Architectural assemblages and materializations - Changing notions of tectonics and materiality in contemporary architecture
Paper i proceeding, 2013

The discussions on architectural tectonics have been growing during the last decades, not least in relation to the development of digital technologies and their use in architectural design. There has during the same period been an increasing interest for materiality, structure and physical construction of space and objects, which has made some critics and theoreticians talk about a “structural turn” or “tectonic turn” within architecture as well as a “material turn” within other disciplines. The practical work and concrete making of the material world and built environments have also come more into focus. Several central notions and concepts in architecture are in need of elaboration in the contemporary situation where there have been radical changes due to new means for imagining, projecting, and producing buildings and spaces on different scales. In disciplines adjacent to architecture, several theoretical frameworks have developed and changed, and several of these frameworks relate to materiality, objects, assemblages, expression, and performance, and are therefor of great interest for design as well. In architecture, several conceptual frameworks have been developed, where some use the potential to articulate notions close to architectural practice but in a fruitful exchange with more theoretical perspectives. This paper presents some of these discussions and theoretical frameworks with relation to the built environment that during last decades have developed especially around tectonics and digital architecture. The study draws from recent debates around assemblage theory, materialism and post-humanist theory – relating to work by e.g. Manuel Delanda, Bruno Latour – and discusses in dialogue with the above theoretical frameworks the changing notions of tectonics and materiality in the work of architectural practices, e.g. Lars Spuybroek, Kas Oosterhuis and Reiser+Umemoto. The paper argues for the importance of conceptual elaboration to understand and use the potential of architecture in contemporary technological and societal situations, but do also stress issues of architectural knowledge and articulation of concepts central for architecture as a “making discipline” and “material practice”. Here are concepts relating to tectonics and materiality central. Current theoretical developments have ontological as well as epistemological implications, and further articulations of the epistemology of architecture are not least of importance in contemporary multi-disciplinary collaborations in the production of the built environment. The paper shows that in some of the developments of theories and notions there are interesting parallels and interactions between the different theoretical frameworks. Some concepts and notions have similarities and are used recurrently, like assemblages, emergence, interactions, communication and continuity across scales, wholes that are not reducible to their parts. The aim and intention with the paper is to contribute to the critical understanding and further development of central concepts and tectonic theories in contemporary architecture.


Fredrik Nilsson

Chalmers, Arkitektur

Structures and Architecture. Concepts, Applications and Challenges






Hållbar utveckling


Building Futures