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Detail: The Essential Essence of Architecture?

Part 1 Dissertation 2005
Colin Boylan
Plymouth University Plymouth UK
Within many contemporary architectural practices, much time, consideration and effort has been, and is, attributed to the production of appropriate and often beautiful architectural details.
However, widespread discussion regarding meaning within detail appears to be largely marginalized and mainly considered within the realms of the pragmatic or constructional problem solving and as such, it does not readily engage with the possible weight of associated meanings, intellectual and expressive potentials that are inherent within these details.

This essay investigates the meaning and expressive potential inherent within detail, the importance and significance of detail within architecture and explores the question to whether an essential essence of architecture can be contained within the details. The exploration is focused on the particular importance and implications that the details possess at the core of an architectural experience and analyses their role in the generation of a meaningful architectural expression. In this, the essay will emphasise the details as being much more than a constructional consequence within the technical assembly of building but as highly significant within a complete and considered architectural response.

To interpret and engage with these meanings and essences, the essay will explore how varied and opposed considerations of detail have been developed through the writings of Ford, Frascari, Frampton, and Gregotti.

Colin Boylan


The essay addresses a key theoretical discourse on the relationship between an architecture and its details. It has been submitted both for the clarity as well as the density of its argument and because it articulates the Plymouth School's engagement with making and materiality as a pivotal issue in architecture.

Detail was comprehensively researched. Several demanding texts like those of Frascari and Gregotti were read and absorbed as well as seminal works by Ford and Frampton before the essay was careful constructed and illustrated.

The essay has also been a major influence on the development of the student's design work.

2005
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