FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions / 2


















Your buildings look complicated and difficult to build.






1. 2. Zero-maintenance cladding.

1. 3. Top-down cladding.


2. 1. Mechanical roofing.


3. 1. The "Tartan Frame".

3.2. The 'Robot Frame'.







John Outram Associates' approach to Architecture began to be formed many years ago. It crystallised in the invited competition to rebuild Bracken House, in the City of London, in 1985. Several competitions and unbuilt projects later, we finally built our first 'Canonic Freestyle' (as we now call it) architecture in Cambridge (£M11-1990-1995). This was followed by our second in Houston, Texas ($M16.5 1992-1996). Our third is now complete in Den Haag, in the Netherlands (£M6-1994-1999).

The experience of designing, detailing and building these three different projects, in three different countries, has led us to form a 'canonic', or 'correct' manufacturing and construction-assembly plan. Each of these projects uses the same basic set of architectural forms. Gravity is the same everywhere, as are lifting cranes, concrete. steel, aluminium and glass. Modern building techniques are very similar in the industrialised West. What is different, in the field of technique, is the relationships between the costs of different processes. But more important, than either of these, are the differences in the underlying attitudes typical of the culture of the building contractors.

The most successful Contractor was the one in Texas. The reason for this is clear. It is that only in the USA is it possible to believe that Tradition, in the shape and and appearance of an 'old-fashioned' design, with big columns, an entablature, and a heavily decorated surface, could be joined to Modernity, in the shape of 20C materials and building processes in a seamless, serious and entirely uncomplicated way. In Europe it is difficult to supercede the idea that Tradition is Tradition and Modernity is Modernity and that it will never be possible to make them into one single, universal, new, thing that combines them both. In Europe there are always complications and difficulties leading to the rejection of our basic proposition that progress is only progress if it progresses the Tradition. In the USA every aspect of our ideas was received, from the most minutely technical to the most abstrusely metaphysical. They were thought about, and realised in an intellectually coherent and mechanically practical, economical and ingenious way. Our U.S. building is better, overall, than our other ones, and cheaper as well.

I do not think that this is because the New World is cleverer than the Old one. It may be because Americans are more prepared to talk about taboo subjects and re-shape them. Americans are culturally radical, they feel easy about breaking taboos. Europeans have to 'work' at being radical. They have to try harder, shout louder, drive faster and generally 'become radicalised' in order to do anything new or 'different'. The products of such 'hysterical' radicalism are, in my view, useless where they are not actually destructive. Why not just work at making the so-called 'Tradition' (which is what in fact we really are) actually work for a change, instead of merely admiring it for being being 'good', and 'right' (but useless)?

Modern frame construction was invented in the USA. It was used merely to save money. It did not achieve a metaphysical status until certain European intellectuals, tired of their complex culture, went to the USA and brought back simple, cheap, boring , building techniques and made them, in the 1910's, into an ideological imperative. The results were the kinds of city designed by the civic sadist Ludwig Hilberseimer, 'Man Friday' to Mies van der Rohe. The Americans who had become rich by rationalising the construction of utilitarian buildings. But when building for 'themselves', or their universities, or their cities, they invented the most wonderful architectures between around 1850 up to the mid 1930's. At that moment, a nominally 'American' Architecture ended. The Metaphysic of the 'Existenzminimum' travelled-over, from Europe, to the very shores from which its un-noticed originals had originated, wrecking American Architecture and the American lifespace.


1. 2. Zero-maintenance cladding.

The preferred JOA cladding has always been masonry, for the 26 years of our Consultancy's existence. Properly designed masonry in brick, stone, concrete or stucco, needs no maintenance outside of the very infrequent re-pointing or cleaning every half- century. Such claddings improve with age. This increases the capital value of a building. Traditionally these finishings have been hand-laid off scaffolding, being built from the ground upwards with one brick, or stone, resting on the other. This descends from the origin, now move than 10.000 years ago, of Masonry as solid, loadbearing, walling. Loadbearing masonry has even been used for roofing and flooring, when it used to be cut and fitted into curved vaults & domes.

