Annual Topics

2020: Architecture as Metaphor

We commonly and ubiquitously use architectural metaphors in both everyday speech as well as various professional contexts. Yet we rarely, if at all, register this connection when we talk, for example, about software architects, thought constructs, pillars of society, the architecture of the brain or the façade a person puts up. At the same time, metaphors also feature prominently in the fields of architecture and urbanism, where they are being used for the development of design concepts and provide useful means to communicate, discuss and evaluate design features. Examples range from crystalline buildings to the fabric of a city, but also include Le Corbusier’s infamous description of houses as ‘machines for living in.’

This research project aims to explore metaphors as productive mediators in processes of knowledge transfer between the fields of architecture and everyday knowledges and between architectural and other professional discourses. It thus contributes to a broader investigation of architecture as a cultural practice of ordering.

Metaphors, to us, provide a lens that allows us to zoom in on and examine the involvement of architecture in processes of social ordering. Our premise is that metaphors are not merely explanatory in their function but instead interfere with epistemological thought and production processes. Metaphors rely on the incongruity between a particular term and the context within which it is being deployed, creating a space of continuous re-interpretation. The meaning of a metaphor thus oscillates between the body of knowledge from which the metaphor stems and that within which it is used. Through transferring aspects of one field’s body of knowledge to another, metaphors disseminate and thereby consolidate social or disciplinary hierarchies, norms, and protocols inscribed in the original body of knowledge. This consequently raises questions regarding the ways in which architecture as a practice of ordering interrelates with societal as well as disciplinary structures, orders, and knowledges. Hence, we are not only interested in the connection between different fields, but also different forms of knowledge that metaphors can facilitate and how this relates to architecture.

The first project year will end with the interdisciplinary conference “Architektur_Metapher”, 6-7 November 2020 in Frankfurt am Mai

Further Information: Link to conference website

2021: Built Order

The second year of the project will deal with the manifestation and modulation of concepts of order in buildings. Based on the observation that orders of knowledge materialize in archives, libraries, and universities, the project will investigate the extent to which the concrete architectural framing affects organizational and knowledge structures. Central to this is the observation that architecture configures knowledge spatially and thus plays an essential role in the modulation, enforcement, canonization and institutionalization of epistemic models.

A public lecture series with the working title “Built Order: Architectural Configurations of Knowledge” is planned for 2021.

2022: Designing Order

The third year of the project deals with questions of the importance of design both as an indicator of the effectiveness of regulatory concepts and as a process of their creation. In joint events, the theory will be examined to determine whether architectural design plays a key role in the analysis of scientific and social practices of order at the intersection of science and empirical knowledge.

A lecture series with the working title “Designing Order – Ordering Design” is planned for 2022. This will include lectures by renowned Hessian and international architecture and engineering firms in which they will present their current architectural designs with regard to the creation of order(s). On the one hand, this format will provide a collection of contemporary architectural practices of order; on the other hand, the public will be informed about current construction projects.

2023: Order/Chaos

The fourth project year will serve to provisionally specify the insights gained and to discuss further questions that will be the focus of subsequent projects. This is to be achieved through the polarizing juxtaposition of figures of order and chaos. After all, structures of order often only become visible when they are contrasted with their criticism, deconstruction or strategic subversion. The project’s conceptualization of architecture as a mechanism for a better understanding of social practices of order should thus be convincingly outlined.

A final international conference with the working title “The Architecture of (Dis)Order: Plan or Chaos” is planned for 2023.

Annual Topics
Toshiba-IHI Pavilion, Osaka Expo'70. April 1970. Photograph by takato marui – originally posted to Flickr as Toshiba-IHI Pavilion, CC BY-SA 2.0.