot directly at the submarines. The exchange, similar to one that occurred in Sydney earlier the same day, was intended to intimidate the Australian people rather than do any real damage. Similarly, the Fort’s response relied on the threat of danger to scare away the boat rather than any real likelihood of engaging with the enemy. The Fort project2 explores the way in which fear and intimidation are deployed in times of war to exaggerate and distort perception. Using the remains of the historic Fort, the project proposes a new apparatus more suitable to the practices of modern warfare. The project recognises three components - a statesman, a framed context and the media - as being essential to modern techniques of intimidation and persuasion. Following from the theories of Paul Virilio, within modern culture these three have replaced the physical defences offered by architectural fortifications, rendering the traditional fort obsolete.

The Invasion In the early hours of the morning of June 8, 1942 Captain Harvey, the Searchlight Commander at Fort Scratchley, had just completed his rounds. At that time the fort was operating under “close-defence” conditions and a few hours earlier there had been an air raid warning, which was later given the “all clear”. The commander had three searchlights under his control, situated at Parnell Place, the Fort and Nobbys. All of the lights were manned and ready for action when the Captain returned to the observation post just after 2am. The ships log of the night records that “at 2:17 am, No. 3 light reported that there appeared to be flashes that could be gunfire from something at sea. There appeared to be something at the extreme end of the beam but it could not be illuminated sufficiently to identify it”.3 From the observation post at the Fort it was not possible to see the area as it was concealed behind the lowered mass of Nobbys Island, also rendering the other two searchlights ineffective. However, moments later more gunfire was detected as well as eight star shells which illuminated the clear winter sky. It was nearly fifteen minutes before the Commanders of the Fort realised that the city was under attack and returned fire. The situation was further confused by the Steamship Birubi which was just off the coast at the time. The ship, attempting to get out of danger, “was steaming full speed to port and clouds of smoke were across our line of vision”.

Michael Ostwald, Chris Tucker and Michael Chapman

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3. Plan of emplacement

This lack of visibility further exacerbated the chaos that had overtaken the three command posts when a shell blasted past the fort and exploded in Parnell Place, just behind the first search light. The pandemonium is manifest in the Captain Harvey’s log which records that [t]he submarine apparently had drifted southwards because we saw a gun flash and Captain Watson said “Duck” - which we instinctively did. The shell missed the Observation Post and exploded in Parnell Place. [The Central Commander] then gave the Fort’s two 6-inch guns their range and bearing and ordered fire. His telephonist then reported “Fire Command says ‘engage when ready’. Sir”. Captain Watson [the Battery Commander] said, “Tell him I bloody well have.” He then gave a ranging correction and when that had been applied to the guns, ordered a second salvo.4 In all, the Fort fired four shells at the virtually unsighted submarine. This proved sufficient to drive the enemy sub back out to sea. The submarine, in the space of a few minutes had fired 34 shells over the city, of which only 8 exploded.5 The shells were targeted at the coastal areas of Newcastle and Stockton and also strategic interests such as the steelworks and the shipyard. While the vessel was not identified at the time, the attack was later attributed to a Japanese Submarine I-21. Hours earlier (just after midnight) another Japanese

submarine (I-24) had fired ten shells over Sydney, only one of which exploded. Originally intended for the central business district and Harbour Bridge the shells came down over the leafy suburbs of Rose Bay, Woollahra and Bellevue Hill. Damage was done to several houses in the area, but nobody was killed in the attacks. The submarines involved in the carefully orchestrated, if poorly executed, attacks had originally housed the three midget submarines that, a week earlier, detached themselves from their “mother” submarines and attempted, with mixed success, to infiltrate Sydney Harbour. In the process, one of the midget subs had sunk the HMAS Kuttabul - a converted ferry that now provided sleeping quarters to sailors based at Garden Island. The attack killed 21 people, 19 of them Australians. Despite this, all three of the subs were disposed of in rapid succession. The destruction of the “midgets” effectively freed up the “mother” subs to undertake conventional submarine warfare against commercial ships. After a week of this the Japanese launched their final coastal attack on Sydney and Newcastle. The story of June 8, 1942 can best be described as an embarrassment for both sides. The Japanese, despite the audacity of the attack, inflicted minimal damage on their opponent, while the response of the defence forces, overcome with panic, was similarly ineffectual. In Newcastle,

The Fort

4. Section through entry podium and “Perception” emplacement

5. Section through Statesman’s podium

the submarine had already unloaded 34 shells before the Battery Post even noticed and it was fifteen minutes before they returned fire. The Nobbys searchlight, which was in the best position to sight the submarine, was operating at a third of its capacity on the night, so the beam fell short of clearly sighting the submarine. When the Fort finally returned fire, the Battery Commanders were unable to lower the guns to a level where they could fire directly at the submarine, and so resorted to firing in the vicinity of it in the hope of scaring it away. This may have been an effective strategy but it is widely assumed that by the time the Fort had returned fire the submarine was already on its way back out to sea. The Japanese were also plagued by equipment failure on the night with most of the shells failing to explode. The City Council, shortly after the attack reported that the total cost of their repair work would be less than seven pounds.6 One of the reasons suggested for the poor success rate of the shells is that they were designed to penetrate the steel armour of ships, and not designed for use on bricks and mortar. Another hypothesis is that the shells were too old, having been manufactured nearly thirty years ago in England for the First World War. Whatever the reason, the damage inflicted by the short encounter was

relatively minor. Reid describes how “[d]espite the […] intensity of the attack, nobody was injured and little damage was done. All things considered, Sydney and Newcastle escaped lightly. The purpose of the shelling had been to cause panic”.7 The morning after the attack the Newcastle Morning Herald confirmed this, reporting only minor damage to the city’s fabric and morale.8 In Sydney, the editorial of The Sun reported that “the damage done was less than that caused by any heavy storm, and the effect on morale was nil, though it was an engrossing subject of conversation in Sydney this morning”.9 According to Carey, “the enemy’s purpose in attacking was intimidation. Its effect, though, was to annoy rather than frighten residents”.10 The events of the 8th of June 1942 confirm that the “act of war” is not only about the taking or holding of territory. It is often more important to sow the seeds of doubt within the mind of the enemy. The attacks appeared to have no clearly defined strategic goal beyond showing the people of Newcastle and those of the eastern seaboard that they were not safe, and indeed were vulnerable to attack. Despite the relative impotence of the assault, the night when Newcastle was attacked was the moment when Fort Scratchley finally fulfilled its purpose. The incident not only

Michael Ostwald, Chris Tucker and Michael Chapman

6. Elevation looking west

The Defensive Archetype Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century Newcastle became a city of tremendous strategic importance to the rapidly expanding colony. As a result of this it was considered, by residents in particular, to be vulnerable to coastal attack, despite its dramatic contours which were ideal

for strategic defence. This was observed by a committee assembled in 1870 to look at the defence of the harbour. The report that they compiled concluded that [n]ature has given us greater advantages for defence than other seaport towns. Flagstaff hill [the site of the current Fort] and the cliffs are the most eligible battery sites possible, and with an adequate supply of the recently invented long-range guns, vessels of war, however well equipped for destruction, could never take the town.11 The strategic importance of Fort Scratchley was recognised in the earliest days of the colony and in 1804 Lieutenant Charles Moore established a coal-fired beacon on the site for navigation purposes. By 1820 guns had been mounted on the hill and in 1880 construction began on the fort to the design of Peter Scratchley, a British engineer. The design consisted of two distinct levels, organised within an eighty-metre diameter circular wall. The upper level housed three concrete gun pits organised radially from the centre. The lower level consisted of connecting tunnels that linked all areas of the fort as well as the magazine store. The exterior of the fort emerged only slightly from the existing hill, providing a flat profile to any possible attack. A thick concrete embankment protected the fort on the northern and eastern sides and a wide moat restricted access from the south and west. The design of Fort Scratchley, like many colonial fortifications, draws upon classical models of defence, which require both physical and psychological safety. The need to physically defend a city with architectural fortifications is an ancient one and has been inseparable from the historical evolution of urban design and planning. As historic cities began to grow the need to keep out undesirable elements led to the design of walls, then towers, then forts and finally castles, each rendering the city progressively more impenetrable to its enemies. In the politically unstable period of the Renaissance the role of

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made the fort the only coastal emplacement in Australia to ever fire shots in anger but it, in a lateral way, gave a justification and reason for the forts’ one hundred year existence. The fort had been manned since the first half of the nineteenth century and was armed and ready throughout the First World War. The Japanese attack was the only moment when the iconic fort had been called on to fulfil its function. Since that time the coastal defence strategy has changed even more and the fort, as an architectural type, is now obsolete and is not regarded as an effective means of defending a city. As a sign of these times, Fort Scratchley no longer acts as a fort and now serves as a tourist attraction. Only a single bronze plaque reminds the visitor of the morning of June 8 1942, the morning when Fort Scratchley became Australia’s only true fort. Our proposal considers contemporary techniques of war as a counterpoint to the outdated defences offered by the fort. The project treats the stone skeleton of the Fort as a kind of ruin into which a new apparatus is placed that is more akin to modern techniques of war. In the period since the Second World War the objectives of war - intimidation, fear and propaganda - haven’t changed, but the means of achieving these have evolved to new levels. Central to such new techniques is the role the media plays in portraying isolated images of combat and elevating the politician, as statesmen, to the level of a modern warrior. The mediatised image, and the figure it deploys are now the most effective weapon for reaching the global population and convincing them of the efficacy of any military engagement.

The Fort

the military engineer became effectively blurred with that of the architect, whose responsibility was now to render cities defensive as well as beautiful. Architects such as Francesco di Giorgio, Leonardo da Vinci, Francesco Marchi, Antonio Filarete and Vincenzo Scamozzi all integrated civil defence in their visionary proposals for cities and buildings. The Renaissance period, more than any other, gave rise to a type of defence which, as well as being physically safe, gave the impression (to both residents and potential enemies) of impregnability. This architectural type was dominated by geometry and, in particular, a circular form punctuated with triangular ramparts. This was not only a physically strong and effective use of stone, but it presented an imposing and aggressive façade. The triangular ramparts also served an important role in breaking concerted attacks (often in massed infantry formations) and channelling attacking forces into narrow death-traps. Visually these architectural forms also reinforce the feeling of enclosure strengthening the perception of security.12 This spatial diagram of defence, evocative of the archetypal fort, has been accepted for many hundreds of years. In the section on military defence in Diderot’s Encyclopedie - the layman’s guide of the 18th Century - the section on “Fortifications” provides a number of archetypal forts, all reminiscent of the Renaissance model, with large triangular ramparts arrayed around a circular diagram. The strength of this layout is that it provides a high degree of surveillance from the centre as well as several positions for firing at the circumference. It is this model that the defences at Fort Scratchley are loosely based upon providing a central strategic tower and radiating, although now circular, gun emplacements at the perimeter of the wall. The twentieth century saw a dramatic change in the way that wars were waged fundamentally destabilising the classical notions of fortification. The invention of the aeroplane rendered the fortress obsolete, as enemies could fly over walls and infiltrate the city from the inside. Where the programme for the Fort had always been to provide a physical barrier, the twentieth century saw the Fort relegated to providing symbolic or psychological protection. This is reflected in the city of Newcastle where the advancements of the Second World War necessitated a broadening of strategic defences and a new administrative bureaucracy capable of co-ordinating them. Weapons such as the submarine required a dispersal of surveillance positions across the city, with searchlights scattered at every vantage point to provide maximum visibility. The historian John Ramsland describes how

was, became incorporated into the general defence system of the area. Sheperd’s Hill became the site of a new six inch battery. An observation station was also set up there which became the command centre for the Newcastle coastal defences system. This station was linked by telegraph and telephone to all the defence installations in the area, as well as the Sydney defence network. Gun installations and observation posts were also established at North Stockton, on the southern breakwater and other places.13

This dispersal of strategic power was symptomatic of the new paradigm for defence that no longer hid behind walls, but actively pursued clandestine enemies from every possible vantage point. As technology developed, the means of concealing threats to a city became more advanced and the centralised fort became part of a distributed network of defensive units. However, even given the increased levels of spatial organization, it was the evolution of speed, which effectively surpassed the defences of Fort Scratchley in the 1942 attack. Easily deployed missiles, which could be fired under the cover of darkness, rendered Fort Scratchley ineffective. The Fort Commanders took nearly fifteen minutes to detect the enemy, by which time 30 shells had already been dispensed. This degree of rapid exchange, particular to the late twentieth century, has irreversibly transformed the landscape of warfare. This condition, which has accelerated even more rapidly since the end of the Second World War, has been central to the work of the French urbanist Paul Virilio. Virilio has examined the spatial implications of modern military strategies where the dispersal and speed available to enemy forces ensures that “the weapon replaces the protection of armour”14 - or attack becomes the primary mode of defence in an environment of fast and destructive external threats. Here the ancient model of the fort is superseded by modern technological weaponry of which the submarine and aeroplane were only the first examples. Virilio draws convincing parallels between the evolution of technology and the military, celebrating the ability of weaponry to continually transcend models of defence. In his book Speed and Politics15 he considers the changing nature of modern war concluding that speed has replaced territory as the new strategic device with which wars will be waged. Pursuing this argument, he concludes that the regions of concentrated transportation (such as freeways, train lines and airports) will become the stage in the modern theatre of war. The traditional fortress [d]uring World War II […] Fort Scratchley, instead of being type, in Virilio’s thesis, is an archaic and ineffectual relic of the main independent defence, for Newcastle, as it formerly historic warfare.

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Michael Ostwald, Chris Tucker and Michael Chapman

7. Plan

The Fort

8. Site model

The other major development that Virilio examines is the way in which the media has changed the very notion of combat. Where the Second World War was reported through sporadic radio broadcasts and newspaper articles, the modern war provides immediate and graphic coverage to a global audience. As the media invades the war zone itself, the battle for “hearts and minds” has fast usurped the control of territory as the major political objective for a war. This elevates the role of the diplomat or politician to a position far superior to the foot soldier in strategic and operational procedures. The politician, transformed into a statesmen in times of trouble, participates in a form of dispersed, psychological combat that is undertaken with an infinitely complex array of weapons that are not available to the typical soldier. Within this modern war, “deterrence” and “propaganda” are primary defensive strategies in the face of devastating and explosive weaponry. At the heart of both of these strategies is the media and an alternative role that a historic fort may fulfil; not as a memorial to the battles of the past but as an aesthetic architectural type to house a new form of mythopoeic recollection. Fort Scratchley, intrinsically entwined in these global developments, has suffered a similar fate. Effectively redundant after its heroic exploits in World War II, the site has become ostensibly a tourist attraction but still struggles to find a meaningful programme. In June 2002 the Australian Prime Minister visited Fort Scratchley pledging four million dollars for the refurbishment of the ageing site. The story, which appeared in the local newspaper the following day, shows the prime minister posing for a photograph in one of the ramparts of the fort. His stance beside one of the disused cannons is awkward and he is surrounded by a number of uniformed military personnel who are carefully observing the proceedings. The caption reads “Big Gun: Prime Minister John Howard Attempts to Fire a Gun While Visiting Fort Scratchley.” By the twenty first century the fort had become a popular photo-opportunity for politicians regardless of their political or social values and seemingly oblivious to the forts’ incapacity in the face of modern warfare - or are they? This image of a political statesman, photographed against the backdrop of the Fort, its guns and some uniformed soldiers, is the inspiration for The Fort project. Crystallising the ideas of Virilio and the themes of modern war the design reinvents the fort as an architectural backdrop; a stage upon which events are contrived and communicated to a global audience. This situation provides the basis for a reappraisal of the defensive archetype and the contemporary culture that has long since dispensed with it. The fort, in its attempt to find relevance in a rapidly accelerating society, becomes a political rather

Michael Ostwald, Chris Tucker and Michael Chapman

than military weapon, using historical legitimacy, architectural hyperbole and medieval machinery to broadcast messages to a global audience. A Monument to Political Iconography The proposal for Fort Scratchley uses the existing walls of the Fort as a framework for critiquing the techniques of modern war. These large and tapered walls not only present an impressive architectural profile to the city, but also communicate a language of safety and defence. It is their ability to appear resilient and to remind people of their past role in protecting the country’s borders, which is more important to the population than their actual powers of resistance. The existing layout of the fort consists of a large semi-circular access corridor which connects the three gun emplacements to the east with the disused barracks to the west. A new staircase is carved out of the western side of the cliff allowing access to the structure. Tourists, having scaled the stair, arrive at the barracks building, which becomes an empty vestibule where they collect their thoughts before proceeding into the monument. The ring, which currently envelops the northern edge of the fort, is extended all the way around to form a complete circle and create a plinth for the restructuring. This ring provides access for the tourist to the periphery of the fort and reinforces the classical geometry of the original layout. The ring has two levels; a publicly accessible access corridor at the upper level and a lower, more covert, tunnel directly underneath. Both corridors access all emplacements but only

the upper corridor is open to the public. The extended ring allows for four additional emplacements to be added to the existing three. Each of the original gun emplacements are used as sites for a series of tall, stone, triangular forms which taper towards the top. The historic emplacements are still visible at the base of these triangular walls, preserving the footprint of the original fort, but modifying it in a way that recalls the archetypal Renaissance fort. While the tourist is free to circle the fort the second type of user, the Statesman, can only enter the lower level and then follow a tunnel out into the centre of the circle where a stair rises up to an open platform. Only one Statesman is allowed to enter the underground passage on any day. A person qualifies for entry if they are able to provide 100 copies of different unsolicited “Letters to the Editor” that are about themselves and have been printed in any national newspaper with a circulation of more than half a million copies. The Statesman is likely to be a politician although disgraced sportspeople, high profile clergy, actors and media personalities could all qualify. The Statesman, who may be male or female, need not have anything informed to say but by virtue of their media profile their opinion is regarded as newsworthy. In the event of multiple applications to book the Statesman’s position on any one day the applicant with the highest profile is given preference. A Statesman may only apply to enter the fort twice during a calendar year for each site of international conflict the nation’s military are deployed in. The forts’ curators, car park

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9. Detail model of emplacement

The Fort

10. Detail model of emplacement

attendants and cleaners have the final say in any contested application for the Statesman’s position. Once the Statesman is selected and allowed access they rise to the central platform that is ringed by a network of automatic cameras (which hold a maximum of three images a day) and microphones (which hold a maximum of three, ten second recordings - press releases are sent out in advance of the visit and are not controlled by the fort). The cameras use telephoto lenses to capture the Statesman in front of a series of tableaux - Remnant, Territory, Memory, Patriotism, Perception, Nostalgia and Prophecy - which are explained hereafter. The Statesman is allowed to stand in front of the selected sets for each photo-opportunity and is then given a moment to record a statement for the waiting press. The press are only allowed access to the former munitions store - now converted into a media room - where they download the photographs or sound-bites and consume complementary cocktails before departing. The press access route does not cross the tourist path or the Statesman’s except in the car park where they have free reign to “doorstop” the Statesman or engage in vox populi with the tourists. Paparazzi are not allowed access to the fort but they may charter a helicopter at the nearby airforce base to photograph the Statesman. The fort is not responsible for ensuring that any images or sound-bites are actually published or played.

