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Theory in Architecture


Historical Development of Architectural Theory and its relationship to the ... Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. 2. Characteristics of Theory ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theory in Architecture

Theory in Architecture
  • ARCH 5395

1. Context A Historical Perspective
  • Historical Development of Architectural Theory
    and its relationship to the broader society can
    be described in terms of four main issues
  • Relation to cultural milieu
  • Rhetoric
  • Design Principles
  • Relation to scientific epistemology
  • From Advances in Environment, Behavior and
    Design, Zube and Moore,Ed., Essay by L.Groat and
    C. Despres

1. Context A Historical Perspective
  • B. The recent history of architectural theory can
    be summarized in terms of four broad periods
  • Renaissance/ Baroque, 1450 1700
  • Premodern, 1750 1880
  • Modern, 1910 1960
  • Postmodern, 1965 present

1. Context A Historical Perspective
  • C. A comparison of the four periods in
    architectural history as viewed with respect to
    the four issues affecting them can demonstrate
    the nature of theory in architecture.
  • (See Table 1 in the Reference Material)

2. Characteristics of Theory
  • A. History and Theory are closely related and
    have always been essential to the study of
  • Theories are general statements dealing with what
    architecture is, what it should do, and how best
    to do it.
  • History deals with theories, events, design
    methods, and buildings.

2. Characteristics of Theory
  • B. Theories are helpful to architects in making
    choices and decisions
  • Establishes a procedure
  • Orders decisions to make them useful

2. Characteristics of Theory
  • C. Theories in architecture are less rigorous
    than scientific theories which are analytical in
    nature and require rigorous proof.
  • D. Architecture Design is synthesizing in nature
  • Assimilates and integrates a wide variety of
    elements in new ways
  • Suggests directions but cannot guarantee results
  • - Pruitt Igoo Housing Project, St. Louis, Mo.
  • - Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

2. Characteristics of Theory
  • E. A symptom of the speculative character of
    theory in architecture is the tendency for
    theoretical statements to be manifestos employing
    evocative language
  • Louis Kahn The nature of space is the spirit
    and will to exist a certain way.
  • Robert Venturi Complexity and Contradiction in

3. What Architecture is
  • A. Theories about what architecture is are
    concerned with identifying key variables such as
    space, structure or social process which should
    generate the form and character of a building.
  • B. Theories often take the form or rely on
    analogies i.e. organic or machine-like, etc.
  • Analogies provide a way to organize design tasks
    in a hierarchical order.
  • Analogies employ what is most important or
    pertinent to that analogy

3. What Architecture is
  • Some recurrent analogies employed in theory to
    explain and direct architecture
  • 1. Mathematical Analogy geometry and numbers
    as a basis for architecture, in tune with a
    universal order
  • - golden section
  • - Greek orders
  • - numbers theories of the renaissance
  • - Modular (Le Corbusier)

3. What Architecture is
  • 2. Biological Analogy
  • a. Organic focuses on the relationships
    between parts of a building or between the
    building and its site
  • b. Biomorphic focuses on growth processes and
    movement capabilities associated with organisms.

3. What Architecture is
  • 3. Romantic Analogy
  • a. evocative uses associations or exaggeration
    to elicit an emotional response.
  • b. associations can refer to nature, the past,
    exotic places, primitive things the future,
    childhood, etc.
  • c. exaggeration or excess can intimidate,
    frighten or awe through the use of contrast,
    excessive stimulation, unfamiliar scale or forms.

3. What Architecture is
  • 4. Linguistic Analogy
  • a. grammatical model architecture is composed
    of elements (words) that are ordered by rules (
    grammar and syntax) that allow people to
    understand what a building is trying to
    communicate i.e. Greek orders.
  • b. expressionist model building as a vehicle
    for the expression of the architects attitude
    toward the building i.e. Saarinens Dulles
    airport conveying flight in its form.
  • c. semiotic model a building is a sign a sign
    that conveys information about what it is and
    what it does i.e. Robert Venturis ducks vs.
    decorated shed.

