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Heuretics & Cyber-history In the Design Studio

CYBER-HISTORY: Applied Heuretics; Section 3

The CATTt Generator is used to simulate inventio, the complex and obscure contingencies of invention, in method production. Just as Ulmer analyzed historic discourses on method to formulate the CATTt, it can in turn be used as a concise tool to analyze instances of historic method production. CATTt analysis is particularly well-suited to the pedagogy of the architectural design studio, offering a conceptual tool that can engage both architectural history and design, and decrease student anxiety by articulating the agency of the designer in method production. CATTt analysis places the student in the role of de Certeau’s productive consumer. For de Certeau, consumption is devious and ubiquitous:

It [consumption] insinuates itself everywhere, silently and almost invisibly, because it does not manifest itself through its own products, but rather through its ways of using the products imposed by a dominant economic order. (de Certeau 2002, xii-xiii)

In the studio, the student is asked to consume history as information used toward the production of new work. This is not a hermeneutic task, where the student as receiver is to decode a message sent by the teacher, but rather an activity where the student must use inference to fill a gap. The gap is a part of the assignment that cannot be conveyed by the teacher but nevertheless must be provided by the student, namely an individual method of production, the produced design project being an instance of that method.

CATTt analysis begins in the studio with the selection of a building to study. This selection can be performed by the students, in which case they should choose a building in which they have personal interest and is sufficiently well-documented, or it can be organized by the instructor. The number of buildings analyzed, and whether or not they are considered to form experimental sets, will alter the results of the studio, and should be carefully considered beforehand. The students then research the buildings, the narratives of their commission, design, and construction, their citations and discussion as exemplars or topics in criticism and architectural theory, and possibly their appearances in popular culture. The building is researched as an instance of the method used to design it. Simulating the project’s design inventio with the CATTt Generator makes it possible to treat the precedent as a design method experiment that can be repeated or moditied in the present. Through research, the students attempt to formulate the most likely content for each component of the CATTt that simulates the inventio that produced the design. Presentation of the CATTt analysis and studio discussion should be documented by each student in a multimedia assemblage (a website is appropriate, but physical formats could also be prescribed effectively) containing the operative materials identified through analysis. Gathering these assemblages together in a collective database of findings concludes this stage of the project.

Once the students have familiarized themselves with history, theory, and criticism of architecture through their analytical use of the CATTt Generator to simulate the inventio of precedents, they can begin using the CATTt Generator projectively, to produce a method to design a new architecture. Students can be provided with a program, site, clients, etc, in the manner familiar to studio pedagogy. Each student is then free to raid the CATTt database for the most appropriate components to apply to the new experiment in method production, carefully documenting the role played by each chosen component. If the professor is interested in pursuing this trajectory in the production of architectural poetics, each student can also begin mapping their own design inventio; A series of assignments can direct each student to identify their affective relationship with their chosen field of study and profession (Ulmer 2003). Armed with a collection of inventio simulations, the student has an index of architectural tactics, the value of each to be determined through their application to cross a gap, solve a problem, or produce the appropriate design amidst the dynamic contingencies of practice.

HEURETICS: The Rhetoric of Invention

Cyber-history Applied:

CATTt Analysis of Le Corbusier's

When the Cathedrals Were White, Part 1


  • de Certeau, M. 2002. The Practice of Everyday Life. S. Rendall, trans. University of California Press: Berkeley.

  • Ulmer, G. 2003. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy. Pearson Education, Inc: New York.

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