Gottfried Semper addresses the classification of architecture by breaking away from the traditional theory held by Vitruvious; utilitas, fermitas, and venustas. Semper distinguishes the critical elements of architecture in terms of the tectonic, associated with lightweight, linear components and the stereotomic, as a form of heavy earthwork constructions. He generalizes the tectonic as “…the product of human artistic skill, not with its utilitarian aspect but solely with that part that reveals a conscious attempt by the artisan to express cosmic laws and cosmic order when molding the material.” Semper goes further by implying that the tectonic defines the constructed act, that it is somehow inherently linked to artisan as an expression of their context. The tectonics represent a deeper notion of time and duration than compared to the heavy mass of the stereotomic. Conversely, the stereotomic Semper defines as “earthwork, formed out of the repetitious stacking of heavy-weight units.” He viewed the stereotomic mass as an extension of earth, to provide the tectonic a base to ascend from. The stereoomic element becomes more closely associated with creating volume, and the tectonic an open frame. He suggests that it is the transition between the tectonic and stereotomic that architecture exists within and in that moment the very essence of architecture becomes a physical manifestation.
Response and Intended Use:
Semper’s expression of the tectonic and stereotomic, in their relation to the temporary and permenant conditions, provide a basis for comparison and contradiction. Both conditions must be thought of in relation not only to the material properties, but also in their structural or spatial function. The role of the tectonic and stereotomic, although conceived in a traditional way, will function beyond that. By using Semper’s defintion of perceived heaviness and lightness, in combination with the redefined notions of the temporary and permenant, it enables an alternate reading of architecture through the application of form and formwork.
Kenneth Frampton l Studies in Tectonic Culture l 1995
Frampton uses the Semperian notion of the tectonic and stereotonic in order to articulate the relationship of the act of construction to architecture. He addresses the tectonic in relation to lightness and to the sky. Whereas when he discusses the stereotomic, he refers to the heaviness and weight of its presence and its connection to earth. The human experience is somwhere in between the earth and sky, a tension exists between the two materials which embody polar opposites. Frampton asserts that Sempers theory separates the tectonic and stereotomic into mass and skin or mass and frame. He illustrates that meaning evolves through this physical manifestation. “Thus the presencing of a work is inseperable from the manner of its foundation in the ground and the ascendancy of its structure through the interplay of support, span, seam and joint – the rhythm of its revetment and the modulation of its fenestration.” A buildings connection to the earth is just as important as its physical presence above the earth. Buildings acquire meaning through their act of building from the ground up, articulating a connection to both the earth and sky, heaviness and lightness.
Response and Intended Use:
Frampton’s positioning of the tectonic and stereotonic in relation to the sky and the earth provide a theoretical site for this thesis. Not only does this project deal with the space created between form and formwork, but also on a broader scale it occupies the space between the earth and sky. The tension created by the two opposing conditions become parameters to design within. The two merge through the detail, through the joining of tectonic and stereotomic in order to occupy a physical(real) space, an architectural resolution. Framptons also emphasizes that these physical objects almost defy a sense of time and that duration is part of the value in architecture. When applying this to the terms of tectonic and stereotomic, the first becomes associated with the temporary, the latter the more permenant condition. When appropriating these terms to this thesis, each one becomes transient. What to consider temporary or permenant becomes somewhat blurred, it’s not an “either/or” condition, but primarily an “and” condition.
Gevork Hartoonian l Ontology of Construction l 1994
Hartoonian emphasizes that the act of making directly influences our perception of space. He discusses Semper’s notion of how architectural form and meaning are derived from the fabrication of the four arts; ceramics, masonry, joinery and textiles, in which each are defined by how they are constructed. His emphasis on fabrication and how it gives a cultural value to objects define the relevance of the construction process to architecture. Specifically, he expresses the importance of the tectonic and its inherent ability to convey meaning through architecture. “It can be inferred that between the structural utility of architectonic elements and their analogical representation, there is a ‘void,’ so to speak, where the tectonic resides. This void molds architectural knowledge, that is the logos of making.” Somewhere between strict function and representation is where architectural meaning exists and that is conveyed through the application of the tectonic. While looking at the writing of Walter Benjamin, he discusses the impact that industrialization has had on architecture, implying that it has made it virtually impossible to transfer the tradition and craft to the next generation. He views techne, not a separate or disconnected aspect of architecture, but as the process by which architecture is separated from other art forms. He states that, “Although architecture reveals itself by form, that form posses a certain particularity. The concept of the tectonic should encompass the other aspects of the culture of building which is type.” He defines type in architecture by the methods of construction. The very act of constructionis not a representation of an ideal, it is a physical manifestation of its own meaning.
