Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

For our first assignment for Introduction to Construction Engineering, we watched a video about the IRC, International Residential Code, and the benefits of having a code. From my experience of taking a couple design courses offered at the Colorado School of Mines, I knew that codes were the rule books to building infrastructure. My understanding was that there were very few negatives to codes. It exists so that we don’t build something that slaughters its inhabitants…However, the video also proposed a con that I have never really thought about. Codes restrict what we can do. We are bound by these rules, which could potentially hinder us from trying out new methods of construction. On the contrary, architects, who engineers work closely with on a regular basis, are not restricted. These individuals are the ones that challenge the engineers to step out of their comfort zones and break any sort of trend within the industry.

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi is a book I have recently started to read. The language used in this book is extremely difficult to comprehend from an engineer’s view point but is something I want to challenge myself to understand. As an aspiring structural engineer, I believe that appreciating architecture and its infinite perspectives is something I need to understand.

The introduction to this book compares the works of Robert Venturi, an American architect considered to be one of the major figures of architecture in the 20th century, and Le Corbusier, a Swiss-French architect who paved the way to modern architecture. They are two architects who learned from past architecture and weren’t afraid to try out new concepts to change the trend. It has been said that recessions are golden opportunities for architects. There’s no money to spend, so naturally, infrastructures start to look bland and boring. This period of “boringness” allows time for aspiring architects to reset and come up with new ideas. These new ideas challenge the engineers to step up and contribute to a new era in design.

I have spoken with a few engineers in the past who had no interest in architecture and therefore had zero understanding about the work that gets put into one design.  However, I can say for certain that architecture  is not:

  1. Easy
  2. Based off of plainly on whether it looks nice
  3. A profession that is inconsiderate of the engineer

There’s always different perspectives to things. After reading a couple pages out of this book as well as spending a summer working with architects, I’ve come to view architects as not people that make unreasonable designs and force them onto engineers, but as individuals that challenge us and help us continue to grow.



One thought on “Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

  1. Architects are also restricted by the codes, but in different ways. For example, building codes have a lot of requirements for building egress — the rapid evacuation of buildings in the event of a disaster, such as a fire. These dictate things like minimum widths of corridors, number and location of exit stairs, etc. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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