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Autonomy in Architecture

Part 2 Dissertation 2012
John-Mark Vinten
Robert Gordon University, UK
The idea that architecture could be based on certain detached universal qualities is in
vehement opposition to contemporary post-history, relativist thought. Against this
backdrop of post-theory, this dissertation is an attempt to reconcile the contemporary
relativist critique of the assertion of absolutes with the belief that certain facets of the discipline of architecture can be said to be autonomous and therefore fundamental. Historic discussion around the idea of autonomy follows an eclectic and non-linear route. The 1960s transition from Modernism to Post-Moderism contained a crisis in architectural theory due to mounting external influence. This provided a platform for a small but vocal group of protagonists to argue the case for autonomy in architecture retaining intrinsic, fundamental aspects of architecture, while many sedimented or habitual aspects of architecture were being eroded away by a populist reaction.

Discussion on the exact nature of autonomous principles centred around form and program. John Summerson, Reyner Banham and Peter Eisenman comprised a triad of representative standpoints, each theorising a different generator for autonomy. This study of the last serious historical and theoretical dialogue on the subject of autonomy in architecture is intended to be a pre-emptive re-introduction to the subject. The desire is to open the debate on how autonomous qualities and a detached discipline might offer a critique to relativism. At a time where the drive for disciplinary integration
is diluting the fundamentals of what architecture is, the critical voice of autonomy appeals to the qualities of architecture with the belief that architecture is strongest when it
resonates with the absolute. The translation of an autonomous conceptual basis into a
physical manifestation appropriate to external determinants is the fundamental problem in architecture.

John-Mark Vinten

Penny Lewis
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