The Architectural Project

The Architectural Project

The Architectural Project

The Architectural Project


An Essay Concerning the Project considers the practice of architectural design as it has developed during the last two centuries. In this challenging interpretation of design education and its effect on design process and products, Argentinean scholar Alfonso Corona-Martinez emphasizes the distinction between an architectural project, created in the architect's mind and materialized as a set of drawings on paper, and the realized three-dimensional building.

Corona-Martinez demonstrates how representation plays a substantial role in determining both the notion and the character of architecture, and he traces this relationship from the Renaissance into the Modern era, giving detailed considerations of Functionalism and Typology. His argument clarifies the continuity in the practice of design method through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a continuity that has been obscured by the emphasis on changing goals instead of design procedures, and examines the influences of modernity and the legend of the Bauhaus.

Architectural schooling, he suggests, has had a decisive role in the transmission of these practices. He concludes that the methods formalized in Beaux Arts teaching are not only still with us but are in good part responsible for the stylistic instability that haunts Modern architecture.

Abstract but not abstruse, An Essay Concerning the Project provides clear information for a deeper understanding of the process of design and its results. More so than any other recent text, it shows the scope and richness of the field of speculation in architecture. It presents subtle considerations that must be mastered if an architect is to properly use typology, the means of representation, and the elements of composition and in architecture. Students, teachers, and practitioners alike will benefit from its warning about the deeper aspects of the endeavor of architecture.


Lege feliciter

Unhappy thoughts have dominated most contemporary architectural thinking, and this has forced the basic components of the architectural discipline to separate out in the same way that the oil and the egg-yolk break apart when a mayonnaise curdles. My grandmother, who was an astonishingly good cook, had a secret method for saving the situation when that happened. Meanwhile, my job was to continue whisking the eggs and oil. I will try to convert her time-honored method into an analogical tool by pointing out that this essay by Alfonso Corona-Martínez introduces a powerful recipe for overcoming the present curdling tendency in both the practice and teaching of architecture. CoronaMartínez’s own “secret method” succeeds by explaining the material nature of architectural imagination.

The crucial question raised by this extraordinary book is: “What does the author mean by “an essay on the architectural project” (from the Spanish title Ensayo sobre el Proyecto, or An Essay Concerning the Project)? Corona-Martínez’s book is certainly not an essay about architecture— our bookshelves are already full of such architectural essays. Instead he has written something quite different. His essay is rather concerned with what goes on within architecture, or, to be more precise, in the use of architectural composition. At the deep level of description, the processes of architectural composition are universal; the elaborations of a few simple structural values and principles result in a great variety within the scope of the architectural imagination, which can cut all the way through temporal, spatial, and cultural divisions. If our quest is to understand architecture by thinking within architecture rather than thinking about architecture we have to understand the workings of the mechanism that drives compositional thinking. Otherwise, we will be condemned to watch in despair as the architectural world created in the past continues to slip further and further away from our awareness and intellectual perceptions.

Modern architects do not make buildings as such, rather they compose them in drawings. Two processes of “essential polar intelligence” characterize architectural drawings. These are the categorical and inferential processes.

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