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ArgumentNo. 9/2017

Manifestations of time in architecture: aspects of the relation between (historical) site and building

  • / “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, Romania


The concept of Time has multiple manifestation in architecture, as incorporated in the building itself (conceived by the architect as permanent or temporary), as history of the site that imprints any future addition or found in the architectural object as embodiment of „experience in motion”.

The present contribution refers to the second aspect of the fore-mentioned possible relations between Architecture and Time. The history of the site where the building is to be standing determines most of the decisions in design. Every site is a constant superposition of layers of the past that the architect is bound to relate to in a responsible way. We speak of references that we choose to integrate or disregard when faced with a new project, by means of a continuous filtering process. This is a demarche of abstraction incorporating the essential traits of the site, that is in the happy circumstance when the object gets to belong to the „place” it fills. Then and only then is architecture truly integrated.

This study aims to generate discussions on the topic of „context” starting from examples of recent architecture and testimonies of the architects regarding their choices in relating to the essential traits of the site. Within the topic, the call for debate points at various examples showing what contemporary „contextualism” might mean, commenting on statements of critics or researchers. This topic is closely bound to the idea of layers any site accumulates over time, to the way in which we choose to select and set them in a hierarchy and add a new layer on top of the old ones, always keeping history in mind. At the same time, this is a debate about modesty versus ego, as assumed by contemporary architects, be they reknown or just at the beginning, working under the pressure of context and turning constraints into opportunities.


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