This paper analyzes a peculiar re-fit of visual appearance and functional organization in recent work by the leading Dutch practices OMA, MVRDV, and Neutelings Riedijk Architects in order to formulate their polyvalent design models. Juxtaposition of internal and external expressions of symptomatic projects signals that appearance neither strictly follows programmatic structure, nor overwrites it with autonomous formal production. Despite a potentially schizophrenic split, projects reveal a design consistency. To elucidate this paradoxical escape, three main propositions advance an alternative analytical framework. First, external expression is aligned with a conceptual shift from ‘form’ to immediate, arbitrary and adaptable ‘shape’. Second, programmed shapes are set within the general diagrammatic project, while repositioning the theoretical construct of the “abstract machine” as a practical tool. Diagrammatic control helps explain mediation between spatial and social criteria as well as pre-formal and pre-functional options. Most importantly, the investigation is structured by comparative analyses of contemporary shape diagrams and their proposed precedents – “decorated”, “concretized” and “totemized” diagrams as defined by Klaus Herdeg in his account of the faulty functionalism of Philip Johnson, John Johansen, and I. M. Pei, among others. These three modes of ‘loose fit’ (a programmatic structure concealed or simulated via decorative surface; a built diagram re-shaped as concrete material for decoration; and a programmatic assembly reworked into a totemic shape by adjusting scale, hierarchy and profile) convert the seemingly destabilizing rift into a productive alignment of formal and programmatic expression. Such loose modes of alignment ensure expedient and resilient functional schemes while leaving room for tactile textures, exuberant patterns and evocative forms. Flexible diagrammatic models allow designers to separate exterior and interior definition, switch between affect and efficiency, and reconcile formal and programmatic structures. Through implicit recovery and synthesis of previously underestimated models, the Dutch experiments mitigate the persistent divide between formalism and functionalism.
|Keywords:||Diagram, Decoration, Program, Functionalism, Shape, Image, Transparency, Loose Fit, Method, Technique|
Course Master, School of Architecture, Architectural Association, London, UK