1. 3. Top-down cladding.

This is not the way to build masonry today. Today masonry must be built 'from the top down'. The way that this is done is:-


Firstly, the hand laid, gravity-bound component is minimised. Having said this I certainly to not want to eliminate it. In Britain, at least, brick remains the most popular, flexible and cost- effective type of masonry. Brickwork also, is now known to expand with age, while concrete, in the form of reinforced concrete structural frames, tends to shrink. Brickwork, therefore, is supported off the structural frame at each floor, with a soft mastic joint when it comes to press up against the underside of the support to the floor above. The provision of what is, in effect, a new ground, or earth, level at each floor both conforms to our iconological imperative and allows the Contractor to lay bricks on any floor that has been clad with its precast elements. Even the top floor can be clad first with hand laid work.

This floor-by-floor "ground-level" is provided in two ways. These are either invisible or visible. The invisible support is a stainless steel shelf angle. This is thin enough to be "lost" within the thickness of a brick joint. The visible method is to make the inner leaf of the wall of precast concrete. Part of this continuous element is allowed to project forward becoming visible and supporting the hand-laid brickwork above it.



The visible method has been increasing in our larger projects. This is because their scale of operations have been able to exploit the heavy lifting gear available in certain precast concrete factories and on most building sites. It is typical for precast sections of between 5 and 10 Tons weight to be erected onto our structural frames. These will tend to be spandrel and beam elements that are far too heavy to rest on the edge of a floorslab. For these tend to be cast with flat soffites, and no downstand beams. to speed construction. The heavy precast wall elements are, in modern construction always fixed to columns at each end. Columns need to be plentiful, in a modern facade, so as to keep prefabricated spandrels and beams to a reasonable length, and therefore crane-weight. These columns, being numerous, carry small loads and can be small in plan footprint. I will explain further in the Section titled "Tartan Frame" why there are other advantages to a "spindly" structural frame.


The larger the project, the more of its outer skin will consist of heavy precast elements. This does not eliminate either hand-laid precast pieces or precast pieces that are too heavy to be lifted by hand, yet are small enought to be 'built into' and supported by brickwork, rather than to be the support of brickwork. These intermediate pieces have to be fixed to the frame, before the brickwork reaches up to them. The reason for this is that all craned-into-place precast must be lifted before the gutter is fixed and before the roof is capable of being started.


We first solved this problem in 1984, on the Isle of Dogs Pumping Station. This was eleven years after JOA built its first 'robot column', back in 1973 and nine years after our first large building, a warehouse near London Airport that cost £110/sq.M. The solution is to fix the smaller precast piece to the steel or concrete column. To build the bricks up to it and around it and even beyond it. When the mortar to set the metal bolts, on the angled fixings, are slackened off. The self-weight of the precast piece is transferred from the frame to the brickwork. The concrete does not appear to move. But the structural effect is for the whole column of brick and precast to become free to move independently, in the vertical dimension, with respect to the frame, even thought it is still tied back, horizontally, to the frame. This production engineering detail is typical of the cladding to Robot Columns, rather than spandrels or enatablatures. The brickwork of robot Columns can extend upwards, as they do on the Judge, in one continuous loadbearing column, banded by precast concrete, for up to 24.5M (81 ft.) in height, all resting on the ground, and tied back to the frame, yet built after the roof is on.



The precast cladding units must be erected quickly. The critical point in the building of a J.0.A. design is the fixing of our large cornice gutters. This assembly, is the crown of the "entablature" of capitals & beams that tops an Outram building. Heavy precast elements can be, if they must be, craned up against the frame after it is fixed. But they will then require an eccentric steel chassis as was used on the Isle of Dogs Pumping Station. So it is more practical to fix all the cladding, that must be lifted by crane, before the gutter is fixed.

