Research in Penn's Graduate Group in Architecture is carried out in any one of six fields of specialization. Three are internal to the discipline of architecture (history and theory, representation, and technology) and the others are in related disciplines (landscape architecture, urbanism, and historic preservation). The dissertation is undertaken after the completion of required and elective courses, and examinations in history and theory, the literature of a student's field, and foreign languages. Much of the scholarship in the program seeks to provide a theoretical context for contemporary practice.
PublicationAfter Typology: The Suffering of Diagrams(2000-01-11) Braham, WilliamArchitects produce diagrams, not buildings, but diagrams that are wholly immanent, wholly embedded and coextensive with the materials, configurations, and forms of buildings. Theories of representation and expression have tended to privilege the concept over the building, treating the artifact as a site of interpretation, a mere extension of the process of its production. But if such concepts could be adequately expressed or understood separately from their manifestations, then the buildings themselves would be unnecessary. Architectural concepts only exist fully in their realization, as discoveries through the non-linear process called design. That condition of immanence inspires the recurring attention to method and process in the architectural discourse and equally the frustration with the embedded quality of the theorizing that it reveals. PublicationCorrealism and Equipoise: Observations on the Sustainable(1999) Braham, WilliamModern environmentalism originates with the recognition of ecological connectivity and the negative effects of technological intervention. This paper examines critical concepts developed by the architect Frederick Kiesler and the critic-historian Siegfried Giedion for their relevance to that discourse. Kiesler’s principle of Correalism and Gieidon’s appeal for Equipoise offer both a prehistory to the current mandates about sustainability and cautions about its limitations. The sustainable is ultimately a social condition that cannot be applied therapeutically nor ever wholly institutionalized. PublicationBiotechniques: Form Follows Flow?(2003-01-01) Braham, WilliamThis paper examines the eco-systems model that underlies the LEED Green Building Rating System, comparing it to a number of other contemporary manifestations of the same model. As attendants at Greenbuild know well, the rating system offers credit for a number of well-recognized strategies that improve resource efficiency and indoor quality. Those strategies are based on an ecological model of the building and its occupants, which views them as agents in a dynamically interconnected system of flows and exchanges. between humans, their technological activities, and the biosphere. Or, in Sim van der Ryn's apt motto of ecological design: "form follows flow." (van der Ryn 2003) PublicationEyes That Do Not See? The Practice of Sustainable Architecture(1995) Braham, WilliamUnder New York law, roof-top water towers are invisible. The terms of the code are not vague; the silhouette of a water tower and the shadow it casts are transparent to the zoning envelope and the sky-exposure plane. This is not, of course, truly mysterious; it results from the neglect of a small effect in the guarantee of sufficient light at street level. But water towers are invisible in quite another sense and this raises useful questions about architecture. PublicationThe Persistence of the Open Flame: Work and Waste in the Healthy, Modern Home(1999-11-06) Braham, WilliamWe still maintain open flames in our homes despite the development of cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient devices that can provide the same heat or light, often with greater comfort and control. My attention was drawn to this condition by Wolfgang Schivelbush's thoughtful book on the industrialization of light in the nineteenth century, which recounted the rejection of gas and then electric lighting in the living rooms of bourgeois and upper-class houses in Europe. A similar condition exists in America and, for example, we still light candles when we sit down to particular kinds of meals, whether those are ritual meals like thanksgiving and the Passover Seder, or intimate occasions, or even expensive restaurants. PublicationActive Glass Walls: A Typological and Historical Account(2005-01-01) Braham, WilliamThis paper provides a summary analysis of the typological and historical development of active glass walls. From the beginning of the glass revolution, the fascination with large areas of transparency has been tempered by the negative environmental effects they can produce: excessive heat loss when it is cold, excessive heat gain when the sun shines, and even excessive daylighting. PublicationWhere Architecture Meets Biology: An Interview with Detlef Mertins(2007-01-01) Mertins, DetlefI began doing research on Mies van der Rohe in the early nineties, after Fritz Neumeyer had published his book The Artless World, (1994). Neumeyer foregrounds Mies' library, the books that Mies read. He was also the first to collect all the things that Mies himself wrote. One of the things that I found very surprising was that Mies was a reader of science, and especially of biology in the 1920s. He had a collection of about 40 books by the botanist Raoul Francé, the author of Der Sanze als Erfinder ("The Plant as Inventor," 1920). This was surprising, for I had always thought of modernism as an architecture of technology rather than an architecture that was imbued with organic aspirations and ethos. One thought of organic architecture more in terms of biomorphic form; in the German context, one thought of Hugo Häring, but not the straight-up-and-down, orthogonal architecture that Mies developed, or his expression of structure. PublicationEmergence-cy! Notes on the Flow of Information in Architecture(2002-01-01) Braham, WilliamFor architecture, the critical tool of the information age has been neither the telephone, the computer, nor even the network, but the constantly expanding Sweet's Catalog and the whole messy system of distributing information about building materials, products, and processes. Sweet's originated in the 1890s as a service of F.W. Dodge Construction (who also began publishing the Architectural Record at the same time). PublicationWork 2005/2006(2006-02-18)WORK is an annual publication of the Department of Architecture that documents student work in design studios and courses in the Master of Architecture and Post-Professional programs, as well as events, faculty news and student awards. It also includes abstracts of PhD dissertations defended that year. It provides an opportunity to explore the creative work of our students and is a permanent record of work in the Department. PublicationWalter Benjamin and the Tectonic Unconscious: Using Architecture as an Optical Instrument(1999) Mertins, DetlefThe writings of Walter Benjamin include appropriations and transformations of modernist architectural history and theory that offer an opportunity to broaden the interpretation of how the relationship between the 'unconscious' and technologically aided 'optics' is figured in his commentaries on cultural modernity. This essay focuses on three moments in his writings, each of which touches on this topic in a different way: first, on Benjamin's reading of Carl Bötticher's theory of architectural tectonics as a theory of history in which the unconscious serves as a generative and productive source that challenges the existing matrix of representation; secondly, on Benjamin's transformation of Sigfried Giedion's presentation of iron structures into optical instruments for glimpsing a space interwoven with unconsciousness, a new world of space the image of which had seemingly been captured by photography; and thirdly, on Benjamin's suggestion that the mimetic faculty continues to play within representation, history and technology to produce similarities between the human and the non-human. In each instance, Benjamin reworked the dynamic dualism of nineteenth-century architectural tectonics - (self)representation seeking reconciliation with alterity - into a dialectic. In so doing, he set the cause of revolution (of a modernity yet to come) against metaphysical and utopian claims, progressive and regressive alike.