The Architectural Detail: Technè = Poiesis?
AOB.ADO Jo Van Den Berghe
This AOB.ADO builds on architectural practice, and on research on architectural practice. The central discourse of this AOB.ADO revolves around this basic argument: a creation process in architecture all too automatically is considered as a unidirectional process that starts with the poetic image (π), that subsequently is substantiated on the construction site.
TT -> ©
The research of Jo Van Den Berghe (Van Den Berghe 2012, 2016) has revealed that this assumed unidirectionality is false, that the process of creation, which includes the substantiation, is much more negotiated, two-directional, and that the poetic image (π) is often more triggered by construction practice (©). The dream is triggered by the Substance.
TT <- -> ©
This AOB.ADO proposal navigates in the slipstream of Studio Anatomy, connects with critical and poetic approaches of building technology and starts from three observations.
- Firstly, the practices and discourses about the architectural detail and its proper materialisation are an ever returning theme throughout architectural history, from triglyphs and metopes in ancient Greece to contemporary practice, proving that materialisations of ‘an idea’ can turn architecture into an expressive medium of thoughts and emotions;
- Secondly, students confirm to be very hungry for the architectural detail and its possibilities for their architectural expression and the sense of self-empowerment this offers in their emerging architectural practices. This outset also owes to numerous conversations with recent alumni who express the urgency to pay more attention to the expressive potential of the architectural detail for students who are becoming more mature in the later stages of the curriculum;
- Thirdly we have the responsibility to offer this opportunity, having the skills and knowledge at our disposal, developed over more than 32 years of small scale and critical architectural practice and more than 10 years of (doctoral) research on this topic by Jo Van Den Berghe.
“Tradition cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twnety-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity” (T.S. Eliot, Tradition and the Individual Talent, first published in The Egoist, London, 1919).
The AOB.ADO starts from critically questioning the contemporaneity of architectural practice, and on its agency and position when intervening in the fragility of existing architectural bodies, including physical landscapes, that we inherit as 21st century Europeans. These fragile bodies are repositories of future wellbeing and cultural sustainability. The cultural quality of this intervening depends on the material precision with which it is done, hence the content and nature of the following research questions:
- How can the architect’s mastery of Technè become the generator of Poiesis? In other words, how can direct materialisation become the generator of the poetic image (Vitruvius), as opposed to, but evenso complementary to the omnipresent assumption that an architecture starts from a poetic image that only subsequently can be translated into the substance of the world?
- How can an architect act within projects embedded in existing urban fabrics, architectural bodies, fragmented landscapes and even listed monuments as the inevitable settings within which future generations of European architects will operate, yet produce cultural contemporaneity through precise materialisation?
- How can an architect deal with the ‘as found’ in the way as defined by Peter and Alison Smithson (1989)?
Method and Format: Drawing Dialogues through 7 Etudes
The act of drawing occupies the centre of the method of this studio. The architectural drawing is predominantly the locus of research rather than the medium of communication, hence going way beyond its mere role as representation. Drawing is also at the centre of the research of Jo Van Den Berghe.
In ADO+ The Architectural Detail, drawing will revolve around full scale 1/1 drawings of architectural details, closely connected with the dimensions of the human body, in ongoing drawing dialogues with scale 1/10 drawings, expanding into other scales of drawing, and so on.
Through drawing, 7 Etudes of Architectural Details, with a focus on window (Friedberg 2006) and door details and their adjacent structures, will be developed. Every Etude is seen as a study drawing with several layers of versions, combined with sketches and scale models of these architectural details that investigate variants and variables. It is the aim to further develop this as a method and an expertise, so as to become a centre of expertise.
The Workspace of the Academic Design Office
This research will accurately simulate an architectural practice in the following ways:
- because this research needs the immediate availability of technical data as the basis for further investigations, the research activities need to be done in the proximity of, and even in the Technical Documentation Centre (TDC) of the faculty in Ghent, and in the adjacent studio (Room 240), on the days the TDC is closed, and the door between the TDC and Room 240 will be opened;
- for the same reason, the full repository of architectural details and study models coming forth from 32 years of architectural practice of Jo Van Den Berghe will be made available for the students, made accessible through weekly transports of documents directly from the archive of the practice in Sint-Lievens-Esse to the studio space in Ghent, made feasible through the immediate proximity of the parking place via the Rasphuisstraat;
- in the three year period of this AOB.ADO Jo Van Den Berghe will further transform his own house in Sint-Lievens-Esse, for which he will develop an extensive series of full scale architectural details himself, parallel to the ongoing investigations in the studio space, by which the students of this ADO+ will be directly involved. These developments will fit within a cycle of research works that is triggered by the participation of Jo Van Den Berghe in the Biennial of Copenhagen in the fall semester of 2019;
- counting with a number of students of approximately 10, Jo Van Den Berghe is also capable of inviting students at his own studio in order to even more closely work with his drawing and project archive.
TAKA Architects, Dublin / Steve Larkin Architects, Dublin / Clancy-Moore Architects Dublin.
Flores & Prats Architects, Barcelona / ETH Zürich.
Prof. Elizabeth Hatz, KTH Stockholm / SAUL Limerick.
Prof. Gennaro Postiglione, Politecnico di Milano.
Prof. Neven Fucks, Oslo School of Architecture / Studio Sverre Fehn / Studio Alvar Aalto.
Prof. Jo Taillieu, EPFL Lausanne.
- Friedberg, A. (2006). The Virtual Window: from Alberti to Microsoft, the MIT Press, Cambridge MA, US.
- Pérez-Gómez, A. (2006), Built upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics, Cambridge: MIT Press.
- Smithson, P. and A. (1989). The ‘as Found’ and the ‘Found’. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- Van Den Berghe, J. (2016). Moratorium Space: the Architectural Solid and the Window, lecture at Politecnico di Milano, in the series Lezione di Architettura, 30 November 2016.
- Van Den Berghe, J. (2012). Theatre of Operations, or: Construction Site as Architectural design, Ph.D Dissertation, SmallBook 2, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 71-74.
 The concept of the poetic image has been brought forward by Vitruvius, who called it the architectural idea, and following from this, Alberto Pérez-Gómez has further elaborated on it, “… the poetic image, called after Vitruvius the architectural idea (the images that are proposed by the architect, issuing from his or her mind’s eye” (Pérez-Gómez 2006).