The Exercises de style, first published by Raymond Queneau in 1947, offer an exploration of the possibility to vary a simple story to the extreme, each time adhering to one specific rule. These variations, which play both with intertextuality and contextuality, were based on known rhetorical figures, literary genres and (ordinary) acts of speech—references constituting the broad field of linguistic traditions and possibilities.
Constraints—time, budget, site or the numerous regulations applying to building—always inform architecture. This semester we will explore how we could actually free architecture by tightening its rules even more. Learning from Queneau, we will investigate how a set of precisely defined voluntary constraints, instead of narrowing down, actually open up the possibility of all the designs based on those rules.
Consistency will be the attitude we adopt for this studio. An attitude relying on pulling those voluntary constraints all the way through the design process, the experience of the building, and its representation. By acknowledging and embracing them consistently, we will exploit the productive tension arising between the unexpected potential and the possible absurdity of applying those rules.
We will use Queneau’s Exercises and their specific styles as a base to be translated into architectural constraints creating possibilities and supporting the development of a wide set of spatial strategies, situations or elements. Subsequently we will deploy the findings related to those self-imposed restrictions in the frame of a design task with a specific brief and building site in Zurich, to be announced after the independent set of rules has been developed.
This semester, we will discover together how a set of rules, when followed consistently, generate a multiplicity of possible works able to proliferate and ramify.