From: "Rita Campos" <ana-campos@clix.pt>
To: "Arch. Nold Egenter" <negenter@worldcom.ch>
Subject: Architectural research
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 14:03:56 -0000
MIME-Version: 1.0

Dear Mr. Nold Egenter,

I was "traveling" through the imense internet resources looking for information about architectural research, when I saw the DOFSBT Homepage... I was fascinated by the amount and quality of information! It helped my acknowledgment of the subject, so I would like to start by thanking you for the publication of your great work!
I am a Portuguese architectural student and I have been trying to find all the information about architectural research as I would like very much to contribute for this kind of work!
 My degree is of 6 years and the last one (which I will be starting in January 2001) is supposed to be a first contact with the real world of architecture outside the university. Many people go to architectural offices but I would like very much to go to a place where I could give a contribution to architectural research, as I find this field of work of the outmost importance to the improvement of human settlements (in a broader view), and to the formation of the architecture intervinients as myself...
I would like to ask if there would be any chance for me to work in your office, and to devellop a work under the orientation of an architect... I hope that you see my request as someone that is still being born to the architectural research world but is willing to give it's best; and also as someone who is fascinated by your great work; knowledge, and conciuosness of the architectural world!

I have developped, along my degree, severall papers under the orientation of teachers, such as:
  a.. a research about japanese traditional and contemporary architecture (which I would like to give continuity in the future);
  b.. a group research about the city through memory; (I have displayed some online information about this paper);
  c.. a research about architectural utopias through history;
  d.. a research about Ethiopia's traditional architecture (as there will be some reconstruction works of some important monuments and my teacher was assigned to go there, with other architects, to study their construction technics -some are of portuguese influence...);
  e.. a small group research about the impact of new materials, such as plastic, in the future (in terms of reconstruction);
  f.. etc.
I know that this isn't much and that's why I have said that I am still being born to the architectural research world... I have developped a homepage with some information about my objectives, curriculum, portfolio, etc. and I would be much honored if you would kindly see it.


I would like to thank you for the time that you are spending on reading my e-mail and I hope that I haven't been impolite in any way, as I don't have many experience in writting to such a distinguished personality!

Ana Rita Campos


From ???@??? Wed Nov 08 00:11:41 2000
To: "Rita Campos" <ana-campos@clix.pt>
From: negenter@worldcom.ch (Nold Egenter)
Subject: Re: Architectural research
Message-Id: <v01530501b62e272304c3@[]>

Dear Rita Campos,

first please let me thank you for your very kind and enthusiastic letter. I have looked through most of your own homepage and there are many things which tell me that you are a very special person.

Architectural research has become a vast field today (30 years ago nobody spoke about) and its most popular representant is IASTE (International Association for the Study of Traditional Envrionments) at the Univ. of California, Berkeley (adress in our Website). They recently had their meeting in Trani, near Bari, Southern Italy. There are about 3-4000 members worldwide, mainly architects, but also other professionals of the humanities. They publish a journal and organise a conference every second year. The papers are published in a workshop paper series. So, in some way this organisation is very efficient. On the other hand, and from my personal position, they have a strong handicap which lies in the fact that architects have a symbolic education whereas architectural research would require a dominantly scientific view. Consequently these conferences are fairly stereotype, peoples presenting their 'travel-lore', that is, endless presentations of slides of some place somebody visited showing interesting forms of vernacular architecture, or some specific problems related. But nothing builds up over the years. Nearly nobody cites anybody who had studied something before. In this sense the organisation is very inefficient. It always reminds me of those Chinese temples where you pass along prayer mills: while walking you move them a little bit with your fingers, and that is it.

In contrast to this I have tried to systematise a domain which is essentially built on scientific principles (see AHA 1). Not of the history of art, but based on anthropological outlooks. It was definitely related to architecture at the beginning but increasingly it grew into other dimensions, mainly into all fields of culture. It became evident that architecture is much more ancient than any aspect and type of culture we know and thus it could have been formative for stuctural traits of culture, not just one, but all cultures, that is cross culturally!  This meant an enormous investment of studies into other disciplines of the humanities, their main theories and strategies and how these could be applied to an 'architectural evolution'.

This turned out to be the main problem of the whole. I am convinced up to 100% that the concept has answers for many problems today. On the other hand it requires a relatively wide basic knowledge. But, society is an extremely 'inert' thing. It will not easily change, even if you have good arguments. Architects want to continute to play their symbolic game, and society will continue to think that they need architect stars (see my Barcelona Manifesto).

To give you an explicit example: I have been working with Paul Oliver for his Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World. After a certain time of cooperation, I became aware that he had rather an English 'Arts and Crafts' concept, which was mainly focussed on 'shelter', on domestic architecture. It excluded anything having to do with religion in the framework of architecture. But in my concept religion appeared as an expression of semantic architecture. If I would apply this point strictly, the whole Encyclopedia  devoted to domestic architecture  would have to be considered theoretically misleading (note that 'semantic architecture' is a global and universal phenomenon).

These are some points for the moment. Anyways, our DOFSBT working environment looks quite different than an architect's office. We do studies in India, in the backcountries of the Philippines, eventually in Africa. The results are put into the internet. Later it will also become published in bookform. I would be interested to obtain your study of Ethiopia, and, maybe, if you have some knowledge in Portuguese folklore: are there festivals in rural Portugal where they build pillars, colums, huts and the like with plant materials (grasses, twigs, branches) at the occasion of cyclic farming events? Please have a look at the PDF documentation 'Main Book', it gives you some ideas what one can relate to 'semantic architecture'.

Let us remain in touch!


Nold Egenter


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