Visiting Lectureship of the Theory of Architecture
Dr. Torsten Lange
About Us

  1. Final crit seminar “Critical Issues: Archithese” Spring Semester 2018. Photo: Gabrielle Schaad
  2. Poster seminar “Critical Issues: Archithese” Spring Semester 2018. Graphic design: Lisa Maillard
  3. Workshop with Beatrice Colomina. Photo: Torsten Lange
  4. Group photo seminar week Finland Spring Semester 2018. Photo: Alexa Grieder
  5. Poster seminar “Making Difference” Autumn Semester 2018. Graphic design: Blanka Major

“Think we must.” (Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas, 1938)

Architects have a special responsibility given their role in shaping the living environment. At the same time, their education and work are shaped by constantly changing social conditions and demands. It is against this background that we wish to pose, for architectural theory, Virginia Woolf’s appeal to think.

Yet, what does it mean to think critically at a time when the supposed objective nature of facts has become a matter of dispute, as Bruno Latour notes? Rather than criticising matters of fact by moving away from them, Latour proposes to add reality to those matters of fact, thus cultivating a stubbornly realist attitude. In architectural theory, too, we can no longer subscribe to naturalised truths that appear to be “set in stone”. With this in mind, we must also question the more recent “critical project” of theory.

Architectural theory is neither able to offer universal solutions nor can it act as an autonomous authority. We acknowledge that its task is not to deduce from practice general principles for design and construction. Neither should its sole aim be the pursuit of a strictly objective analysis of built structures on the basis of fixed theories. Instead, architectural theory as a specific practice of thinking should seek to develop knowledge of architecture as an intellectual and material practice. Architecture must respond to the complex realities of life that it gives shape to, and which, in turn, impact architecture. Simultaneously, architects’ agency is always situated in those realities.

Conceived this way, architectural theory develops an understanding of architecture – both in its materiality and making – within concrete historical and geographical settings. These contexts are constituted by dynamic relationships between different actors. The knowledge produced and shared among them is always locally embedded. We use the analytical tools at hand to observe and explain built structures – however, with the aim of identifying contingencies rather than generalities or definitive rules. Equally, we believe the analysis of architects’ working processes should not strive for a scientific basis of design, or even lead to an instrumental science of design. Instead, our aim is to highlight the importance of negotiation as well as various scopes for action within these working processes.

In our teaching, we seek to enable students to think through and articulate such social conditions and relationships. Despite all claims to the contrary, architecture does not speak for itself, even if bodily and sensual perception may grant us direct experiences of our built environments. But does that already qualify as knowledge? By opening space for differences, we seek to multiply ideas in both theory and practice.


Dr. Torsten Lange