Geo Architecture: A History and Theory for an Emerging Aesthetic

The course approaches architectural form through geographically inspired constructs. Drawing from physical and human geography, the proposed theory expands the setting of architecture from the city to the ecumene. By casting the net at the scale of the inhabited world, different design strategies are developed to respond to and express this scale. Tools (derived from different sub-disciplines like volitional geography) are mobilized to construct intermediary scales of regions/territories through specifically architectural means.

Drawing from the concept of “forms of life”, this new theory also reactivates the typological approach in architecture, employing it in more dynamic terms than recent historicist readings have allowed. The course focuses on architectural effects such as emptiness, two-dimensionality, and deep interiority that emerge as expressions of architecture’s mediation between heightened differentiation and the unity of the ecumene.The course presents this theory of “geo-architecture” as an alternative to the highly functionalized (mostly systemic) interpretations of architecture’s urban and environmental role today but also as an alternative to reactionary formalisms.

The course works between historical and contemporary themes. The historical material covers intellectual affinities between architects and geographers.

The course proposes this architecture of geography as an extension of Le Corbusier’s concept of “geo-architecture” towards contemporary debates around territoriality and architecture but also around the role that architecture could play in addressing the expanded context. Some of the main contemporary debates that will be foregrounded are:

– the new scale of settlement that transgresses the boundaries of the metropolis
– the strong commitment to a formal role for architecture at the larger scale and the limits of systemic urbanism
– the elevation of geography to an aesthetic
– the impact of heightened environmental consciousness

The course also draws from contemporary design ideas on territory and architecture, and will focus on five constructs:

The Ecumenic:
What is the architecture capable of expressing the ecumenos, or the inhabited world? How can architecture, in its specificity, locality, and contingency express universality?

The Territorial:
The role of architecture in the development of intermediary scales has often been relegated to urban planning. Here, we look at the possibilities at the intersection of different forms of land-use and mobility.

The Mediamorphic:
A central concept to geography, the idea of “forms of life,” will be reconsidered as model for architectural mediation between humans and their environment. It will also provide the framework for a renewed typo-morphological approach.

The Megalithic:
This construct focuses on an emerging tendency where architectural forms are composed of very large pieces of mass, stacked on top of each other in a manner that challenges the scale of conventional structures, the prevailing tectonic logic of architecture, and its habitual perception.

The Geo-Graphic:
An important dimension of geo-architecture is that it is not only culturally determined but also constitutive of its culture. Here the definition of culture is expanded to include mobility, multiplicity, and hybridity. As such, the success of the form is dependent on its ability to communicate across cultures and to generate a graphic/graphics that complement and expand the architectural palette.