Theory of Architecture

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

The study of Architecture will not be complete without an exposure to some theory of architecture although many architects shun theory.

Vitruvius probably has made the most relevant remark about theory of architecture:

"Practice and theory are its parents. Practice is the frequent and continued contemplation of the mode of executing any given work, or of the mere operation of the hands, for the conversion of the material in the best and readiest way. Theory is the result of that reasoning which demonstrates and explains that the material wrought has been so converted as to answer the end proposed. Wherefore the mere practical architect is not able to assign sufficient reasons for the forms he adopts; and the theoretic architect also fails, grasping the shadow instead of the substance. He who is theoretic as well as practical, is therefore doubly armed; able not only to prove the propriety of his design, but equally so to carry it into execution."

Architecture is not a purely practical discipline. Every design decision is a thought, something that has to be decided, based on an array of values and factors, that come from several sources. Some of those factors can be easily decoded and given an automatic, appropriate solution, like for example, facts coming from the terrain such as the sun position, which would dictate the best orientation of your building. But some other factors and questions will require you to take decisions based on much less obvious grounds, or even very controversial decisions. For example, making a new building in a very old historic place. Will you claim your modernity strongly? Will you take a humble attitude, and stay discreet in front of the very respectable environment? Probably, if you take one of those two decisions, you will find furious opponents, ready to criticize your work with cruelty. Think about even more complicated and "hot" problems, such as having religious issues involved in your project.

In architecture, everything we do must be carefully thought. There is never one only way to do things, so all the time you will need to weight arguments, and take decisions. The importance of theory of architecture can be compared to the system of Precedent in legal courts: By knowing what other architects already did in similar situations, you are able to take much better decisions.

Criticism[edit | edit source]

Criticism is the action of emitting a judgement over someone's work. Architecture criticism is a very important tool in theory of architecture, because it is the ground of what can be considered as the "common sense". Very famous buildings are usually criticized by several important critics, and observing this can give us very important clues for building our own opinion.

We should always train to critique architecture. Be aware that this doesn't necessarily mean publicly emitting your (negative) opinion, but simply, trying to build your own opinion over a piece of architecture. Then, if you find your opinion interesting, why not test it against other opinions? The debate resulting from that confrontation is, really, what builds what we can call theory of architecture.

Famous theoricians architects[edit | edit source]

These are people who are or have been very active in the field of Architecture criticism. Knowing about them and how they see architecture is a key to building your own idea of architecture.

Classical, world-respected critics[edit | edit source]

Contemporary architects who write a lot about architecture[edit | edit source]

Famous architects[edit | edit source]

Famous architects are usually not famous only by chance, but because many people valued their work. This is not an universal rule (some architects can be famous for other reasons), but most of them made highly significant work. Studying these works and being able to build your opinion about it as well as understanding why they are significant is another key to be able to make, yourself, significant work.

Past architects[edit | edit source]

needs birth and death dates

Contemporary architects[edit | edit source]

Famous projects[edit | edit source]

Some specific projects that are generally considered building stones to what is architecture today:

See Also[edit | edit source]