The roof undersheeting can not be completed, and the roof tiling begun, until the eaves cornice gutter is fixed. For water will be thrown off the roof onto the surrounding areas. There is some latitude here as the topmost precast member of an Outram entablature projects 300 mm in front of the masonry cladding below. This part of the entablature: a Scotia moulding in green concrete we call the "Saddle" is provided with a good "drip" feature-thus throwing roof water clear of it.

The precast manufacture has to be brought to the front of the queue. This contract can be let in advance of all of the others.

Cladding materials on JOA projects have always rated mould-ability, colour-ability and pattern-ability above the 'beauty of natural materials'. Natural materials are beautiful, but dumb. They can not be 'inscribed' with iconic structures and used to carry ideas. Painters do not frame slabs of plywood of veined marble. Architectural cultures which cultivate an 'aesthetic of raw materials' are probably intellectually enfeebled and certainly iconically incompetent.

JOA lack a telling name for the type of materials that we have developed out of industry-standard processes. For the time being we term them 'Synthetic Masonries'.


2. 1. Mechanical roofing.

The majority of physical defects in buildings are leaks. Air leaks in and out, and with it heat or cold. Air leaks also destroy sound-proofing. The commonest leaks of all are those admitting water. Flat roofs are a second- rate building technology. They require increasing quantities of maintenance and ultimate total re-laying. This becomes almost impossible after the flat roof is used to situate items of mechanical plant, as almost always happens with a modern building. Most mechanical plant can be located under a sloping roof. The plant is cheaper. It does not have to be corrosion-proofed. It is easier to maintain in bad weather, and at night. It is more secure against vandalism.

Sloping roof technology has been transformed, in recent years, by corrugated, or profiled, metal sheet technology. We have used these techniques, but, as with metal cladding, find them technically second rate. All metal external claddings will 'sweat' internally. All encourage interstitial condensation. One should not forget that the decay of insulation and the invisible corrosion of the metal claddings of some of Britains most famous modern buildings, such as Lloyds of London and the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, by Rogers and Foster respectively, meant that their claddings had to be completely scrapped and replaced, at a cost to the Insurers of millions of pounds (£M12 for Lloyds).

JOA prefer to use small unit tiling technologies that both shed water mechanically, allow the roof structure to breathe, and can be easily maintained. My office has designed roof structures that need no scaffolding below them to be erected. The entire assembly is built upwards from the gutters, which act as the base scaffold themselves. Each layer of construction acts as the working platform for the layer being placed. There are now proprietary systems of this kind, which, as one would expect, cost more than the in-house JOA one.

The point of weakness of a sloping roof is more concentrated than for a flat roof. It is the gutter. In JOA we try to avoid valley gutters; usually replacing them with small areas of high-specification flat roof which can also be used for the external mounting of rare items of equipment that need a lot of free air around them, like air-conditioning chillers and satellite dishes.


The JOA Eaves-Cornice Gutter.

Our preferred location for a gutter is at the eaves . If an eaves gutter leaks, or its rainwater pipe blocks, no damage results. The rain is already clear of the building. Its defective functioning becomes immediately obvious as a more or less dramatic "overflow". However this gutter then becomes part of the architecture of the facade of the building. It has to be large in order to discharge its 'iconic' role. It is typically between 600 and 1000 mm in width. As the crowning member of the "entablature" it projects up to 2.5M beyond the wall surface below it. This inhibits the fixing of heavy items of wall-cladding below it if they must be lifted into place by crane.

The 'cornice-gutter' is typically made from 3 mm sheet aluminium that is rolled or computer-brake -pressed to profile. It is powder-coated with a thick polyvinyl plastic coating after fabrication which has a guaranteed coating life of 40 years. The gutter is suspended from above by a heavy stainless steel bracket and stainless nuts & bolts. These do not corrode. They can be undone at any time for maintenance of the gutter seals or gutter coating. Individual sections of the gutter, which vary from 2 to 3 metres in length can be taken down for re-coating while rainwater is diverted to the existing or renewed sections. This would take place when the industrial coating breaks down and avoids frequent painting of the exterior. The repair of the waterproof caulking, if necessary, takes place from above, working off the gutter itself. The purpose of this system of maintenenace is to avoid erecting scaffolding.

