Earlier this month, I presented an Architecture Forum called Concept and Composition, which sought to explore the line where rigorous adherence to concept meets the artistry of compositional decisions.
I presented a series of 10 projects which I argued represented a continuum from the singular, essential representation of concept to the dominance of compositional expression. The relationship varies from:
• composition in very direct support of the stated concept to
• compositional decisions driven by a separate set of ideas that overlay the concept as a layer of detail (or ornamentation?) to
• compositional moves distinct from the stated design concepts and seeming to exist for their own sake
You can view my presentation here.
Part of the point of my presentation was to elicit a discussion about composition and its role in the design process. Conceptual rigor has an established place in our discourse, but composition is often given short shrift, with the implication that it is arbitrary or capricious.
I posed the following questions to kick off our discussion:
• Can a building be profound without honoring both concept and composition?
• How closely must they be related?
Group Discussion Points
• The term “composition” is loaded. Even with a very pure concept, composition is embedded in the design. It is automatic, intrinsic, essential.
• Some concepts lend themselves more than others to influence composition.
• Rigor is good only if the idea is good; if the idea is bad, rigor makes it worse.
• Composition may not be the right term for the issue at hand; is it artistry or simply ‘design?’
• Duck vs. decorated shed. All projects shown today are ‘decorated sheds.’
• There is also a dial from site/client/program specific to the pure concept.
• What about our buildings? Does program drive concept or not? Our approach varies – some projects submerge program; others celebrate it.
• Some buildings are a singular idea – analogous to a poem rather than a symphony. Most of the projects shown seem to be the former. Our buildings are more symphonic in the number of aspects they incorporate.