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International Symposium - Standard Architecture: From Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand to BIM

International Symposium
Standard Architecture
From Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand to BIM
20 - 22 October 2017
Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt am Main

Standardization has played a key role in architecture and construction since the Enlightenment. It accelerates building production, reduces costs, and assures quality control, at least in theory. The classical modernists of the 20th century treated standardization and normalization as engines of social and technical progress. Even though concepts for mandatory, form-giving standards--like those proposed by Ernst Neufert--never established themselves, there are more standards today than ever before. Despite appeals to cultural specificity, standards shape processes and products all around the world through the digitization and rationalization of cognitive processes. With the introduction of BIM (Building Information Modeling), these processes are becoming increasingly relevant. At the same time, catastrophes like the Grenfell Tower fire in London or the collapse of the Savar building in Bangladesh are drastic examples of the failure of standards as a result of neoliberal policies. In the scope of the three-day conference at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum, more than 30 international experts from a wide range of disciplines debate the cultures of standardisation from 1800 up to the present, focusing on the standardisation of design processes, construction processes and building components and their effects on architecture.

Speakers will include:

Georg Augustin (Augustin und Frank Architekten Berlin) Manfred Grohmann (Bollinger + Grohmann, Frankfurt Main),  Alexander Klose (Author/ Container Researcher); Markus Krajewski (Universität Basel Professor für Medienwissenschaft), Antoine Picon (Harvard University, GSD, Director of Research), Alexander Rieck (Lava Architects), Monika -Thomas (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conversation, Building and Nuclear Safety), Nader Vossoughian (New York Institute of Technology, School of Architecture and Design), Georg Vrachliotis (KIT-Karlsruhe, Professur für Architekturtheorie), Matthias Witte (DIN-Normen-ausschuss Bauwesen)

Detailled program at http://www.uni-kassel.de/go/standard

Standardized Design Processes

Modernity has given rise to processes that rationalize, systematize, and accelerate the designing of buildings. More structures need to be built more quickly all the time. Designs are often executed by unskilled or semi-skilled workers. Buildings are being erected in disparate places around the world through the use of identical specifications. To make all this possible, design tools have been created that enable people to generate and implement a great number of design-related tasks simultaneously. Today, Building Information Modeling Systems (BIM) use standardized forms of information to automate planning and design and to supplement human with artificial forms of intelligence.  

Standardized Building Elements 

Ernst Neufert tried to standardize architecture at all scales, from the very small to the very big. Adopting paper formats as his model, he sought to systematize building components using (among other means) his octametric system of dimensional coordination. This project reached its climax in the 1970s, but lost a good deal of its currency in the years thereafter. Today, there are more standards than ever--and they often operate on a national and international level--but their influence on form-making has proven harder to trace. It goes without saying that they continue to shape the design of spaces that have a great number of technical needs and requirements (kitchens and offices, for example), as well as temporary buildings and storage facilities (containers and container ports, for example). 

Standardized Building Processes

While knowledge rested squarely with the individual producer in premodern societies, it can be said that it is anchored today in objectified rules and specifications, many of which are sanctioned by liability concerns and multi-national contractual agreements. Arguably, standardization ensures that products that are manufactured by different companies are in fact compatible. This is important where the manufacturing of building components is concerned.  According to some, however, it can also stifle innovation and compromise the exercise of know-how and common sense.  

Drawing on the results of the symposium, ARCH+ will publish a special issue dedicated to the topic.

Supported by Forschungsinitiative Zukunft Bau - BBSR/  BMUB (Bundesinstitut für Bau-, Stadt- und Raumforschung / Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG, Wüstenrot Stiftung and Pfeiffer Stiftung

Organized by the Department of Architectural Theory and Design, Prof. Philipp Oswalt, University of Kassel

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SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation for its operating support.
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