The structure to which the gutter brackets are fixed is always corrosion-proofed steel. This is because all the countries that we have built in, to date, allow roof claddings to be supported by a steel superstructure. This is not only cheaper and quicker to erect than either pre-cast, or in-situ, concrete, but being as large in strength as it is small in girth, offers the advantages to the Fixing Operatives described later, in the Section entitled the "Tartan Frame". This access, from the interior, to items craned up to the exterior, permits the cornice gutter to be fixed without external scaffolding.

The first lengths of rolled metal gutter, typically around 2.7 M long, are fabricated complete with suspension brackets. This helps to preserve the profile of the gutter while it is transported and erected. The sections are are lowered into place. The upturned foot of the support bracket can be bolted on, standing on internal scaffolding. while the whole gutter is suspended by the crane. These first lengths are those above each "Robot Column". This is because not only is this section of gutter performing the role of the Corona to each Capital-Entablature assembly, but the Tartan Frame, as we will see more fully later, offers a Fixing Operative a secure working platform inside the Robot Column from which he can manipulate the lengths of prefabricated gutter as they are lowered towards him. These 'capital' sections are fabricated to include a rainwater spigot exiting towards a Robot Column interior. These first lengths are also erected with the jointing strap, incorprating a self-adhesive soft neoprene spacer, bolted onto each end of them.

These 1000 mm-girth gutters, fixed over the centreline of each Robot Column, are then also used as a working platform. The subsequent gutter sections are lowered into place. Each section is bolted to its neighbour outboard of a self-adhesive soft neoprene spacer. This offers the bolts a resistance to pull against while being tightened. It also absorbs dimensional differences between the joint straps and the gutter shells.

The stainless bolt heads around the belly of the gutter, which can not be reached once the second, inter-columnar, length is lowered, are placed in position on every column-head gutter length, after it is fixed, and the inter-columnar section is lowered to seat between the two column head lengths. The bolts newly placed in the belly of the column-gutter sections project vertically upward and do not prevent the inter-columnar section from being lowered on to it. However the bolts running up the front and back of the joint-clamping bands can not be pre-fixed. The bolts whose heads are invisible take the form of nuts permanently welded to the outer face of the gutter strap. The visible stitching bolts on the front of the gutter, are placed overhand by using the gutter itself as a working platform.

Each section of gutter is sealed to its neighbour,from above, by gunning sealant between the two sections while using the outer stitching plate to back the seal.

The stainless gutter brackets are drilled for folding standards that can support a safety wire for the gutter-fixers, the roof-sheeters and the roof tilers. The standards can be folded down to lie along the top of gutter brackets. They can be up to 900 mm long, thus affording an ample safety rail to the workmen fixing, and maintaining, the gutters and sloping roof.

Maintenace and replacement of individual sections of gutter is effected by first cutting out the soft sealant bead from above. Then the complete outer stitching plate is unbolted, while working from above, from both of the gutter lengths it stitches together. This outer cover-plate is slid to one side and remains trapped in place by the length of gutter that is not to be removed. The section of gutter that is to be removed is unblolted from its stainless support brackets, which remain in place without disturbing the overhanging roof tiles. The section of gutter is removed horizontally from between the support brackets and the green precast 'saddle'-unit below. The renewed section is replaced by a reverse process, the external profiled gutter cover-plate slid back across, rebolted and re-sealed.