Response and Intended Use:
Hartoonian objectifies architecture in the sense that he removes the aspect of function out of its meaning. Most of his theories are based on architecture existing within itself and that it aquires meaning through the processes by which it was constructed. It is critical point to his argument and this thesis that process of fabrication has its own value, both in terms of collective and individual experiences. We experience architecture and understand it by the way it was constructed. That process is what gives it function and meaning. The “type” is the form of construction and that informs the use and meaning.
Cultural Meaning of Fabrication
Peter Zumthor l Thinking Architecture l 1998
For Zumthor, one of the main goals in architecture is to convey the meaning of space through his use of materials. He explains that his architecture is about creating situations for materials to interact with site and people, in order to fully express their poetic possibilites. Materials in themselves have no real poetics, but it is how they are composed that articulate their meaning. He also discusses architecture in terms of multiple parts creating a whole. Building are created out of numerous details, and Zumthor argues that only when analyzing the whole can the detail be made sense of. He states that “I believe the real core of all architectural work lies in the act of construction. At the point in time when concrete materials are assembles and erected, the architecture we have been looking for becomes part of the real world.” Zumthor speaks a great deal about the value of a constructed object and that meaning is derived by the understanding of the time and skill that it took to create it. He asks the question “Are the effort and skill we put into them really inherent parts of the things we make?” This question links the act of construction to the human condition. The act of construction is just as intimate and personal as is architecture.
Response and Intended Use:
As Zumthor states, architecture can be broken down into parts that generate a whole. How materials are joined together is somehow a recognition of the most integral part to a building’s whole. To some degree, when compared to the overall built form, the joint conveys the overall meaning. In architecture, the details compose the story , the ones that are hidden just as much as the ones that are exposed. Zumthor conveys that architecture speaks its own language, one structured by the act of constructing materials and details that are directly connected to the individual experience, both in making and occupying space. One of the most influential aspects of this reading and Zumthors work is that every detail matters and that they reinforce the overall concept of the work. There is no inessential detail. He also discusses the current state of our culture, one that is composed of a series of signs and symbols, “The world is full of signs and signs and information, that stand for things that no one fully understands because they, too, turn out to be mere signs for other things. The real thing remains hidden.” He then goes on to explain that architecture and tools can be the exception to that, because they can stand for themselves, not as mere artistic representations. And that remains a main goal of this thesis, to develop a process that is self referential, not a representation of some exterior meaning.
Part to Whole
Stan Allen l Field Conditions l 1985
Allen emphasizes the critical importance of objects in relationship to one another in terms of a broad field condition. “Form matters, but not so much the forms of things, as the forms between things.” He’s stating that objects in a field represent their own spatial quality, but they also create spaces and meaning between other objects. General form is less important than the relationshp established between objects, because that determines the internal behavior of a field condition. He also implies that materials are at times ephemeral and that they register the change in external conditions. He speaks specifically about the work of Barry Le Va, and how he uses incredible fluid material. Le Va cant control every aspects of the materials outcome, so instead “..The artsit establishes the conditions within which the material will be deployed, and then directs the flow.” It’s much less about controlling a specific outcome, and more about creating the conditions in which an outcome is favorable. The artist creates a set of conditions and the material occupies the space between these conditions. He concludes by saying “…the field condition implies an architecture that admits change, accident and improvisation. It is an archietcture not invested in durability, stability and certainty, but an architecture that leaves space for the uncertainty of the real.”
Response and Intended Use:
Allen removes the importance of a single object and addresses the significance of it as it relates to the whole. The way he frames his argument is a similar way in which this thesis is structured, on many different levels. Overall, there are a series of models, that if taken individually, are far less successful than when compared to the overall relationship between models. The significance in the sequence lies in the way each model becomes the foundation for the next. Its about the overall process and the way each model relates back to it, not neccessarily just about the result that each model produces.
Allen’s notion of directing flow is also relevant in the fact that within each individual model, there is no predicted outcome. It’s a designed process, which leads to a built model that then gets analyzed in relationship to the rest of the series. In terms of traditional practice, architects are typically charged with designing a very specific outcome and the process to get there is a result of that. Whereas with this, the outcome is somewhat submissive to the process. It re-evaluates where the design is developed. He also discusses how the material registers change, each model allows the material to register a slight change in process and that becomes how the process is analyzed.