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A critical South African response towards modern handcrafted dialectic architecture : the design of a collaborative skills development facility in Durban.

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Since the turn of the 20th century, industrialisation and technological development of the machine has brought about mass production of almost everything from spaces, food, environments, experiences, and architecture. The dominance of machine-based processes has diluted the experience of the hand-made environment, once rich with tactility, quality, honesty, and craft; by means of reproduction and standardisation (Frampton, 1983). This has inevitably created a ‘“universal sameness” (Augè, 2008:xii) which spans the globe and reiterates what Ricouer (1961) declares as the formulation of a ‘Universal Civilisation’. Modern Architecture, which is formulated exclusively through machine construction methodologies, has also influenced a sense of “placelessness” (Frampton, 1983:26) whereby the built environment is facing a surge of monotonous machine generated interventions. Within a predominately machine built environment, there are, however, concurrent calls for a reflective engagement of Craft (Pallasmaa, 2005). Although craft has not disappeared, there is a weakening of one’s connection to an ‘existential ground’ (Pallasmaa, 2009) through the advent of the machine and its ability to render mass-produced environments that are not necessarily honest to its place and its inner workings (Pallasmaa, 2009, Sudjic, 2008). A more directly hand-made crafted architecture could then, by definition, have the ability to respond and reignite one’s existential ground and strengthen one’s relationship with the built environment. This could then have a direct influence for one’s reconnection and experience with architecture in the progressive yet inhumane machine-built environment so evident in the Modern world today. This dissertation sets out to explore where architecture is positioned within the 21st century of universal technique, standardisation, industrial processes and contemporary consumer culture. A dialectical method will set the discourse of the research, which is made up of 3 components. The thesis; being architecture as a Machine, the opposing antithesis; being architecture as Craft and the synthesis; being architecture as a dialectic modern handcrafted. This dissertation seeks a unification of machine-built and hand-made technologies through machine processes richly layered with craft, that may well perpetuate a progressive and responsive modern handcrafted dialectic architecture in South Africa. This research could then be implemented towards the design of a collaborative skills development facility in Durban.


Thesis (M.Arch.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2012.


Architecture, Modern--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban--Designs and plans., Urban renewal--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Training--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban., Art centres--KwaZulu-Natal--Durban--Designs and plans., Theses--Architecture.