Exploring Methodologies

During the sixties, methodology was a fundamental aspect of architectural education. Everything gravitated around method, which meant that architects were explicit about how their buildings were conceived. And, obviously, this attention to the \”how to do\” implied a clear attitude towards architectural theory. In a rather ingenious way, Late Functionalism reduced architecture to the construction of objects that developed solely from interpretations of program and constructive systems. Architects following this movement based their work on program building techniques, seeking to establish a \”method\” for their interpretation and application of these essential ingredients. They gave form to the architectural object with the use of a contemporary language, allowing them to proceed towards whatever specific design.I will not describe the long road that has led us from those days of candid functionalism to today\’s situation. I will only say that today architects approach design without a loyalty towards or even an awareness of a particular theoretical approach and, as a consequence, with no clear idea of design methodology. Every approach relies on a method and behind any design there are the traces of certain design principles. This studio option will try to be a reflection – or better, an introspection – on each student\’s approach, conscious or unconscious, to design. I want the students to recognize their convictions and consider how these convictions become transformed into architectural tools. For this kind of introspective exercise I propose two design alternatives. I find the confrontation created by assuming the removal of existing buildings in order to raise new ones to be an effective pedagogical experience. So, in this studio option the students will consider two different sites and, after selecting one, they will propose an alternate building to substitute the existing one. Both buildings are on the Harvard Campus, and the students should design the new buildings to serve the same program and provide comparable program area. The two buildings are quite different, regardless of the fact that they are department buildings in relative proximity. One is the Music Department, a building that is the result of several additions and holds auditoriums, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, a library, offices, etc. The other is the Social Science Center tower, a Yamasaki work, built to serve a large department. How will students start to think about a building that will replace one of these existing buildings? How will these new buildings develop? These are the questions that this studio will consider as profoundly and as personally as possible.