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.

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

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 the seminar 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 the work of the Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature), founded by a group of writers and mathematicians in 1960. The first sessions of the seminar will examine the work of this 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 in the arts, including painting, sculpture, photography, music, film, etc. The second part of the seminar will focus on the use of given and self-imposed constraints in architecture and the design practices.