Stratégie versus composition

To avoid chaos and arbitrariness architects have traditionally looked for ways to structure buildings as wholes that can be factorised into parts. This approach to the nature of architecture is that of composition. After the Second World War, the world of architecture saw the development of new ways of conceiving of buildings. One of the most prominent of which appeals to strategies. This development, which first occurred in painting and sculpture, leads to a rejection of composition. In their rejection of composition, many post-war American artists abandoned the notion that there should be any equilibrium or relational properties between the parts that constitute a work of art. In architecture, rejecting composition goes by looking for strategies that are determined by the programmatic, urbanistic and cultural contexts to which a contemporary building has to adapt. Also, lack of land entails an urban density so that by necessity – by non-choice – buildings have to be shaped by contextual boundaries, which makes it impossible to conceive of these buildings according to the precepts of composition. Since the 1960s, buildings or architectural complexes have had to be able to evolve, to adapt to new usage. This requires architects to think of them in a new way, according to a logic of indeterminate – thus non-composed – planes. Further, architects abandon composition in that they start looking for arrangements that are already present in the surrounding visible world and integrate them to the projection of buildings by the strategy of transfer. The key hypothesis of this study is that composed planes came to be replaced by strategies such as non-choice and transfer that generate neutral arrangements – neutral because their parts cannot be factorised from the whole; because these parts are without intrinsic individuality. Understood as a body of actions mapping shapes to contextual parameters, these strategies also require us to rethink the notions of subjectivity and of the self-effacing of a project's author. For instance a transfer is generated by a certain automatism of the form, as opposed to a preconceived architectural intention. This study reviews and analyses these strategies, these new modes of architectural arrangements. It does so by examining recent buildings and projects and also by drawing parallels with the plastic arts. Its aim is to articulate these new complex forms so as to offer a conceptual grid of contemporary architecture.


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