Originality is a term often used to describe something
new or dierent, something that has never been done
before. In architecture, there is a firm belief that most
everything has already been done, to some extent and in
one manner or another, and that originality does not lie in
the discovery of something new but in the interpretation
Analysis is an investigation organized to uncover what may have been the strategies for
a project’s design.
These plans show Giuseppe
Terragni’s design for the
Congress Hall for the Rome
International Exposition
(E42) of 1937 (left) in relation
to the Oratory Complex of
Saint Phillip Neri (1620–50),
also in Rome, by Francesco
Borromini and others
(center). While the structures
are extraordinarily dierent
in their three-dimensional
Giorgio de Chirico: Mystery
and Melancholy of a Street,
1914. Private collection.
development, it is clear that
the modern building derived
significant inspiration from
the plans of the Oratory,
borrowing the older complex’s
geometries as well as its basic
distribution of programmatic
and appropriation of something that
already exists. It is not that something that
is the subject of this chapter, but it is,
instead, the processes by which one
understands, abstracts, and interprets
the known or the given so that it can
meaningfully inform the design process.
In architecture, these processes of
abstraction are usually called analysis.
Project Givens
The design process is initiated by the inter -
section of two circumstances. One is the
givens of a project, which include program
(the functions that the project needs to
accommodate; these may include specific
material requirements, such as the use of
aluminum), site and context (where the
project is to be located), and conventions
(the cultural contexts of the project). The
other circumstance is what the architect
brings to the givens: how the architect
interprets or defines these givens. Analysis
is the process of exploration and discovery
with which an architect not only develops
a familiarity with the assumptions, expecta-
tions, and conditions that are given, but
subsequently establishes the critical
framework of the problem, the conceptual
lens through which all design decisions are
subsequently made.
Fundamental to the education—and
continued development—of an architect is an
awareness of what has come before. It is the
raw material that provides the basis for an
infinite inventory of architectural ideas: it is
the architect’s library, allowing the architect
(continued on page 13)
Aldo Rossi: Gallaratese II
Housing, Milan, Italy 1974
Aldo Rossi’s Gallaratese II
Housing block in Milan takes
not only certain formal cues
from Giorgio de Chiricos
trancelike metaphysical
painting, Mystery and
Melancholy of a Street, with a
giant loggia surmounted by a
cadence of square windows,
but there is also a similar
sensibility of urbanism, of
buildings as monumental
backdrops that impassively
modulate individual activity
while suggesting the
mysteries that might be
hidden in their shadowy

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