28.1.03

Diagrams – The manipulation of space

I have been teaching design through the mechanistic approach of the diagram. In the past five years I have been using diagrams as a means of creating spatial configurations for architectural design, in my office and with my students. Since I was a student at the Architectural Association in London, I became familiarized with the need of understanding a different process which could enable the production of space in architecture away from the modernist idea of the universal. The work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze on cinema and the arts began to be researched in architectural schools. Many of these ideas on diagramming emerge from the work on Minor Languages and Nomad Arts of Deleuze and Guattari.

For Deleuze the painters Francis Bacon and Van Gogh utilize the diagrams as “an operative set of brushstrokes and daubs of color, lines and areas”. So in away painters can be differenced by the set of diagrams they use. For instance Van Gogh’s diagram “is the set of straight and curved crosshatching that raises and lowers the ground, twist the trees, makes the sky palpitate and that assumes a particular intensity from 1888 onward”. Bacon’s diagram is more apparent in that it is used to transform the human face with tensions and torsions that are elliptical in motion. Bacon did not sketch; he used the diagram as the preparatory apparatus for his work.
There are other artists such as Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Mondrian that can be understood through the use of diagramming. It is this same process that ca be used to develop a mechanism for architectural design or the production of spatial organizations. The diagram in architecture tends to be an apparatus that is unrelated to architecture. It is a set of instructions that come from art, science, music, and other techniques that require a specific methodology. In architecture design, sketching has been the classic preliminary technique that has no inherent information and just illustrates a possibility based on subjectivity. Diagrams are in nature abstract and do not illustrate they are informative and engage in a process of expansion through the design. “In this sense the diagram is a virtualization of action, a motor diagram which isn’t a “plan” for what to do, but more a strategy, a fabric of action, where actions aren’t prescribed, but only rules of interaction”.

I will try to elaborate witha few examples in architectural design next time.


1.Gilles Deleuze, ” The Deleuze Reader / edited with an introduction by Boundas, Constantin V”. 1993. Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 193-200

2. Lars Spuybroek, “ The Weight of the Image” 2001. NAI publishers, Rotterdam.


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