ArgumentNo. 2/2010

Morphological analysis and its uses in patrimony evaluation

Abstract

i believe that what we currently call « architectural analysis » requires certain comments, in order to allow us to be clear about what we are pursuing in this attempt of an “analysis”. The word has multiple meanings, with ample differences from one architectural school to another. Often, the word « analysis» is used for all – and without distinguishing between – forms of investigation, including simple discussions and comments based on personal taste, having nothing in common with a scientific rigor which might reveal regulating paradigms or valid hypotheses. That is why most of the time it is presented as a «synthesis» we to easily call «analysis», without ever going beyond the plain sense of these words.

All these descriptive endeavors have a significant disadvantage, as they are not enough to characterize forms and never undertake to classify them based on our analytic requirements. For example, in their effort toward conceptual generalization, descriptive terminologies do not take into account the empirical structuring of the materials in question or the inventory of segments subject to the morphological analysis, just as they are spatially delimited. Things are similar in the linguistically-established classes and classifications, where the notions of "type", „style”, „trend”, for example, have generalizing and, often, imprecise connotations. The erudite architectural terminology is not free of such criticisms. Usually, a quite significant exemplification action is to be noticed, which, however, lacks objectivity from the aesthetics theories point of view. These ambiguities of expression prevent the objectivity aimed at by rigorous scientific research. Therefore, we shall not mistake description for analysis, as they have, in fact, different purposes.

Morphological analysis is not a new method in the theory and history of architecture – or of arts as a whole. But it is restrained, at best, to the classifying and arranging of information. The processes of itemizing and systematizing information and of theorizing, used in various scientific fields, such as archaeology or ethnography, have each proved their own point of view, with different hypotheses and final conclusions on the same bulk of data. What we must not lose sight of are the multiple perspectives provided by these researches, perspectives which, if consolidated and made compatible, might provide a full picture of the subjects in question. General morphological analysis has been developed by Fritz Zwicky – an astrophysicist with the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), as a way of structuring and investigating all the sets of relationships contained in the bulk of multi-dimensional, non-quantifiable challenges of the thirties. Such a vision emerged from the need to have a multi-criteria analysis, with roots in several fields of activity. This is precisely why the method has been apt for use in a vast number of fields, from astrophysics to marketing, economic sciences and, now, in architectural theory. At this point we should mention Romanian historian Dinu Theodorescu, who uses this method, in his study “Le chapiteau ionique grec”, published in Geneva in 1980, in order to analyze the Ionic style, achieving an exemplary accuracy of the style’s cartography and morphologic analysis.

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