Alberto Pérez-Gómez
Director, History & Theory Graduate Program
School of Architecture
McGill University
815 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, PQ, CANADA H3A 2K6

Advocates of computer generated processes in architecture, all based on algorithmic languages, usually claim that these applications allow designers to bypass the questions of cultural specificity and ground design in scientific or natural principles, finally "closing the distance" between theory and practice. This is the right concern, but built upon wrong assumptions. The artistic imagination, issued from Romanticism, can be indeed dangerous or irrelevant. It should be condemned when it is abused as a vehicle for power, oppression and exploitation. Respect for the other and political correctness, however, is hardly assured by instrumental processes that operate in a historical and cultural vacuum. Only by engaging our own imagination (with its inescapable horizon of language, and despite its dangers) can we be truly compassionate. It is our imaginative faculty that allows us to identify with the other, and truly understand her suffering. This entails a very real, yet opaque connection between words and deeds.

Following this line of reasoning, I have argued in my work on representation for valorizing architectural work as process, rather than as a neutral means towards an end, driven by technological values. As embodied making, architecture is not only a means of formal discovery, it is also a vehicle for ethical production. This form of relationship between theory and practice, between words and process, is obviously not unprecedented in art, but has traditionally been less prevalent in architecture during the transformation of Western culture into modernity.

In my written contribution to this conference I offer two examples, from the fifteenth and twentieth centuries, that illustrate this relationship. The examples, the theories of Luca Pacioli and Le Corbusier, are intentionally far apart chronologically, and my use of them is unusual in contemporary scholarship. My aim is to draw a map of the vicissitudes of architecture as verb during the modernization of Europe, issuing not from a simplistic Platonic application, but from a realization of the affinity of architecture with Aristotle's middle sciences. Both theoreticians were interested in the Golden Section, geometry and mathematics, yet never as prescriptive tools, but rather as a discovery, accompanied by the self-consciousness of the "autonomy" of geometry as being ultimately "not of this world."

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. obtained his undergraduate degree in architecture and engineering in Mexico City, did postgraduate work at Cornell University, and was awarded a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. by the University of Essex in England. He has taught at universities in Mexico City, Houston, Syracuse, and Toronto, at the Architectural Association in London, and was Director of the Carleton University School of Architecture from 1983 to 1986. He has lectured extensively in North America and Europe. In January 1987 Pérez-Gómez was appointed Saidye Rosner Bronfman Professor of the History of Architecture at McGill University, where he is currently Director of Post-Professional (Master's and Doctoral) Programs, and chairs the History and Theory of Architecture division. From March 1990 to June 1993, he was also the Director of the Institut de recherche en histoire de l'architecture, a research institute co-sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Université de Montréal and McGill University.
His numerous articles have been published in the Journal of Architectural Education, AA Files, Arquitecturas Bis, Section A, VIA, Architectural Design, ARQ, SKALA, A+U, Perspecta, and many other periodicals. He is the author of Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (MIT Press, 1983; winner of the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award in 1984), Polyphilo or The Dark Forest Revisited (MIT Press, 1992), and together with co-author Louise Pelletier, Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge (MIT Press, 1997). He is co-editor of the book series entitled CHORA: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture (McGill-Queen's University Press) At present, Dr. Pérez-Gómez is engaged in a project to redefine the very nature of architectural education by revisiting its historical sources during the Enlightenment and the early nineteenth century, an urgent task after the failure of globalization which has become patent after September 2001.

The correct citation for this article is:
Alberto Pérez-Gómez, "Architecture as Verb and the Ethics of Making", pp. 35-46 in Nexus IV: Architecture and Mathematics, eds. Kim Williams and Jose Francisco Rodrigues, Fucecchio (Florence): Kim Williams Books, 2002.