The diagram has become an increasingly popular tool amongst contemporary architects for conveying large amounts of information in meaningful ways. It may have a storied past, from the earliest architectural drawings, to Maxwell’s Demon, but Stan Allen’s reflection on the diagram brings to light a new appreciation, built out of necessity for our time and age. Where society has become inundated with information, we require new ways of organizing and communicating intelligently the import aspects of our human ecology. The argument as to architecture being an autographic or allographic practice, with particular consideration about the diagram, is interesting as the diagram shows that it can be both. When we look at the communication aspects of architecture, it is impossible to sum up all flows through experiential analysis, yet any well constructed, organized system of flows may be accurately depicted through convention and notation. Clarity and comprehensibility become key, but as Allen notes, they can shed new light on properties previously misunderstood or unrecognized.
At one point, Allen goes on to describe “Diagram Architecture,” that which emerges from the “diagrammatic sensibility,” generating a notational and minimized argument for physical construction. This is notable and appreciated, utilizing simplicity for communication’s sake in the generation of architecture. However, Allen follows this by writing, “Consequently, architecture’s traditional claim to transform its material – the last vestige of architecture’s connection to magic and alchemy – is undermined as well.” This caught my attention, wondering whether simplicity must lack a general whimsy. While it may be considered unnecessary, even childish, I believe that there is an allowance for playfulness in architecture and that diagrams may even help in this sense. While the purpose and utility of the diagram is established, there is no limit on its ability to communicate emotions. As Allen frames the diagram, there is a general lack of humanistic sensibility. They exist in a preset frame, where the information is awaiting extraction. How can that notion be overturned, or modified to make room for an emotional intervention?