Visiting Scholar Seminar: Robert Somol

Repetition and the Avantgarde: The Emergence of the Diagram in Contemporary Architecture
Seminar, 23 July 1999

Robert Somol present his research about the fundamental technique and procedure of architectural knowledge has shifted over the second half of the twentieth century from the drawing to the diagram.

With the increasing inability after the war to link convincingly the formal and functional ambitions of modernism, the first appearances of the diagram solidify around two possible axes, which Colin Rowe would later identify as “paradigm” (the embrace of a priori ideals) and “program” (the empirical solicitation of facts). While Rowe significantly notes that both positions “condemn us to no more than simple repetition,” he ultimately endorses the side of paradigm (or type) and suggests that it is precisely the drawing that will overcome the diagrammatic alternatives he so ably identifies but too quickly dismisses. In lieu of a return to drawing and modified types, however, an alternative version of repetition (a potentially non-linear mode of repetition) has more recently been pursued by rethinking and extending the logic of the diagram. Thus, the rise of the diagram, a more polemical device that the drawing, accompanies a breakdown of the post-Renaissance consensus on the role of the architect, and achieves its apotheosis with the emergence of the “information architects” (or architect-critics) after 1960.

Robert Somol is a member of Pollari x Somol. Since 1989, he has been visiting professor at several schools of architecture including Harvard, Columbia, Chicago and Los Angeles. He led the preparation of the book Autonomy and Ideology: Positioning an Avantgarde in America (Monacelli Press) published in 1997.

Robert Somol was a Visiting Scholar at the CCA in 1999.


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