Marvelous Architecture – The Hallucination Of Reason

The seminar "Marvelous Architecture – The Hallucination Of Reason" is about architecture theory crossbred with representation. It will explore the specificity of architectural rationality, i.e. the rationality of a discipline that is stretched between a technical, “objective” part, and an artistic, poetic one. Designing a project aims, on the one hand, at defining the form of an architectonic artifact and, on the other hand, at writing the conceptual, theoretical story that will allow the author to define the rules for designing/shaping this architectonic artifact, and for giving it a specific meaning. We shall consider the assumption that the very specific goal of rationality in architecture is to help write this story, encompassing all the necessities of the project in a way that will allow to justify rationally displays that would otherwise be considered irrational in a different conceptual context.

This assumption defines a cross section in history allowing to bring a fresh and renewed look at buildings all along the course of history, and also to highlight the operational tools to achieve contemporary designs. It renews radically the definition of rationality. It will take us to explore a variety of intellectual territories, ranging from French philosophers René Descartes to Gaston Bachelard, from Gothic architecture to 20th century functionalist hardliners, from Rome Pantheon to Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Muse-um, from the Great Wall of China to Walter Benjamin’s 19th century Paris passageways, from European Classicist architecture to Lina Bo Bardi’s masterpieces, from the origins to present day architecture, from architecture to surrealism.

During the first half of the semester the weekly course will be based on 90-minute lectures by the instructor, while the other 90 minutes will be dedicated to reviewing the students’s works and to open discussions. Two of these lectures will be delivered by guests. During the second part of the semester, after a mid-term critic session, the course will be fully dedicated to reviews of students’s works. These works will consists in studying a theoretical question linked to the Marvelous Architecture concept proposed by the instructor. Works will have to be specifically related to the research tools used by architects, i.e. drawing, among other tools, will play a key role. The marvelous side of architecture is not easy to decipher, so we will crossbreed this study with the representation system and work of Chicago-based American illustrator Chris Ware that is able to describe a broad panel of phenomenons. From this confrontation should emerge new ways of representing architecture and its marvelous character.

The final delivery will be an illustrated paper combining text, new original drawings produced by students, and historical documents. The work will be evaluated upon its inner conceptual coherence and its graphic quality. Due to this strong graphic component, the seminar is only opened to architecture students.