another pamphlet #05 2013
Symmetry surrounds us. It’s present in ancient Greek mosaics, medieval churches, the human body, the arrangement of atoms in a crystal, flowers, arguments, and the laws of quantum mechanics. Linking together the seemingly disparate disciplines of art, architecture, biology, crystallography, physics, and philosophy, symmetry is a fundamentally interdisciplinary concept that reveals common underlying patterns, suggests opportunities for disciplinary exchange, and because of its broad relevance, demands continued interrogation.
Although symmetry has been a central concern of architectural discourse throughout history, it largely went out of fashion with the rise of modernism, as the discipline turned to forms evoking dynamism and incompleteness rather than stability and order. Paradoxically, whereas the 20th century saw the disciplines of mathematics, physics, and philosophy expanding their engagement with symmetry, architecture turned away from it.
This misalignment can partially be attributed to architecture’s narrow definition of symmetry – limited to formal bi-lateral equivalence. Overlooking the many other instances of symmetry (including helical, self-similar, fractal, etc.), architecture has gone mute on a subject at the center of many of the most vital conversations of the day.
Of course, even though architects have fallen out of the larger conversation, considered in its broadest sense, symmetry continues to be at play in nearly every decision architects make – including materiality, space, scale, part-to-whole relations, legibility, organizational systems, mechanical flows, efficiency, and beauty. Although the power of symmetry has not changed, its perception within the discipline has.
After a century of asymmetry, what might symmetry offer us now, that we’ve missed along the way? Clearly it at least offers an expanded toolkit of formal and organizational strategies. But might it also satisfy a uniquely contemporary need (or subconscious desire?) for the inherent power of bilateral equivalencies so long out of favor, and so absent from our current visual landscape?
This issue claims symmetry as an urgently relevant topic, precisely because it’s so glaringly not a topic in contemporary discourse.
01 not to be reproduced
02 novel techniques
03 rarely neutral
04 deceptive symmetries
05 symmetries that bind
06 equal symmetries
07 symmetry equals zero
08 symmetry a symmetry
09 geometries of engagement
10 spatial ruptures
11 at the seams
>< symmetry conversation
SYMMETRY! pamphlet contributors:
LEO HENKE is an architect at Front Inc. in New York City.
ISAIAH KING is an architect in New York City and co-conspirator of another pamphlet.
AJAY MANTHRIPRAGADA is a lecturer in architecture at the University of California Berkeley and principal at Jermyn Manthripragada.
GIANCARLO MAZZANTI is an architect in Bogota, Columbia and principal of Mazzanti & Arquitectos.
MICHAEL MEREDITH is an assistant professor at the Princeton University School of Architecture and a principal and founder of MOS Architects in New York City.
RYAN NEIHEISER is an architect in New York City and co-conspirator of another pamphlet.
SARAH OPPENHEIMER is a visual artist based in New York City working between sculpture and architecture.
EMMANUEL PETIT is an associate professor at the Yale School of Architecture and a partner in the firm Jean Petit Architects in Luxembourg.
GALIA SOLOMONOFF teaches at Columbia University’s GSAPP and is a founding director of the New York based firm Solomonoff Architecture Studio.
GIANCARLO VALLE is an architect in New York City and co-conspirator of another pamphlet.
MICHAEL YOUNG is a founding partner of the architecture and urban design firm Young & Ayata. He has taught design studios and seminars at The Cooper Union, Yale University, Columbia University, and Princeton University.
another pamphlet is a document of loose exchange, an excuse to play, a frame through which to look, a shared excitement. It is an open dialogue with our friends, our histories, and our surroundings.
Meaning both “more of the same” and “something different”, “another” contains the seeds of both continuity and change. another pamphlet mines this contradiction – this tension between past and future – opportunistically interrogating, critiquing, and celebrating the discipline of architecture.
It is deliberately short. We’re all busy and we want to keep the conversation quick, easy, relevant, and fresh.
It is perversely anachronistic – it is printed on paper and distributed via, gasp, the post. Against the haze of digital distraction we crave an object to hold our attention – something to touch, to fold, to tuck in our back pocket, to discard.
And above all it is a group effort. Distinct voices are provisionally brought together into a contingent collective. But while the contributors and the ideas they offer are vital, particular authorship is obscured. The authors are given credit for participating, but the ideas stand on their own. The collective dialogue is given primacy over the individual position.