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M+M: Francesca Hughes with Lucia Allais, "The Architecture of Error"

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N107, Princeton School of Architecture, 6:00pm (NEW TIME)

Francesca Hughes (Hughes Meyer Studio, London)
Lucia Allais (respondent, Princeton University)

The Architecture of Error:
Matter, Measure and the Misadventures of Precision

The rejection of organic materials that marked the material tolerance crises central to modernity didn’t just produce the steel and glass icons we know so well, but also a generation of newly metalized aircraft that were so heavy they could not fly. These engineered dodos, which resulted directly from architecture’s ideological reconfigurations around predictability, precision and error, ask of us difficult questions about technology’s exemption from cultural and sociological explanation: what if it does not work? Not long after (in 1944), that first digital architect, Erwin Schrödinger, chose to describe the centralized authority of the chromosome as an “architect’s plan” with its “law code and executive power.” He correctly identified both that architects shared his acute (and ultimately irrational) anxiety regarding the transmission of information via material, and that they had developed precocious tools for managing their unique fear of physical error. This lecture will examine some of the ways in which these tools, and the fears they barely conceal, intersect with the seminal technological and cultural crises that mark architecture’s twentieth-century and the exponential rise in redundant precision that it witnessed.

Francesca Hughes lives and works in London where she has both run studios and taught in history and theory since 1994, first at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, and then at the Architectural Association. She is editor of The Architect: Reconstructing her Practice (MIT Press) and Drawings that Count (AA publications) and the author, most recently, of The Architecture of Error (MIT Press). Hughes is co-founder of the art/architecture practice, Hughes Meyer Studio whose work has been published by AA Files, AR, ANY, Art Forum, Routledge, Monacelli and Wiley and exhibited internationally. She is currently collaborating on Piano Falling, an Arts Council funded multi-media project with video artist Catherine Yass, involving a grand piano and a very tall building.

Lucia Allais is an architectural historian and theorist working on the intersection of architecture, preservation, politics and technology in the modern period, with a special focus on international institutions in the 20th century. Her current book project is a history of monument survival and international bureaucracy in the 20th Century, tentatively titled Designs of Destruction. Her work has appeared in Grey Room, Log, Perspecta, Future Anterior, and the volumes Governing by Design and Global Design History. She has received a number of grants and has been a fellow at the Princeton Society of Fellows and the Radcliffe Institute. Allais earned her BS from Princeton, her MArch from Harvard and her PhD from MIT. In 2014, she curated Legible Pompeii, an installation at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. She is a member of Aggregate and an editor of Grey Room.


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