The seven emplacements are oriented towards a central point and are open inside, housing a series of tableaux that embody the stages of war. Within the centre of the circular ring, at the point where the emplacements are oriented, is a platform where the Statesman stands. This is accessed from a wide, open corridor from the existing barracks building, lined by Doric columns on either side. The inner ring contains a camera that rotates around the rim, capturing the Statesman standing on top of the platform, with the backdrop of the desired emplacement behind framing the context for the photograph. The backdrop can thus be manipulated to reinforce the content of the spoken word. There are seven emplacements, running clockwise from the north; the first angular enclosure is Remnant. Positioned here is a decaying stone relic of World War I. This serves as a celebration of past deeds, reinforcing the almost forgotten ties with the near past. The second emplacement is Territory. This triangular shard is built upon the existing stone gun emplacement. Here the two tapered stonewalls house the only operating gun within the fort. This is concealed from all viewpoints except from the sea. Access for the operator of the gun is only from the privacy of the lower level. Suspended from the side of the wall is a lifeboat that is visible from the Statesman’s platform. Also visible is a mechanism that apparently allows the lowering of the boat for rescuing people

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Michael Ostwald, Chris Tucker and Michael Chapman

11. Detail model of emplacement

lost at sea. However the boat, which is also an architectural reference, can only be lowered until it is out of the range of the camera - and no longer has the Statesman in its foreground - it never reaches the water. The third emplacement, again built above an existing gun turret, is Memorial. This serves to immortalise those lives that have been lost in the pursuit of noble causes. The act of remembrance is an important ritual in the stages of war. The emplacement has a narrow opening to the east and captures only the early morning sun. A deep reflecting pool in the centre accentuates the tranquil quality of the space and immerses the visitor in solitary contemplation. The pool is accessed from the upper level only. The next emplacement, the fourth, is Perception. Perception provides the context for our actions without which the act of war loses its meaning. The perception emplacement is double storey, providing the grandest setting for the Statesman in the centre. This emplacement is the only one where the central colonnade space is visible from the installation itself. The unadorned tapered walls house a giant, globe-like membrane, which fills the space. The irregular membrane is tied back to the ground (at the lowest level of the ring) by rope. The Statesman is the only person allowed to enter the emplacement by-way-of a ladder. Once out of site of the public and they are within the triangular form they can use the rope and pulley mechanism to manipulate the globe. If, for medical reasons, the Statesman

requires assistance to climb the ladder they may call upon old friends in the media to assist. On returning to the upper level, only the distorted shape of the irregular membrane is visible. Here the Statesman may be photographed within a fluid and contrived landscape of perception. The emplacement provides the backdrop of a distorted world-view, fundamental to the practice of modern war, and manipulated by interested parties. The fifth emplacement is Patriotism, a phenomena familiar to the culture of war and often associated with a belief in moral rights. This emplacement houses the existing flagpole which is enshrined within the large tapered walls that have no openings. The flag is freely accessible from above but provides no access from below. The flag is a common backdrop for the Statesman. The sixth emplacement is Nostalgia. This houses one of the guns that returned fire on June 8, 1942. Partially concealed by a narrow opening in the front wall, the decommissioned gun now sits with its shaft frozen within the outer wall, reminding visitors of the limited range of the guns on that night. Rather than facing the ocean, its fixed gaze is now turned toward the city, from where the modern threat is likely to emerge. The uniformed and clearly demarcated enemies of the Second World War are now obsolete, consumed by the realities of modern warfare and the fears of contemporary terrorism. The installation is accessed from above, but there is no access from below. On the unadorned outer wall of the emplacement

The Fort

the narrow shaft of the gun emerges threateningly from the cold stone wall. The last emplacement, Prophecy, is only the foundation of an emplacement. This points to the future, providing a potential base for future sentiment. It is not accessible, and is not visible from the central Statesman position. Here the Statesman is framed against a backdrop of uncertain emptiness, how will history record and judge not only the Statesman but also the role played by the media. Few Statesmen willingly face this backdrop. The purpose of each of the seven emplacements, which embody the acts of war, is to provide a flexible backdrop for the Statesman to be photographed against. Here the camera becomes the weapon of warfare and the Statesman the warrior. The once impregnable fortress has been reduced to the role of scenic backdrop, no longer representative of the forces of global politics or military endeavour. This forgotten landmark now provides the medium for articulating a new and more sinister technology of defence. This technology, heralded by Virilio, necessitates a reappraisal of the fort and its relevance within contemporary society.

1. Dympha Cusack, Southern Steel, Richmond: Marlin Brooks, 1977, 24. 2. The Fort was first publicly exhibited at the Lovett Gallery, Newcastle, January—March 2003; and at the State Library of New South Wales, December 2003—March 2004. Members of the Project Team included Isabelle Duner, Ooi Wei Yap and Matthew Markham-Lee. All model photography is by Chris Patterson. 3. Quoted in: Lewis Carey, Fort Scratchley, Newcastle: Newcastle Region Public Library, 1986, 22. 4. Quoted in: ibid. 5. These figures are taken from Richard Reid, No Cause for Alarm, Sydney: Department of Veteran Affairs, 2002, p. 11. These figures appear credible, despite Carey maintaining that there were only 24 shells and 3 explosions. See: Lewis Carey, Fort Scratchley, 24. 6. See: Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate, June 11, 1942. 7. Richard Reid, No Cause for Alarm, 11. 8. See: Lewis Carey, Fort Scratchley, 24. 9. Editorial entitled: “Shells on Sydney”, The Sun, 8 June 1942. Quoted in Richard Reid, No Cause for Alarm, 11. 10. Lewis Carey, Fort Scratchley, 24. 11. Committee’s report into “Harbour Defences”, quoted in Lewis Carey, Fort Scratchley, 9. 12. This form became the basis for several European cities after the Renaissance, such as Philippeville in Belgium (founded in 1554) and Hamina in Finland (founded in 1723). See Spiro Kostof, The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History, London: Thames and Hudson, 1991, 191. 13. John Ramsland, “Silver Pencils of Light: Fragments of Remembered and Forgotten Space in Wartime Newcastle” in R. John Moore and Michael J. Ostwald, eds., Hidden Newcastle: Urban Memories and Architectural Imaginaries, Sydney: Gadfly Media, 1997, 161. 14. Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics, trans. Mark Polizzotti, New York: Semiotext(e), 1977, 136. Virilio develops the idea of the modern mediated urban landscape in: Paul Virilio, The Lost Dimension. Trans. Daniel Moshenberg. New York: Semiotext[e], 1991.; Paul Virilio and A. Pelissier. “Vers L’espace des Interfaces.” [“Towards the Space of Interfaces.”] Techniques et Architecture, no. 364, 1986, 130–133. 15. Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics, 136.

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Yoryia Manolopoulou

The Development of Chance as a Drawing Tool in the Process of Architectural Design

Drafting Pier 40:





CHANCE IN PERCEPTION We never experience space without the intervention of accidents. Often these are small incidents, ordinary coincidences that we do not notice or remember. But sometimes accidents become unusually apparent and ‘odd’, disturbing our sense of logic and undercutting our assumptions about the world. Such accidents have triggered my curiosity about the strange ‘power’ of chance and a desire to understand its intimate relationship with how architectural space is experienced and produced.1

Buildings influence our lived experience of an environment and play an essential role in shaping perceptual experience. But our perceptual experience cannot claim objectivity and certainty; it involves instead a great range of chance factors and relationships. Accepting that chance is fundamental in how we experience space, I will propose that architects ought to explore its role as a productive element in design.

CHANCE IN DESIGN To investigate the role that chance plays in shaping architectural space, it is necessary to consider a broader concept to which chance belongs, that of indeterminacy. The principles of indeterminacy have long been considered in the fields of science and philosophy. In the production of art and design the term indeterminacy means the impossibility of completely specifying the end results of a project. The word has a particular meaning in architecture, for it accepts and exploits the fact that design should take into account that the perception and use of buildings are never entirely controllable. Architectural practice cannot fully determine in advance how projects will be understood, built and lived in; it should conceive design as indeterminate.

1. View of the adjacent remains of the pier south to Pier 40. 2. Exterior view of Pier 40. 3. Rotating perspective view. 4. Aerial site view with water and flower colour range. 5. Marcel Duchamp, Large Glass, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photograph: Yoryia Manolopoulou.


But for architecture to do this, a sufficient language of drawing has to be developed that considers the indeterminate nature of perception. Indeterminacy has been considered in architecture, mainly in terms of function (for instance, flexibility of buildings), but more fundamental aspects of the theme, yet to be fully explored, relate to the perception and representation of space. Artists have explored the use of chance more explicitly and systematically than architects in the understanding of such issues. They have also used chance to question issues of determinism, taste and authorship, and to stimulate the imagination in unexpected ways. For this reason certain art projects can provide instructive models for architecture.

Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915–23) (most commonly known as the Large Glass) and his associated inquiries remain one of the most important examples of work that explores the interdependence of design and chance. Duchamp here uses chance to detect and draw spaces operating beyond the limits of visibility.2 The work is a paradigm of drawing that challenges issues of indeterminacy in spatial perception and representation. Its study can be exemplary to the progress of architectural design.

To suggest that chance can be employed as a creative tool in the process of architectural design means to directly test this proposition in practice. Drafting Pier 40, a design proposal for New York’s Pier 40, is an example of a project that investigates chance as a design tool in its own right. The work has been influenced by Duchamp’s investigations and John Cage’s ‘chance operations’, particularly Fontana Mix (1958).

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DRAWING OPERATIONS • Site: Pier 40 was built on the Hudson River, New York, as a marine terminal and the largest structure in the world to be made of reinforced concrete in 1962. The enormous fifteen acre pier is today used as a car park. The project proposes a park, the kind of public space that the community residents have long wanted. • Void: Floors, ceilings and walls are demolished to create a completely free field while the central structural frame stays intact to preserve the building’s circulating ramps. The ramps outline the periphery of the pier and function as icons of its history. The less determined core area is seen as a cultivatable changeable landscape.

• Dots: Nine templates with points are firstly • Cut–outs: The planted beds are imagined made, each one with a different number of as flower islands that can possibly ‘embark’ randomly distributed dots. from the pier. They can create arrangements • Lines: Nine templates with random lines between two extreme conditions, taking up are then made, each one with six curves the pier’s entire area assembling a large differentiated by thickness and texture. garden or setting sail and leaving the pier • Net and Horizon: Two more templates are totally free. The floating gardens can enliven made, one with a grid of a 100 x 20 squares other parts of the waterfront to provide and one with a straight line. a variety of conditions and an element • Transparent Overlays: Twelve chance of surprise. overlays of transparent versions of these • Cast Accident: Modelling starts intuitively templates create new drawings. Each with the first material found at hand, an old overlay gives a ‘canned chance’ and suggests skateboard. The form of the skate-mould is the organisation of one planted bed. introduced into the topography of the site so that the ends of the streets to the east of the pier bend smoothly to meet the new hollow floor. The pier’s floor sinks under

as needed to create a dense net of points the water surface, but the act of catalysing and define the floor plugs of the poles. The resin brings an accident: the model bends poles mark and measure the site vertically. outward toward the opposite direction of the Using a manual switching operation, visitors pier’s cavity. The accidental form makes a can make them glow to illuminate specific key suggestion: the edge of the pier should areas of the park. not be a definite hard end but a smooth slope • Rulers and Objects: The mid-height ring that creates a shifting boundary of water. carries two intersecting rulers that scan the • Imaginary Landscapes: Each stage of the pier horizontally. They ‘draw’ operations of process of making the model is intuitively the pier, pausing or moving as needed. The interpreted as a possible landscape top ring functions as a hanger and a sliding condition for the pier at a specific moment track for the transportation of objects such in its future life. as projection screens, wind shields, rain • Beacons: Inspired by the icon of the pier collectors, shower sprinkles, shading covers pillar, an assembly of poles is suggested as and seating. a main design component. Overlays of the dot templates are repeated as many times

• Drawing on Chance: Drafting Pier 40 welcomes chance during and after the design process, or rather it prolongs the design process to the inhabiting stage of the architecture. The new pier is conceived as a three-dimensional ‘drawing board’ built at full-scale. It describes the gap between drawing and building: it represents neither the physical structure of the architecture nor its inhabitation. The element of indeterminacy in it exists because design and inhabitation are not distinguished.

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6. Notebook Extract

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7. ‘Rulers’ and ‘void’, notebook extract.

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8. Template of ‘dots’, notebook extract.

10. Templates of ‘dots’ and ‘lines’, notebook extract.

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9. Template of ‘lines’, notebook extract.

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11. Templates of ‘net and horizon’, notebook extract.

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12. Photographs of ‘transparent overlays’, notebook extract.

14. Net overlay for the location of the ‘poles’, notebook extract.

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13. ‘Cut-out’ flower beds, notebook extract.




IMPULSIVE, MEASURABLE AND ACTIVE CHANCE In the context of this project, the use of chance as a drawing tool means the invention of working modes which can help us achieve in our work a ‘distancing’ or ‘alienation’ from the expected. Drafting Pier 40 proposes the deployment of three kinds of chance-related techniques, ‘impulsive’, ‘measurable’ and ‘active’ chance: Impulsive chance emerges from an individualistic creative process that is strongly linked with the unconscious. It means the instinctive use of chance in not entirely conscious operations. Techniques of impulsive chance can relate to the spontaneous development of ideas and the stimulation of imagination, as well as accidents and/or

mistakes that happen during the drawing process. An example is the Surrealists’ use of automatism which was seen as a mechanism for unravelling the unconscious. Measurable chance seeks chance in a controlled and methodical way. One of the most characteristic projects in art and design that employs techniques of measurable chance is the Large Glass. Here Duchamp combines chance with precision; he invents techniques that methodically employ chance to detect, measure and draw spaces operating beyond the limits of visibility. Measurable chance accepts the fact that ‘design by chance’ and ‘chance by design’ coexist.

Active chance implies a collective manner of working that usually involves play and the social reality beyond the individual. In architecture it takes the form of not completely specifying the attributes of a scheme, creating undetermined, unfixed and uncertain design causes, and accepting that the life of a building is not controllable. The techniques of active chance aim to cultivate rather than ‘freeze’ chance over time. Examples range from Cage’s projects of indeterminacy3 to the Situationists’ practice of dérive. While architects have dabbled in aleatory manoeuvres, mainly in order to defy functionalism, rationalism and the aesthetics of modernism, architecture can benefit from

15. Imaginary Landscapes from left to right: • Initial mould • Transparent pier with reflections in fair weather; underwater aquatic flowers changes its floor over time • Bandaged pier; during periods of transformation a cloth covers its entire surface • Dust, pressed sand and gravel; special floor coatings aid the layering of gradually accumulated or partly deposited textures • Flowing pier; pool or ice rink with poles used as markers and measuring sticks for height levels • Firm surface for playing and flower garden in summer; the rings function as measuring tools and carriers of park equipment and furniture. 16. Side mould view. 17. View of the rulers functioning as measuring/scanning tools and carriers of park equipment and furniture, notebook extract. 18. View of the pier as a ‘drawing park’.

more radical abandonments to chance. Chance should be one of architecture’s main drawing tools. My definition of the techniques of impulsive, measurable and active chance is not intended to construct a didactic model or a firm design methodology. The techniques should not consist of an absolute working mode but a complementary one that interferes with other design processes and favours collaboration between media and practices. The area where chance takes over design and control is often the area of transition from one medium or manner of working to an other.

Architecture is a product and a producer of both design and chance. By exploring the theme of chance in drawing architects can more profoundly consider the non-optical accounts of space, the issue of inhabitation and the unpredictable lives of their buildings.

Endnotes 1. See Yeoryia Manolopoulou, Drawing on Chance: Indeterminacy, Perception, and Design, PhD in Architecture, University College London, 2003. 2. For the study of Duchamp’s work see Craig E. Adcock, Marcel Duchamp’s Notes from the Large Glass: An N-Dimensional Analysis, Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1983; and Linda Dalrymple Henderson, Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works, New York: Princeton University Press, 1998. 3. See William Fetterman, John Cage’s Theatre Pieces: Notations and Performances, Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1996.

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Luke Douglas

1. programmatic debris

Fire/House is an investigation into the applicability of the Freudian uncanny to architecture. In particular it employs the

between architectural drawing, built object, and text. This project is speculative, rather than polemical; and does not claim to reach general conclusions. It is guided, however, by a desire to recognise drawing as a privileged architectural practice.

