By @natekev for #UjenziBora

This is a Guest Blog done by my dear friend Nathaniel Kevin who is always inspirational, motivated and Involved. I am grateful he put this brilliant piece together.


We’re all used to defining ‘truth’ as the thing that corresponds to fact or reality, and thus ‘untruth’ would be the exact opposite. In Architecture however, ‘truth’ or ‘untruth’ refers to the relationship between form and construction or between form and content: Form would be in relation to the physical appearance of a structure, construction being the process of actualizing the physical properties of the structure and content being the constituents of the structure’s physical properties.

The most critical question, however, with regards to truth and untruth in Architecture is: How does form in design express technique…or better yet, how does technique inspire form? Discussions about ‘honesty’ have often played an important role in architectural theory; these are expressed with regard to 3 fundamental architectural elements:

  • Form
  • Expression
  • Construction

Auguste Perret, a well-known, respected author and architect said this, ‘It is by the splendor of truth that the building attains beauty’. By the term ‘truth’, Perret meant the definition of form based on materials and their appropriate use in construction.

Thus I ask, how much ‘truth’ do you see in the Kenyan skyline?

In architecture today, technique is applied in building in several ways:

Technique is sometimes glorified, becoming the exclusive source of form. A technical aesthetic is applied to give a natural logic of construction. The structure is expressed vividly in a visual manner so as to be understood by the eye. This does not mean however, that the logic of construction is sacrificed. This technique is most successful in projects with an unequivocal brief or requirement, such as civil engineering e.g long span bridges… but may not be suitable for residential houses. Examples of this technique are Joseph Paxton’s famous Crystal Palace in London or Santiago Calatrava’s Alamillo Bridge. A local example would be the Panari Sky Centre.

Sometimes technique is exclusively used as an image, where it is not guided by the explosive articulation of the potential inherent in a technology, in simple English, the Architect does not show off his technical prowess as such, to a degree. Technological imagery sets a challenge to conventional forms though as the architect is forced to experiment, especially during World Trade Fairs or Expos, like the current on-going one in Shanghai, China. These designs do not however, find a place in urban architecture or posterity of the design. A local example would be the Sarakasi Dome in Ngara.

At other times technique is falsified by giving an illusion of a technique other than that which has really been used. This is used when the appearance of the technique is not visually appealing and the Architect makes it disappear behind decoration. It has been criticized though for its nature to represent a resistance toward architectural innovation e.g the columns on the public toilet just outside the National Archives, which were constructed to allude to its environment.

Sometimes it is subdued to formal ends inspired by the art of abstract painting and sculpture which can produce ghastly results or magnificent creations…and lastly, technique is tamed by exploiting the logic of construction without giving it a privileged and independent status. Form and technique thus have a balanced relationship; this is best shown in Cathedrals such as the Holy Family Basilica. The different ways in which technique is handled by different architects displays the contradictory choices they are faced with.

Ultimately, what separates architecture from other types of design, such as painting, sculpture and arts and crafts are two fundamental principles:

  • Architecture must deal with gravity – the forms must, by necessity, express this fact
  • Architecture consists of hollow forms – in order to accommodate the internal space which is the reason for its being, or as the French say, raison deter

Kindest Regards,

David Nahinga | Blog Originally done by Kevin Nathaniel | Twitter: @natekev


~ by ujenzibora on June 20, 2010.

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