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Building Theories : Architecture as the Art of Building

ISBN: 9781138859043


Building Theories speaks to the value of words in architecture. It addresses the author’s fascination with the voices of architects, engineers, builders, and craftspeople whose ideas about building have been captured in text.  648 Pages 107 B/W Illustrations

Weight 1.5 kg









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Building Theories speaks to the value of words in architecture. It addresses the author’s fascination with the voices of architects, engineers, builders, and craftspeople whose ideas about building have been captured in text. It discusses the content of treatises, essays, articles, and letters by those who have been, throughout history, committed to the art of building. In this, Building Theories argues for the return of a practice of architectural theory that is set amongst building, buildings, and builders. This journey of close reading reinterprets the words of Vitruvius, Alberti, de L’Orme, Le Camus de Mézières, Boullée, Laugier, Rondelet, Semper, Viollet-le-Duc, Hübsch, Bötticher, Berlage, Muthesius, Wagner, Behrendt, Gropius, and Arup. With chapters dedicated to texts from antiquity, the Renaissance, and the nineteenth century, and with a critical eye on architectural theory popularized in the Anglo-Saxon world post-1968, readers are introduced to a wider, more inclusive definition of architectural ideas. Building Theories considers how contemporary scholarship has steered away from the topic of building in its reluctance to admit that both design and construction are central to its concerns. In response, it argues for a realignment of architecture with the concept of techné, with a dual commitment to fabrica e ratio, with a productive return to l’art de bien bastir, with the accurate translation of the term Baukunst, and with an appeal to the architect’s ‘composite mind.’


1. Thinking through Building

1.1 Positing a Theory of Building

1.2 Theory’s problem with Technology

1.3 Theory seeks Autonomy

    • In the Shadow of the Digital
    • Conceptual Architecture
    • Theory, in Oppositions

1.4 Is Theory Dead?

    • Or, just Post-Critical?
    • And then, we were Post-Digital

1.5 Building, in Theory

2. Building and the Treatise

2.1 Building in a word, Techné

2.2 Fabrica e Ratio – Marcus Vitruvius Pollio

2.3 Mechanical Art, Disegno, or both?

    • Building Artisan and Author – Averlino, detto Filarete
    • Literary Scholar and Architect – Leon Battista Alberti
    • Stone Mason and Humanist – Philibert de L’Orme

2.4 Ornamentalist and Carpenter – Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières

2.5 L’Art de Bien Bastir, that is the Art of Building Well

3. Architect as Builder and Thinker

3.1 Architecture as Fine Art or Building Art? The case of Jean Baptiste Rondelet

  • Architecture, Essai sur l’Art
  • Traité Théorique et Pratique de l’Art de Bâtir

3.2 Constructeur, Entrepreneur, ou Architecte

3.3 Trabeated or Arcuated? The Quarrel between a Clergyman and a Military Engineer

4. Matter(s) Hidden in Plain Sight

4.1 Eyes which do not see

• In the Glare of the Forge

• Alternatively, the Engineer’s Aesthetic

4.2 The Death of Matter?

• Architecture in Ruins – Hubert Robert

• Denial of Iron in Support of Builders – John Ruskin

4.3 or, The Composite Imagination

• Structural Hybrids – Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc

    • Woven Surfaces – Gottfried Semper

5. Lost in Translation

5.1 Baukunst, the German Building Art

    • The case of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

5.2 Style, Bauweise, und Tektonik

    • In welchem Style sollen wir bauen? – Heinrich Hübsch
    • Bauweise und Tektonik – Carl Gottlieb Wilhelm Bötticher

5.3 Baumeister and Baukunstler

    • Praktische Ästhetik – Hendrick Petrus Berlage
    • Stilarchitektur und Baukunst – Hermann Muthesius
    • Moderne Architektur or Die Baukunst unserer der Zeit – Otto Wagner

5.4 Bau, Architecture’s Subconscious

    • The Victory of the New Baustils – Walter Curt Behrendt
    • Bauen, Architecture’s Zeitgeist – Sigfried Giedion

5.5 When Language Fails Building

6. From Aesthetics to Ethics, and back

6.1 Building, a Crisis in Representation

6.2 Architecture as Aesthetics, Language, or Re-presentation?

• Aesthetics

• Language

• Re-presentation

6.3 The Ethics of Matter

6.4 A Return to the Art of Building

7. Design and Construction – Walter Gropius and Ove Arup

7.1 Building Collaboratively – Walter Gropius

    • Style or Society?
    • Design Divorced from Building
    • Artists who Make, at the Bauhaus and in Industry
    • Teamwork and Genius
    • Union of Opposites
    • Naively Heroic or Falsely Utopic?
    • Integrated Practice, the origins of

7.2 Engineering Total Design – Ove Arup

    • The Key Speech
    • Concrete, and the Material Imagination
    • Spatializing the Structural Skin
    • Integrating Systems in Building Sections
    • Re-presenting the Invisible
    • Architects, Engineers, and Builders – Engineering Total Design
    • Musings of an old gentleman in a garden – “Architecture is sick, should it be revived?”

8 The Composite Mind Re-Builds Theory

8.1 The Composite Mind

8.2 Re-building Theory

Index, Bibliography, List of Illustrations and Credits

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