ARCHITECTURAL PRECEDENTS & MODELS, DESIGN AND HISTORY
The word ‘precedent’ is generally understood to mean a prior example of best practice. Architectural precedents are usually architectural models, from a recent or distant past. Castex et al., define the architectural model as the actual architectural project, based on specific rules, concepts and techniques. Various projects may share the same rules and techniques resulting in distinguishable architectural or urban planning models. One could say, in each plan and design, forms and operations are expressed that structure their composition, which refer to a set of concepts, references and specific techniques that serve as the basis for the design.
The term ‘architectural model’ makes clear that the development of form is not directly related to the translation of a social aim, but that during the development of the design form mediations are used that are specific to architecture and whose history has yet to be written. In the distance between this specific history of mediation and the more general history of society lays the potential input of the discipline of architecture, but also its limits.
This implicates that studies of architectural or urban models are not architectural history studies, for they do not set out to construct or reconstruct history in the sense of establishing causal links on the basis of written sources and archive material. Nor are they architectural theory studies of the coherence and development of various design theories and ideas. Basically, they form the ‘collective memory’ of the discipline of architecture, which contains its body of knowledge and experiences. It forms ‘the stuff’ to work with.
However, the reason to study architectural precedents and architectural models, let say the prototypes and paradigms, is the assumption that we cannot look at the future without looking back, without knowing about the architectural models and their qualities of the past. Or to put in other words, architects cannot produce satisfactory designs for the future without knowing their precedents. This also implies that architectural models, together with the various associated typologies, are understood as the vehicles and the core of architectural knowledge. Additionally, by carrying knowledge and the history of mediation, they are not value-free.
Komossa, S., Gramsbergen, E., Schreurs, E., Spoormans, L., & Teerds, H. (Eds.) (2018). Delft Lecture on Architectural Design 2018/2019. (Academic year 2018/2019 ed.) TU Delft Open.