Potential Architecture

The work of the architect, the urban designer and designers at large is conditioned by a number of factors that delimit and demarcate the designer\’s field of action. These factors may include the compliance with building codes and urban regulations, the characteristics of the site (its topography, its climate, its orientation), the materials and technologies available, construction cost and deadlines, etc. Designers often refer to them as design limitations to justify unsuccessful or unfortunate solutions.

All of these constraints are not only a fundamental part of the complex problems to be addressed by designers, but they can also be transformed into design opportunities. The seminar will examine, on the one hand, how the recognition of these given constraints has often led to unexpected solutions and innovation through history.

However, the real ambition of the seminar is to go beyond these given constraints and explore the notion of a Potential Architecture that works with systems of self-imposed constraints specifically elaborated for each project. The thesis that we would like to put forward is that designers can achieve a greater freedom in their work through an apparent limitation of that very freedom. The seminar will ultimately reflect upon how architects and urban designers make decisions in their practices.

The term \”Potential Architecture\” directly alludes to that of \”Potential Literature\” coined by the Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature) in the 1960s. The first sessions of the seminar will examine the work of the group and some of its members, including Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec and Italo Calvino. From literature, we will move on to investigate the use of self-imposed constraints through the work of artists such as Max Bill, Ad Reinhardt, Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt or Sophie Calle, filmmakers -from Alfred Hitchcock to Lars von Trier-, musicians -from Johann Sebastian Bach to Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky or John Cage- and even in some forms of popular culture such as the circus and classic animated cartoons. The second part of the seminar will focus on the use of given and self-imposed constraints in the design practices.