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The Force Is in the Mind
The Making of Architecture

Englische Ausgabe

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ISBN 978-3-7643-8980-2
Englische Ausgabe

Editor: Elke Krasny (ek)
Authors: Gudrun Hausegger, Elke Krasny, Robert Temel (rt), Dietmar Steiner, Gerhard Vana
Two object descriptions: Peter G. Auer, Manfred Wolff-Plottegg
Translation: James Roderick O’Donovan

Graphic design of the book and typesetting: o- Alexander Schuh
Digital imaging: Martina Frühwirth, o- Alexander Schuh
Copyediting: Andrea M. Werther

Front cover: Orchid, Lacaton & Vassal, Paris © Elke Krasny
Proportional compass, Archive Vana-Architekten, Vienna, © Peter Kubelka

© 2008
Architekturzentrum Wien und AutorInnen
Birkhäuser Verlag AG
Basel ∙ Boston ∙ Berlin
P.O. Box 133, CH-4010 Basel, Schweiz
Ein Unternehmen der Fachverlagsgruppe Springer Science + Business Media

Content
Foreword by Dietmar Steiner

Of Tools and Inspiration. The Economies of Architectural Creativity by Elke Krasny

Architectural Fieldwork: Twenty Studio Visits
Alvar Aalto
Lina Bo Bardi
Atelier Bow-Wow
Hermann Czech
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Edge Design Institute
Yona Friedman
Antoni Gaudí
Lux Guyer
Steven Holl Architects
The Jerde Partnership
Lacaton & Vassal
Rudolf Olgiati
Charlotte Perriand
R&Sie(n)
Theiss & Jaksch/Schwalm-Theiss
Karl Schwanzer
SOM Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
UNStudio
Venturi Scott Brown& Associates

Snapshots
Tool Stories
The Means and the End by Robert Temel
Rounder than Giotto’s O by Gerhard Vana

A Little Lexicon of Tools
The Sketch
Pencil, Tracing Paper & SketchUp
The Plan
Drawing Pens, Razor Blades & CAD
Compass, Stencil & Indy
Set-square, T-square & VectorWorks
Pantograph, Print Machine & Photocopier
Paper, Letraset & Airbrush
The Model
Stanley Knife, Glue & 3D Plotter
3D Modeling, Bézier Curves & Render Engines

Contributors’ Biographies
Acknowledgements

Of Tools and Inspiration.
The Economies of Architectural Creativity

Elke Krasny

a) Orchid, b) a rifle, c) pieces of Lego, d) cigarette ash, e) a bed, f) rustic chests, g) trees, h) watercolours, i) solutions from the history of architecture, j) words, k) taking a stroll, l) cinema, m) suspended cords, ... what may appear like the shattering of “all plans” that occurs in Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things in which he introduces a) a “certain Chinese encyclopaedia (…), (…) b) embalmed animals, c) tamed ones, d) pigs, e) sirens, e) mythical beasts,” (Foucault 1971: 17) is, in fact, an initial approach to the instruments encountered in architects’ offices that are used in the act of designing to discover ideas. What counts is the moment, on occasions almost mythically transfigured, when the act of designing starts. In the conversations with men and women architects it was revealed that the question about the procedure of design, or about when the design reaches its end, is one that is rarely posed.

In 2006 when I embarked upon my architectural field research for The Force Is in the Mind. The Making of Architecture, I had the following question in my mind: how do the relationships and constellations between architects, their tools and their work spaces combine in the process of designing?

I had a suspicion that the way in which tools are used exerts an influence upon the design act, its course, the way it is represented and, ultimately, on the architecture itself. I saw the architects’ offices or studios as multi-dimensional visiting cards, not in the sense of a representative gesture but more in the sense of deep, fundamental approaches and philosophies that emerge on the surface in spatial terms.

Questions about “how” were used as a basis for “what”. The issue was not so much what architects do but how they do it. At the same time I was interested in the different combinations of the tools used and their influences, as, in terms of how things are done, these play a decisive role for possible ways of thinking, both as regards delight in overstepping boundaries and criticism of the boundaries themselves. What roles do collective tools play in an era of the individual design act? How have computer programmes, for example, changed design methods?

“Since the turn of the century, scores of men and women have penetrated deep forests, lived in hostile climates, and weathered hostility, boredom, and disease in order to gather the remnants of so called primitive societies. By contrast to the frequency of these anthropological excursions, relatively few attempts have been made to penetrate the intimacy of life among tribes that are much nearer at hand.” (Latour, Woolgar 1986: 17) This is how Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar describe their venture into the laboratory. Laboratory Life became atelier life for the project ‘The Force Is in the Mind’, in the form of contemporary instant field work.

Visits to offices extending over a period of several days, watching architects at work, documentary photographs, taking part in discussions with clients, in design sessions, staff organisational meetings, as well as conversations and interviews were the tools I chose for my studio field research. In the case of architects no longer alive interviews with former members of their staff provided an approach to these architects’ way of working.

Research in Alvar Aalto’s studio revealed that no researcher had ever enquired about what tools Aalto used. Even a collection of hundreds of sketches on a project offers no information about the course taken by the design process, if it is not possible to talk to still living members of the office staff. This failure to be aware of the necessity of talking about the making of architecture as a key to deciphering the courses taken by design and the development of ideas, matches the puzzling relationship between paper and what is drawn upon it described by Mark Wigley: “We have been trained to act as if the paper is not present, trained to see through it, noticing only the dark marks made upon it.” (Wigley 2005: 331) The relationship between lines and paper first became visible through the fact that, in the 1960s, architecture drawn on paper, following the new model of the black screen with white lines, was republished in white on black. Whereas this is a technological act that allows us perceive a relationship and something that is simply absent as it is taken for granted, in my ears it is speaking, the ‘oral history’ of architecture, that allows the absent element in the process, the work, to have its say.