It is a common misconception, even amongst architects, that the antigravity structure and the details of its construction are both the origin as well as the continuing foundation of Architecture. Buckminster Fuller has conclusively established that the trabeated framework of columns and beams, that constitute Architecture, is the least statically stable structure ever invented. Gregory Turner has established a history, over the whole 20 Century, during which all of the "Engineering Construction", both anti-gravity, as well as hydraulic and electro- mechanical, has been covered over by thin internal and external skins that are known as ``claddings". These facts establish that neither "Structure" nor "Construction", even if they ever supported Architecture in the past, which is doubtful, will ever support an Architecture of the Future.

The "antigravity" structural frame has, therefore, only a minor role to play in the architecture created by J0A. It is commonly entirely hidden from view. Its essential function is to fix, in their proper place, all the physical components, both visible and hidden, of an Outram building. Nor is this location in space a once-and-for-ever operation. For it also includes the original building construction operation and its subsequent long term maintenance and, even, alteration.



In the past we have given this kind of frame the name of a "stead" after homestead, farmstead and bedstead. Stead is an old English word meaning frame, boundary & extent. . This is a frame that steadies the components of our buildings in place. We take advantage of the 150 years of technical development, described by Turner, in high structural strength materials such as steel and concrete, to conceive of the structural frame more as a wall woven from lightweight scaffolding, than a "structure" of stout columns and beams. This is one reason why we now give it the more graphic title of the ``Tartan Frame."

The typical structural frame is set out on the centrelines of the columns. The next section of this text, titled the "Robot Frame", explains more fully some reasons, related to electro-mechanical servicing , why this is never the case in an Outram building. We focus, here, upon the role of the Tartan Frame in the sequence of building operations.

We have already seen, in the section titled "Mechanical Roofing". that our eaves cornice-gutter prevents further precast erection below it after it is fixed and delays the completion of the roof above it until it is bolted-on ready to receive rainwater. We have also seen, in the section titled "Top-down Cladding", that our larger projects have used increasing quantities of heavy precast cladding units lifted into place by crane. These, increasingly, are designed to provide shelf angle support, at each floor level, for hand laid brickwork, in such a way that this detailed external finishing can be carried out in a flexible sequence working off isolated scaffolding towers, flying scaffolds, or a complete peripheral scaffold.



Certain points of "decoration", on the surfaces of the precast concrete cladding, can be detailed to act as fixing points for these varieties of scaffolding. Three to ten-ton sections of precast are capable of being engineered to support an external scaffold. No points of attachment need be made to the structural frame. This allows the hand-laid cladding to be fixed & finished without moving scaffold attachments. It also allows them to be used for maintenance scaffolding, including flying scaffolding, during the life of the building.

This permits the Contractor to sequence the external cladding in a flexible way. He can lay bricks in spandrels, using detached scaffolding towers. as was done in Houston, while the frame, and further precast cladding, rises above the bricklayers. He can choose whether to fix the cornice-gutter without an external scaffold as described in "Mechanical Roofing". Or he can fix it from a flying scaffold and allow the peripheral scaffold to rise at the rate of the slowest section of hand -laid cladding. Or he can choose to bring the whole external scaffold up to gutter level and complete the hand laid cladding in the "top down" sequence described in the section titled "Top-down Cladding".



In all of these three cases, as well as the many combinations between them, JOA's foresight of the relation between design and production allows the Contractor to erect the cornice-gutter as soon as the "Tartan" frame is built and as soon as all the craned-into-place precast has been lifted and fixed onto it,. This allows him to begin to erect the roof, and weatherproof the interior, as soon as the "Tartan" frame is built up to that level. It also removes all hand-laid, or hand-fixed, external cladding from the critical path of operations which can delay completion.

It is necessary to forsee, throughout all these operations, how the individual Constructors will work on the multiplicity of operations that they must execute. They are, after all, the components of the building process whose cost is going up most quickly. Their safety is also of critical importance. But it is onerous to calculate all of these movements in exhaustive detail. So we rely, in J0A, on certain general principles of design that we have proved, by 26 years of experience building our design systems, to be of utility.



