The question of non standard form


METU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, vol.25, no.2, pp.171-183, 2008 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 25 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Journal Name: METU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI)
  • Page Numbers: pp.171-183
  • Keywords: non standard, organic, formal processes, formalism, intuitionism
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Originally written as a curatorial essay for the international architectural exhibition "Non Standard Architectures" at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2002-2003), this paper discusses the formal and epistemic implications of the advent of this new paradigm (1). The non standard inscribes itself within the realm of contemporary architectural experimentations making extensive use of recent computational design technologies and its formal catalogue is marked by highly complex dynamic forms that indicate a revival of the organic tradition. The paper recasts this recent organicism in historical continuity with the early modern organic tradition, in order to highlight and reassess this formal tradition resurfacing today. Early modernist and non standard instances of the organic lineage show a remarkable formal reminiscence which conceals however significant epistemological, perceptual, geometric/mathematical and technological distinctions. The paper discusses this reminiscence in terms of a powerful 'gestalt switch' which is both perceptual and epistemic. The modernist mechanic-organic debate is hence revisited in terms of a basic epistemological distinction which invariably associates intelligibility in formal processes with stability and identity, as displayed in typical, standardized forms, while organic formal processes are defined as individualistic, subjectivist, intuitionist processes that escape systematic analysis and rationalization. The debate invariably records a negative anchorage of the organic in modernist thinking, as a counter-modern instrument denouncing mechanic normativity or standardization.