Prepared by Mohammad al-Asad and Dalia al-Husseini, 2003
Ozkan stated that the 20th century was an era during which enormous impetus on architectural thinking had evolved. Mies van der Rohe (1886 - 1969) and Walter Gropius (1883 - 69) presented iconic images. Mies did not do much writing, but Gropius, on the other hand, explained his own model set of values composed of dos and don'ts. Le Corbusier essentially presented his ideas in the same manner as Gropius: the roof should be a terrace, the building should be elevated from the ground, ... etc. Ozkan went on to add that early in the century, contributions were made in almost every aspect of architecture, whether on the iconic or pragmatic levels. Consequently, canons and building techniques were put forward. One example is found in the writings of Julien Guadet (1834 - 1908), who was a professor at the French Academy of the Beaux-Arts. Guadet put down a set of design rules that relied on beaux-arts principles such as symmetry and axiality. Also, Ezra Ehrenkrantz developed in the 1960s modular building systems that addressed certain servicing elements of the building, but left its appearance to be determined by the architect. In addition, Le Corbusier made analogies with other areas of technology and produced his own utopia for new urban life.
On the other hand, authors such as Nikolaus Pevsner (1902 - 83), Sigfried Giedion (1888 - 1968), and Bruno Zevi (1918 - 2000) developed a more descriptive handling of architecture. This also is a time when analogies with music arose again under what was called the "theosophy of architecture." Some theories, he explained, aimed at showing how musical scores correspond to buildings, and thus turning them into melodies. For example, in his proportioning of facades and plans architect Claude Bragdon (1866 - 1946) employed ratios expressive of musical intervals (figure 10).
Ozkan explained that a substantial re-formulation came from Giedion who for the first time took and abstract concept "space" as an entity to explain the works of architecture. In a related manner, Zevi analyzed various aspects of a building such as Saint Peter's Cathedral in Rome. He examined its structure, circulation, building mass, and levels, and accordingly made exhaustive diagrams of the cathedral (figure 11). This served to draw the space, redefine it in plan form, and use it as an abstract entity to define architecture itself. This approach to architectural theory was very much favored by members of Ozkan's generation. According to this approach, people started thinking of space apart from many other things, and space almost became a faith in conceptualization of architecture. Any exercise from any level could be abstracted and brought to the level of space. Ozkan noted that this would have been the source of an axiomatic theory of architecture, if it were to be known from its beginning as a concept. Ozkan said that architecture, like physics, chemistry, or mathematics, probably would have evolved around the concept of space if it could have been defined with certain explicable forms that would allow us to make some associations, abstractions, and constructions.
Increasingly, during the last three to four decades abstract entities were brought into the realm of architecture in order to explain the internal relationships of design complexities. This is expressed in the work of the architect - mathematician Christopher Alexander (b. 1936, see below), the systems scientist M. Asimow, Thomas Markus, and Lionel March. For example, Lionel March, in his The Architecture of Form, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) defined architectural relationships in binary diagrams forms (figure 12) in order to process them in newly emerging computer techniques. Ozkan noted that most of those responsible for such interpretations were of the generation that studied the Fortran computer programming language, and therefore knew computers when they were at the primitive level, and were defining buildings in abstract language. Ozkan noted that substantial research was conducted in this line in University of Cambridge.
Ozkan also showed structural relationship diagrams representing different plans reducing them into abstract mathematical matrix formulae in order to manipulate them, as developed by Philip Steadman and Lionel March in their Geometry of Environment: An Introduction to Spatial Organization in Design (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974) (figure 13). He noted that when an architectural complexity is reduced to this level of abstraction, the meaning was inevitably lost and therefore these theoretical approaches remained under the privileged realm of "Design Research" and did not have much impact on the mainstream of the theory.
Ozkan went on to explain that during the period following the 1970s, interest arose in the participation of people in the process of architectural creation and the democratization of the environment. Canons and abstract geometric patterns always were thought of as providing guidance, and as analogies with nature. Also, utopias were used to project into the future and produce freer environments. Certain utopic descriptions and descriptive utopias went hand in hand. There were those who explained what happened to architecture post-facto, and attempted to define what architecture is, and how it is. With Christopher Alexander's Notes on the Synthesis of Form, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964), which aimed at understanding the design process and how design problems are solved, new approaches arose. However, Ozkan added that Alexander himself later on, in anger, declared that he did not want to be associated with what was called then "Design Methods" and that was partly initiated by his own books. Ozkan believes that Alexander made a substantial contribution to the analyses of architectural form due to his background as a mathematician. He was successful in defining architectural and urban entities in a very eloquent, non-simplistic, and sophisticated manner.