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The Autopoiesis of Architecture, Volume II: A New Agenda for Architecture


This is the second part of a major theoretical work by Patrik Schumacher, which outlines how the discipline of architecture should be understood as its own distinct system of communication. Autopoeisis comes from the Greek and means literally self-production; it was first adopted in biology in the 1970s to describe the essential characteristics of life as a circular self-organizing system and has since been transposed into a theory of social systems. This new approach offers architecture an arsenal of general ...

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The Autopoiesis of Architecture, Volume II: A New Agenda for Architecture

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This is the second part of a major theoretical work by Patrik Schumacher, which outlines how the discipline of architecture should be understood as its own distinct system of communication. Autopoeisis comes from the Greek and means literally self-production; it was first adopted in biology in the 1970s to describe the essential characteristics of life as a circular self-organizing system and has since been transposed into a theory of social systems. This new approach offers architecture an arsenal of general comparative concepts. It allows architecture to be understood as a distinct discipline, which can be analyzed in elaborate detail while at the same time offering insightful comparisons with other subject areas, such as art, science and political discourse. On the basis of such comparisons the book insists on the necessity of disciplinary autonomy and argues for a sharp demarcation of design from both art and engineering. Schumacher accordingly argues controversially that design as a discipline has its own sui generis intelligence – with its own internal logic, reach and limitations.

Whereas the first volume provides the theoretical groundwork for Schumacher’s ideas – focusing on architecture as an autopoeitic system, with its own theory, history, medium and its unique societal function – the second volume addresses the specific, contemporary challenges and tasks that architecture faces. It formulates these tasks, looking specifically at how architecture is seeking to organize and articulate the complexity of post-fordist network society. The volume explicitly addresses how current architecture can upgrade its design methodology in the face of an increasingly demanding task environment, characterized by both complexity and novelty. Architecture’s specific role within contemporary society is explained and its relationship to politics is clarified. Finally, the new, global style of Parametricism is introduced and theoretically grounded.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470666166
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 784
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrik Schumacher is partner at Zaha Hadid Architects. He joined Zaha Hadid in 1988. In 1996 he founded the ‘Design Research Laboratory’ with Brett Steele at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, and continues to serve as its co-director. He studied philosophy and architecture in Bonn, Stuttgart and London. In 1999 he completed his PHD at the Institute for Cultural Science, Klagenfurt University. His contribution to the discourse of contemporary architecture is also evident in his prior writings (Digital Hadid, London 2004) as well as in his work as a curator (Latent Utopias, Graz 2002). Currently he is working on an exhibition showcasing Parametricism.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to Volume 2 1

