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The Resistant Craftsman: Continuity In Contemporary Swiss Architecture

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Rory Crawford
Mackintosh School of Architecture | UK
This dissertation explores the notion of architecture as a collective, craft-like practice, based upon a tacit understanding of established working processes and techniques and an interest in the continuity and physicality of architecture and its construction. The intention is to explore a resistant alternative to some strands of architecture in which the degree of reinvention and spectacle can be seen as producing culturally disconnected, consumable objects, in which the ‘image’ of a building often seems as important as the architecture itself. Throughout this study Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman is a key source in the discussion of the characteristics and motivations of the craftsman, craft, and its relationship to architecture.

An interest in contemporary Swiss Architecture, furthered from a year living in Switzerland, was developed through the study, which examines the Swiss culture of architecture and construction. The work of three contemporary Swiss architects, Peter Märkli, Marcel Meili Markus Peter architects and Peter Zumthor, who each maintain conscious cultural and architectural positions, is used to examine the attributes of a theoretical craftsman-architect.

Sennett’s concept of “material consciousness”, described as the familiarity and curiosity a craftsman has for their material is explored through building studies as a means of examining differing approaches to construction and the use and choice of material. The three principal strands of material consciousness are examined within the context of the study: “metamorphic”- a new combination or transformation of existing things with the potential to create new solutions, “anthropomorphic”- where an increased awareness of materials can be achieved through the investment of inanimate things with human characterises and “presence”- where material becomes representative of the work put into it. The craftsman’s attitude to innovation and ‘risk’, and the relationship between the modern craftsman and the machine is explored to try to find progressive approaches to building with continuity.

The dissertation offered an opportunity to think about construction as a cultural endeavour. A specific, progressive and resistant form of practice emerged in which the craftsman-architect’s tacit knowledge and appreciation of the tactile and technical potential of materials can form precise and beautiful responses.

Rory Crawford

Mr Mark Baines
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