Annual Theme

2023: Order | Disorder

Previous inquiries of the LOEWE research cluster “Architectures of Order” have shown us that spatial knowledge provides us with an understanding of our world and a capacity to order it – a capacity prominently mobilized in the field of architecture. Prerequisite for this is a constant observance of notions of disorder: From disorder to order, we foray into matters at hand until we feel able to grasp what is at play. We find new logics where we did not see them before, perceive new patterns in a seemingly disordered world. But in an equally great number of circumstances, we observe processes evolving from order to disorder. Based on this order | disorder dialectic, the question our latest annual theme aims to tackle the evolution of the notion of order as imminently dependent on disorder with its changes and discontents throughout time. Within this large framework, we focalize on two subject areas: Reevaluation of the concept of the ruin as testament to life cycles of urban orders and, focusing on architectural practice, the dynamics of order | disorder in computational design.

In the 20th century, many works have been dedicated to the relentless identifications of urban and architectural orderly patterns – even in the most spontaneous formations. Our first point of departure focuses on urban areas that showcase contrasted geographies, sometimes brutal confrontations of highly regulated planning with hems of hectic and messy developments. Hence, ruins of physical destruction and decay provide examples of the shifting notions of order. Similarly, ruins are testament to social orders erupted as governance evolves, as war annihilates or as rights are challenged. These changes leave areas of public life to ruin, or even actively destroy them. This is yet one example of this duality we are especially interested in, as well as the superpositions of formations that the study of urban planning reveals. Ruins then indicate what is not anymore a relevant symbol of order. Ruins also invite the use of spolia, testimonies of the reintegration of old elements in a new order. Such observations invite questioning: What do we recognize as valid order | disorder criteria at a given period? How can we account for the obsolescence of design models? Where lie the potentials of engaging with destructed environments? How did (and currently, can) architectural practice approach destruction and chaos from a perspective of care and creation rather than reconstruction?

Such speculations suggest the existence of alternative forms of order to those we are used to. This introduces our second point of departure: From quantum physics to neuroscience, exploring seemingly disorder has been at the source of novel models of computation in the past few decades. Architecture is no exception as computation plays an increasing role in conception of design models since the 1960s. Random and statistical variations play a key role in the resort to computational design tools. In it, the question is raised as to when increasing complexity is equated with disorder, or whether there can be such a thing as chaos under the paradigm of computer-based generation and analysis. It is therefore necessary to question the modalities of computing chaos and the interaction that this notion creates between order and disorder. Questioning the order | disorder dynamic compels further interrogation whether – and why – some things resist ordering, and what the confrontation to such resistance bears. The latest techniques developed in artificial intelligence aim at enhancing our capabilities in recognizing patterns in spheres of absolute disorder by resorting to machine learning. Especially the observation of nature presents a source of inspiration for the development of many models of ordering, and consequently tools for architectural design. Therefore, we propose to ask: How can such novel perception lead to new and more complex orders more in tune with the environmental challenges our societies encounter? Can the confrontation with natural models of order as well as resources, such as biomaterials, entail the acceptance of a potential resistance to human order?

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 year of the project ended with the interdisciplinary conference “Architektur_Metapher”, which took place on 5-7 November 2020.

2021: Built Order

The architecture of the space around us has a considerable influence on our everyday lives. However, the resulting layout is rarely accidental and unintentional. Architects who design government and administrative buildings, urban spaces, libraries or other built structures have always been guided by the aesthetic as well as functional requirements and needs that are placed on the buildings and architectures they design. The result is architecturally manifested space that intends to reflect and constitute political-social orders and ideals or designed with regard to specific forms of exercising and securing power. As part of its annual theme of 2021 “Built Order”, the LOEWE research project “Architectures of Order: Practices and Discourses between Design and Knowledge” will deal with various spaces of power in the first half of the year and investigate the interrelationship of architectural and spatial with political and social orders as well as cultural practices.

The starting point for the thematic orientation of the second half of the year, “Storing Knowledge,” is the observation that architecture configures knowledge spatially and thus plays a significant role in the modulation, enforcement, canonization and institutionalization of epistemic models. Archives, libraries, museums and universities can be understood as materialized knowledge orders: the knowledge that is collected, selected, ordered, indexed and mediated in these places is framed spatially. The project will investigate the extent to which the concrete architectural framing has an effect on organizational or knowledge structures.

In 2021, we want to approach these topics through a variety of event formats – including lectures, panel discussions and workshops – and will include historical and theoretical perspectives as well as those from archival and construction practices.

2022: Designing Order

The annual theme is dedicated to the architectural design process and its contemporary relevance and historical diversity, whereby both the structuring concepts of order as well as the new ideas of order created by it are the focus of interest. Architectural design is understood as a process shaped by experience and values, by practical, technical, social, and legal frameworks. Each design imagines the future and represents an attempt to create a new spatial – and thus for the most part also social – order. This projective access to the as yet unknown and unthought is always based on planning conventions, structural standards, legal requirements and established architectural, urban and social concepts that are placed in relation to one another, reconsidered and dynamized in the design process. How does design structure the interaction of these distinct and heterogeneous factors? What role do the economic and political conditions or norms play, and what role do the tools or media of design play? And finally: to what extent does the architectural design process play a key role in the analysis of societal regulatory practices?

Increasing digitalization and the technological innovations that have accompanied it have contributed to far-reaching transformations of architectural design processes over the last few decades. Crises like the global pandemic and the climate crisis are currently changing the way we live together and our approaches to (spatial) resources; whether – and if so, how – they stimulate new architectural thinking and design remains to be clarified.

The annual theme for 2022, “Designing Order”, is divided into two main topics and is accompanied by an in-depth lecture series with roundtables and a workshop. While the first half of the year is devoted to the question, “How does order come into the design process?”, the second half of the year examines the interrelationship between design processes and their specific design objects.

Annual Theme
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