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uncanny to probe the relationship

Fire/House Luke Douglas

The idea that architectural drawing is a complete, regular and controlled system of reference to a future object is problematic. Catherine Ingraham has described the conventional linearity of architectural design: that architectural drawing becomes useful only in its ability to progressively disappear as its object is constituted. 1 Architectural drawings are relegated as merely approximations of an ideal object, neglecting the obvious fact that the drawings are in fact constituting what they appear to observe. The built object is directly identified with this idealised object; and the very drawings in which it was constituted are jettisoned as obsolete. The most that drawings might hope for is to receive some kind of archival after-life as a secondary reference. James Elkins and Georges Didi-Hubermann have given accounts of the difficulty in distinguishing with any regular precision between the material of a representation and its content, and consequently the difficulty in giving purely semiotic accounts of representation. 2 Architectural drawing is a production that cannot be entirely assimilated to a textual description. The materiality, actions, decision, distributions, contingencies and intentions at work in drawing cannot be spelt out in a written form. Drawing provokes welcomed, depending on the practitioner, but cannot be avoided. This opens up architectural drawing to be scrutinised with a different set of eyes that permit a look across the surface of the page. Fire/House finds a model for the relationship between drawing and the built object in Freud’s analysis of the uncanny, the German word for which is unheimliche; literally the ‘unhomely’. 3 The uncanny is a domestic disturbance, unfamiliarity found in the most familiar place. Freud’s 1919 essay, das Unheimliche examines the slippery and sometimes convergent definitions of the homely and the un-homely: the uncanny is not simply the fearful or grotesque, but also the uncomfortable or sinister, and especially the sense of something hidden which might surface at any moment. 4 According to Michel de Certeau, there is “an ‘uncanniness’ about the past that a present occupant has expelled (or thinks it has) in an effort to take its place. The dead haunt the living. The past: ‘it re-bites’ il remorder (it is a secret and repeated biting).” 5 Fire/House does not attempt to constitute the uncanny as an object. Instead, it sets up a process where the drawings that are displaced by the proposed building haunt the project, secretly and repeatedly biting it. The drawings persist, shadowing the experience of the occupants. A firehouse (or equally, a housefire) is itself an uncanny figure: a house for waiting and then evacuating. All the paraphernalia of domestic life is

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a suspension of the built object which is either guarded against or

contained, but is multiplied and modified according to the special needs of the fire-fighters, who must be permanently ready to make a quick exit. Fire/House is a proposal for the new Remuera Firehouse in Auckland. It accommodates two fire trucks and a shift of eight fire-fighters. It also houses the vestiges of the 24 other fire-fighters assigned to the house. The Fire/House drawings were from the outset conceived in terms of operations rather than objects. These uncanny operations: BLIND, SLIP, CUT, and DOUBLE, were selected for their potential to register traces, repetitions, displacements and vestiges; they open up the intuitions and obscure motivations of the practice of drawing. Their employment marks the suspension introduced into the linearity of architectural process by the practice of drawing. Four definitions were written as an attempt to indicate the concerns governing these operations (see Glossary below), but these definitions cannot be considered to encapsulate the operations, nor employed to ensure regularity in future drawing. 6 Drawing is not a euphemism for text. The Fire/House’s programme is not a late addition to the project but something foreshadowed, or seeded into it from the beginning. It slips into the project as a collection of programmatic debris. They consist of plan cuts through drawings of disparate spatial relationships and details that might occur in the Fire/House, or had already occurred in prior drawings. Although this debris was strategically selected, it drifts arbitrarily across a folded surface constructed from a matchbox, like floaters across the eyeball. (fig. 1) Among these bits and pieces are domestic configurations (gaps between bedposts and storage drawers), traces from an incinerated interior, and constructions for training, waiting and evacuating (towers, poles, ramps to pace on). The drawing sets up a tense field, a space of contested geometries, residual forms and traces of programme; a disturbed history or a drawn subconscious from which the Fire/House emerges after drawn-out negotiations. To impose the order of the plan is to require a re-territorialisation of the drawing. (fig. 2) As frequently occurs with re-territorialisation, there is an element of violence involved. The drawing is hung, drawn and quartered in order to be read as a plan, one of the most heavily encoded and depended-upon of architectural representations. The exigencies of a firehouse find a place only with strenuous re-use and re-construction. The drawing must, in some measure, be overcome in order for a built object to be imaginable. The large rectangular truck bay is only possible by annihilating a certain amount of the drawing; a diagonal cut is made through the complex arrangement of spaces in order to ensure an evacuation route. The plan is not coded, but re-coded.

The result of this contentious negotiation is that the experience of the building is one of deferred recognitions. As is common in construction, elements repeat, but in ways that defeat a simple constructional rationality. The building remembers the moment in its history when linear method was suspended for the contingent, intuitive, unpredictable and material process of drawing. The spaces bear formal traces of absent elements, and the programmatic debris of earlier drawings. Resemblance, but never repetition; recognition, but never familiarity; reference, but never quotation; precise placements according to an order that can never quite be comprehended; partial assimilation, but never complete resolution. In the proposed Fire/House, the drawing has been cast aside, but can never be made to leave. It returns to the building as an uncanny presence, deferred but not completely evicted.

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- - -

2. plans

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GLOSSARY BLIND The SLIP from homely to unhomely initiates a complex gaze, one that strangely represses sight. To cross one’s eyes is to overlap scopic fields; it requires bi-ocular vision. It sees DOUBLE. This implies proximity, one too close to the gaze’s subject. Anthony Vidler finds this curious cross-eyed (and prophetic) vision possessed by Councillor Krespel in E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story: “finally, running his hard nose against the wall, Krespel cries ‘Come here, come here men, make me a door right here’”. 7 I test these eyes by drawing. When I re-draw, doubling an existing drawing, geometry is compressed and expanded as my two eyes retrace it on a fresh piece of paper, and then again on another. Geometries fluctuate. In these misalignments, errors and gaps open up between the original and the copy. An axonometric is also drawn blind. It has no eyes. Denying a vanishing point, its scopic lines run parallel to infinity. Poché is to blacken. In a sectional drawing it is the blackening of the CUT. It is also the name for floaters, plankton-like material that drift across the eyeball. The sectional drawing is constructed from poché, blind spots that drift across the page. The section is an eye to be looked through.8 This blackened vision is that of a fire-fighter, peering through goggles, breathing heavily, moving through an interior dissolved by thick smoke, walls poached. By this vision the house is turned into a perilous space. The homely becomes frighteningly unhomely. The fire-fighter occupies this dangerous shift (SLIP). The other occupation of the fire-fighter is to wait, to pace from side to side (DOUBLE). Eyes roll and eyelids close in an anxious sleep (SLIP).

SLIP The uncanny participates in a slide from one thing into another. It occupies a territory of becoming; a slip. This figure of slippage plays on stable conditions and watches them lose traction. The Freudian slip is a betrayal, bringing to the fore that which was placed in the background. The spatial figure of a matchbox slips; it is ready to be drawn. Made out of folded (DOUBLE) cardboard, the minor domestic article is produced on mass. It is always part of a series (DOUBLE); the original matchbox is a meaningless speculation. In a suitably small sense the matchbox carries with it its own

institutional space; a type that slips. When drawn or withdrawn, this proper slip haunts all the representations (DOUBLE) and reproductions (CUT) of the matchbox. In this way the slip is not confined to a simple telescopic action (BLIND), but may slip in a completely unexpected direction. The anxiety of a house fire structures the Fire/House. Fire and House sit uncomfortably together, sharing a tentative pact, a fire-house being only one slip away from a house fire. The Fire/House is a mustering of resources against Prometheus’ spoils. Its response is precisely coordinated, and it is the laboured nature of this response that sets the house on fire, becoming its sole object. In the Fire/House everything is put in its place to lubricate the slide from interior to exterior. With such persistent place finding there is always the fear of misalignments, things slipping out of order, becoming dislodged, displaced, even lost.


Councillor Krespel, after constructing an enclosure of masonry, cuts his way into the house and then from the inside, cuts out windows and other openings. Seemingly all this is done with a kind of repressed vision (BLIND), like that of a seer. His actions are not far from the practices of that modernist seer, Adolf Loos. Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting (1973) is an operation on the homely. Taking an archetypal house in an American suburb, he cuts the house in half with two parallel lines one inch apart. He then bevels down the cinder block foundations on one half. The house leans back and the cut opens up. Matta-Clark describes how “the split activated the house with a brilliant wedge of sunlight that spilled into every room.” 9 Finally the upper four corners of the house are removed. Matta-Clark operates on a type of domestic space, and by a series of cuts, folds (DOUBLE) out of it another perilous one. These cuttings on a house carry the operations of a drawn architectural section to a violent conclusion. Fire-fighters enter a house in any way they can. They will use any aperture they can squeeze through. Their axes cut through doors and windows, opening fissures in the house’s linings. The fire-fighter must also protect the water line that is carried in after him from being punctured or cut. Sometimes a guideline is carried through the building to order the interior. Searches

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The uncanny cuts, it bites and re-bites. I have cut out two houses.

3. axonometric.

(BLIND) are then carried out off the guideline that bisects the house. In New Zealand, fire-fighters always enter the house in pairs (DOUBLE). Working BLIND, they rely on the layout of a proper house. They cut through the formal relationships that govern this propriety. They move diagonally instead of straight ahead. They SLIP through the linings of the house. They cut through cupboards, split open window jambs, and continually DOUBLE back. The fire-fighter re-territorialises the house with his movements.

DOUBLE There is something reflexive about the Fire/House, bent double over a forward slash. To double is to duplicate, to trace, and to redraw. To double-over means to fold, or underscore. The uncanny somehow retains a secret continuity in its figuring, a secret economy. Its exchange between of the home and not of the home, inside the home and outside the home, the public and the secret, is a complicating one. It enfolds and implicates others. It both draws out and withdraws. These deep fluctuations summon forth things that are deeply hidden, repressed, to ‘re-bite’. This architectural project is archival. It produces both a body of work, and a body to work on. The drawings, text, found objects and constructions are laid down in the project, waiting to recur, to underline, and to ‘re-bite’. The project doubles back on itself in attending to these recurrences, in responding to its phantom limbs and lines, both written and drawn. - - -

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1. Catherine Ingraham, Architecture and the Burdens of Linearity, London: Yale University Press, 1998, p xi: “I became preoccupied with the idea that no matter how architecture was representing itself at any given moment - by means of fullscale drawings or templates or computer images - the path from the modelling of a building to the building itself was always conceptualised as linear; that is, nothing was thought to be lost or gained in the translation (even if there were changes in the design of the space or materials along the way).” 2. James Elkins, On Pictures and the Words that Fail Them, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; Georges DidiHubermann, The art of not describing: Vermeer - the detail and the patch, History of the Human Sciences, 2, 1989, p135-69. The latter is discussed with reference to architectural drawing in Justine Clarke, “Smudges, smears and adventitious marks,” Interstices, 4, 1996, (CD-ROM). 3. Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays on the Modern Unhomely, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992. Vidler identifies the uncanny as a potent and recurrent theme of architectural discourse in the twentieth century. 4. Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny,” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, London: Hogarth Press, 1955, v 17, p 217252.

5. Michel de Certeau, Heterologies: Discourses on the Other, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986, p 3. 6. The cross-referencing technique employed here is taken from Jennifer Bloomer’s methodology in her book Architecture and the Text: The (S)crypts of Joyce and Piranesi, London: Yale University Press, 1993. 7. E.T.A. Hoffman, “Councillor Krespel,” translated by L.J. Kent and E. C. Knight, in Tales, edited by Victor Lange, New York: Continuum, 1982, cited in Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays on the Modern Unhomely, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992, p32. Vidler offers E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story as an example of Freud’s intuition that the homely and the unhomely are related by an ambivalent unfolding. Without the use of plans or an architect, the eccentric Councillor Krespel goes about making a home. Beginning with a perfectly square excavation for the footings, he instructs the builders to raise the walls, forming a masonry enclosure with no apertures. Krespel paces around the two storey walls and by experimentation indicates where the openings should be cut. The resulting house is described as uncommonly homely on the inside but unusual from outside. 8. Jennifer Bloomer, Architecture and the Text: The (S)crypts of Joyce and Piranesi, London: Yale University Press, 1993, p 177. 9. Gordon Matta-Clark, cited in Kate Linzey, Architecture Archive 246, unpublished Masters of Architecture Thesis (by Drawing), University of Auckland, 2001, p 74.

Sewing Architectural Fragments

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he following paper presents underpinnings of a researchby-design project. Prompted by a long-term search to identify the nature of ornament within contemporary architecture, the design proposal tested the relevance of domestic sewing to the design and construction of architecture. After identifying the Eiffel Tower as a willing host to these investigations, an initial site analysis rendered the rivet and needle as generative and symbolic icons. (fig. 1) The existing ground plane and plaza beneath the Tower highlighted the need to design a new urban landscape as a complimentary yet critically challenging supplement to the site. Having developed over a period of five years, the project

predictably continued to sift its questions, but the process and method of design remained anchored. Now completed, this design project requires a public exposure of its product inclusive of its process of becoming. I am showing you my valise: it is opened, but not unpacked. Nothing in it is “mine”; everything is appropriated as the makings of a rhetoric or a poetics that teaches me how to make something, reproducing the fundamental feature of language as an open system— the capacity to invent new texts out of extant, familiar units.1


ivet. Not the amphibious creature croaking ‘ribbit’. R-I-V-E-T. Precisely due to its many

1. A visual catalogue of slip, rivet and Eiffel tower fragments established relations between design elements and their conceptual intent. Two sensibilities towards

critiques, the Eiffel Tower affords a re-addressing. While most of the world recalls the tapered figure at a mere mention, the Eiffel Tower offers an opportunity to delve into a method of architectural design and discourse which privilege the detail and the fragment over the all encompassing rationally ordered whole. Rivet: A metal headed pin or bolt used for uniting pieces by passing the shank through a hole in each piece and then beating or pressing down the plain end as to make a second head. Paris houses the Eiffel Tower, yielding the hollow structure its only resemblance of an interior. In turn, the Eiffel Tower is the alveolar condition of the city.2 (fig. 2) The ascension through

construction emerged – that of joining across grain and thickness, piercing, via the rivet (and curiously the needle as well) and that of generating a structural

the framework begins with the descent from the train platform stairs several blocks away. Your neck pivots and strains to crane your forehead upward. After a slight gasp of sublime anxiety, your walking pace quickens. The Tower is more than lurking behind the gentlemanly banks and hedges of city houses - it is lurching. No photograph can capture the monstrous scale shift. When you enter the clear span underbelly of this creature, the enormity of its physical stature is compounded by the feat of its construction, which now occupies the void as a technological ghost. So, in awe, you are lured to one of the feet of this twentieth century Trojan Horse to purchase an entry ticket. Thousands of miniature trinkets articulate the

surface with varying qualities of pliability and/or determinate form.

SE W I NG ARC H I TE C T U R A L F R AG M E N T S threshold between out and in, down and up. The soft chime of charms and money resounds as audible confirmation of passage and perhaps, as suggested by Walter Benjamin, serves as a form of reproduction jeopardizing the authenticity of the Tower’s historic testimony.3 (fig 3)

Referencing its etymological heritage, detail links “cut” to “tailor” to “clip”, to “off-cut”.6 One account of such cutting refers to the Eiffel Tower: “The joints seemed like bizarre wounds worked into metal, the mended parts of a unique body which was the result of sinister surgical experiments, even more sinister than that always iveting is an sinister process of turning the activity of founding human body into a statue”.7 and stamping towards the Not only is the realm of sewing production of quantity. neatly cited as a linguistic root The word detail commonly to a standard architectural refers to something up close or practice of considering joins, in close proximity. Detail serves but the detail is also established as a mechanism of connection, as a macro and micro site, a linkage or relation. Marco signifying seed, within the larger Frascari renders the detail as a system. (fig. 4) site for mental construing and actual construction, collapsing ivets are threadbuilding construction less metallic stitches. with architectural idea.4 The map ot Paris carries Architectural design, inclusive details whereby intersecting of its textual discourse, is roads are resolved with the another form of construction. same logic as steel segments It is a fabrication, where cross on the Eiffel Tower. Based parts reflect context. The on visual associations, this accumulation of detail, through observation provides creative repetition, variation, montage parallels between the city’s or adjacency signifies a process urban construction and the whereby what is private and Tower. In the same manner as individual becomes accessible mapping contours or laying out through collective production.5 garment patterns, Haussmann Detail is no longer the banal sliced the city into discernable circumstance of screws, bolts, figures. The site of these cuts clamps or nails but a situation of and clearings became the scale, materiality and thought. boulevards and monuments providing the necessary ne face of a formwork to support the city’s rivet chosen at random familiar plan and panorama. is scarred beneath its All of the pieces of the Tower, painted surface while its with their own multiple vectors, mate is smooth and round, cast weightless shadows yet painted just the same. over the city. “Standing 307 Details operate in the metres or 1007 feet high, the part/whole relation. The tower consists of 15,000 steel detail is located only after sections held together by 2 previously apprehending the million rivets”.8 The sum of whole. The whole resonates these pieces is a souvenir of around and within the detail, an exhibition commemorating implicating itself in the smaller a moment when modernity piece, following the grain. sought to rid the labyrinthine


2. The map and the topography of Paris modelled as a pinned bodice pattern provide a terrain for floating photographic fragments of the space, atmosphere and views from the Tower’s platforms. The logic of several geometries co-exist. The first design gesture declares a commitment to not clad the Tower’s frame, but to develop the ground plane and surface as its discarded dressing.


3. This design proposal responds to the tower’s ascending form with an equal and opposite force. The ground plane is an articulated surface hosting numerous urban landscape interventions.

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4. A large darning needle provided the body form for an exercise in pattern making. This classic sewing tool exposed at least four distinct “dress” patterns, each based on a different strategy for making a long tapered shaft with a single hole at one end. These patterns were subsequently constructed as 2-meter tall muslin bags filled with millet seed. Hung from the ceiling, these oversized needle forms pose a counter gravitational response to the Tower.

fabric of the city of its most visceral interior, the arcade. The Tower, its fabric and one’s experience of it comply with Haussmann’s agenda. As Paris is re-constructed through its own dense atmosphere and the sheer element of height, the tailored details of the Eiffel Tower reflect a conviction of repetition and economy. The Tower reveals another form of particularized and distributed matter. (fig. 5) The surprise of seeing how this straight form, from which one consumes from all corners of Paris as a pure line, is composed of innumerable segments, crossed, entangled, divergent: a reduction operation, an appearance (the straight line) reduced to its contrary reality (a network of broken up materials), a sort of demystification brought about by no more than this magnification in the level of perception.9 Yet when the consumable image of its whole figure is banished from view, the lacework of seams and rivets gives way to polarized issues of ornament/structure, architecture/engineering, domestic/public, sewing/ building. Power shifts from the all-encompassing and generalized lens of the eye and the lens (and mirror) of the camera to reside in the blind spot of the particular. This reallocation became an operating function of the design project and a move to embed theoretical stance with design methodology.

