Reading 10 – Colquhoun

The idea of rhetoric in architecture poses a conflicting situation whereby the architect relies on previously determined typologies to turn public opinion in their favor, while sacrificing autonomy or freedom of form in order to relate to or fulfill a cultural stereotype. In Colquhoun’s piece on architectural criticism, he brings up an interesting concept about the figure and its embodied rhetoric. The figure is not a static physical form, but an embodiment of an idea, “the purpose of this representation is persuasion.” In architecture we understand this as the basic elements of construction: walls, columns, floors and the roof. Without these elements, the nature of the construction lacks architectural persuasion. The rhetoric comes from “a series of complex experiences which are diffuse and imperceptible.” This causes me to question to what degree rhetoric in architecture can be utilized to convince the occupant of the spatial quality, maintaining typology but encouraging autonomy.

Colquhoun later goes on to succinctly define the transition or reason for morphology in architectural typology, the shift in ideology. “The original meanings attached to the orders and the typological catalogue became either vague or trivialized, and the underlying system of thought decomposed into a sort of diffuse memory.” This pulls together considerations of rhetoric biological processes in architecture. It is an argument which can relate to any of the shifts in style where the rhetorical understanding of figure fades and there becomes an opportunity to have new ideologies accepted. But this does not seem to be a constant occurrence; the rhetoric in the 1920’s and 30’s was incredibly persuasive. Ultimately, I question to what extent the rhetoric is effective today, whether we are operating in a time of vagueness or precision, and how open to change our ecology may be.

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About jasonsedar

My final year of architecture school at the University of Calgary!
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