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Dialogues: Architecture's Origin in Language

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Ian Pollard
University of Dundee | UK
“A Dialogue [...] is always a confrontation of irreducibly different viewpoints, [...] an exchange of concrete, unique pieces of information for [...] abstract, general ones[...]
Octavio Paz

Dialogues is an extended enquiry into the relation of architecture to language. It examines the processes of expression and social roles of language in relation to those of architecture. It also questions the role that language inhabits alongside the acts of drawing and making. One motive for drawing such analogies, and for pursuing them, is to generate ideas about the social roles of architecture and the mysterious translations of the design process. Another is to provide a framework through which architectural history may be understood critically in relation to contemporary practice.

The greater dialogue, however, begins before Vitruvius and Alberti and connects the human catalyst of Gothic architecture, Abbott Suger, with the architecture parlante of Étienne-Louis Boullée. It connects Adolf Loos’ proto-modern understanding of architecture as a built polemic with the philosopher-architect Ludwig Wittgenstein’s search for the philosophical foundations of all buildings. It connects the futurist bombast of Antonio Sant’Elia with the grammar of Mies and Le Corbusier’s built rhetoric. It also connects, in a tradition borne from the Piranesean shadows, the paper architecture of Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin to the allegorical archi-texts of Douglas Darden. This thesis merely eavesdrops on this interaction of ideas for a fleeting moment.

The methodological structure of the thesis is reflected in its eventual presentation as a series of five pamphlets; each documenting a distinct stage within the overall process of enquiry. The first, Apologia, describes the personal motives and convictions which frame the subject area. The second, From Allegory to Archetype, is an essay which explores in depth five areas through which language and architecture may be observed in meaningful interaction; namely structure, memory, philosophy, criticism and translation. The third and fourth pamphlets, Architectural Investigations, document a corpus of studio projects by which the observations of the the previous essay are investigated, challenged and even employed. The series of pamphlets then concludes with a critical reflection of the thesis itself in recapitulation and examination of the process undergone.

Ian Pollard

Helen O'Connor
Fergus Purdie
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