The Architectural Detail: Technè = Poiesis?
ADO Prof.dr. Architect Jo Van Den Berghe and Dr. Architect Louise De Brabander
Academic year 2022-2023 Semester 2, Ghent
Title: The Room within the Window
This ADO is an act of resistance against standardized architectural thinking. Hereby it is not the ambition to occupy the centre of architectural discourse and practice. Rather, the aim is to seek out the periphery, trying to push boundaries through rigourous material investigations of experimental and provocative architectural details that go way beyond the normative and the ‘acceptable’. Architecture should not be fenced in by the paralyzing anxiety for ‘the thermal bridge’ and its liated techno-political correctness. Architecture is Art, and as such its freedom of speech and expression, of thought and action should remain unlimited, and definitely so in the fundamental research this ADO is pertaining to. By doing so, this ADO aims to breach the threatening stagnation of architectural practice and its risk of (self) imposed censorship that claims to be based on ‘common sense’.
This research is happening through and in the architectural drawing that becomes the place and moment of architecture. The drawing lodges the acute moments of architectural creation and accommodates limitless technical experimentations that may generate phosphorizing architectural experience. As such, the ADO is a critical reflective practice ‘in exile’. This exile is either self-chosen as a safe haven and imposed upon us by a mind-numbing bureaucracy under the command of monocultural business models of building industries and their shadowy lobbyists.
Hence, the aforementioned resistance happens in the drawings in a way The Paper Architects had to do, and/or chose to do, under the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union in the 1970’s (https://032c.com/magazine/the-lost-psychedelic-paper-architects-of-the-soviet-union). Here we mention Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin, Dmitry Ivanov, Ain Padrik, Iskander Galimov and others. Here, we also mention the Arts and Crafts movement, and John Ruskin’s ‘The Seven Lamps of Architecture’ (1849), in response to the Industrial Revolution and its ambition for standardization, mass production and anonimization of man mades. Finally, we mention the Arts and Crafts movement as the cultural roots of Sint-Lucas School of Architecture, now KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture.
Not wanting to avoid the hard core of architecture, which is the stubborn endeavour of its material making, the ADO and the drawings mentioned above revolve around the mastery of Technè, that can turn into the generator of the poetic image in architecture. So, the mastery of Technè becomes the indispensable condition for the young architect to fully deploy freedom of expression. One needs skilled fingers to play the piano properly. As such, the mastery of Technè, acquired through drawing material experiments and architectural details, begins to act as an instrument of self-empowerment for the (young) architect. Technè guides the architect to fully and meaningfully confront the question: how does a culture of making (building) contribute to making (building) a culture?
“Our mind is not free if it is not the master of its imagination; the freedom of the mind is manifest in every victory over ‘self’, every resistance to external enticements, every elimination of an obstacle to this goal. Every moment of freedom is blessed” (Karl Friedrich Schinkel, from Michael Snodin, ed. Karl Friedrich Schinkel, a Universal man).
The central discourse of this 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.
π -> ©
 ADO: Academic Design Office. This is a pedagocical environment, developed at KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture, in which education, architectural practice and research in architecture cross fertilize and merge.
 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).
The research of Jo Van Den Berghe (Van Den Berghe 2012, 2020) reveals that this assumed unidirectionality is false. The process of creation, which includes substantiation, is much more negotiated, two-directional. The poetic image (π) is often more triggered by construction practice (©).
π <- -> ©
- How can the architect’s mastery of Technè become the generator of Poiesis, as opposed but complementary to the common assumption that an architecture originates from a prior poetic image that only subsequently can be translated into the substance of the world?
- How can an architect better operate within projects embedded in fragile locations like existing urban fabrics, architectural bodies, vulnerable landscapes and listed monuments as the inevitable locations for future generations of European architects, 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)?
- the architectural drawing (firstly hand made, then digital):
- the (vertical) section (tomography), applied in experiential learning cycles (Kolb 1984) of Critical Sequential Drawing (CSD)(Van Den Berghe, Sanders, Luyten 2020)
- the full scale architectural detail (scale 1/1)(embodied knowledge)
- topographic section (embedded knowledge)
- the architectural fragment (scale 1/10) as locus of investigation in which the architectural detail and the architectural whole encounter
- the Room within the Window. Starting from window details on scale 1/1, out of which you draw ‘gradually’ a room, out of which you gradually draw a next room, etc …
- the shop window, the inhabitation of the window.
- subsequently, the workshop that grows out of the inhabitation of the shop window. The shop, the workshop.
- noble and refined materializations. Touchable.
- starting from an existing urban density, juxtaposed by the (mental) proximity of the dark forest expressed in the drawings and scale models.
Partners and Resources:
- Queens’s University, Belfast: tandem studio with Studio Scaffolds of Prof. Michael McGarry
- Ecole Fédérale Politecnique de Lausanne (EPFL): tandem studio with Studio Tomography of Prof. Jo Taillieu
- Politecnico di Milano: prof. Gennaro Postiglione, visiting professor at KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture
- KU Leuven Department of Architecture, Research group The Drawing and the Space (thedrawingandthespace.info)
- Studio Anatomy: dr. Mira Sanders (studio-anatomy.org)
- the TDC (Technical Documentation Centre of the faculty)
- the repository of 32 years of architectural practice of JVDB (full scale drawings of architectural details, investigation processes of architectural details, …) and related architectural practices
- Friedberg, A. (2006). The Virtual Window: from Alberti to Microsoft, the MIT Press, Cambridge MA, US.
- Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
- Smithson, P. and A. (1989). The ‘as Found’ and the ‘Found’. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- 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.
- Van Den Berghe, J., Sanders M. , Luyten, L. (2020): Windows into an Architecture of Thickness and Depth (Fenêtres sur une Architecture de l’Epaisseur en de la Profondeur). Musée des beaux-arts de Cambrai, Silvana Editoriale, Milano, pp.18-22.