To connect speaking and looking visits were made to the following studios: Alvar Aalto in Jyväskylä and Helsinki, Lina Bo Bardi in São Paulo, Bow-Wow in Tokyo, Hermann Czech in Vienna, Diller Scofidio + Renfro in New York, Edge Design Institute in Hong Kong, Yona Friedman in Paris, Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Lux Guyer in Zurich, Steven Holl Architects in New York, The Jerde Partnership in Los Angeles, Lacaton & Vassal in Paris, Rudolf Olgiati in Flims, Charlotte Perriand in Paris, R & Sie(n) in Paris, Schwalm-Theiss in Vienna, Karl Schwanzer in Vienna, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill SOM in Chicago, UNStudio in Amsterdam and Venturi Scott Brown & Associates VSBA in Philadelphia.

The counterpart in this dialogue was provided by research into the typical tools of the architecture profession in the 20th century, as found in private collections, firms as well as in museums, none of which, clearly, has specialised in this particular area of collecting. The collective production of knowledge represented by architecture as stored in the tools, and the attempt made through field research to give this knowledge a voice in the respective design methods reveals that making architecture is a practice full of contradictions between standards and departures from them, internalised norms and deliberate infringements.

“Through architects the art of architecture has sunk to the level of a graphic art. It is not those who can build best that receive the most commissions but those whose work looks best on paper. (…) And therefore the adept presenter rules. It is no longer the work tool held in the hand that creates forms, but the pencil. From the outlines of a building, from the kind of ornament, the observer can tell whether the architect worked with pencil number 1 or with pencil number 5.” This observation by Adolf Loos sounds contemporary, effortlessly makes the leap across a time distance of 100 years, and accurately describes the render generation. (© Ute Woltron). This strengthens the suspicion that it is an undertone of cultural pessimism that formulates this criticism of the tool as the decisive moment of change, because this moment avoids being controlled. It is precisely this loss of control that arouses the suspicion that something is not produced by mastery or ability but by the arbitrary quality of the tool.

Although today we still tend to ascribe to the computer the power of the visualisation that promises everything and the form finding that can do everything, the euphoria of the 1990s, when the computer seemed to be the tool of the future, already held in the hand, has by now given way to a more hybrid range of instruments.

If speed is the force that, in the form of the omnipresent time factor, propels all design processes in the world, it is precisely in the context of this scrimmage that reaching for a pencil, the quickly recorded variation made with a marker on the tracing paper, or the small sketch book taken out while on the move have once more become privileged.

Essentially, we can discern two major directions. Whereas one is based always on the immaterial, on speaking, reflecting, considering before making the first line, in the other architecture is worked out precisely through these lines, through sketching, directed by the imagination, hand and eye and inscribed on a medium. The potential offered by computer programmes reduces the creative gap but at the same time increases the pressure of individualisation and innovation on each person.

In reflecting on the fact that one cannot rely on a single tool alone but that, in fact, one allows the interplay of many tools, intuitively, spontaneously, in an improvised controlled, focussed, or unconscious way lies the daily experience of work that repeatedly endeavours to provide its own methods and must affirm its own approach.

As regards the questions about starting to design, about the sources of inspiration, the individual steps in the work process and, not least importantly, about the evaluation of the role of the computer, the answers given by the various positions selected for this book open up architectural histories of a different kind that indicate the omissions made by standard architectural history in the form of canonical histories of form and style without any technological or cultural perspective. Consequently, one could divide the history of architecture into very different epochs, starting from a scientific historical logic of the technology of the tools and architects’ attitude to them. From this attitude there results action that in the act of designing produces something that permissively transcends the tool and places the emphasis on the power of thought. This, precisely, is where the starting point (always newly defined) lies for a tentative approach to a “personal handwriting”. It is found again in the attempt to fully realize the individual relationship to the participating, already existing or “invented” design actants: a) orchids, b) a rifle, c) pieces of Lego, d) cigarette ash, e) a bed …

References
Foucault, Michel (1971) Die Ordnung der Dinge. Eine Archäologie der Humanwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Latour, Bruno and Steve Woolgar (1986) Laboratory Life. The Construction of Scientific Facts, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Wigley, Mark (2005) Back to Black, in Brayer, Marie-Ange, Frederick Migayrou and Fumio Nanjo (Ed.) ArchiLab's Urban Experiments.
Radical Architecture, Art and the City, Ed., London Thames & Hudson.
Loos, Adolf (1910) Wiener Architekturfragen 1910, in Opel, Adolf (Hg.) (1995) Adolf Loos, Über Architektur. Ausgewählte Schriften und Originaltexte, Wien: Georg Prachner Verlag.
de Certeau, Michel (1988) Kunst des Handelns, Berlin: Merve.
Gänshirt, Christian (2007) Werkzeuge für Ideen. Einführung ins architektonische Entwerfen, Basel, Boston and Berlin: Birkhäuser.
Piedmont-Palladino, Susan C. (2007) Tools of the Imagination: Drawing Tools and Technologies from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, New York: Princeton Architectural Press.


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