Harvard GSD – Studio Abroad – Elements of architecture at the 14th Venice Biennale of Architecture 2014

From the Renaissance onwards, the discourse on architecture was largely based on the definition and analysis of architectural elements. Alberti’s six elements (locality, area, compartition, wall, roof, and opening; 1452), Gottfried Semper’s four elements (hearth, roof, enclosure, mound; 1851) and Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture (pilotis, free facade, open plan, long window, roof garden; 1928) were all, in varying degrees, efforts to analyse the history of buildings. But since the globalization of modern architecture in the second half of the 20th century, the possibility of an elemental systematization of architecture has been largely ignored.

Elements that used to be the speciality of architects – the ceiling and the window, but also even the façade – have become devices, ceded to more advanced technological domains. But despite the attempts of parametric architecture to merge formerly distinct categories like roof, wall, and window into a continuous architectural surface, the fundamental elements of architecture endure, albeit in sometimes radically different forms.

By looking at the evolution of architectural elements across all cultures, the exhibition will avoid the Eurocentrism that still characterises architectural discourse, generating a fresh understanding of the richness of architecture’s fundamental repertoire, apparently so exhausted today…