The first is to copy the U.S.A. in seeking to minimise the use of external scaffolding. The in-situ concrete frame and floors, and steel "Robot Attic" superstructure, of the $M16.5 Duncan Hall, were all built using a flying scaffold to construct its ``Tartan Frame" of 300 x300 mm "(12" x 12") split columns" and 150 mm (6") thick solid, in- situ, flat slab floors. The peripheral scaffolding was nothing more than the extension, beyond the building perimeter, of the plywood shuttering, supported by timber raked props, that used a patent clamp, off the cast concrete floor below.

The lack of a fixed peripheral scaffold, rising up each floor with the in-situ casting operation, allowed the American Contractor to lift heavy precast cladding elements into place and fix them below the floor that was being shuttered and poured. Hand laid cladding, off scaffolding towers, began to be applied to the precast spandrels, again while the frame was continuing to be cast, upwards, above the bricklayers.

The second principle of design descends from more than one imperative. The one at issue here is the desire to minimise external scaffolding while retaining the use of low maintenance brick and concrete masonry eladding. This leads to the maximum use of heavy precast cladding units. It is essential to be able to see each end of these, while standing on the interior, behind the structure of the Tartan Frame. The fixer must then be able to guide each end, of the precast column covering, or precast spandrel unit, towards the in-situ, or steel, structural column to which each vertical edge of the precast unit must be seated onto, adjusted in three dimensions to line up with marks on the structure, and be either bolted or welded into place.

All of these visual and manual operations become literally impossible, with no external scaffolding to support the Fixer, if the Tartan Frame is replaced by lengths of concrete walling. The Fixer, standing on the internal floor, can neither see nor reach out to touch the ten-ton section of suspended precast cladding. To convenience the Fixer, the structural columns should be reasonably frequent and of the smallest footprint possible. This requires clever structural engineering design.

The secret of the Tartan Frame of many thin structural members is that it goes a long way towards replacing fixed peripheral scaffolding. It builds-in the builders scaffold.



In both Cambridge England, and Houston, USA, a 300 x300 mm (12" x12"), reinforced, cast-in-situ, column was used. We call this normal JOA column design a "Split Column". This is because the pairs of thin columns, which occur in an A-B-A-B-A-B, sequence whose "modular" ratio is 1:2, bracket the footprint of the "big" (1.4M to 1.8M diameter) columns of the Outram "Robot Order". This brings a 300x300 mm structural column at each end of the Robot Column cladding and at each end of the under-window spandrel cladding .

It may be thought that an in-situ concrete frame & floor lacks speed and economy. Our American project showed that a structural design using a standardised column shutter, and flat slab floors, was sufficiently economic and progressed as fast as the precast cladding could be manufactured.


Everything, up until now, has dealt with the relation between the structural frame and the external cladding both wall & roof. The other function of the structural, "Tartan Frame", apart from the obvious one of holding up the floors, is to "steady" the mechanical services. This is done, in JOA's architecture, by coinciding many of the characteristics of "Classical" architecture with the advent, some 50 years ago, of both an increasing bulk of electro-mechanical building services and the decreasing girth of their structural supports. The Robot Frame is the structural component of the larger and more comprehensive idea of the Robot Order, or, to compare it with its Classical antecedents, the "Ordine Robotico".

From the viewpoint of the distribution of building services, the Robot Order and its associated split pairs of structural columns, and, in the case of the Judge Institute, split beams, presents a cubic latticework of vertical and horizontal duct pathways. These are free to be filled, by the many varieties of Services Engineer, with wires, tubes, trunking and any associated equipment that could be manoeuvred through a 900 mm wide (3'0") doorway into the roomy interior of a Robot Column. This network of hidden passageways is sometimes filled to the brim with equipment. For example one 1.8M (6'0") diameter freestanding column in Duncan Hall, Texas, accommodated four floor-mounted vertical fan-coil units.

