The diagram as reflection tactic | Marcelo Gardinetti

Adam Pekalski
Adam Pekalski

I understand diagrams in architecture and graphic elements that describe some undetermined way. They do not represent an object per se, but a strategy that allows order flow relationships in the design process. Therefore, we can say that the thought diagrammatically architecture builds relationships paths abstraction of a representation which is extracted figurative.

Greg Lynn said that

“the architects produced drawings of buildings and not the buildings themselves. Therefore architecture, more than any other discipline, is involved in producing virtual descriptions”.1

That is, the graphical representations are common in any period of history of architecture, but this form of geometric patterns2 acquires prominence in the last decade of the last century, and unlike traditional representations, there is a perceived object from point of view of an observer, but an operation code representing a process that can constantly be rectified.

In the same sense, Josep Montaner notes that

“By its dual character – concept and practice analysis tool and instrument project – diagrams have become emblems of turn of the century. Have been used with the desire to relieve and overcome the concept of typology of the 1970s, and today they have become the structuring concept between theory and practice of architecture”.3

Montaner noted that the diagram allows to operate a multitude of heterogeneous data produced by changes in social habits and new communication technologies without the restrictions proposed by the typological analysis. It’s not a guy who necessarily have a link with history and a certain way, that is, not part of the materialization of architecture, but intimidates a host of suggestions.

A staunch advocate of development of diagrams as reflection method is Ben van Berkel. In its brief Diagrams he notes that

“the diagram technique provides a foothold in fast currents mediated information. The lack of meaning that repetition and mediation is overcome by creating diagrams that generate new meanings and instrumental and leading architecture away from the typological fixation”.4


This departure from the typological fixation separates the design process to any subjectivity, avoids the linear logic and away from ideologies, to be configured as a set of solid situations, techniques, tactics and operations .

For Ben van Berkel, the diagram is an experimental, instrumental and suggestive direction, with a possible spatial organization and / or substance.5 A tactic to investigate the different internal flows, but also a system of organization ranging from the idea and form, where the organizational matrix is based on graphic signs of different sources, affecting the development of design ordering the internal energy flows. The diagram is a method of reflection tactics employed to achieve spatial organization according to the difficulties offered by each program.

Applied as a concept that breaks the rigidity of traditional architectural schemes, the diagram is offered as a tool for resolving conflicts own dynamic activity. However, this transformation process dispenses with the analysis of the environment, and that regardless, the result encourages the construction of a non – contextual object serve no other purpose than its own graphic theory. In this omission, converges a formalist composition of the idea that threatens the intellectual pursuit of its own architecture, the result is an object quasi typological, which has an impact on the formalization of architecture, as happens to Ben van Berkel in materializing diagram based on the Möbius strip.

M.C. Escher.
M.C. Escher.

The Möbius case.

UNStudio in 1993 was commissioned a house with two independent studies which develop labor activity marriage members of different professions, but connected to the daily life of the family. The commission demanded entangle the different family activities in a single structure without any integral lose its independence.

Caroline Bos and Ben van Berkel develop the program based on the geometric properties of the Möbius strip, a surface of one side and one edge that is orientable and symbolizing the cyclical nature of many processes. This theory paths based Möbius strip has a graphic antecedent in the work of M.C. Escher.


From this graph, praise architects construct relations to structure the interior of the house following the theory of flows, imbued with the persons’ idea circulating his own tours 24 hours of the day.

As result of this operation, the private rooms are located aligned along the tape, the places of work are organized in the opposite ends and the social areas in the crossings traffics. The interior traffic repeats the tour of the curl, defines the internal paths and links all the parts of the daily activity.

Thus, the graph allows to organize a distributive interior scheme. The organization of the program, the traffic and the formal structure interlaces the different activities and the movement of his inhabitants, incorporating the idea of time into the architecture.


However, the geometrical properties of the loop is also transferred to the execution architecture. The lines are embodied in transparent and opaque surfaces, by alternating the use of concrete and glass along the route. The low height and its excessive length is a result of stretching the loop, in order to achieve greater development and strengthen the link with the immediate environment.

Project diagram and enter an overlap of interests where visible similarities between the graphic design of the scheme and the definitive materialization of architecture appear. In the Möbius House, the plot not only is the structuring element of the idea, also has a significant influence on the shape of the object.


So says Clara Ben Altabef:

“The novelty here is the translation process through the conceptual diagram in a three – dimensional shape of architectural character”.6

Without questioning the value of its architecture, the translation of the diagram is hampered by its own logic. The result of the experimental and instrumental search through the suggestive diagram reaches a dimension exceeding paths relationships to specify the graphic qualities of the scheme.

In this regard, program operation Möbius case must also be assumed as a programmatic operation of virtual type . That is, the deliberate implementation of a graphic element that develops outside a historical determinism, but a significant influence on the formal characteristics of the object.


Marcelo Gardinetti. Architect
La Plata, Argentina. October 2017


1. Greg Lynn, Animate Form, 1999

2. According to the dictionary of the Spanish language, a diagram is a geometric pattern that serves to prove a proposition, solve a problem or graphically represent the law of variation of a phenomenon.

3. Montaner, Josep Maria. Contemporary condition of architecture, editorial GG pág. 91

4. Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, Diagrams, 1998

5. Like Bijlsma, Between ideogram and image diagrams, in conversation with Ben van Berkel and Peter Trümer.

6. Ben Altabef, Clara. “Heuristics in proyectual: diagrams as a strategy”. Test no. Published ARQCHILE.CLSN431X Number 2 versión on-line

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