The image of function: Architectural diagrams in handbooks and normative practices in the twentieth century

Paul Frederick Emmons, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Diagrams are widely understood as thin descriptions that are transparent to the facts they represent. Twentieth-century planning handbooks, especially Architectural Graphic Standards, Time-Saver Standards, and Bau-entwurfslehre, assert and isolate the facticity of functional architectural thought derived from scientific management, technocracy, and logical positivism. Charles Sanders Peirce's semiotics is used to examine the nature of diagrams as indexical icons. Dashed lines are examined to demonstrate how the smallest diagrammatic marks are already meaningful in the particular nature of their construction. Schemas, or fundamental diagrammatic structures such as rota, ladder, and network, are shown to influence the range of the imagination and are studied through their continuity, change, and manipulation. Through historical analysis primarily based in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century, particular diagrams such as aspect, bubble, and flow diagrams are shown to be thick descriptions of the world that require interpretation. Architectural diagrams are interpreted both visually and relationally. The functional bubble diagram for example, is interpreted geometrically as a future physical building and topologically as a series of functional relations. When released from its restricted factual sense, the architect's functional imagination is enriched through thick interpretation of diagrams.

Subject Area

Architecture

Recommended Citation

Emmons, Paul Frederick, "The image of function: Architectural diagrams in handbooks and normative practices in the twentieth century" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3087395.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3087395

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