a writing and architecture workshop

Words and Buildings

In Words and Buildings, Adrian Forty argues that the absolutism of drawing as the architect’s sole medium of communication is an illusion. Drawing is not a representation of building but an autonomous medium that creates its own rules and reality. If this is the case than one may exploit other media to expand the possibilities in conceiving and perceiving architecture. Language too has its own set of rules. Language too constructs its own reality. Language too can be a vehicle for an architecture.

The following is a digested extract from Adrian Forty’s Words and Buildings.

For a variety of reasons, then, we can say that Scarpa’s claim that “drawing is the architect’s only medium,” is less than straightforward; it is certainly not a timeless universal truth, but rather a statement about the circumstances in which architects find themselves, and about the legacy of the neo-Platonic tradition. It might be useful at this point to sum up the ‘conventional’ view of the process of architecture in a diagram whose wrongness will be immediately apparent, but which nonetheless provide us with an opportunity to discuss the relationship between various activities that make up the whole practice of architecture.

Idea – Drawing – Building – Experience- Language

To suppose that ideas exist prior to their representation in drawings or language calls for a greater trust in metaphysics than most of us would, in other circumstance, normally be prepared to allow. Just as Merleau-Ponty, discussing writing, remarked, “The writer’s thought does not control his language from without,” and again, “My own words take me by surprise and teach me what I think,” (Derrida), the same may be said of drawing. The drawing, as Evans insisted, is not so much a projection of an idea, it creates a particular reality of its own.

Evans acknowledged, “pictures and words are always less than what they refer to.” His solution to this dilemma was to argue that buildings and pictures of them should not be judged by the same standards – that pictures succeed better at being pictures than at being substitute buildings, and vice versa – and what he sought to do was consider architectural drawing within its own terms. Rather than treat it as an always less than adequate carrier, one should recognise that “What comes out is not always the same as what goes in.”

In the Dialogue of the Sophist, Plato asks, “Do we not make one house by the art of building, and another by the art of drawing, which is a sort of dream?” Seen in these terms, we are encouraged to see drawings not so much as deficient versions of things, but as equal, though different realities. Could we not, then, think of verbal remarks about architecture in similar terms? If the drawing of the house “is a sort of dream,” compared to the somatic house, what is the house that is spoken of?



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This entry was posted on June 30, 2012 by in architecture, EASA, media, writing and tagged , , , , , .
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