6. The Task of Architecture 5

6.1 Functions 7

6.1.1 Functions versus Capacities 11

6.1.2 Substantial versus Subsidiary Functions 17

6.1.3 Tectonics 19

6.1.4 The Categorization of Function-types 22

6.1.5 Problem-types (Function-types) vs Solution-types (Archetypes) 24

6.1.6 Patterns of Decomposition/Composition 30

6.1.7 Functional Reasoning via Action-artefact Networks 32

6.1.8 Limitations of Functional Expertise 39

6.2 Order via Organization and Articulation 42

6.2.1 Organization and Articulation: Historical and Systematic 47

6.2.2 Architectural Order 52

6.2.3 A Definition of Organization for Contemporary Architecture 57

6.2.4 Complicated, Complex, Organized, Ordered 61

6.3 Organization 70

6.3.1 Relating Spatial to Social Organization 72

6.3.2 Territorialization and Integration 77

6.3.3 Systems, Configurations, Organizations 80

6.4 Supplementing Architecture with a Science of Configuration 88

6.4.1 Set Theory 88

6.4.2 Harnessing Network Theory 93

6.4.3 Excursion: Network Theory 99

6.4.4 A City is not a Tree 106

6.4.5 Space Syntax: Concepts and Tools of Analysis 112

6.4.6 Space Syntax: Theoretical Claims 125

6.4.7 From Organization to Articulation: Taking Account of Cognition 131

6.5 Articulation 134

6.5.1 Articulation vs Organization 134

6.5.2 The Problem of Orientation and the Problematic of Legibility 137

6.5.3 Articulate vs Inarticulate Organization 138

6.5.4 Articulation as the Core Competency of Architecture 139

6.5.5 Generalizing the Concept of Function 140

6.6 The Phenomenological vs the Semiological Dimension of Architecture 142

6.7 The Phenomenological Dimension of Architectural Articulation 145

6.7.1 The Perceptual Constitution of Objects and Spaces 147

6.7.2 Cognitive Principles of Gestalt-Perception 153

6.7.3 Parametric Figuration 165

6.8 The Semiological Dimension of Architectural Articulation 167

6.8.1 The Built Works of Architecture as Framing Communications 171

6.8.2 Analogy: Language and Built Environment as Media of Communication 176

6.8.3 Signs as Communications 181

6.8.4 Territory as Fundamental Semiological Unit 183

6.8.5 Saussure’s Insight: Language as System of Correlated Differences 189

6.8.6 Extra-Semiological Demands on Architecture’s Medial Substrate 193

6.8.7 Syntagmatic vs Paradigmatic Relations 196

6.9 Prolegomenon to Architecture’s Semiological Project 200

6.9.1 The Scope of Architecture’s Signified 201

6.9.2 The Composite Character of the Architectural Sign 206

6.9.3 Absolute and Relative Arbitrariness 210

6.9.4 Natural and Artificial Semiosis 215

6.9.5 Designing Architecture’s Semiological Project 222

6.9.6 Cognitive and Attentional Conditions of Architectural Communication 229

6.9.7 Speculation: Expanding the Expressive Power of Architectural Sign Systems 232

6.10 The Semiological Project and the General Project of Architectural Order 238

6.10.1 The Semiological Project in Relation to the Organizational and the Phenomenological Project 239

6.10.2 Relationship between Architectural Languages and Architectural Styles 244

6.10.3 The Requisite Variety of Architectural Articulation 246

7. The Design Process 251

7.1 Contemporary Context and Aim of Design Process Theory 254

7.2 Towards a Contemporary Design Process Reflection and Design Methodology 257

7.2.1 Method vs Process 258

7.3 The Design Process as Problem-solving Process 263

7.3.1 The Design Process as Information-processing Process 264

7.3.2 The Structure of Information-processing Systems 269

7.3.3 Programmes 272

7.3.4 The Task Environment and its Representation as Problem Space 277

7.3.5 Problem Solving as Search in a State Space 284

7.3.6 Planning Spaces 295

7.3.7 Heuristic versus Exhaustive Problem-solving Methods 298

7.4 Differentiating Classical, Modern and Contemporary Processes 311

7.5 Problem Definition and Problem Structure 318

7.5.1 Wicked Problems 319

7.5.2 The Structure of Ill-structured Problems 323

7.5.3 An Information-processing Model for Information-rich Design Processes 332

7.6 Rationality: Retrospective and Prospective 337

7.6.1 Rational in Retrospect: Observing Innovative Design Practice 341

7.6.2 Prospective Rationality 355

7.6.3 Processing the Three Task Dimensions of Architecture 358

7.7 Modelling Spaces 361

8. Architecture and Society 379

8.1 World Architecture within World Society 382

