Lost in Translation
dummy icon Allow me to begin with the, certainly debatable, position that all architecture is, at some level, an act of translation. The work of the architect is literally translated from one medium (drawing) to another (building). The intention of such work is often inspired from the long history of our built environment as well as other fields of inquiry. And the reception of our work, as we all know even from reviews in school, is always open to interpretation. In a sense, we remain in the long shadow of the Tower of Babel. In this short essay, I will try to open up a few issues that will, I am certain, be unpacked in much more detail through the course of this issue of the Wentworth Architecture review. To do so, I will propose an architectural triad of translation. The first topic I will discuss is the translation from drawing to building. Much ink has been spilled around this matter and I will not attempt to give perspective to the relationship between drawing and building, but rather simply question a few assumptions. Next, I will discuss the translation from architecture to architecture. This is often mis-understood as “precedent.” Here again many assumptions exist and my intention is not to dissect the particularities of each architectural translation. Instead I attempt to understand why one translation is better (or worse) than another. To conclude I will discuss ways in which architects have translated ideas external to the discourse of architecture.