In Kenneth Frampton’s Rappel a L’ordre, the Case for the Tectonic, he reinterprets modern architecture “through the lens of techne.” Techne can be traced back to its Greek origins, which embodied the ideas of art, craft and skill in the making of an object. Techne came to be tied with the materiality and construction methods used in buildings. Technology then came to refer to the making and using of tools and the methods to solve a problem. Implicit in the word “technology” is the act of construction that involves manipulation of resources.
In the text, tectonic expression means relating to construction, and defined as “building construction in general, but also formal amplification of its presence in relation to the assembly of which it is a part.” He calls for the return of the irreducible structural unit as the ideal architectural form, and the visual expression of both structural and construction elements. Frampton references Heidegger to imply that the essence of the tectonic is an act of making that is revealing. Tectonic expression should “reveal” the logics of construction, clarity of structure and the articulation of details and joints. He goes on to argue that architecture grounded on tectonic principles offers resistance against the postmodern “decorated shed” approach to architecture, the homogenization of the built environment, and the erosive and corrupting impact of consumer culture. Instead of emphasis on mere stylistic expression, the tectonic form should be derived from, and “reveal” the properties of materials, structural logic and crafts of making.
In the attempt to understand this essence of tectonic expression, technology’s relationship with nature should not be underestimated. Louis Kahn articulates this concept, "A building is like a human, an architect has the opportunity of creating life. The way the knuckles and joints come together make each hand interesting and beautiful. In a building these details should not be put in a mitten and hidden. Space is architectural when the evidence of how it is made is seen and comprehended." Kahn notes that the building can be seen as a human, and by extension the natural processes that occurs within the human body. At the same time, the construction and structural forms of the building should also take into consideration its natural environment and its surroundings. Frampton refers to this idea as “critical regionalism”, where attention should be placed on the specific geographical context of the building, such as topography, climate, light to counter the homogenization. In investigating technology and tectonic expression as relating to an idea nature, I will examine Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies, a scientific research institute located in La Jolla, California.
The rapid development of industrialization, harnessing of energy and resources, technological advancements and general mechanization in the 20th century led to the application of such technology to...