3. What Architecture is
  • 5. Mechanical Analogy
  • Buildings are like machines. They should express
    only what they are and what they do, i.e. A
    house is a machine for living Le corbusier

3. What Architecture is
  • Problem Solving Analogy
  • Assumes that environmental needs can be solved
    through careful analysis and deliberate
    procedures. It includes three stages
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

3. What Architecture is
  • 7. Adhocist Analogy
  • Buildings should respond to the immediate need,
    using materials readily available without making
    reference to an ideal.
  • Eames House, Charles and Ray Eames
  • Ugly and Ordinary Robert Venturi

3. What Architecture is
  • Dramaturgical Analogy
  • Human activities are often characterized as
    theater, and so the built environment may be seen
    as a stage in which people play roles and
    buildings become settings and props.
  • Corporate America
  • Plaza d Italia, Charles Moore, et. al.

What Architecture Should Do
  • Theories about what architecture should
    accomplish are concerned with identifying the
    goals that the designer and the building should
    satisfy. They are not concerned with a way of
    seeing buildings or interpreting them, but with
    their purposes. These generally take two forms
  • General Goals
  • Relationships Between Built Environment and Other

What Architecture Should Do
  • B. General Goals statements about the task of
  • 1. Vitruvius made the earliest widely known goal
    statement for architecture which is paraphrased
    to depend on, Commodity, Firmness and Delight.
  • 2. Development of social sciences in 19th. And
    20th. Centuries brought about a view of buildings
    as social, technical, economic, psychological
  • 3. Current and future changes in peoples
    relationship to the environment require will
    require a building to respond to energy
    efficiency and its impact on the environment.

What Architecture Should Do
  • Relationships Between Built Environment and Other
  • Two central concerns are addressed in these type
    of goal statements
  • They represent a dilemma in architecture in their
    contradictory nature.

What Architecture Should Do
  • 1. the first concern of these type of relational
    goals is that architecture should satisfy the
    technical requirements of buildings.
  • a. logical structural systems
  • b. appropriate materials, construction methods
    and costs
  • c. regional and contextual in design

What Architecture Should Do
  • 2. The second concern is that architectures
    primary purpose is social in nature i.e. that the
    building is a background and support system to
    enhance ongoing life processes.
  • a. a receptacle for the flow of life it serves
  • b. it must be flexible and adaptive to human

What Architecture Should Do
  • Other Goal statements
  • 1. Occur in response to specific needs of a
  • 2. Short term responses that do not direct
    action over a long term
  • 3. Function to correct and redirect attention
    to current pressing needs
  • a. Le Corbusier in the 1920s saw a need to
    revise the prevailing conception of housing and
    its production.
  • b. Operation Breakthrough of the 1960s
    attempted to redefine the way buildings, and
    particularly housing, was constructed.

How To Design
  • A. Theories about how the architect should go
    about designing are concerned with identifying
    appropriate methods of operation.
  • - usually directed toward the assurance that
    buildings will accomplish particular ends

What Architecture Should Do
  • B. Concerns of Theories
  • 1. Participants relationships of individuals
    and groups during the design process.
  • a. private inspired act of an individual vs.
    logical effort of a team of professionals.
  • 1) Walter Gropius attempted to integrate
    both views.
  • 2) complexity of the building process is
    likely too much to be understood and
    guided by an individual.
  • b. inclusion of user groups and others.

What Architecture Should Do
  • B. Concerns of Theories
  • 2. Procedures where does the designer begin?
    What decisions should control or generate the

What Architecture Should Do
  • B. Concerns of Theories
  • 3. Typically there are two underlying methods or
    structures for proceeding
  • a. inductive begin with the details. Through
    accretion, the details, or partial solutions,
    finally add up to a built form.
  • b. deductive design procedures begin with an
    overall intention or idea about the build and
    let the details grow out of that central theme.
  • c. seldom is one method used exclusively, but
    it is usually evident which one governs.

What Architecture Should Do
  • C. Priorities
  • 1. Problems in architecture are typically
    complex in nature
  • a. technical structure, mech., etc.
  • b. social users
  • c. aesthetic, ecological, political
  • 2. Some theories establish priorities
  • a. find the essence of the problem and let that
    be the controlling factor.
  • - Mies Van Der Rohe Form follows function.
  • b. there is an underlying element that needs to
    be expressed in structure and form before
    embellishment is added.

What Architecture Should Do
  • D. Other Theories
  • Assert that the design process should take the
    form of a dialog
  • Each concern is considered and allowed to affect
    the others in a iterative (repetitious) process
  • It is doubtful that true equality can be