Friday, June 24, 2011

The Autopoiesis of Architecture

The aim is a comprehensive theoretical system that offers itself to architecture as its comprehensive self-description describing architecture from within architecture, in its internal constitution, and in its relationship to its societal environment. The premise here is that architecture has always already constituted itself self-referentially, via its own autonomous, disciplinary discourse.
The theory proposed here, the theory of architectural autopoiesis, focuses on architectural communications and “observes” these communications to detect its typical patterns. The theory analyses how individual communications depend upon and reproduce communication structures like the key distinctions, concepts, values, styles, methods and media of the discipline.

The book thus presents a discourse analysis of discipline. But the theory of architectural autopoiesis is not conceived as a scientific theory about architecture, written from the outside. Rather, it is a theoretical intervention from within architecture, itself trying to intervene in the ongoing communicative trajectory of architecture by reflecting architecture’s evolving patterns of communication in relation to its societal task domain. The text - if it suceeds – could function as architecture’s self-description because it describes, critically evaluates, and enhances the discursive totality of architecture in from within the midst of the contemporary architectural discourse.

Why is it called “The Autopoiesis of Architecture”?
The introduction of the concept of autopoiesis reflects the premise that the discipline of architecture can be theorized as a distinct system of communications. Autopoiesis means self-production. The concept was first introduced within biology to describe the essential characteristic of life as a circular organization that reproduces all its most specific necessary components out of its own life-process. This idea of living systems as self-making autonomous unities was transposed into the theory of social systems understood as systems of communications that build up and reproduce all their necessary, specific communication structures within their own self-referentially closed process. It is this total network of architectural communications, a gigantic, self-referentially closed parallel process, that is referred to in the title of the book: the autopoiesis of architecture is this overall, evolving system of communications.

The central thesis of “The Autopoiesis of Architecture” is thus that the phenomenon of architecture be most adequately grasped if it is analyzed as autonomous network (autopoietic system) of communications. The communications of architecture comprise drawings, texts and built works. The built works of architecture constitute a special set of reference points within the overall network of architectural communications, and serve society as communicative frames for social interaction.
This new approach offers an arsenal of general comparative concepts that allow architecture - understood as distinct communicative subsystem of society - to be analysed in elaborate detail while at the same time offering comparisons with other communicative subsystems of society like art, science and political discourse. On the basis of such comparisons the book insists on the necessity of disciplinary autonomy and argues for a sharp demarcation from both art and science. Design intelligence is an intelligence sui generis. Its logic, reach and limitations are the topic of this book.

The Autopoiesis of Architecture, Vol.2: A New Agenda for Architecture

Volume 2 builds upon the theoretical groundwork of Volume 1. While volume 1 theorizes architecture’s societal function in general, volume 2 addresses the specific, contemporary challenges that architecture faces and formulates the tasks that are posed to contemporary architecture. The task that architecture faces might be summarized as the task to organize and articulate the complexity of post-fordist network society. The theory of architecture’s task is followed by a theory of the architectural design process. The question is being addressed how contemporary architecture can upgrade its design methodology in the face of its increasingly demanding task environment characterized by both complexity and novelty. Architecture’s specific role within contemporary society is explicated and its relationship to politics is clarified. Finally, the emerging new style of Parametricism is introduced and theoretically grounded.

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