R 5. Details of the muslin needle casings reveal residue of stitching and reinforcing seams. Their influence on overall form and surface condition produces economical structural ornament not unlike the Eiffel Tower.

ivet: to attract or hold the attention. Once one enters the Eiffel Tower, the totality of its form recedes as details of its construction compete with views of the sprawling urban fabric. At each of the platforms



ivets are lifted out of the forge and inserted into punched or drilled holes in the metal plates. As an anvil or buckling bar is held against the head of the bolt, the riveter shapes the tail of the rivet using a pneumatic hammer.10

physically and conceptually locates a single point of convergence. And despite the Euclidean and Cartesian impulse to identify an origin point, one can never occupy the exact geometric centre of the Eiffel Tower. The centre is either an implied location waiting to be determined by a giant plumb bob or it is made inaccessible and uninhabitable by the mast of the communication antennae. Furthermore, all of the routes of circulation are laced with obstacles serving to hinder the swift flow of movement promised by this epoch’s new technology. One must navigate through an angular steel jungle accessorized by crowd control gates, safety regulating devices and primary structure. Internal arteries raise suspicions of lingering Victorian clutter. Like the genre of an epic journey, the way up is far from effortless.


ivets: small repetitious structural elements, in seam buttons, running up the back of the The Eiffel Tower locates a leg. breech in a traditional contract The relation between the between craft and production. general and the particular is Both Eiffel and Haussmann the central question of classical sought to re-present Paris aesthetics. Part/whole relations as the centre of industrial are intimately entangled with progress. There were no the concepts of beauty and contingencies for anything ideal as handed down to us that did not fit into the system by our Platonic ancestors. - no salvaged edges and no A whole is a complete entity undesirables. The economy of hinging on the abstraction of the Tower’s structural system the particular, a process, which and the urban plan sought to disregards the specificity of a eliminate anything extraneous. thing by removing its flaws.11 Even the rarefied surface of According to Schor, this macadam street paving sought reductive operation permeates to eliminate friction. As each our everyday understanding of segment of steel was lifted to detail to the extent that there new atmospheric heights, the is an underlying disregard for power of progress assumed an the detail to carry meaning omnipresent throne in the aerial because of its connotations of view. The Tower’s pinnacle nature, effeminacy, decadence,

and more so, of relegating women to the domestic sphere. Derogatorily labelled as feminine, details detract and fatigue the eye of the viewer. Their worldliness and materiality create noise, which deteriorates the work of art’s state of elation. In turn, the detail becomes ornament useless, excessive, superfluous, even subservient. The uselessness of the Tower has always had an air of scandal about it (the air, that is, of truth, precious and avowable.) Even before it was built, people were reproaching it for being useless... the idea of a useless object was intolerable (except in the clear-cut works of art, and the Tower was unthinkable as a work of art as well.) 12 This research-by-design project worked within the context of these stereotypes and biases in order to locate a voice of ornament within contemporary design. The Eiffel Tower is implicated in this zone between gender and architecture by virtue of substituting tectonic expression with engineering technology.

independent of the whole once the rupture has occurred. Its edges are ragged indicating the nature of its material and the event of its fracture.13 The fragment explains the whole rather than replicating it in miniature form. In comparison, the detail presents the system in a new way, such as the rivet via the Eiffel Tower or the gusset shoulder piece to a jacket pattern, a difference that highlights the fragment’s dominance in archaeology and anthropology. To engage the fragment in a creative design process is to recombine the pieces using generative, speculative and detective means. Referencing montage and collage, this process stretches from the conceptual premise to the material fabrication of design. (fig. 6)


iveting requires working from all sides at all times. Brecht defended the mechanics of collage/montage... as an alternative to the organic model of growth and its classic assumptions of harmony, unity, linearity, closure. Montage ivet: To upset the does not reproduce the real, but end or point by beating constructs an object (its lexical or pressing; to fasten firmly. field includes the terms assemble, A critical juncture in this build, join, unite, add, combine, paper has been reached, that link, construct, organize) or rather, of distinguishing the detail mounts a order to from the fragment. As another intervene into the world, not to variant on the part/whole reflect but to change reality. 14 relation, fragments are chunks, Without the authoritative not absolute minimalist bits shadow of the whole, fragments or units. They hold excess; allude to multiple other wholes. more than what is necessary to Closure or completion is not survive (a biological model), always an ambition. This notion more than what it takes to stand of the fragment is based on up (a structural model), and theoretical and philosophical more than can be recorded principles of contingences in a fraction of a second (a and constant reformation. photographic model). Unlike While such notions critique the detail, the fragment exists and challenge conventional in absentia of the whole. It is ideas of complete resolution


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one’s vision and body are pressed away from an implied axis of inflection and thrown against the perimeter safety mesh. As the geography of the city is unfurled, the Tower becomes the perch to observe everything in its mist and its midst. Paris is witnessed as a geological terrain encrusted with an ornament of cultural edifices and artefacts. The views of this fabric are themselves framed with a language of fetish adornment. Every steel plate embroidered by a field of rivet heads evokes an audible memory of the ding of cold steel hammers resounding against hot steel shanks.


6. Common sewing practices informed numerous architectural details. Throughout the design process, these literal means of joining provided a working vocabulary for resolving design and construction issues at several scales. At any given point during the project’s development, they acted as reminders of the nature of metaphoric translation between sewing and architecture.

in a body of work, they also promote invention and innovation capable of linking to history and context without superficial mimicry or simple visual similitude. The door to metonymic operations and metaphoric associations is propped open. Cache envisages... a universe where objects are not stable but may undergo variations, giving rise to new possibilities of seeing... [W]e see things as functions of actions and reactions to a milieu. But since such reactions are not automatic or deterministic and include ‘zones of indetermination’ from which unexpected movement might come, images involve what transpires in the intervals or disparities between things... In this way we see that images belong to a dynamic rather than a static geography. 15 A design methodology based on fragments lends itself to be an experimental investigation rather than an analysis. Often criticism of such methods is based on the loss of reason, the removal of context and the subjectivity of associative/lateral thought processes. Ulmer has

8. Proposed site plan and urban landscape fabrication fragments. A. Souvenir Trolleys B. Event Seating

C. Plaza Floor D. Communication Staffs E. Toilet Block & Drainage Pools F. Parking Apron

7. A resin saturated slip dropped in gathers around a rough model of the Tower’s legs. The discarded garment was later dissected according to cardinal points, its sections interrogated for structural integrity and po-

tential habitational space. As a study in reclining postures, they were later translated as volutes of rolled perforated metal sheeting and assigned the programmatic role of event seating.

G. Furrowed Landscape H. Landscape Mounds I. Existing Tower Foot J. Existing Mechanical Enclosure

SE W I NG ARC H I TE C T U R A L F R AG M E N T S scantily clad in a mechanical variety of clinging and draping undergarment lingerie. All the messy work of lighting cables, wires and fixtures are in plain sight. All the extra pieces to facilitate the elevator’s diagonal movement contradicted the logic of the Tower’s piecework. Skirting the first platform, the huge valance announces its falseness as appliqué. A light gauge mesh cages the stairs. Emblematic of the human body, this monument represents that body as a statue. So, while the Tower stands eternally erect and rigid, the ivet. Pin. Baste. famous figure has disrobed, and Gather. in doing so, has confounded In terms of the euretic/ the traditional roles of structure fragment method, the Eiffel and enclosure. Its cloak slips Tower is somewhat of an and collects in discarded folds enigma. Just as Barthes has at its feet, corralling the masses stated, it absorbs any and all gathered in queues. (fig. 7) metaphors cast upon it; its Modern beings become ever identity is not singular.17 Is more naked as their walls with it art? Is it beautiful? What is their coverings provide them with the nature of its ornament? It a protective sheath. Biological seems to be a construction of evolution might start to look like the industrial revolution yet it a protracted striptease. Michel can be informed and re-read Serres recently remarked that life by contemporary architectural has evolved from animal forms, theory, in which it assists where what is soft lies on the to reframe the questions of inside and is covered by a hard interior/exterior, surface/ outside, to other forms, such as geography, material and gender. ours, where what is hard becomes So, accordingly, the Eiffel interior: bones, cartilage, skeleton, Tower is unclothed, unclad or while the soft is pressed out: without a fully fleshed body. flesh, mucous, skin. If we were While Eiffel found the open to further this line of thought, web steel to resist the forces of we might wonder, by the end of wind and gravity, he avoided this evolution, we might drop the the distinction between inside bones all-together, the flesh, then and outside. The Tower does the epidermis. Only the dermas not provide for the comfort would remain.18 associated with an interior. Any Compared to its sister, the sense of meaningful shelter Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel has been stripped away or Tower exudes a condition of reduced to only that which is nakedness, not bare nudity, absolutely necessary to protect but nakedness of improper instruments, mechanical exposure. These observations gears and tourist amenities. A surrounding the Tower’s descent using the switchback cladding or clothing directed stairs reveals that the Tower is an initial decision to limit the


9. The plaza floor design, particularly it’s tiling and material pattern, challenged the founding notions of fragment and detail as expressed by Calabrese. A “real” scale was enacted whereby the studio floor was lined with paper sheets, imprinted with the plan of the tower footings and lined with sheets of scrap plate glass. Large stones dropped on the surface shattered and displaced the glass to lodge a downward gravitational force, things falling to the ground. The pattern was registered by painting the entire surface before removing the shards of glass. A similar experiment carried out at a smaller scale using a thick slab of clay slip produced a three dimensional topography and a condition that differentiates surface crust/skin from the geological ground. These acts became the organisational generators for the plaza plan.

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identified such a method, which he calls euretics, referring to the colloquial exclamation, “Eureka! I found it!” This method, founded on thinking as discovery rather than as interpretation, is conjunctive with the design method employing the fragment, whereby one “is concerned less with communication and more with inference: it is designed to create gaps, gaps in understanding. It might also provide tools, devices, and rhetoric as guides for filling in the gaps”.16

10. Inverted soft needle models translate their structural stitches and seams into the surface of upright and hollow cast aluminium staffs. Forming a gate to the southeast site edge, these staffs serve as communication devices between the ground and the Eiffel Tower’s platforms. Studies for the electronic devices in the eye of each needle addressed the dilemma of structuring an opening to an irregular form.

design proposal to the site below the Tower and treat it as a fabricated ground surface fitted with urban landscape furnishings. The designs of these fragments were conceptually and

literally informed by practices, techniques, methods and details specific to sewing garments. (fig. 8)



11. On any given day vendors ply their wares on tourists from loose clusters of souvenir trolleys along the site’s river edge. Housed in a thick retaining wall, the trolleys rehearse the translation from sewing to architectural design via pleated expanded metal shelving, an over-sized cast aluminium bobbin wheel and a smocked structural trellis. 12. The scale of the Eiffel Tower and its site eludes total comprehension or experience at the ground level. Accepting this fragmentary nature, the overall landscape was studied as a compendium of loosely fitted pieces, each merging into the next with a riparian edge. CNC modelling tested the congruence of the fragments to one another and highlighted their individual spatial and surface identities. These fragments became the sites for in-depth design development.

13. Under the span of the arches rest a cluster of large shards related by the memory of impact just off centre to the

Tower. Uplifted from the plaza’s glass, curved structural surfaces that offer metal and ceramic mosaic, their platshelter from the summer sun and seating forms are topped with the light irregularly for performances and tours.

ivets removed during recent renovations fell into the safety nets stretched between the Tower’s legs. As the figure of the Tower rises, its garment, its dermas, or selvedge bits of its interior fall to the ground in compliance with gravity’s law of equal and opposite forces. The design project embraces the spirit of Simone Weil’s insight on gravity as it developed a proposal that was equally subversive as it is submissive. Two forces rule the universe: light and gravity... All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception... Gravity makes things come down, wings make them rise: what wings raised to the second power can make things come down without weight? 19 Replacing a banal surface comprised of concrete, asphalt and gravel fringed by pastoral plantings, the new ground plane beneath the Eiffel Tower caters to a host of multiple and multifarious activities and occupations. (fig. 9) People speaking a wide range of languages inhabit it day and night, their experience of the site and Tower exchanged through microphones and speakers. (fig. 10) Vendors ply their wares on to the tourists offloading from herds of buses. (fig. 11) Vehicles park under the hem of a ruffled canopy. (fig. 12) Groups rally in protest where groups linger to hear a lecture. (fig. 13) Fireworks are discharged. Couples become entangled on the benches and in the bushes. Homeless find shelter in the shadows. (fig. 14) Lines of waiting visitors form at each Tower leg and mingle with queues to ablution blocks.

SE W I NG ARC H I TE C T U R A L F R AG M E N T S (fig. 15) The ground surface emphatically demands to be a public space of humanity. Its attention to details as fragments with a human-scale and its resolution of the ground plane as a multi-faceted public space and fluid surface answers to the weight and might of the Tower. he hot rivets contract in the cool thin air to pull the joint tight. To disclose the active agents of any design process is to accept the risk of abbreviating, exhausting or unnecessarily exposing the significant morsels of meaning and association within a body of work. Writing them down, listing them, in any order, exposing them in the traditions of legible text is to tamper with their constitutions as fragments and their power to allude, recombine, to defy definition. To respectfully represent them one is tempted to simply exhibit the final work and count on an audience’s agility to re-form or find form amongst and between the given pieces. The design project presented in this paper has evolved accordingly. Rooted in the Tower’s history as a cultural icon and technological achievement and the conditions of the urban landscape, architectural elements emerge out of programmatic need and the intention to transfer sewing practices to material detailing and landscape surface. These hybrid fragments relate through inference rather than by decoding. While many people passionately and vehemently contest the Eiffel Tower as architecture, it yields itself as a supple and unwitting subject and recipient of this research investigation and design proposal.

14. A string of parking structures border the northeast edge of the site. While providing shade for vehicles, they terminate a landscape of gathered furrows as they funnel water to underground storage basins. Flocked translucent Kevlar membranes stretched on stainless steel tubular frames produce dappled light patterns under the Tower’s shadow and beneath the canopy’s skirting. 15. A standard toilet block configuration served as the formwork for a new shell made of selvedge steel plates. Their joins are overlapped to prevent external sight and rain to enter but held apart to allow for ventilation and natural daylight. These units sit on perforated steel mesh over site retaining pools in an attempt to provide night lighting and to situate private interiors amongst public space.

1 Gregory Ulmer, “The euretics of Alice’s valise”, in Journal of Architectural Education, 45, no. 1, Nov 1991, 5. 2 Bernard Cache, Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territories, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995, 27. The term ‘alveolar’ refers to a hollow structural image. 3 Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, in Hannah Arendt (ed), Illuminations, New York: Schocken, 1969, 22. 4 Marco Frascari, “The tell-the-tale detail”, in VIA, 7, 1984, 22-37. 5 Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Durham, NC:

Duke University Press, 1993, 135. 6 Omar Calabrese, Neo-Baroque: A Sign of the Times, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Architectural Press, 1992, 70. 7 Aldo Rossi, A Scientific Autobiography, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981, 67. 8 Baedecker: Paris, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1998, 165. 9 Roland Barthes, “The tour Eiffel”, in VIA, 2, 168. 10 The World Book Encyclopedia, London and Chicago: World Book, vol. 16, 1995, 356. 11 Naomi Schor, Reading in Detail: Aesthetics and the Feminine. New York: Methuen, 1987, 15. 12 Roland Barthes, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies, New York: Hill and

Wang, 1979, 9. 13 Omar Calabrese, Neo-Baroque: A Sign of the Times, 72-73. 14 Gregory L. Ulmer, “The Object of Post-Criticism”, in Hal Foster (ed.) The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, London: Bay Press, 1983, 86. 15 Bernard Cache, Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territories, viii. 16 Gregory L. Ulmer, “The Euretics of Alice’s Valise,” 5. 17 Roland Barthes, “The tour Eiffel,” 168. 18 Bernard Cache, Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territories, 73. 19 Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, London: ARK, 1987, 1-3.

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Instantiating Design Domains shifting adjacencies at the victorian college of the arts 5

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Paul Minifie



Instantiating Design Domains shifting adjacencies at the victorian college of the arts •

A piece of plywood is perforated by a series of holes. The holes are distributed randomly. Dust accumulates, breeding. As it does so it starts to fall through the holes. A dust cone starts to from around the holes. The inclination of the cone describes a critical angle, related to the material property of adhesion between the dust particles. The dust builds up, and as it does so the edges of the cones begin to intersect to form a series of ridges. Each ridge is a dust shed; one side drains to one hole, the other to the adjacent hole. The ridge is midway between each hole. The shape of the ridge perpendicular to the plane is a parabola, which, with the circle and the ellipse comprises the geometries of the conic intersections. Viewed perpendicular to the perforated plane the ridges appear as straight lines, and trace a series of cells. Each cell is a convex polygon, which delimits the domains closest to each dust drain. This complex system is an artwork produced by the British sculptor Jonathan Callan.


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Paul Minifie

1. page 64: Minifie Nixon, Voronoi diagram 2. this page: Minifie Nixon, Victorian College of the Arts Centre for Ideas, View of west facade and entrance 3. opposite page: View of west facade Photographs: Derek Swalwell, 2003


67 page 67


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4. opposite page: View of northwestern corner 5. this page: View of north facade photographs: Derek Swalwell, 2003


6. this page: Office Interior 7. opposite page: Office Interior Photographs: Minifie Nixon, 2003 8. page 73: Interior “plexus� stair photograph: Derek Swalwell, 2003


71 page 71

This process is an algorithm for establishing the Voronoi tessellation of the plane. A Voronoi diagram locates regions closest to particular features; but importantly those regions can only exist relative to adjacent features. This diagrammatic relationship is ubiquitous within natural and synthetic systems, and describes and accounts for a variety of seemingly unrelated phenomena: 1 a location for the next McDonalds to an urban geographer; describing the distribution of stars in the universe; the crystal growths on galvanised steel; describing bubbles; optimising spatial database systems; and underlying models of perceptual systems.2 This is an algorithm, a process, and a technique. Architectural techniques establish what can be thought of as a design space; that is a set of relations where particular kinds of association and transformation make sense. Here I will use the term domain rather than space, the word space being over-determined in architectural discourses. Design domains describe what is possible. Particular design domains are limited by the operations and relations consistent within them, but infinite in the number of possible instantiations of these operations. Looking within architecture’s canon one might characterise, for example, a Miesian design domain as being constituted around a Cartesian space delimited by a set of coordinates and the kind of entities, operations and adjacencies consistent within that coordinate space. In the realm of possible architectures there are many possible design domains, but only a few are recognised as legitimate within a practice of Architecture. The assertion of an ‘autonomous’ discipline of architecture in this context amounts to stating that the design domains within which architects have worked are finite by definition, and that there is no possibility of adding to or expanding these domains.3 In this discussion, the Minifie Nixon Centre for Ideas building at the Victorian College of the Arts (vca) in Melbourne will be considered within the constraints and possibilities of a particular design domain established by the Voronoi partitioning of space. The arrangement of the building façade proceeds by locating a series of points that denote the centre points of the cones; the lines at which the cones intersect are


73 page 73

determined by the relationship of the cones’ centres to one another. The effect of moving one of these points realigns all the lines of intersection with adjacent cones. In trying to understand the effects of this kind of transformation we undertook a series of studies. One early study worked with a square grid of points that produced a regular grid of intersecting lines. Moving a point across this grid caused disruptions in the underlying grid of a kind unfamiliar from the perspective of a Cartesian spatial ordering. Another study located a number of points more or less randomly, and explored the pattern of regions that resulted from their abutment. By discovering how the pattern of boundaries transformed with the relative locations of adjacent points, and how decisions at one location are transmitted in characteristic ways through the entire field of related parts, we came to learn, through doing, the domain of associations and transformations. Particular compositional arrangements seem to make more sense than others, to make clearer the character of the Voronoi domain. Negotiations with adjacent buildings, accommodation of programmatic elements, and transformations of more conventional architectural elements all seek to reveal something of the immanent design space. The conical centres are progressively less constrained closer to the building corner, a kind of molecular temperature increase that makes apparent what might happen should the points move relative to one another. Composition works to make apparent particular latent relationships. It establishes the qualities of a particular instantiation of the domain. Once a design domain is established, composition moves from clarifying essential qualities to establishing differences between domains, or finding singular or unexpected relations that remain consistent within the domain. Composition functions ethically as a mode of clarification and renewal. This view does not claim that composition functions in an autonomous manner with its own history describing the realm of possible actions. Rather, composition is a mode by which particular qualities of the design domain are revealed. It is the quality of these relations that enables the building to be recognised as being both vividly particular in itself, but also


