Artifacts of Architectural Production

Diamonds, Diagrams, Drawls, and Drodels

The following texts, focusing on aesthetic analysis and perception, are selections from the course taught by Benjamin J. Smith at University of Michigan in fall 2013. Artifacts of architectural production are the objects (drawings, models, diagrams, hybrids, art works, etc) that an architect makes. These artifacts demonstrate diverse strategies in spatial, formal, and material experimentation. The seminar was structured by a close reading of the representational practices of four architects and educators—John Hejduk, Peter Eisenman, Coy Howard, and Thom Mayne. It included the study of the intellectual foundations, methods of investigation, and representational outcomes of these architectural pursuits. The primary focus was the representational work of these four architects between the 1960s and 1980s, with brief discussions of their more recent projects related to this topic.

Benjamin's Section Cut

A broader interest of the seminar questioned artifacts of production relative to their respective proximity to architectural experience, i.e., is the artifact a conceptual tool to analyze and describe qualities of a non-existent architectural space, or does the drawing itself provide an opportunity to engage architecture directly? Can the product of an architect’s labor exceed what it represents? Exploring these conditions examined the capacity for representation to participate in the aesthetic nature of architectural experiences.

The ambition of the course was twofold: to develop skills in the critical analysis of architectural work that expands students’ vocabulary of visual description and to situate the work of these East and West Coast architects through speculation and discussion of inherent differences, nuanced distinctions, and common grounds. This study was supported by writings from the architects, texts focused on architectural representation, and readings dedicated to aesthetic analysis and interpretation.

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