Research project


Arte del costruire – The Art of Building” is a research group formed by professors from different academic disciplines (history, architectural design, technology, preservation) working at the School of Architecture IUAV in Venice. Together with the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies of the Milan Politecnico, we are the promoters of a collective project dedicated to the architectural detail titled: “Details. Architecture seen in section”.
Our research stems from different sources, e.g. history of art (see as an example the seminal book by Daniel Arasse, Le Détail, 1992) and architectural theory (Edward Ford, The Architectural Detail, 2011). Within this panorama of visual studies we are investigating the notion of detail with a series of case-studies that will reveal its double significance: its constructive and its formal-expressive meaning.
The research analyses examples from post-WWII architecture, specifically the transformations occurred after the introduction of new constructive forms (the frame) and new building materials (reinforced concrete, steel, glass). The wall has lost its monolithic substance, thus its static and physical performance can only be understood by means of a section; a section revealed by the classic tectonic sequence – socle, building envelope and eaves/roof.

The aim of this research project is to demonstrate how insightful a section can be, in order to represent the complexity of the architectural artifact, since it allows the simultaneous perception of materiality and form, of building envelope and interior spaces. From this point of view, the section acquires an iconic character.
This year, Koolhaas’ Biennale, titled “Fundamentals”, is dedicated to the basic components of the architectural vocabulary (e.g. door, window, roof). Rather than analysing each of these elements as a separate and absolute object, we want to focus on the interplay between them: how is the façade joined with the roof, how is the window inserted into the wall?
Our research project about the detail emphasises the relationship between the different fundamentals in architecture and tackles the issue of tectonic syntax that regulates the architectural composition.

The emblematic character of the section will be highlighted through a series of panels, divided in three major thematic groups:
1. a first group of panels illustrating, in a historical perspective, examples from great masters (Le Corbusier, Wright, The Smithsons, Mies…);
2. a second group of panels will highlight the theoretical framework resulting from our research. The detail will be represented in its different expressive articulations: the detail as decoration, as punctum, as joint/Junktur and as a no-detail. Depending on the compositional strategies used by the architect, the detail can generate different expressive outcomes: it can be isolated (punctum), it can be a part of a wider structural system (joint, Junktur), it can be reduced to a minimum until it disappears (no-detail) or it can be emphasized its expressive nature, thus becoming mere decoration.
3. a third group consists of panels dedicated to a single contemporary architect or architectural office: they are asked to express a peculiar statement about their conception of the detail, and to explain how it is understood and used in their professional activity.

Following the example of a series of portfolios published by the magazine “Architectural Record” in the 1960s (see attachment), architects with different backgrounds and culture are kindly asked to partecipate.
You can download the graphic brief and the Indesign board template clicking on the links here below.

dl-brief  dl-template