urban prototypes A Research Cluster of the Architectural Association

urban prototypes
Pier Vittorio Aureli interview

An extract from the interview we conducted with Pier Vittorio Aureli in October 2012 at the AA

Pier Vittorio Aureli: If there is a common theme to all of my work, it has been working through archetypes; finding forms that on the one hand are absolutely generic and authorless, but at the same time very strong, able to construct a space that is defined. One of these is the room or courtyard. Most of our projects in Dogma are a sort of reinterpretation of this idea of the room. Actually I am now working on Benjamin, and there is the beautiful essay by him called ‘The Destructive Character’, where he says that the ‘destructive character’ is the one who makes space, that makes room, and that has always been the gesture that runs through all of our projects.12 In fact, through that ‘obsession’ we became very interested in this idea of clearing out. So I became interested in these projects from Hilberseimer, to Rossi, to Archizoom, that, in vey different ways, have advance these ideas of making a tabula rasa.

Doug Spencer: In going back ourselves to the work of Tafuri, we have become especially aware of the way in which he is using the ideas of Foucault, and to some extent the Annales School, in going back to the Renaissance, and trying to understand what happens at that point in terms of ‘mentalities’. You tend, more recently at least, to use the term ‘ethos’, but this seems very clearly related to this approach. So, is there any particular mentality, or ethos, that you can see in working with the archetype of prototype?

Pier Vittorio Aureli: I think that this is a very crucial question. In a way we can say that the archetype is always a singular object. Therefore it acknowledges finiteness and, unlike type, it does not pretend to exhaust a sphere as large as the one of ethos or mentality. But, through exemplarity it might create particular forms of life that might change the ethos in which we live. In fact I would say that we can understand the archetype in two ways. On the one hand we understand the archetype as a way to analyse a particular condition. The example is fundamental in any research project. You cannot analyse everything and so you choose particular examples, and the more powerful or convincing these examples, the more you are able to grasp the sense through which to make a cross-section through a large domain. But I think that you can also intentionally construct archetypes that, if not changing everything, will create a caesura, the possibility of forms of life that are different from what is today constantly regurgitated. But what I’ve learned through my work, and why I consider my work to be just beginning, is that this requires a lot of research, a lot of layering…the accumulation of experiences and understanding of things.


Pier Vittorio Aureli is an architect and educator. His research and projects focus on the relationship between architectural form, political theory and urban history. At the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam he lead the “City as a Project” PhD Programme and the Research Unit “Labour, City, Architecture”. He teaches in the Diploma and Graduate Schools of the Architectural Association, and is Davenport Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture at Yale University. He is the author of many essays including, The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011) and The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture Within and Against Architecture (2008). Aureli is co-founder of Dogma, an architectural studio based in Brussels and focused on the project of the city

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