There are various procedures, or algorithms, for finding the Voronoi diagram for a particular arrangement of features. Here we begin by placing a cone at each point. The lines where the cones intersect, when projected flat to the plane, represent the Voronoi tessellation for that arrangement. To prevent the peripheral cells being infinite in size, we clip the cones to the edge of the plane. This procedure can now be considered available as a technique for organising architectural components.


page 75

9. this page (top to bottom) For each feature distributed in space, it is possible to find a region that is closer to it that any other feature. This kind of spatial partitioning is referred to as a Voronoi diagram. Here points are distributed on a two-dimensional plane, but a Voronoi partitioning can be established for any shaped feature in spaces of any dimension.

as existing as an instance of a broader set of relations.4 This kind of recognition connects the building with other instances of a similar domain. Because of the ubiquity of techniques such as the Voronoi diagram, the building becomes entangled in the web of relationships that structure our broader operations within the world. This kind of connection, because it emerges from an active technique of formal structuring, is fundamentally different from semantic concepts of meaning. This notion of a building existing as a realised instantiation of a design domain also clarifies other questions such as materialisation. Materiality is often seen alone as an absolute justification, that architecture can only properly exist in the real. This view elides the complex and contingent movement of a design from a virtual domain of relations into a subset expressed materially. One received strategy has been to limit the domain of that which can be properly thought to be comprised of the material alone, by choosing a dematerialised surface, a form that in fact returns the design, partly, within the received terms of the argument. Vca sought to preserve the building as expressing a moment on the vector between a general design domain, which includes immaterial relations, and the materiality of the architectural instance. The form of the vca building, a surface of refracted and reflective, coloured stainless steel refuses any optical and material stability. To conceive architecture as a set of relations means that architecture is not limited by expressive skills, but by the parameters of the design space in which one works. Rather than emphasising composition or materiality, we are describing here a way of making architecture which examines the techniques, metrics and the parameters comprising a design domain itself. If this formulation is relevant now, it is because of the profusion of digitally enabled techniques. The utilisation of such techniques can be seen as improper attempts to claim legitimacy for architectural actions, and so deny the properly autonomous nature of architectural discourse. If they are seen rather as an expansion of the possibilities of available design domains available to architectural


page 77

10. this page For each feature, distributed cones can be developed to flat sheet templates, and cnc laser cut.


thinking, the possibilities, immediacy and relevance of architectural practice itself can be expanded. One argument I would offer for such a view would be through a perceptual empathy with such techniques. Digital techniques, such as the Voronoi example, structure the set of relations governing our intersections with the world: how we live our lives. By existing in the digitally enabled and mediated milieu we recognise and understand these techniques – their capabilities and limitations – as they structure our engagement with the world. Architecture can be seen to operate within the same structural conditions – and through compositional and material revelation engage our critical understanding of these newly fundamental techniques. By exploring, for example, the redeployment of strategies abstracted from techniques nominally called positivist: mimetic, instrumental or otherwise, and aesthetically revealing the incipient relations operative within these procedures, architecture becomes capable of engagement within the increasingly relational field in which we live.


79 page 79

11. North elevation (2003).

1. A study of the Ryoanji Temple garden at Kyoto by neuroscientist Gert van Tonder used Voronoi cells to analyse the gardens composition. He argued that the success of the composition lay in the arrangement of symmetry planes between the rocks, and that these planes created a treelike structure originating from the privileged viewing point of the garden. These spatial structures, he speculated, have a corresponding structure within our cognitive perceptual apparatus. The aesthetic power of the garden results from a resonance between this particular spatial arrangement and the pattern of relations perceived by our unconscious mind. While limited as a model of aesthetic experience, this work’s connection to the Voronoidal design domain shows how a network of interpretive relationships can grow from a design domain established by a particular technique. Such additional relations begin to suggest that certain instantiations of the domain are likely to be richer and more telling. Refer to G. van Tonder, M.J. Lyons, & Y. Ejima, “Visual structure of a Japanese Zen garden”, Nature, 419, 359, 2002.

2. Some examples are listed in Scot Drysdale, Voronoi Diagrams: Applications from Archaeology to Zoology, online: http://www.ics.uci. edu/~eppstein/gina/scot.drysdale. html 3. Perhaps it is more strictly true to say that only certain modes of transformation are admitted. Advances in construction technologies and the development of new programs are classically regarded as legitimate external influences, for example. 4. The following series of projects and investigations are additional instantiations of a similar design domain to that structuring the vca project. Responding to different project concerns, different potentialities and relations are expanded and emphasised. The design for the Plateau Courtyard at Deakin University Burwood Campus, by Minifie Nixon Architects with Rush Wright Associates Landscape Architects, has a series of flared columnar structures covering a courtyard space. Each structure covers one tile of the Voronoi pattern, with a skylight delineating the boundary. The


81 page 81

12. West elevation (2003).

tiling here is a centroidal Voronoi diagram, a special case where the central node defining the region is located at the centroid (centre of balance). Obtaining the centroidal Voronoi diagram requires an iterative process of moving the points to the current centroid and then recomputing the boundaries until further movements are within a minimum. Fiona Nixon, addressing the Victorian State Government’s 2030 Report on urban density, drew on the Voronoi model to suggest that rather than concentrating solely on centralised nodes within our cities, it is important to understand what happens at the boundaries between these node’s area of influence. Refer to Fiona Nixon, “Melbourne 2030”, in Architect Victoria, Autumn,

2003, p. 12-13. Nicholas Hubicki, in his 2002 rmit B.Architecture final year design thesis supervised by the author, explored an urban-scale application of a Voronoidal technique. By remapping the master-plan of Latrobe University as a Voronoi diagram, he developed a flexible framework for future extensions to the campus. Refer to Nicholas Hubicki, “Latrobe University”, in Preter: RMIT Architecture Thesis Projects 2002-2003, edited by Stuart Harrison, Melbourne: rmit University Press, 2004. The proposed Olympic swimming pool for 2008 in Beijing by Arup/ptw, with it’s ‘water cube’ facade derived from a pattern of bubbles, is another recent exploration of a particular class of three dimensional Voronoi diagram.



page 83

architectural design & discourse 1

Shane Murray

Shane Murray

In the end what is understood as the theory of modern architecture reduces itself to little more than a constellation of escapist myths which are still active in endeavouring to relieve the architect of responsibility for his choices and which all alike combine to persuade him that his decisions are not so much his own as they are, somehow, immanent in scientific, or historical, or social process.

- Colin Rowe, 1975.2

In the discourse surrounding architectural production

legitimise certain architectural outcomes through their

over the previous twenty years it is difficult to find

supposed greater relevance to contemporary issues of

credible descriptions of the way in which architects

globalisation and information has fared no better in

actually execute their role. While the published

actually accounting for architectural execution. While

descriptions and analyses of exemplary buildings and

architectural publication has burgeoned over recent

the thoughts and motivations of the architects who

years very little of this material is concerned with actu-

designed them grows year by year, there is little that

ally accounting for what takes place in architectural

makes sense of why individual buildings look the way

execution despite its often spurious claim to do so. Is

they do. These types of examinations are not only rare

there a space in this vast discourse for a more focussed

in the previous few decades, but are also extremely

inquiry into the nature of architectural design? What

difficult to find throughout the history of Modern

would a clear and comprehensive examination of the

Architecture. From the mid-Nineteenth Century to

design problems of today, particularly the reasons for

the 1940’s there was a genre of books of Architectural

the formal appearance of buildings, look like?

Composition, which, usually for the benefit of students, discussed architectural design.3 These books were largely


Beaux-Arts in style and prescriptive in method. It is not

In such an examination I would expect to find reasons

surprising that they died out and are now forgotten.

for the selection and arrangement of architectural for-

Beginning in the late 1950’s Design Methodology

mal solutions. Such a discussion would move beyond

proposed a more removed and scientific process for the

the story of an individual project or practice to examine

understanding and realisation of architectural design.

how formal decisions in the design relate to preceding

As Geoffrey Broadbent observed, these attempts largely

and contemporary architectural composition. It would

failed because of their conceptual linearity and their

examine how the issues surrounding architectural

concern for the elegance of the various models pro-

design have altered earlier methods of execution to

posed for the process of design rather than accounting

contend with the contemporary forces that effect archi-

for the actualities of execution.4 Donald Schoen’s work

tecture. I would expect this examination to describe

subsequently instigated a more individual centred

how new knowledge has effected architectural com-

examination of the design process through considera-

position and how this knowledge has impacted on the

tion of what the practitioner actually does when execut-

execution of architectural form; in certain instances

ing his role. While Schoen’s work offers a significant

introducing new or formerly dismissed procedures and

insight into observations of the overall process of design- how these are distinguished from their precedents. This ing it leaves the nature of the internal conversation that

examination would accept that undertaking architec-

constitutes much of the process unarticulated.5

tural design can be performed using many different

In the high theory years of the 1980’s the relationship between theory and the architectural object was often

compositional procedures and I would expect to find discussion of how these different procedures relate to

deliberately severed. Architecture and its accompanying and distinguish themselves from one another. I would discourse appeared to be completely disconnected. The

expect that this examination would locate these issues

present discourse around datascape, whilst seeking to

and their impact on the execution of architectural

1. page 83: Shane Murray Architect, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, International competition entry, (2002). page 84

Architectural Design & Discourse

form in a broader socio economic context and it would

to authorise architectural execution that is free from

indicate the point at which this account can no longer

any apparent precedent and promotes concept as the

remain strictly within disciplinary terms, but enters

primary determinant for architectural execution. In this

a discussion where issues of socio-economic and

situation concept is inevitably derived from scientific,

historical context extend this discourse. It is perplexing

technological or biological investigations that propose a

that currently no such discourse appears to exist.

reconsideration of how we view our environment. Their

A sketch recent history of the situation that charac-

novelty is then harnessed as an impetus for formal

terises the separation of discourse from architectural

architectural execution that seeks a similar novelty

design is as follows: in the 1980’s architectural theory

within the architectural object, but which never inter-

largely retreated from an engagement with the archi-

rogates the process of transformation that is entailed or

tectural object and concerned itself with discursive

the absence of architectural application or relevance in

relations that no longer implicated architecture as we

the originating concept. However, these new discourses and architectural

extend at least to the post-war period and are char-

projects have the same disconnection from each other

acterised by Colin Rowe as a “deflation of conviction” 6

and from the discipline as a whole as was the case

where a number of architectural movements or groups

under the regime of Theory in the 1980’s. Often these

that evidence the generalised fracturing of Modernism’s

new discourses of datascape and non-standard proce-

unifying tendencies over the discourse and practice

dures are used to authorise architectural outcomes

of architecture are encountered. Under this regime

rather than account for what is actually entailed in

in the 1980’s, although architectural theory and the

their execution. Through careful investigation of exam-

architectural object were presented together, there was

ples of architectural execution, quite different formal

no explicit requirement to connect the two. This situ-

precedents and explanations for their physical outcome

ation was viewed as untenable and by the mid 1990’s

than their accompanying discourses claim are found.

a reversal had occurred and architectural theory was

In disclosing these influences it is apparent that much

abandoned as a necessary adjunct to either the execu-

of architectural execution, in either of these strands of

tion or presentation of architecture. A new architectural contemporary practice, relies on compositional procediscourse on practice emerged concerned not with the

dures that have direct historical precedent within the

theory of architecture per se, but rather with the rap-

history of architectural composition and that these are

idly changing circumstances of practicing architecture

rarely, if ever, disclosed.

within the actual conditions of globalisation.

Many of the issues raised in this article are a conse-

This new discourse and the architectural execu-

quence of my own experience as a practising architect

tion with which it is associated is exemplified by two

and for this reason this account of architectural dis-

prominent strands in contemporary architecture. On

course generally confines itself to the previous twenty

the one hand, a discourse often described as datascape

years. Throughout this text I have generally referred to

represents bureaucratic data including demographic

discourse rather than theory in order to accommodate

and socio-economic statistics as well as descriptions of

exegesis and forms of contemporary project commen-

many of the immaterial relationships that constitute

tary that claim to distinguish themselves from archi-

contemporary environments. These are modelled and

tectural theory. The creators of the discourse I describe

represented as visual contexts that authorised an array

may be the authors of the architectural projects, sepa-

of architectural outcomes which are then claimed to be

rate commentators or a cooperative of the two.

particularly responsive to the issues of the contempo-

In disclosing these disconnections between execu-

rary metropolis. On the other hand, a discourse often

tion and discourse I am not seeking to undermine the

described as “non-standard” architecture concerns

quality of the architectural outcomes investigated. My

itself with the possibilities for new formal solutions

intention is to demonstrate that a significant aspect

for architectural execution that new digital technolo-

of the merit of many architectural projects is a conse-

gies make available. This new non-standard architec-

quence of a view of the discipline and culture of archi-

ture is surrounded by a discourse that is concerned

tecture which remains undisclosed in their disseminapage 85

page 85

conventionally understand it. The antecedents to this

Shane Murray

tion. My suspicions regarding this lack of disclosure are

struction, the construction of gender, power, property

that this absence is to do with its assumed historical

and geopolitics, and the panoply of poststructuralist

redundancy. Michelangelo has left us nothing regard-

discourse and theory led to a situation that K. Michael

ing an account of his architecture; Alvar Aalto didn’t

Hays described as the giving way of the emphasis of

say much and Mies van der Rohe was as reductive in

architectural theory on the production of the archi-

his infrequent disseminations as his work is popularly

tectural object “to an emphasis on the production of

understood, yet each has produced profound architec-

architecture as a subject of knowledge”.7 Hays observed

ture. However, architects should no longer accept this

that under this expanded field; “henceforth archi-

position both at the level of principle and at the level

tectural theory need not necessarily achieve or even

of their own deportment in relation to it.

intend the sort of synthesis required by the realisation

The expansion of architectural discourse over the

of a building (as it had for the most part, in the 1970’s),

last thirty years has resulted in a situation whereby

even if it is crucial to preserving or reconstructing

it is unavoidable in the dissemination of architectural

the history of the discipline or may be developed as a

projects. Architects have allowed this to proceed in

resource for some future practice. This new activity of

an uncontested manner and have been either unwill-

practice demanded not new building, but the invention

ing or unable to develop an aspect of this discourse to

of altogether new techniques for thinking architectural

adequately account for architectural design. Instead,

concepts and discursive relations”.8 In this telling state-

they have either remained mute or incorporated

ment we find an unusually succinct account of what

aspects of the general architectural discourse into

we might call the role and mission of architectural the-

the dissemination of their projects despite its often

ory in the so-called ‘high theory’ years of the mid 1980’s

disconnected relationship to what they do. In so doing

until the mid 1990’s. During this period the theoretical

they imply an acceptance of the authority granted to

discourse surrounding architecture reached its zenith

discourse; a belief in its criticality, rigour and difficulty.

in relation to the nadir of the architectural object. In

Such acceptance diminishes their projects because it

the exposure of the supposedly arbitrary nature of

infers that similar levels of criticality, rigour and dif-

many of the frameworks with which historical accounts

ficulty do not reside in the process of architectural

of art history had been undertaken, figures such as

design. This acceptance of the continued non-articula-

Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan and Roland Barthes

tion of composition implies that the fundamental proc-

created the possibility to, in some cases, rethink and

ess of architecture lacks sufficient gravity to apply its

in others abandon the modes of traditional art criti-

own standards of authority. This is a serious problem

cism.9 Here they were also commenting on earlier art

for architecture, both at the level of pedagogy and for

theory that had indirectly influenced architectural

the position of the discipline in contemporary culture.

discourse in the 1960’s including Clement Greenberg’s

To suggest that such a discourse on composition and

ideas of disciplines defining and distilling their own

design execution is necessary does not mean that it


should replace current architectural discourse. What

This effort was primarily directed to the study of

it would imply is that it could become a component of

texts, but as with the earlier transference of structuralist

this rich discursive field and in so doing recognise its

modes of analysis, aspects of this critical methodology

own limitations. One of these limitations is that archi-

quickly crossed over to architectural theory. An early

tectural design execution contains elements that will

monument to this was the Deconstructivist Architecture

remain resistant to discourse and articulation. However, exhibition in 1988 at the Museum of Modern Art in New to demonstrate where these limits lie would be a major

York, co-curated by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley.11

contribution of such an attempt.

