Tectonic memoirs: the epistemological parameters of tectonic theories of architecture
Rizzuto, Anthony P.
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The purpose of architectural theory is to provide a paradigm, or episteme, from which one can address contemporary design issues within the broader cultural context. It comprises any written system of architecture and may be either partial or comprehensive, but it must encompass a framework of cognitive categories that inevitably provide criteria for judgment. If not explicitly stated, it nevertheless implies an epistemology, a substructure for architectural knowledge. Previous studies of tectonics have tended to treat it as an autonomous architectural discourse, focusing on an individual writer and theory, or on a thematic concern such as the relationship between ontology and representation. This study approaches tectonics differently, relating it to the broader shifts within the discourses of architecture and philosophy, thereby sanctioning a more synergistic, as opposed to autonomous, examination. In exploring the epistemological parameters of tectonics theories in the West it isolates three major periods in its development: Classical Tectonics- derived from ancient philosophy, Rational Tectonics- emerging from the epistemology of science and Poetic Tectonics- developed out of concerns raised by the German Counter- Enlightenment and the Romantic Movement. At each stage in its development tectonics has served to provide key principles that collectively constitute its ground. The study reveals that Poetic Tectonics was a reaction against the duality of mind and abstract rationalism- so central to Cartesian thought and the epistemology of science- and its impact on architectural thought. In response Poetic Tectonics while accepting the key principles of Rational Tectonics sought to redirect it along the philosophical lines of the 2 German Enlightenment and Romanticism while also re-presencing the ethical substructure of Classical Tectonics. This study recognizes that through the course of time, the epistemology upon which cultures are formed have and will continue to change and as they do new tectonic theories will need to be negotiated; rendering tectonics in a continual state of 'becoming'. If there is to be a conclusion it lies in the fact that in its historical persistence and continuity tectonics represents a tradition within Western architecture on par with the likes of the Vitruvian, Organic and Functionalist.