8.2 Autonomy vs Authority 385

8.3 Architecture’s Conception of Society 390

8.3.1 The Crisis of Modernism’s Conception of Society 394

8.3.2 Social Systems Theory and the Theory of Architectural Autopoiesis 396

8.4 Architecture in Relation to other Societal Subsystems 398

8.4.1 Architecture In Relation to the Economic System 401

8.4.2 The Economy and the Design-Principle of Economy of Means 402

8.4.3 Economic Conditions of Architectural Discourse 406

8.4.4 Architecture and Education 407

8.5 Architecture as Profession and Professional Career 410

8.5.1 Authorship, Reputation, Oeuvre 411

8.5.2 Centre-periphery Differentiation within Architecture 414

8.5.3 The Absorption of Uncertainty 418

8.5.4 The Architectural Design Studio as Organization 420

8.6 The Built Environment as Primordial Condition of Society 422

8.6.1 The Built Environment As Indispensable Substrate of Social Evolution 423

8.6.2 From Spatial Order to Conceptual Order 426

8.6.3 Beauty and the Evolution of Concepts of Order 434

9. Architecture and Politics 439

9.1 Is Political Architecture Possible? 440

9.1.1 Political Vacuum 441

9.1.2 Normal vs Revolutionary Politics 445

9.2 Theorizing the Relationship between Architecture and Politics 448

9.2.1 The Incommensurability of Architecture and Politics 448

9.2.2 Architecture Responds to Political Agendas – Three Scenarios 450

9.2.3 Service Provisions Between Architecture and Politics 453

9.3 Architecture Adapts to Political Development 459

9.3.1 Modern Architecture Calls on Politics 461

9.3.2 The ABC Group: Political Agitation Within Architecture 462

9.3.3 The Vicissitudes of Political Polarization 466

9.4 The Limitations of Critical Practice in Architecture 470

9.4.1 General Political Critique and Macro-political Ambitions 470

9.4.2 Architecture’s ‘Micro-Political’ Agency: Manipulating Non-political Power 472

9.4.3 Who Controls the Power-distributing Capacity of Design? 474

9.4.4 Public Competitions As Structural Coupling between Architecture and Politics 477

10. The Self-descriptions of Architecture 484

10.1 Theoretical Underpinnings 485

10.1.1 Reference as Self-reference 489

10.1.2 Levels of Self-reference 490

10.2 The Necessity of Reflection: Architectural Theory as Reflection Theory 496

10.2.1 Continuity vs Consistency 501

10.2.2 Categorical vs Variable Structures of Communication 504

10.3 Classic Treatises 509

10.3.1 Alberti’s De re aedificatoria 511

10.3.2 Durand’s Précis des lecçns d’architecture 543

10.3.3 Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture 568

10.3.4 The Autopoiesis of Architecture 592

10.4 Architectural Historiography 606

10.4.1 History of Architecture’s Autonomization and Internal Structuration 608

10.4.2 History of Architectural Styles as Responses to Epochal Shifts in the Societal Environment 610

10.5 Architectural Criticism 615

11. Parametricism – The Parametric Paradigm and the Formation of a New Style 617

11.1 Parametricism as Epochal Style 622

11.1.1 Historiographical Sketch: The Epochal Alignment of Styles 627

11.1.2 A Unified Style for the 21st Century 642

11.1.3 The Maturity of Parametricism 646

11.1.4 Polarized Confrontation: Parametricism versus Minimalism 648

11.1.5 Styles as Design Research Programmes 651

11.2 The Parametricist Research Programme 654

11.2.1 Conceptual Definition of Parametricism 654

11.2.2 Operational Definition of Parametricism: The Defining Heuristics of Parametricism 656

11.2.3 Genealogy of the Parametricist Heuristics 660

11.2.4 Analogies: Emulating Natural Systems 663

11.2.5 Agendas Advancing Parametricism 669

11.2.6 The Agenda of Ecological Sustainability 676

11.3 Parametricist vs Modernist Urbanism 680

11.3.1 Simple Order, Disorder, Complex Order 681

11.3.2 Implementing Parametricist Urbanism 686

11.4 Elegance 700

12. Epilogue – The Design of a Theory 710

12.1 Theoretical Foundation: Communication Theory vs Historical Materialism? 714

12.2 The Theory of Architectural Autopoiesis as Unified Theory of Architecture 719

12.3 Notes on the Architecture of the Theory 722

12.4 The Theory as the Result of Contingent Theory Design Decisions 726

Concluding Remarks 735

Appendix 3: The Autopoiesis of Architecture in the Context of Three Classic Texts 737

Appendix 4: Theses 25–60 742

References 748

Index 759

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