The work of the architect is conditioned by a number of factors that delimit and demarcate the designer's field of action. These factors may include the compliance with building codes and urban regulations, the characteristics of the site (its topography, its climate, its orientation), the materials and technologies available, construction cost and deadlines, etc.
All of these constraints are not only a fundamental part of the complex problems to be addressed by architects, but they can also be transformed into design opportunities. The course will examine how the recognition and willingness to work with given constraints has often led to unexpected solutions and innovation.
However, the real ambition of this course is to go beyond these given constraints and explore the notion of a Potential Architecture that works with systems of self-imposed constraints specifically elaborated for each project. The thesis that we would like to put forward is that designers can achieve a greater freedom in their work through an apparent limitation of that very freedom. We will ultimately reflect upon how designers make decisions in their practices.
The term "Potential Architecture" directly alludes to the work of the Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature), founded by a group of writers and mathematicians in 1960. The first sessions of the course will examine the work of this group and some of its members, including Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec and Italo Calvino. From literature, we will move on to investigate the use of self-imposed constraints in the arts, including painting, sculpture, photography, music, film, etc. The second part of the course will be centred on the use of given and self-imposed constraints in the discipline of architecture.
Mathews, Harry; Brotchie, Alastair (ed.), Oulipo Compendium, London, Atlas Press, 1998.
Motte, Warren (ed.), Oulipo. A Primer of Potential Literature, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1986.
Muro, Carles, "Exercises in Style", in: Spellman, Catherine (ed.), Conversations and Allusions: Enric Miralles, Barcelona / New York, Actar, 2019.
OULIPO, Atlas de littérature potentielle, Paris, Gallimard, 1981
Rodari, Gianni, Grammatica della fantasia, Turín, Einaudi, 1973 [English edition: The Grammar of Fantasy, New York, The Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 1996].
Stravinsky, Igor, Poétique musicale sous forme de six leçons, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1942 [English edition: Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons, New York, Vintage Books, 1947]
Truffaut, François, Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1966 [English edition: Hitchcock, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1967].