This was followed in close succession by a number of theoretical texts and books that developed vary-

architectural theory

ing adjacencies between architecture and Derrida’s

By the late 1980’s architectural discourse had reached

theories. One would never argue that the theory of

a point where it was inscrutable to those who ceased

Deconstruction had precipitated the group of formally

their architectural education in the late 1970’s. Decon-

unrelated projects assembled by Johnson and Wigley page 86

Architectural Design & Discourse

for the Deconstructivist exhibition. However, by the late

and subsequently describes the role of theory as requir-

1980’s the fragmented array of architectural procedures

ing that an object achieved in this way should have a

that constituted contemporary architecture, each with

theoretical treatment of its outcome that locates it in

a formal tendency to part with any apparent unity or

broader social and historical conditions.17 The prob-

closure, had been gathered into a strange alliance with

lem is that this is the only time in his editorial that

an even more fragmented and not obviously connected

Hays claims that theory could have an influence over

body of text. This strange adjacency of objects and texts a formal outcome, but also, that for the balance of the inevitably percolated down to studio teaching programs

article he spends his time explaining that in the main it

in most advanced schools of architecture and conse-

does not and should not. Hays’ final caution concerns

quently by the early 1990’s Mark Wigley, one midwife

the “risk of common sense”. This is a conveniently con-

to Deconstruction’s presence in the studio, was reduced

structed argument that pits the difficulty of contempo-

to observe that theory became “a story to be told while

rary theory and its required complexity of engagement

standing beside your project, even as it is presumed

and extended knowledge, against the argument that

words are quoted from the previously cited editorial

is for the public good or the building itself.18 Hays

by K. Michael Hays in edition 30 of Assemblage and it is

views this position as a form of denial that is used to

worthwhile to revisit that well known publication that

ameliorate the disquiet that should be attached to the

defended the state of architectural theory at the time.

realisation of architecture amidst the complexities of

By the mid 1990’s the direction of architectural dis-

the contemporary situation. As with most of his argu-

course had generated certain disquiet. Hays, the editor

ment, it seems superficially acceptable, but the prob-

of Assemblage and already feeling the heat from this

lem throughout is that he posits theory as responsible,

disquiet, used the editorial of issue 30 to reaffirm the

analytical, tirelessly inquiring and difficult as compared

case for an architectural theory that “need not nec-

to architectural execution that is variously described as

essarily achieve or even intend the sort of synthesis

or associated with a “mealy-mouthed, liberal balanc-

required by the realisation of a building”.13 The slightly

ing act” with “Reaganomics to have produced a Po-Mo

defensive tone of Hay’s editorial and certain inconsist-

building boom” with a “connoisseurship of artistic

encies in his argument, are of interest. He observes that

autonomy” and with a “pre-theoretical bliss of unre-

“most practicing architects desire a parity of design

flective just doing”.19 Hays spends most of his editorial


practice and theory”

and then sets out three supreme

developing his defence of theory with a series of asser-

risks in this “adequation”15 of theory to practice. These

tions as to why theory need not or should not be con-

are the risks of “tautology”, “vaccination against theory”

nected to formal execution. Toward the conclusion he

and of “common sense”.16

makes a small admission that perhaps Assemblage had

The “risk of tautology” occurs where architecture is

been remiss in not dealing with “concrete architectural propositions”.20

viewed as “pre-discursive” and somehow external to the inevitable mediating forces of its historical circum-

Concluding the article, Hays affirms his belief in the

stances. Hays quite reasonably views such a position

need for a dialectical inquiry that supports an archi-

as untenable. The risk of “vaccination against theory”

tectural theory relating architecture to a broader social

is exemplified by the partial injection of theory into

field and that also articulates architecture’s “concrete

the design process at inception which is then under-

specificity and semi-autonomy”.21 For the reader, this

mined by calling the outcome “poetic” or utilising

conclusion comes as quite a shock, as Hays has used

similarly mystifying language to describe the object.

his editorial to justify the role of an architectural

Such a consideration presumes that the object could

theory with a focus away from the architectural object.

be used, understood or perceived without a theory that

In many passages of the article he utilises a rhetoric

relates it to a larger social and historical condition. The

which gives insight, criticality and a broader and more

discussion of the risk of vaccination against theory is

responsible aim to theory than architectural execution,

particularly indicative of a sleight of hand where Hays

which is viewed as unthinking, uncritical and requiring

claims an operative role for theory at design inception

lower orders of intellectual engagement. To describe page 87

page 87

that the project is prior to all stories about it”.12 Wigley’s I am “just doing architecture” or that my “just doing”

Shane Murray

this as dialectical in either the scholastic or Marxist

architecture in America and the eventual dissolution of

version of the term is completely inaccurate. What this

its relationship to European based architectural theory,

points to is the absence of a theory of making at both

another story could be told that begins with Rem

the level of Hays’ argument and in broader architec-

Koolhaas’ book Delirious New York, 1978, which identifies

tural discourse. This is an omission at the level of argu-

the pragmatic and actual forces shaping the metropolis

ment but also at the level of basic availability, for even

of Manhattan. For Speaks, unlike Rowe’s formalism,

if Hays had established his position in the dialectical

Koolhaas’ inquiry opens up a trajectory and transfer-

terms he claims, he would have been hard pressed to

ence of influence that took some years to emerge and

find a theory, at that time, directed to actual issues of

which has subsequently found a real reverberation

execution with which to refine his argument.

in the actualities of contemporary practice. Speaks describes Koolhaas’ research into the development of

which way avant garde?

Manhattan as an inquiry into an architecture that is

Eleven issues subsequent to Hays’ editorial, Assemblage

less concerned with form and ideology than with “the

41 is presented as a type of literary wake to both the

shaping forces, logics and technologies of the metro-

end of architectural theory and the magazine. This

politan condition”.26 Speaks then uses this observation

issue contains 61 articles from various architectural

for promotion of the so-called “Dutch Wave” as insti-

luminaries about the state of theory and architecture.

gated by Koolhaas and the work of his practice oma and

One of the better-known polemical examples is Michael

firms that it has subsequently influenced. This, in the

Speaks’ “Which Way Avant-garde?” 22 in which he

first instance, is described as transference of influence

states his admiration for Colin Rowe’s introduction to

where, on one hand European theory immigrated in a

the New York Five catalogue accompanying the epony-

diminished form to America, and in a strange reversal,

mous exhibition at moma, New York, in 1975. Rowe’s

the lessons of American metropolitan development,

introduction makes an observation on the passage of

immigrated to Europe via Koolhaas’ research. The sec-

Modern architecture to America where he wrote that

ond implication for Speaks is that this reversal of influ-

its “physique flesh and its morale word, or its form

ence, aligned with the exigencies of development in the

and ideology became separated”.23 Departing from

Netherlands, precipitated one of the first responses to

this, Speaks embarks on an overview of the relation-

the emergent conditions of globalisation. Here, accord-

ship of theory to American avant-garde architecture

ing to Speaks, we find an architecture whose analytical

from the late 1970’s through to the mid-to-late 1990’s.

tools are those utilised by global capital. One charac-

Speaks observes that “theory has not been free or quick

terised by a concern for large scale urban issues, the

enough to deal with the blur of e-commerce and open

application of analysis based on bureaucratic systems

systems”.24 Ultimately, according to Speaks, theory and

and the manipulation of processes and codes and the

the avant-garde project it enabled, has proven inad-

acceptance of the market as the pre-eminent determi-

equate to the vicissitudes of the contemporary world.

nant on its outcomes. This both distinguishes it from

He advocates a transformation of architecture where

its ideological parents of the 1970’s and 1980’s and

it no longer avoids the “degraded” world of business

establishes it as the most relevant and important

but should transform itself into a “research business”

architectural development of the time.

utilising forms of engagement appropriate to the new

In this brief overview of the passage of European

economy and the forces of globalisation. At the ArchiLab

theory to the new world, its subsequent overarching

Conference in Orleans of 2001, Speaks presented a

presence in the discourse surrounding the architec-

similar chronology of the relationship between archi-

tural projects of figures such as Peter Eisenman, Daniel

tecture and theory concluding that “form began to melt

Libeskind and Bernard Tschumi, and its final aban-

into blobs and fields of data while ideology loosened

donment for the model of architectural research and

up and became reconfigured as identity branding and

engagement championed by Michael Speaks, has the

lifestyle”.25 This observation leads to his assertion

accounting for what is entailed in architectural produc-

that, while Rowe’s comment describes a situation that

tion become any clearer? It has not, and what has actu-

subsequently characterised the state of avant-garde

ally taken place is a substantial change in the discourse page 88

Architectural Design & Discourse

and pre-design investigation that surrounds architec-

Contextualism was a deferred attempt to act on archi-

tural production that still however avoids or is unable

tectural form.28 For many Contextualists the authorisa-

to account for what is entailed in architectural compo-

tion of the architectural outcome through the promo-

sition. It can still be observed that discourse, including

tion of its relationship to adjoining arrangements of the

new forms of analysis, act as authorising or legitimising

city in fact concealed their real intentions, which were

agents rather than attempting to actually inquire into

very much concerned with the formal arrangements of

what we do as architects.

their discrete projects. When Colin Rowe proposed his collage plans for Rome, Boston or New Jersey it could be


argued that he was applying a pre-visualized editing of

In consideration of these issues, rather than seeking

architecture over portions of the city. The fragments of

a point where the separation between discourse and

new architecture he proposed and their adjoining urban

execution first occurred, I sought instead to examine

contexts often appear as if they were selected and then

one of the last attempts at its connection. This led me

edited so that they would align with his apparent pref-

to investigate the architectural movement known as

erence for a field-like plan image. Rowe’s projected new

Contextualism and the recurring presence of Colin

urban fragments and the selected adjacent material of

Rowe in more detail.

the city would often appear to coalesce into a type of seamless Field painting. In so doing, Rowe was relying

architectural viewpoint could be applied beyond an

on his edited representation of the city to authorise his

individual building to whole areas of cities. In this

particular formal concerns. It is argued here that Rowe,

situation the form of an individual building was seen

an aficionado of American Field painting and the his-

as (at least partially) a consequence of its relationship

tory of cartographic representation,29 was succumbing

to the adjoining arrangement of the city rather than

to his affection for these images and this was influenc-

solely as a consequence of some internal convention

ing his urban theories.

of arrangement. This also implied that particular archi-

There are two particular aspects of Rowe’s designs

tectural compositions would have urban scale conse-

that reveal this influence. Firstly, he demonstrates a

quences and those architectural additions to the city

preference for the plan and its depiction at a scale

would act on the city through broader terms of negotia-

which is impossible to experience coherently at ground

tion. In the various accounts of Contextualism, most

level or which is necessary to explain his architectural

famously Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s Collage City,27

designs. Rowe’s urban designs, undertaken with his

theories that directly accounted for and suggested ways

students, rarely show any elevations or experiential

of executing buildings were proposed.

representations. His urban plans always depict very

What is of interest in this examination is that,

large segments of territory, even if the designed part

although Contextualism appears to be one of the last

of the overall plan only accounts for a relatively small

occasions when architectural theory proposed a direct

component of the represented area. This is because

influence on architectural form, its propositions also

Rowe’s compositional concerns required large areas

reveal a tendency to defer questions of form from the

of urban plan in order to provide an acceptable graphic,

architectural object to another entity. This was often

but not necessarily urban, ground condition for his

illustrated by the use of a particular interpretation of

inserted designs so that the completed ensemble might

the city as justification for formal proposals that were

fulfil his preference for the creation of a seamless

actually concerned with internalised, formal interests

plan image. This made for urban proposals that were

in particular types of planimetric representation and

extremely compelling at the level of representation;

issues of orthography, rather than a sustained or critical yet bore no relationship to an actual formal influence examination of the city. This tendency, which we can

of the existing structure of the city over the proposed

observe in Contextualism continues in contemporary

designs, or a reciprocal influence over the altered

architectural practice today.

urban ensemble.

Several commentators have argued that, rather than being a real attempt to act on cities, architectural

The second illustration of the dominance of Rowe’s preferences over the claims of his discourse is in the page 89

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Originally, Contextualism assumed that a traditional

Shane Murray

evolution of his design process towards seamless depic-

eludes our conception; that it has become a system

tions, where the inserted object and its field evolve

impossible to picture as a totality. Several contemporary

to smoothness. In the Roma Interrotta competition (a

architects claim an authority for their work that resides

renowned exhibition re-working Giombattista Nolli’s

in their projects being more appropriate to this changed

1748 plan of Rome, curated by Graziella Lonardi of the

urban condition. They claim that their architecture is

Committee of International Art, Rome and sponsored

not subject to what they would term the ‘nostalgia’

by Sogene, a Roman real estate company),30 the curator

of historical context or the orthodoxy and irrelevance

gave each of the twelve famous architect participants

that earlier views of urbanism represent. When Rem

one of twelve plates that constitutes Nolli’s monument

Koolhaas propagandises his architecture as more rel-

to the city and invited them to interrupt or intervene

evant to our contemporary urban condition he does so

into their segment of Nolli’s Rome. The re-workings

by comparison to what he views as the now-nostalgic

or interruptions produced by each participant are an

propositions of his predecessors, particularly Colin

interesting survey of architectural positions regarding

Rowe.32 For John Macarthur, architectural theorist, the

the city at the time. The interventions by Venturi and

issue is the manner in which architecture appropri-

Rauch, Romoldo Giurgola and Colin Rowe31 represent

ates ‘the city’. His concern is not the merit of either’s

the extent of this diversity. The Venturi and Rauch

urbanism but the possibility of an urbanism itself. He

intervention propagandises their iconoclastic attitude

observes that “there is no ‘the city’ to be appropriated

to the issues of architectural culture and sources the

by architecture, there are only cities, and what can be

realities of contemporary vernacular to forge archi-

said about them at a general level is vague, diffuse and

tecture. Ignoring the fabric of Nolli’s plan, they utilise

susceptible to ‘mental and atmospheric turbulence’”.33

one of the map’s decorative keys to advocate their

Macarthur believes that to claim otherwise is nostalgia

message of the celebration of the “everyday”. Giurgola

for the authority of kings when a sovereign could recog-

ignores the morphology depicted in Nolli’s representa-

nise the merits of architecture and authorise it to act on

tion and instead selects a 19th century grid structure

his behalf. Macarthur views urbanism, as discussed by

more reminiscent of Manhattan or Philadelphia and

architects, as a “theoretical space, a space in which the

superimposes this over his sector in a strange act of

principal issues of the discipline such as its authority

reversal for this expatriate Italian. Rowe’s intervention

as knowledge and the meaning of orthography can be

is immediately distinguished from the other two, due

played out.”34

to the obvious ambiguity between his proposed inser-

It would be inadvisable to dispense with the idea of

tions and the existing material of Nolli’s plan. Venturi

any relationship between architecture and the city on

and Rauch’s and Giurgola’s depictions clearly reveal the

the basis of these pronouncements. However, a certain

distinction between the existing and their proposals. In

value resides in the admonishment to architecture to

the intervention by Rowe this contrast is much fainter.

recognise where its domain lies and to begin to think

His careful editing of the new material to coalesce with

about what is actually entailed in the modes of the

the existing fabric creates an almost seamless field

discipline. This may initially seem a strange entreaty,

of urban patternation. In Rowe’s outcome the threat

but it is not so if we consider the gulf that is still appar-

implicit in his process can be discerned. Rather than

ent between what architects actually do and how they

his claims for new architectural insertions, which

describe and authorise what they do. Significantly, it is

would act like jostling heterotopias, we find a strange

particularly in its relationship to the city that one finds

soma-like calm.

architecture, its explanation, and its critical commen-

In the past it was often assumed that architecture

tary, have strangely parted.

and the city were somehow inextricably in dialogue; as if architecture and its urban field were composed


of the same material – even if the material of the city

A contemporary version of this slippery relationship

could never be melded in quite the same way as an

between discourse and execution can be found in many

individual building. Increasingly, many commentators

recent urban-scale projects that utilise what is now

have come to believe that the contemporary city now

known as “datascape”.35 Here, architects have underpage 90

Architectural Design & Discourse

Previously, I have presented Michael Speaks’ polemi-

processes that traditionally lie outside the discipline.

cal article “Which Way Avant-Garde?”37 and discussed

These processes are subsequently used to author-

his affection for the works of contemporary Dutch

ise architectural propositions that bear little formal

architecture. Speaks curated the exhibition, Big Soft

relationship to the analytical process undertaken. In

Orange, which toured the usa during 2002 38 and exhibit-

describing mvrdv’s (the architecture firm comprising

ed several Dutch practices whom Speaks believes repre-

Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries) use of

sent the most contemporary and appropriate modes of

datascapes, Bart Lootsma observes that their applica-

practicing architecture in the contemporary situation.

tion of representations of bureaucratic systems results

Is the discourse surrounding architectural execution by

in a type of “deconstruction” rather than a “unifying

this generation of architects more connected to the for-

technique”. This leads to design outcomes “apparently”

mal actualities of its outcomes? Although architectural

formed in the margins or interstices of the analytical

theory is now discredited in certain progressive circles

process. Lootsma observes, “apparently that is, because

championed by Michael Speaks, the contemporary

mvrdv’s conserves a secret diagram somewhere that

relationship between commentary and outcome is no

really generates the designs”.36 What Lootsma means is

further advanced in speaking about physical form than

that when we actually examine mvrdv’s architectural

was the case under “theory’s” regime.

projects there is a significant gap between the diagrams

Earlier I described two prominent strands in

created in the datascape process and the actual archi-

contemporary architectural discourse, datascape and

tectural designs produced. This gap owes a significant

non-standard architecture. Architects attached to the

formal debt to the additive culture of architectural

datascape strand include Rem Koolhaas and oma,

composition including the work of oma but also histori-

originators of the term, and now most prominently

cal figures such as the Metabolists, some of the urban

mvrdv, West 8 and Leeser Architecture. As previously

propositions of the Smithsons and their associates in

described, the projects of mvrdv are often presented

Team Ten, particularly Josic, Candilis and Woods, none

entwined with a type of diagramming they call

of which is discussed.

datascape, which primarily concerns the representation

2. mvrdv, vpro, exterior façade detail (1993-97). Photograph: rmit Architecture, 1997.

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taken analysis of an urban situation using methods and

Shane Murray

of bureaucratic and statistical contexts (particularly at

By designing architecture related to this diagrammed

the urban scale for architectural projects) together with

socio-economic information these architects either

the projects themselves. The relationship between the

produce architectural designs that have no obvious

two appears to be proposed by mvrdv as obvious and

relationship to the diagrammatic representation of the

inevitable however, there is both a gap between these

city and are therefore of questionable value (other than

two realms and a debt to quite different precedents

for revealing the irreconcilability of the urban situation)

when we examine the project outcomes in detail. This

or, in other instances, produce architectural outcomes

gap has a number of consequences. One of these is the

that have a peculiar formal relationship to the

issue of scale and the conflation of the urban condition

diagrammatic representation. In this latter instance,

with the individual architectural project which has

the architectural outcome is authorised contextually

resulted in an increasingly frequent discourse that

through its relationship to the diagram. Such a

proceeds as follows. Adherents of datascape claim

relationship entails the slip of totalising or simplifying

that the city has become too complex to conceive

the unknowable of the metropolis through a simplified

of in any static way, therefore architects can only

diagrammatic representation of its extent and then

talk about it in terms of relationships and activities.

authorising the architectural outcome through its

When discussing the city in terms of relationship and

relationship to this diminished representation.

activity, certain architects, in particular mvrdv, produce

A significant lesson of the dangers inherent in

diagrams or datascapes that represent this activity

applying datascape to architecture is the example

and these relationships in a manner that makes

of mvrdv’s Pig City Project.39 Engaging in their well-

these bureaucratic and abstract systems supposedly

known analytical processes, including scenario

visible and in a form which is natural to the visual

setting, they observed that the Netherlands is the

predilection of the architecture discipline. However,

largest exporter of pork products in the eu. There is a

these modes of representing statistical and socio-

numeric equivalence between pigs and people in the

political information inevitably reduce and simplify

Netherlands; each species comprising approximately

the initially observed complexity into diagrams, which

15 million individuals. Current pig farming practise

are proposed as representations of this complex reality.

in the Netherlands requires 664sqm of land per

3. mvrdv, vpro, exterior façade (1993-97). Photograph: rmit Architecture, 1997.

page 92

animal, however the increasing risks associated

tectural theory it replaced. A particularly interesting

with Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth disease have

case study is the vpro 42 building by mvrdv that illus-

placed increasing pressure on the Dutch government

trates both of the issues I believe constitute flaws in

to transform the industry to a fully organic mode of

the datascape process. In this building we find the use

production. Such a move would necessitate feeding the

of problematic analysis and discourse to authorise the

pigs entirely on grain which would increase the land

building simultaneous with the appearance of obvi-

required by each pig, on a pro-rata basis, to 1726sqm

ous formal precedents in the building, which are never

and which would leave the pigs approximately twice

articulated in its dissemination. If we examine the vpro

better off, in land share terms, than their human

office building, 1993-97, an early prominent project by

cohabitants.40 mvrdv’s proposed solution to this

mvrdv, the form of the building privileges elements of

dilemma was a series of high-rise towers to house the

the architecture that are concerned with expressing its

pigs, redistributing land for other human activities.

