This concept has evolved over time, and has come to exist through periodic discussions which have resulted in a longstanding debate with recurring waves and peaks of intensity. Unlike in the past, the notion of model is no longer questioned as an epistemological concept nowadays, rather used to interpret the design of architecture and city.
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New forms of urbanisation are currently emerging around the world, and thus require a renewed debate on the epistemological foundations of the term in order for critical urban theory and practice to be updated accordingly 7. Given these circumstances, the questions of what models are and how the concept has evolved should be considered. The current age is characterised by intense exchanges through transnational actors 8 , and models could serve as an instrument to question how space is conceived, especially in those cases which appear to be shaped by assemblages of transnational models 9.
In fact, transnational models and their successful iconic-related images play a crucial role in the rise of new urban imageries. The notion of model therefore appears to be a device of knowledge that provides interesting and currently under-explored possibilities. In the first part of this article, the intricate meanings of the term, wisely described by Anne Coste 10 as polysemic, will be discussed. Then, the s epistemological debate around the notion of model, indeed the most intense peak of the discussion on it, will be summed up in order to compare and relate this theoretical heritage with the recent resurgence of models in certain contemporary works.
During the Renaissance age, the expression modello appeared in Italian, used in sculpture and architecture to indicate a measure to refer to. Since its origin, the term has been characterised by its ambivalence: designating both its original sense, the material object, as well as its figurative sense, the abstract norm It was marked by the idea of mimesis, namely the imitation, or reproduction of nature in an artistic composition.
Hence, in several disciplines, the notion of model is largely adopted with different nuanced meanings, having primary relevance in epistemology and logics, fostered by the mathematisation of sciences Hence, the model in architecture and urbanism is a device which can provide different instrumental purposes 26 , shifting from an imitative to a speculative function. In this regard, the model is the element that links the project the image, or eidos and the reality; just as it is the device linking an original new object to an imitated one 29 , with the necessary consequence of an impossible coincidence of the different planes, resulting in a constant deviation One of the pillars of the nascent modern discussion on architecture explicitly builds on a particular model: the primitive hut:.
The little hut that I have just described, is the model upon which all the magnificences of architecture have been imagined, it is in coming near in the execution of the simplicity of this first model, that we avoid all essential faults, that we seize the true perfections This imitative process produced the primigenial model, namely the primitive hut, embodies the encounter between nature and reason This vision of the origin and evolution of the archetype, which establishes a modern conception based on reason and necessity consistent with the Enlightenment era, is surely opposed to the medieval idea of model, which was instead based on symbology.
More recently, the concept of model has played a significant and prominent role in some attempts to provide an epistemological foundation for architecture. In Utopia , two different overlapping images of utopian spaces are presented. These underpin the entire account of the island, crossing through all scales, from the city to the household. The portrait is, on the one hand, a description of an individuality, a space with unique spatial connotations and geographical positions. On the other, the model entails the construction of an abstract image, an image deprived of any connotation of localisation.
It is a projection of an a-temporal, a-localised, a-historical condition, and is inseparable from a political social dimension. The power of the model, according to Gregotti, consists of providing an aesthetic meaning to an operation of re-foundation, towards a transformation to new authenticity. His efforts are based on Structuralist thought, with references firstly to the works of de Saussure and Foucault, with the aim of establishing an architectural epistemology which he named architecturology. The scientific object of architecturology in the epistemological field of architecture is the architectural project.
The architectural conception is thus conceived as a system 60 which can be scientifically analysed, made intelligible by an activity of modelling. The repetition of a process to generate a form makes possible the production of innovations, resulting in necessary differences that orient the design process. Hence, according to Lucan, design activity is not produced by models.
This stance has shifted the concept of model toward a limited vision and toward a morphological approach to the city that goes on to have much success in the international debate on architectural theory during the s and the s John C. Jones 72 , for instance, investigated the process of models, namely the procedures for designing. Around the same time, Christopher Alexander 73 aimed to find a rationality to explain how forms are shaped, and therefore tried to schematise the procedures that give rise to them in order to find the logical structures behind them. Together, the two hundred and fifty-three patterns form a language, with the structure of a network.
According to Alexander, they describe a problem and then offer a reproducible solution. Therefore, the reproducibility seems to lead back to patterns of the concept of models. Nevertheless, their extremised archetypical connotation limits them as a peculiar group of models: archetypes. While for Choay, it is the model as a paradigm for utopia, Boudon believes it is the model which coincides with the system of architecturology. Nevertheless, the theoretical construction of both, even if rigorous, seems to be too rigid, giving rise to subsequent criticism This is also perceivable in Lucan, who completely reverses the question, laying the project, as an instrument of knowledge, at the base of models.
This arose from an effort to build a disciplinary epistemology of architecture and urbanism, which was followed by criticism that was also due to a crisis of the Structuralist thought underpinning those attempts This resurgence, witnessed by a flourishing of monographic journal issues 77 , conferences and seminars 78 , single articles, as well as books and exhibitions 79 , still maintains its ce ntre in France, keeping the ss debate as a background, but rarely as a basis to build on a new notion of model. That is to say, there is no explicit effort to re-theorise the concept, its definition remaining generally quite open, undefined and uncertain.
This aspect is quite surprising in the context of a call for renewed debate on the epistemological foundations for an updated critical urban theory and practice in the age of globalisation The questions around the nature of the concept of model deserve a deeper investigation in order to understand how cities nowadays are produced by reproducing, assembling and manipulating models.
Indeed, there may also be found some contaminations between the two categories. In this regard, research on transfer and reception of models frequently adopts the work by McCann and Ward 81 as an interpretative basis, despite the fact that, in their book, the term model is seldom employed. He does this, however, without providing a clear definition, rather stating the fluidity of the notion. Therefore, we can again see the use of the term model to describe a large spectrum of different elements: from physical objects to policies and good practices.
A variety is subsequently reaffirmed when the authors interestingly recognise a double operability of models in urban production, acting both on the ideal plan and on the physical dimension.
Architectural models: legacy and critical perspectives
The condition which reassembles a similar diversity of situations is, therefore, the condition of reproducibility: models are a heterogeneous category of elements which can be reproduced and imitated elsewhere. U rban models become all those eleme nts that shape contemporary urban space: from architectural objects to good practices adopted by municipalities, often cities themselves, regarding their materiality, their image or their policies.
Fluidity seems to be a keyword here: that is, the circulation of refe re nces and generic urban models appear ing as the magmatic heterogeneous fluid circulating worldwide. Recent works on urban models, in fact, clearly privilege an emphasis on processes instead of structure: in this case, namely actions or urban policies are investigated rather than things, the object-model. Furthermore , an inappropriate and confusing swing from model to the simplifying act of modelling was already advocated as a risk by Choay 88 in the conclusion of her book, when she stated that contemporary urban discipline and project were often degenerating in an abuse of modelling operations, losing sight of the model nature, depriving it of its value and power.
Thus, another category of recent research has discussed the notion of model in an historic perspective, with an explicit gaze on precedent debate s. Space and Polity , 20 1 , Warf, B. Political Geography, 53 , Thinking through dualisms in urban policy mobilities.
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