Architectural Knowledge: writing, drawing, building?, by Lara Schrijver

Though architecture was historically considered the ‘mother of the Arts’, it is now often treated as the stepchild of the sciences. As a broad field of research related to the humanities, the arts and the sciences, it is caught between craft and discipline, science and design, history and culture. Although it offers a unique blend of many approaches – ‘nursed by the knowledge of many arts and sciences’ according to Vitruvius – this also makes its research diffuse, raising the question: what constitutes the body of knowledge specific to architecture?

In itself this is not a new question, but the past 30 years of ‘pulp theory’ have made the vocabulary of the architecture discourse sufficiently fragile that a direct discussion of architectural principles has become increasingly difficult. If we are to treat it as a discipline proper, then we need to be clear about its parameters and its instruments. This involves studying the relationship between explicit and implicit ideas (as manifest in texts, drawings, buildings), as well as exploring how these ideas become a ‘body of knowledge’ (are communicated and disseminated).

Some of the most influential ideas in the architecture discourse were disseminated through more than one medium of communication – ranging from a primarily linguistic theoretical vocabulary, visual and spatial explorations in drawings and models, to the realized buildings that not only posit ideas, but add new, unforeseen realities to their surroundings.

Studying the architecture discourse through these precedents can offer insights into the knowledge-base of architecture: not as a rigid framework of abstract rules to be followed, but rather as a continually transforming culture of interaction between ideas, texts, drawings and buildings.

Harvard Citation Guide: Schrijver, L. (2010) Architectural Knowledge: writing, drawing, building?, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 23 May 2010, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

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