Architecture on Architecture: Autonomy as a transformative capability

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This paper will discuss the challenges faced by architectural education today. It takes as its starting point the double commitment of any school of architecture: on the one hand the task of preserving the particular knowledge that belongs to the discipline of architecture, and on the other hand the obligation to prepare students to perform in a profession that is largely defined by forces outside that discipline. It will be proposed that the autonomy of architecture can be understood as a unique kind of information: as architecture’s self-reliance or knowledge-about itself. A knowledge that is not scientific or academic but is more like a latent body of data that we find embedded in existing works of architecture. This information, it is argued, is not limited by the historical context of the work. It can be thought of as a virtual capacity – a reservoir of spatial configurations that can be transformed and reapplied endlessly through its confrontation with shifting information from outside the realms of architecture.
A selection of architects’ statements on their own work will be used to demonstrate how in quite diverse contemporary practices the re-use of existing architectures is applied. It will be argued that the transformative capacity of architecture utilized in such an architecture-on-architecture approach depends on our ability to read architectural structures independently from the specific circumstances that defined their creation. As a conclusion, it is discussed how recognising the autonomy of architecture, not as an esoteric concept but as a valid source of information in a pragmatic design practice, may help us overcome the often-proclaimed dichotomy between formal autonomy and a societally committed architecture. It follows that in architectural education there can be a close correlation between the study of existing architectures and the training of competences to design for present-day realities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritic|all II International Conference on Architectural Design & Criticism : Digital Proceedings
Number of pages8
Publishercritic|all PRESS
Publication date2016
ISBN (Electronic)978-84-608-9062-1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Eventcritic|all II International Conference on Architectural Design & Criticism: out-onomy -
Duration: 20 Jun 201622 Jun 2016


Conferencecritic|all II International Conference on Architectural Design & Criticism
Internet address


  • Autonomy
  • Transformation
  • Architectural education

Artistic research

  • No

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