base structure. Rather than elaborate facade treatment,

Ignoring the surreal nature of this proposition, the

intricate glazing and surface treatment or complex

actual transformation that has recently impacted on

plan form and inflection, the building is a series of floor

pork production in the Netherlands was instigated by

and roof plates within a simple rectangular shape. The

the less regulated economies of Poland, the former

building presents the fundamental sense of its plate

East Germany and nearby Denmark.41 To compete,

structure and appears to suppress any other architec-

Dutch farmers are moving to these countries and

tural expression. mvrdv describe their project as an

farming offshore or transferring to fish farming. This

inevitable consequence ensuing from the procedures of

rather protracted example indicates the fluidity and

the building’s use rather than the execution of a par-

complexity of the contemporary global economy and

ticular formal intention. This implies that it is the result

the rather weak ability of datascape as an analytical tool

of their research concerning all the possible usages of

for the depiction or investigation of its complexities.

the building which leads to this particular container

As I have demonstrated, much of the architectural

that would best accommodate this projected array of

analysis described as datascape exhibits the same dis-

possibilities, rather than the building being the product

connection from outcome as was found in the archi-

of formal and compositional intention.43

4. Josic, Candilis and Woods, Berlin Free University, courtyard (1963-64). Photograph: Adrian Iredale, 2000.

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Architectural Design & Discourse

Shane Murray

There is a certain unfinished or partial sense in the

mal desire to express the image of armature or system

vpro office building’s appearance. We might think of the over face or facade. By expressing the floor plates and building as if construction ceased after the installation

columns at the expense of closure or a more conven-

of the primary floor plates, columns and stairs. It is as

tional facade treatment they are able to foreground,

if it is awaiting the subsequent wall and surface trades

as a formal concern, a sense of partiality or extraction

to arrive and finish the job. The horizontal, emphasised

from a larger component system. A consequence of

by the deliberate exposure of the horizontal floor edges,

this appears to be the establishment of a relationship

characterises the building as a fragment of some larger

between their construction of datascapes and individual

system. Despite mvrdv’s claims to the contrary, the

buildings. This becomes a closed system where fields

building speaks of definite intentions on the part of the

of data are represented as a series of limitless architec-

architects. It is difficult to accept the architect’s asser-

tural plates and enclosures. The subsequent individual

tions that it is just the inevitable outcome of the pro-

building then manifests itself as if it is an isolated and

gram. The expression of the return curve of the ramp

materialised element of this system. The architectural

is certainly not an inevitable consequence of the habi-

treatment of these individual elements is then devel-

tation of the building, and in fact the expression and

oped through the expression of the systemic-like ele-

protrusion of the slab edges involves significant techni-

ments of the isolated architectural element. Here we

cal problems of weatherproofing when compared to a

see the construction of an internal authorising system

surface treatment that conceals them. Rather than this

where the world is depicted as a series of complex sys-

architecture being an automatic or inevitable outcome

tems through a series of diagrams, and where individ-

of programmatic forces outside the architect’s normal

ual buildings are legitimised through their dependant

control, the formal treatment of the object proposes it

relationship to this systemic depiction. In this scenario

as an element of a greater system.

there is a strange thumb nailing of the world. mvrdv

mvrdv’s statement that the facade is a consequence

state that the urban environment is complex and made

of the building’s occupation as opposed to a formal

up of systems and relationships rather than definite

intention44 of the architecture is, arguably, really a for-

things. They propose diagrammed systems intended

5. Josic, Candilis and Woods, Berlin Free University, exterior facade (1963-64). Photograph: Adrian Iredale, 2000.

page 94

6. mvrdv, Hanover Pavilion, exterior view (1997-2000). Photograph: Adrian Iredale, 2000.

Architectural Design & Discourse

as strategies that could accommodate and deal with

tion in the work of mvrdv. Regardless of their merits,

these complexities. In so doing they actually succumb

the obvious presence of these precedents in the work

to the type of simplification their rhetoric is dedicated

of mvrdv is never discussed either in terms of their

to criticising.

qualification or their incorporation. A final aspect of the vpro building that remains to

diagramming that mvrdv use to contextualise their

be considered continues the issue of intention and

projects in the vpro building we also see quite a

flexibility described in the precedent of the Berlin Free

different debt that has influenced both the formal

University. mvrdv propagandize the vpro building as for-

development of their building and the general manner

mally indeterminate or unintended; as a mute container

in which they develop their datascape representations.

rather than a product of formal and compositional

In the vpro building there is an explicit, although

intention. The idea that unforeseen occupation of the

never discussed, interest in their work that is a return

architecture by the user or inevitabilities beyond the

to certain architectural propositions of post-war

architects control should be a major consideration in

Modernism, in particular the work of Josic, Candilis

determination of the architectural solution is laudable.

and Woods, but also many of the architects who

When this is propagandized as resulting in the form

were loosely joined with them in Team Ten. When we

of the building being outside of architectural intention

examine the vpro building we are explicitly reminded

we would have to question this assertion. The fact that

of several of the projects by Josic, Candilis and Woods,

mvrdv have recognized their building will be occupied in

including their competition design for the historic

an unforeseeable manner in no way removes, or in fact

centre of Frankfurt and in particular the Berlin Free

is it possible to remove, their responsibility and intention

University, 1963-64. Shadrach Woods, the polemicist of

over the form of the building. The appearance of infor-

the Josic, Candilis and Woods partnership, was always

mality, the expression of openness and the refraining

at pains to claim that his interest was not that of a

from an over articulation of building detail are formal

“designer” but of an “organiser”.45 In this observation

decisions entailed in building execution. Architecture

we see a prefiguring of the rhetoric that characterises

has always been inhabited in ways that can’t be deter-

much of the mvrdv discourse.

mined and architects have always made spaces for the

The Berlin Free University, an enduring monument

conduct of unforeseen forms of human activity.

to the desire to unite architecture and urbanism, now

That most formal of architects, Andrea Palladio, left

stands as a forlorn hulk in its strangely suburban con-

a legacy of buildings and projects that have been cel-

text. While the project was enmeshed in the most laud-

ebrated for their deliberate formal consideration and

atory desire to foreground human interaction as the

on other occasions denigrated for this very same

primary determinant on architectural form, the impos-

characteristic. Colin Rowe and subsequently Peter

sible aim of removing the designer from the responsibil- Eisenmann used Palladio’s plans to both reveal Modern ity over material arrangement resulted in heroic failure.

architecture’s debt to the history of architectural com-

Indeterminacy between the specific and the general

position and to justify the pursuit of the internalised

resulted in the worst aspects of each tendency being

formal characteristics of the discipline.47 When exam-

present in the building outcome. Indistinguishable

ining any number of Palladio’s villa plans the hyper-

rooms and courtyards intended for future manipulation deliberate formal intentionality of the sequence and and figuration through use remained unchanged and

arrangement of rooms and corridors and their framing

the adherence to a position of non-design inevitably

through the poche of the masonry wall articulation

resulted in the building’s foreboding visage.46 While this

is immediately apparent. However, if we recount the

is not the space for a discussion of the merits of Josic,

story of their likely inhabitation these rooms probably

Candilis and Woods’ architecture and urbanism, nor

witnessed forms of occupation that are almost unim-

that of the architects who pursued a similar direction,

aginable to our contemporary sensibility. Robin Evans

these issues, and more importantly the graphic repre-

describes the usage of one of these villas as follows:

sentation of their urbanism and the formal disposition

“Thus, despite the precise architectural containment

of many of their projects, have a profound reverbera-

offered by the addition of room upon room, the villa page 95

page 95

As well as this strange adjacency with the formal

Shane Murray

was, in terms of occupation, an open plan relatively

mvrdv never discuss them. One may claim that these

permeable to the numerous members of the household, influences are obvious and therefore it is unnecessary all of whom – men, women, children, servants and

to articulate them. However, as they have been previ-

visitors – were obliged to pass through a matrix of con-

ously abandoned in architectural practice one would

necting rooms where the day to day business of life was

expect that their reincorporation into the discipline’s

carried out”.48 The point here is an obvious one and it

procedures would require explanation. The final gap

is simply to point out that inevitable forms of inhabita-

concerns mvrdv’s implication of a lack of intentionality

tion are not precluded by architectural intention.

over the formal execution of their architectural projects

This example reveals, as do many similar instances,

and the subsidiary assertion that their architecture

that flexibility of use is not antagonistic to formal

is an inevitable consequence of a neutral analytical

intention. mvrdv’s Hanover pavilion, 1997-2000, reveals

process. The gap here is demonstrated by the fact that

the same slip in authorisation by proposing a build-

their analysis is actually mediated to authorise their

ing as an armature structure and implying it is devoid

architectural outcomes and that these are in fact highly

of architectural intention. The schematic renderings

determined. Their claimed disinterest in pursuing a

of the project reveal a type of stacked plate armature

formal intention and seeking the buildings form from

reminiscent of the famed example from Life magazine,

the randomness of the building‘s future usage is

which was popularised by Rem Koolhaas in Delirious

disproved by simple historical comparison.

New York.49 The schematic project is represented so that the physical armature is barely discernible and the

non-standard architecture

contents of each plate become the important aspects of

The discourse surrounding mvrdv is associated with a

the representation. In this privileging of the exhibition

claimed engagement with the forces shaping the con-

content there is an implied withdrawal of design inten-

temporary metropolis. Other architects have achieved

tion and the use of the building becomes the expressive

international recognition through their pursuit of

intent of the project. Examining the executed project

new methods and technologies for achieving architec-

it is immediately apparent that the building is deliri-

tural designs. As previously described, this prominent

ously formal and swollen with design intention. What

strand in contemporary architecture is described as

was a neutral structure to house the various levels of

“non-standard architecture”. Prominent members of

different activity in the schematic sketch proposal, in

this group include decoi architects, Greg Lynn form,

final execution becomes a literal exhibition of formal

Kovac Architecture, nox,, un Studio and

architectural elements and their composition within

Foreign Office. The new techniques utilised by this

the overall form.

group centre on the use of contemporary computing

In this discussion of the work of mvrdv I have

software and associated new technologies of construc-

attempted to foreground three gaps in the relation-

tion. Liberated from the traditional craft based building

ship between their discourse and the execution of their

technologies and Fordist modes of building production

projects. The first of these is the use of datascape to

these architects engage in the pursuit of formal solu-

authorise their architectural projects. The issue here

tions that were unavailable prior to the introduction

concerns the use of a supposedly neutral account of

of these new technologies. For these architects the role

the urban context to authorise an architectural out-

of concept, particularly the use of those that would

come. The gap here is similar to the gap identified in

distinguish their work from preceding architectural

Colin Rowe’s Contextualism and entails the use of

solutions, becomes a dominant aspect of the discourse

urbanism as a neutral authority. In both cases the

surrounding their projects. However, in examining the

urbanism is actually constructed by the architects to

architectural projects emanating from this position, the

provide a self-fulfilling authority to either’s architec-

familiar disassociation between discourse and outcome

tural projects. The second gap concerns the issue of

reoccurs. This dissociation takes three forms: either a

architectural precedent in both the datascape analysis

significant and obvious gap between the conceptual

and the architecture of mvrdv. In both instances formal

assertions and the project outcome; the realisation

precedents for both these undertakings abound but

of the originating concept in the outcome but at a page 96

Architectural Design & Discourse

level where the overall deportment of the outcome

Seoul. The cathedral is extremely important in the psy-

suggests influences independent and more significant

che of the city as it was here that student riots against

to execution than the communicated concept; and the

the Korean dictatorship were held and it is now viewed

use of the language of this discourse to describe an

as the symbolic site of democracy in South Korea. The

architectural outcome that has obvious and different

church adjoins an extremely diverse urban context

influences to that promoted in their discourse.

and an elevated freeway, which generates considerable

In the recent Non-Standard Architectures exhibition,

noise pollution, adjoins the side of the site. The brief

2003,50 at the George Pompidou Centre in Paris many

for the Foreign Office project was to mediate this con-

of the proponents of the architectural position I have

gested urban context and provide a public urban space

described above were gathered to exhibit their work.

surrounding the cathedral and a religious and cultural

The exhibition displayed the current international

convention centre. The architect’s response to this was

leaders in an architectural pursuit that appears to be

to utilise the eleven metre level difference over the site

directed to avoiding all precedent and promoting archi-

and provide an undulating surface that would create

tectural designs that engage in new geometries and

a plaza space to the cathedral that would also act as

formal solutions that celebrate the new technologies

an outdoor auditorium. The edges of this surface were

I have described. Most of the exhibits were relatively

raised to adjoin the entry level of the cathedral and

mute in terms of exegesis and the small A4 descriptions also to shield the plaza from the adjoining expressway. accompanying each exhibit spoke of the outcomes in

The convention centre was located under this surface

general terms, and strangely, many were described as

together with a number of ancillary facilities. Foreign Office describes their aims for the project by

realised. One exhibitor, either through wit or ignorance,

stating: “Our approach was to focus on the coincidence

presented his proposal for an underground art gallery

of multiple, often contradictory, qualities within the

as a floating object with no depiction of its interior. In

site: secular/religious, ephemeral/permanent, com-

an act of irony or admonishment, the curators of the

mercial/ritual, dynamic/static.” In accounting for the

exhibition, Frederic Migayrou and Zeynep Mennan, had

design outcome they observe that their project is pro-

suspended a huge ribbon of paper that snaked through

posed as “a smooth topography, a slanted and deformed

the exhibition space. This ribbon depicted the his-

ground plane adjusting to the different environmental,

tory of the non-standard over an approximate span of a

topographical and programmatic conditions within

century. Here were displayed a succession of historical

and around the site”.52 The project plans and render-

developments in architecture, mathematics, sculpture

ings make abundantly clear the lesson of traditional

and design that together formed an extremely lucid

European urbanism and associated historical treatment

and rich history of a particular formal engagement that

of public space and significant buildings. The project’s

mainstream architectural histories had excluded. This

resemblance to Sienna’s inclined Plaza del Campo is

included the “object mathematiques” of Mobius, Klein

remarkable, and one is immediately reminded of the

and Poincare; the interpretation of these in surface

work of the great aesthetic urbanist Camillo Sitte,

experimentation by Bill, the Eames and Giorgini; as well

who was also influenced by the form of traditional

as the formal exuberance of architects including Gaudi,

Italian hill towns. Almost every aspect of the Foreign

Lubetkin, Kiesler and Baldessari. The richness of this

Office design evokes Sittes’ City Planning According to

material and its depiction of precedents and concepts

Artistic Principles, 1889.53 The same desire to create an

in most instances exceed the activities of those exhibit-

appropriately scaled urban space with a measured

ing, who remain mute in their discourses.

relationship to civic object, and the issues surround-

Of the many explicit examples of this strange his-

ing Sittes’ famous dispute with Otto Wagner and his

torical amnesia is the urban precinct design for the

subsequent proposals to encumber the new buildings

Myeong-Dong Cathedral Precinct, 1995-96, by Foreign

of the Ringstrasse,54 are evidenced in the Foreign Office

Office.51 This project consisted of the creation of an

proposal. As I observed earlier, a significant proportion

urban plaza immediately adjoining the Myeong-Dong

of contemporary architectural design aims to distin-

Cathedral in the geographical centre of the city of

guish itself from all precedent, but despite this, much of page 97

page 97

completed buildings even though they had not been

Shane Murray

the design work executed under this desire still utilises,

apexes penetrated to form circular windows and others

and in fact relies on procedures that are the traditional

are marked with small reflective domes. In describ-

domain of the discipline. This amnesia is not solely

ing this transmission of concept, Paul Minifie observes

the provenance of contemporary architecture; similar

that the diagram has been sufficiently maintained in

criticisms were levelled at Colin Rowe’s Contextualism

its transmission through to execution that it suspends

where Rowe was accused of plagiarising both Camillo

other acculturated readings.58 These other readings

Sitte and the work undertaken by Charles Jencks on

might have included the role and history of facadism in

the topic of “AdHocism”.55

Melbourne architecture amongst many. It is interesting

In considering the situation where concept and

to speculate as to why Minifie seeks this direct trans-

its transmission into the architectural outcome are

mission of concept. One view would be that it emanates

the primary intentions of the architect an interesting

from the belief, which is not unique to him, that this

project is the Centre for Ideas Building (cfi), Melbourne,

is currently the only acceptable path for legitimacy in

2003 at the Victorian College for the Arts, by Australian

contemporary architecture.

advocates of non-standard architecture Minifie Nixon Pty

In addition, we would need to observe that Minifie

Ltd.56 These architects believe that one successful out-

is flexible in his use of the word concept. In speak-

come of their building is the fact that its concept has

ing about the concept of the Voronoi tessellation he

endured the process of physical execution. By concept

is referring to an abstract mathematical diagram that

they mean a particular investigation that consisted

locates domains closest to particular structures rela-

of an examination of the formal implications of the

tive to those adjacent. This concept is often used for

Voronoi tessellation as developed by the British sculp-

the distribution of facilities in a territory such as con-

tor Jonathan Callan.57 The outcome of this research has

venience stores. However, it is the algorithm of this

resulted in the main facade of the building consisting of concept, as constructed by the artist Callan where he a series of intersecting cones, some of which have their

created a series of dust cones that formed a complex

7. Minifie Nixon Architects, Victorian 8. Minifie Nixon Architects, Victorian College of the College of the Arts, Centre For Ideas, Arts, Centre For Ideas, interior “plexus” stair (2003). view of northwestern corner (2003). Photograph: Peter Bennetts, 2003. Photograph: Derek Swalwell, 2003.

page 98

9. Minifie Nixon Architects, Victorian College of the Arts, Centre For Ideas, Voronoi diagram.

Architectural Design & Discourse

cell-like structure of convex polygons that each deline-

passages appears to be independent of the impact of

ates the domain closest to the perforation they drain

the main conceptual facade into the interior. While

to, that is utilised by Minifie.59 As such, concept has

the cfi office’s ceiling is perforated with a series of

already crossed over to formal algorithm before it is

depressed cones, a formal consequence of the Voronoi

employed by Minifie Nixon. In this is an architectural

concept, the most intriguing spatial effect in this space

viewpoint applied to the ideation of concept. What is

is where the facade returns to meet the north wall of

intriguing about the Minifie Nixon project is that while

the building, an architectural elevation and intersection

its originating concept is blurred in description, its for-

much more to do with precedents established in the

mal consequences appear to have endured and in fact

offices where Minifie Nixon endured their architectural

achieve the type of reverberation between outcome and

apprenticeships. A sense of sober judgement charac-

diagram that the authors claim for it, but there is much

terises much of the interior treatment. They appear

more happening that complicates and contributes to

as institutional spaces, and speak of limited budgets,

the outcome.

