Toward the Body of Work

19Jan16

Michael Meredith

November 2015

Excerpt from Log 35, Fall 2015
Building per se as an architectural project has become the dominant discursive model, fragmenting the field into smaller and smaller niches and engendering a retreat into isolated images of individual buildings. Upholding the building as the discipline’s primary epistemic unit suggests a form of architectural knowledge that is at once isolated and totalizing – a momentary construction that reproduces its own self-evident truths. An alternative formulation, by contrast, might propose the gradual accumulation of relationships not just between individual buildings but also between various architectural formats and representational practices. Today we must claim a space for architectural discourse that is neither a metanarrative of a project nor the atomization of architecture into buildings but the idea of a collection, an oeuvre, a body of work. As a way to construct relationships between buildings, objects, drawings, and other innumerable fragments of architectural practice and to incorporate them into a difficult whole, the body of work exceeds individual buildings and the contingencies of practice. It returns agency to the architect, without an a priori project; it also shifts away from the contingent instantiations of buildings – that is, the images circulated by social media – and toward something more protracted, something that emerges and changes over time. Further, if the Wölfflinian mode of comparison – of understanding this architecture in relation to that architecture – remains our primary model for discussing and evaluating architecture, the body of work provides a context for discourse that is not simply the particulars of a single project but rather a more comprehensive model for connecting the dots over time.
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