durability and considered application of architectural

Minifie Nixon limit their discussion of the project

accent. Much of the building and its negotiation of its

to the Voronoi tessellation and its influence over the

circumstances is effective because it evidences the type

primary facade of the building. However, it should also

of accumulated experience that enables the application

be noted that their project survives in a challenging

of disciplinary knowledge where issues of the project

physical context. The building is denied the clarity of

are negotiated in the “doing” of the architecture.

a stand-alone situation and instead is attached on two

the substrata of architectural skill and judgment that I

side that the facade is available to view and even this

have described is not an issue for this project alone. It

opportunity is encumbered by older buildings that

is the same kind of schism represented by much of the

obscure its presentation to the nearest street frontage.

discourse surrounding architectural production that

The planning of the building, which operates over three

I have previously described. Many commentators and

levels, is required to contend with the extension of

institutions are currently so engrossed in what they

adjoining program from the union and library building

perceive to be the limits of disciplinarity that denounc-

and also has to act as a major thoroughfare between

ing a discipline’s autonomy has become something of

three sides of the campus.

a cliché. In this circumstance there is a risk of losing

The fact that the building has been able to contend

sight of why disciplines and disciplinary knowledge

successfully with these demands demonstrates the

came to exist in the first place and what they actually

architect’s skill, but also begs the question of how this

entail. Much of what architects do remains mute. Since

contention has been achieved. What we find in the

the late 1970’s in architecture, architects have become

project is a range of both established and particular

so habituated to the unpacking of disciplinarity and

architectural procedures that contribute to the for-

the seeking of authority for what they do from else-

mal execution. The internal spaces of the building are

where that the applied procedures of a discipline

arranged around the plexus space, an intersection

such as architecture have been required to endure at

of circulation that enmeshes the existing movement

a subliminal level that denies articulation. This leads

through the college with the new functions of the

to an absence between material and discourse that

building. Top lit, this space becomes both a formal and

requires attention.

visual centre that the rest of the ensemble negotiates in a quite physical way. Particularly at the library level,


where the existing library merges with the new library,

A slight recognition of the unarticulated nature of the

there is a complex series of spatial layering and partic-

actual communication of disciplinary procedures in

ular tectonic passages that address certain important

architecture occurs in the previously discussed editorial

junctions in the volume and give accent to the layering

by K. Michael Hays where he considers the relationship

of the space looking back into the plexus.

of theory to execution in the design studio. He observes

Interestingly, the formal impetus for many of these

that despite claims to being involved in exploratory page 99

page 99

The relation of the feature facade of this building to

sides to two incongruous buildings. It is only on one

Shane Murray

research and theoretical intensity the outcomes of

tory of ideas can it be taught and in so doing he uncou-

many of these design studios seem to be determined

ples it from any responsibility to execution.

by the studio critics “who have retained a firm grip

My aim in this analysis of the relationship of archi-

on the reins of technique”.60 He makes the following

tectural design to its accompanying discourse has been

observation regarding these studio critics: “They

to demonstrate that despite a major transformation in

are rightly so behaving as studio critics have always

the nature of this discourse it remains separated from

behaved, inculcating concrete techniques for the pro-

what is actually involved in architectural composition.

duction of objects, which is also a form of theory”.61

My observations reveal that when we carefully inves-

The issue here is that both for Hays and the discipline

tigate examples of architectural execution we can find

at large these techniques and their modification and

quite different formal precedents and explanations

application are rarely discussed in the discourse sur-

for their physical outcome than their accompanying

rounding contemporary architecture.

discourses reveal. In disclosing these influences we

This absence in the discourse – the separation

also find that much of architectural execution relies on

between the apparent issues of execution from the

compositional procedures that have direct historical

content of the rich discourse that surrounds it – has

precedent within the history of architectural composi-

endured for a long period in architectural culture. In a

tion but that these are rarely, disclosed in contempo-

famous address to the Royal Institute of British Architects

rary design commentary. In the past, figures including

in 1957, Sir John Summerson discussed the search for

Colin Rowe, Alan Colquhoun and Michael Dennis65 con-

an appropriate theory of Modern architecture at the

tributed to our understanding of architecture’s reliance

time.62 Summerson aligned this search with the need

on the transmission of historical compositional proce-

for an authority with which to legitimise architectural

dures, however there appears to be no contemporary

outcomes. He observed that significant components of

interest in this type of analysis.

Modern architecture had relied on classicism for their

Certain commentators believe that architectural

formal authority whilst never recognising this in their

discourse, particularly architectural theory, is a form

accompanying discourse. He recognised that a Modern

of propaganda that seeks to encourage particular archi-

architecture could no longer rely on this ancient

tectural trajectories and that any expectation for it to

authority and he discussed the possibility of program

actually account for execution is ill founded. Paul-Alan

becoming the new voice for this authority. However, in

Johnson claims that there is a necessary separation

quoting Walter Gropius who had previously observed

of the production of design from the proselytising of

in regard to program that it is unable to “act as a con-

design.66 He observes that “the reason much architec-


trolling agent within the creative act”,

he throws the

tural theory has the flavour of religious dogma is that

whole question of this search into the air once again.

those who write it do so with a proselytising agenda”.67

Ultimately, Summerson accepts that program is the

The discourse surrounding datascape, as I have argued,

new authority for architecture, but he does this in

appears to perform this role.

such qualified terms that under his own admission he

For Jeffrey Kipnis the relationship between theory

implies it is impossible to adhere to because so many

and design is philosophically irreconcilable.68 He

complex and contradictory forms of expression come

observes that the role of theory is to “defer as long as

into play at the point of architectural execution. Later

possible and/or dilute as thoroughly as possible the

in his lecture he muses that “it is quite possible that the

inevitable encroachment of the ego’s demands of nego-

missing language will remain missing, and that in fact

tiation into the design process”.69 For many this gap

the slightly uncomfortable feeling which some of us

between architectural design and its accompanying dis-

have that it ought to exist is nothing but the scar left in

course is an enduring fact of architectural production

the mind by the violent swing which has taken place in

and demonstrably of no consequence to the quality of

the lifetime of one generation from old order of princi-

the outcome. For others this gap is an aspect of design

ples to a new”.64 Summerson concludes his lecture by

that is actually empowering; the continued mystery

stating that the real mission for the dissemination of

surrounding the process is valuable for maintaining

architectural theory is to recognise that only as a his-

the cultural capital of architecture, although this would page 100

be to misunderstand Bourdieu’s conception of creative disciples as reflective, and his very particular definition of cultural capital. The study of architectural theory as a history of ideas, the social and cultural assessment of architecture, and the history of architectural production by those outside of the process, continues unabated by these concerns in cultural studies departments and architectural schools. Similarly, the ever-expanding array of coffee-table books and magazines about architecture apparently aimed at the popular lifestyle market and replete with superficial accounts of execution, often by architects, continues without obvious detriment to architectural production. In light of this, and my own argument concerning architectural discourse’s minor impact on architectural form, why would we seek to redress the situation? For me, such a redress would be fuelled by concerns over the interconnected disciplinary issues of technique, pedagogy and authority. More than any other discipline, the pedagogy of architectural design is undertaken by those who actually practice design. However this modification of technique, as it is described by Hays, takes place in an atmosphere of unarticulated mystery. One has only to witness studio critique to become aware of the fact that this transmission of technique and its subsequent modification is conducted in many instances with little accompanying discourse. Similarly, a significant amount of the burgeoning publication around architecture is aimed squarely at architects and undertaken by architects around issues of design but, as I have argued, is inadequate in accounting for issues concerned with execution. At the same time, this discourse legitimises itself through recourse to external authority. I believe that the establishment of a discourse that concerned itself more closely with the issues of design execution would actually contribute to both the pedagogy and authority of the discipline through a demonstration of the complexity of the design process. Such a discourse would probably encounter aspects of the design process that were unable to be adequately articulated. However, the articulation of the territory surrounding this gap would be contributory both at the level of describing what takes place in design and authorising the discipline though demonstration of the complexity of its primary undertaking.

endnotes 1. This article is an extract from my PhD (by Project), Architectural Design and Discourse, RMIT University, 2004. As such, I beg the reader’s indulgence as some of the argument relies on substantiation in the balance of the document. The cover image for this article is my design entry for the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, international competition, 2002. This was one of three case study design projects undertaken within the framework of the PhD candidature. This research proposed a method by which an individual design process can be enquired into and described that might be applied by others to develop a body of discourse contributing to the understanding of architectural design processes. 2. Colin Rowe, Five Architects: Eisenman, Graves, Gwathmey, Hejduk, Meier, New York: Oxford University Press, 1975, 3. 3. Howard Robertson, The Principles of Architectural Composition, London: The Architectural Press, 1924. 4. Peter Downton, Design Research, Melbourne: rmit University Press, 2003, 43-44. 5. Donald Schön, The Reflective Practioner: How Professionals Think in Action, New York: Basic Books, 1983. 6. Colin Rowe, Five Architects: Eisenman, Graves, Gwathmey, Hejduk, Meier, 7. 7. K. Michael Hays, “Editorial: On Turning Thirty, on Turning Ten”, Assemblage, 30, 1996, 7. 8. ibid, 8. 9. David Carrier, Principles of Art History Writing, University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

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10. Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture, London: Thames and Hudson, 1973. 11. Mark Wigley and Philip Johnson, Deconstructivist Architecture, New York: MoMA, distributed by Thames & Hudson, 1988. 12. K. Michael Hays, “Editorial: On Turning Thirty, on Turning Ten”, 9. 13. ibid, 6. 14. ibid, 6. 15. ibid, 6. 16. ibid, 6. 17. ibid, 7. 18. ibid, 7. 19. ibid, 8. 20. ibid, 9. 21. ibid, 9. 22. Michael Speaks, “Which Way Avant-garde?” Assemblage, 41, 2000, 78. 23. ibid, 78. 24. ibid, 78. 25. Michael Speaks, “Two Stories for the Avant-garde,” in Archilab Orléans 2000 International Architectural Conference, Catalogue, Orléans, 2000, online, accessed 30.01.2004: public/2000/catalog/speaksen.htm 26. ibid. Refer to Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York: a Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, London: Thames & Hudson, 1978. 27. Colin Rowe, Fred Koetter, Collage City, Cambridge, Massachusetts: mit Press, 1978. 28. John Macarthur, “From the Air: Collage City, Aerial Photography and the Picturesque”, in Reframing Architecture: theory, science, and myth, Sydney: Archadia, 2000, 118. 29. William Ellis, “Type and Context in Urbanism: Colin Rowe’s Contextualism”, in K. Michael Hays (editor), Oppositions Reader, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998, 227-251.

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Architectural Design & Discourse

Shane Murray

30. “Roma Interotta”, Architectural Design, 49, issue 3-4, 1979. 31. ibid. 32. Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Mau, S,M,L,XL, New York: The Monacelli Press, 1995, 502. 33. John Macarthur, “From the Air: Collage City, Aerial Photography and the Picturesque”, 118. 34. ibid, 118. 35. mvrdv, Metacity/Datatown, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1999. 36. Bart Lootsma, “The Diagram Debate or the Schizoid Architect”, in Beatrice Simonot, Marie Ange Brayer (editors), Archilab Orléans 2001 International Architectural Conference, Catalogue, Orléans, France, 2001, 21. 37. Michael Speaks, “Which Way Avant-garde?”, 78. 38. Michael Speaks (Curator), Big Soft Orange, exhibition, Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, 12.02.1999-13.03.1999. 39. Bart Lootsma, “What is (Really) to be Done? The Theoretical Concepts of mvrdv”, in Reading MVRDV, Rotterdam: NAi, 2003, 24-63. 40. Winny Maas, Cord Seigel, Ronald Wall, “Presentations Spui: mvrdv Pig City,” exhibition, Stroom, The Hague, 30.03.2001-30.06.2001, online, accessed 30.01.2004: http:// 41. Bart Lootsma, “What is (Really) to be Done? The Theoretical Concepts of mvrdv”, 51. 42. mvrdv, “Villa vpro” in Assemblage, 34, 1997, 92-109. 43. ibid, 94. 44. ibid, 95.

45. As cited in George Wagner, “Looking Back Towards the Free University, Berlin”, in Free University Berlin: Candilis, Josic, Woods, Schiedhelm, London: Architectural Association, 1999, 17. 46. ibid, 17. 47. See Colin Rowe, The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays, Cambridge, Mass.: mit Press, 1976. 48. Robin Evans, “Figures, Doors and Passages” in, Translations from Drawing to Buildings, Cambridge, Mass.: mit Press, 1997, 55-92. 49. Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York: a Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. 50. Non-Standard Architectures, exhibition, Pompidou Centre, Paris, 10.12.2003–01.04.2004. 51. Foreign Office Architects, Foreign Office Architects, Barcelona: 2G, 16, 2000, 28. 52. ibid, 28. 53. Camillo Sitte, City Planning According to Artistic Principles, London: Phaidon Press, 1965. 54. Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture, New York: Vintage Books Edition, 1981. 55. Charles Jenks & Nathan Silver, Adhocism, New York: Doubleday, 1972. 56. Shane Murray, “Saying and Doing”, in Architecture Australia, 93, no. 2, March/April 2004, 72-77. 57. Paul Minifie, Reifications, unpublished Master of Architecture (by Project), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (rmit), 2001. Supervised by Associate Professor Shane Murray and Adjunct Professor Howard Raggatt. 58. ibid. 59. ibid. 60. K. Michael Hays, “Editorial: On Turning Thirty, on Turning Ten”, 9. 61. ibid, 9.

62. Sir John Summerson, “The Case for a Theory of Modern Architecture”, in The Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 3rd Series, 64, issue 8, June 1957, 307-310. 63. ibid, 310. 64. ibid, 310. 65. See Colin Rowe, The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays, Cambridge, Mass.: mit Press, 1976; or Michael Dennis, Court and Garden : from the French Hôtel to the city of modern architecture, Cambridge, Mass.: mit Press, 1986. 66. Paul-Alan Johnson, The Theory of Architecture: Concepts, Themes & Practices, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1994. 67. ibid. 68. I am indebted to Professor Michael Ostwald, of the University of Newcastle, for highlighting aspects of this material to me. 69. Jeffrey Kipnis, “Forms of Irrationality”, in John Whiteman et al (editors), Strategies in Architectural Thinking, Cambridge, Mass.: mit Press, 1992, 149-165.

page 102

Notes on Contributors Dr. Michael J. Ostwald is Professor and Dean of Architecture at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He is a founding co-editor of Architectural Design Research.

Luke Douglas graduated from the University of Auckland School of Architecture in 2003. He is currently practicing in Auckland, New Zealand.

Julieanna Preston is a Senior Lecturer Chris Tucker leads the architectural in the School of Three Dimensional Depractice Herd, and lectures in the School sign, Massey University, Wellington, New of Architecture at the University of New- Zealand. castle. Paul Minifie is a practising architect and Michael Chapman completed his Bachpartner in the practice Minifie Nixon Arelor of Architecture degree in 2000 and chitects, with Fiona Nixon. He is a Lechis Master of Architecture degree in turer in Architecture and a researcher theory and design in 2003, and is curwithin the Spatial Information Architecrently a researcher in architecture at the ture Laboratory in the RMIT Architecture University of Newcastle. Program in Melbourne, Australia. Yeoryia Manolopoulou works as an architect, educator and researcher. She is a founding member of tessera, a collaborative architectural practice based in London, a Lecturer in Architecture at the Bartlett, UCL, and a Visiting Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Westminster, London. She is currently working on a research project funded by the AHRB on the subject of drawing and indeterminacy.

Shane Murray is a practicing architect, Associate Professor of Architectural Design and Urbanism, and Director of the Urban Architecture Laboratory in the RMIT Architecture Program, Melbourne, Australia. He is currently the chief investigator for an Australia Research Council linkage project entitled “The Ageing of Aquarius” investigating the design of new retirement housing solutions for Australia’s Baby Boomers.


Notes for Contributors All editorial enquiries and submissions should be sent to: Brent Allpress, Editor, ADR, School of Architecture + Design, RMIT, GPO Box 2476v, Melbourne 3001, Victoria, Australia. Email:

where the research is embodied within the project-based design investigations and outcomes. Accompanying exegesis plays a role in situating, framing and clearly communicating the contribution that the project makes to knowledge within the field of architectural design. The exegesis may be text-based but it may also Editorial Policy: encompass other disciplinary Architectural Design Research modes of representation such as is an international refereed diagrams and drawings that also journal that publishes architecplay a framing exegetical role. The tural design research, focusing editors welcome the submission of particularly on project-based project-based research undertakdesign research and associated en through design investigation discourse on design. This journal and speculation, and scholarly is founded on the premise that the reflection on research embodied activity of designing constitutes a within a contributor’s design praccrucial mode of research specific tice and projects. to the architectural discipline. It primarily aims to publish arThe journal also publishes dischitectural research undertaken course on architectural design, through the design of projects to bring project-based design

research and discourse into a productive and informed dialogue. The editors welcome the submission of scholarly design research articles addressing significant contemporary architectural design problematics, emerging design strategies and practices, scholarly critiques of contemporary design practice and projects, and extended articles by authors on their project-based design research. All submissions of design research projects and design research articles are double blind refereed by scholars actively engaged in project-based design research and in discourse on design research and practices. Architectural Design Research is published annually in full colour as an open submission issue, with occasional special issues.

Submission Guidelines Submissions for the next issue close on: November 30th, 2005. Detailed submission information, including style guide, referencing and image file formatting instructions are available on the Architectural Design Research website: Design research project submissions should consist of: Documentation of project-based design research, incorporating appropriate drawings, photographs and other relevant modes of representation. Scholarly exegesis (1000-2000 words). A4, 5-8 pages.

Design research article submissions should consist of: Written article incorporating appropriate drawings, photographs and other relevant modes of representation (4000-6000 words)

project or article submission, the authors name/s, and an abstract of the submitted work (150 words maximum), and a separate short biographical statement that includes the authors institutional and professional affiliations, and relevant Contributors should submit recent projects and publications the following: (50 words maximum). - a manuscript of the contributor’s - individual high resolution image project or article in doubleand text files intended for final spaced format, submitted in publication of the project or artihard copy and on disk. Keep cle. Refer to the ADR website for settings and formatting as simfile formatting instructions. ple as possible so the text can easily be reset to the style of the If a submission is accepted for journal’s templates. publication, the Editors reserve - a PDF file of the above with all the right to re-format all project author’s names removed for and article layouts. blind refereeing purposes. - a separate text file containing the title of the research


Architectural Design Research, Vol 1, No. 1:  

Project-based design research and discourse on design. Brent Allpress and Michael Ostwald (Editors), AASA, 2005