Other, less charged, columns, such as those supporting the 26 metre high ceiling of the Gallery of the Judge Institute, were fitted with internal cat ladders that allowed access to ceiling and column services. These columnar catwalks were also put to use to create the system of climbing gondolas with which the 22 metre high glass walls of the Gallery are cleaned and maintained.

The role of the Robot Frame in facilitating JOA's unique approach to a relationship between our ancient Classical Architectural inheritance and our new, 20 C, lifespace design technology, is simple. It is to minimise the girth of its structural members and place them so as to bracket the internal space of the Robot Frame. This allows the maximum freedom to the passage of building services and Service Engineers.

In this it almost exactly duplicates the design imperatives of the Tartan Frame towards the external Cladding Envelope. Both the Tartan Frame around the building exterior and the Robot Frame throughout the building interior share the A-B-A-B-A-B rhythm of the 1:2 module between the Robot Order column and its inter-columniation.


The origin of the Robot Order technique is coincident with the foundation of JOA, back in 1973. Every project, both built and unbuilt has used it for 26 years. Beginning as nothing more than enlarged wooden architraves and dudo- rails to take minor domestic services, it slowly developed, during this last quarter- century, to accommodate everyday human "corridor" circulation, in the "Yoked " 1.8 M (6'0") diameter columns of Duncan Hall, and parked automobiles, in the 3.2 M ( 11'0") diameter columns of the Battersea Project, in London.

The yoked Robot Order built in Duncan Hall, was first invented for a building next to St.Pauls in the City of London. The imperative, in our unsuccessful competition project, was to make a rectangular base to the columns in the external wall, that would also act, where required, as an arcade. Adrian James, a J0A Associate Architect, looking through the competition drawings, seven years later, adapted the yoked column to resolve a clash between column & corridor on the interior of Rice University's new Faculty of Computational Engineering. Thus was born the first column, in the long history of Architecture, that coincided, on the same spot of ground, the three categories of Functionality: Space-planning, Engineering support, and Information design.

The pursuit of the goal of both saving Architecture from the 'Classicists', and saving Architecture for the 'Classicists', has occupied J0A continuously, since its foundation in 1973. During this time we have built many projects, all of them different. This long experience has allowed us to define certain simple principles that guide our designs. The foregoing text deals with those that we have found will allow a Contractor to build our designs as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. As a firm, we remain on the look-out for new approaches to the Construction Sequencing of our designs.

CONCLUSION: THE JOA project, seen as a whole.

To finish, I would like to propose an 'understanding' of our work. It is the idea that our 10,000-year-old inherited Architectural Tradition is not a useless burden, as the Critic Reyner Banham once described it, which must be jettisoned, in order, as he put it, to "run with the Engineers". My proposal is that the 'ancient practices' are, instead, when properly understood, the best key we have to unlock the way to a better-engineered lifespace.

My route to the mechanical and material forms of my Architecture has been to decode the 'Ancient Tradition', extracting from it a language of 'icons'. These icons are more than words, and more than images, and more than forms, for they are all of these at once. More importantly, they have no technological , or material imperative. I do not have to realise them in any particular material. This is why I always tend to use modern, mass-produced synthetic materials that can be easily and cheaply formed, coloured and decorated. Nor do I object to the tendency of modern buidings to be built as skin, and bones, and mechanical viscera. Technique is just a means to an end. It has no 'emblematic' value for me.

What this means, paradoxically, is that this technically 'neutral' fabric can easily accommodate any 'technology'. Being grounded in the immaterial conceptual fabric of the iconic landscape, it is indifferent to any 'technical' means or ends.

Our decorated forms are 'merely' the outer 'navigation buoys' that mark an inner 'iconic' structure that is more than the justification of a graphic surface. These icons, in engendering the whole of our 'Architecture' also give birth to a complete 'Robotic' physiology covering engineering-support design, space design and construction-process engineering . To mistake this and conclude that our decorative surface is 'merely decorative' is to run the danger that one will collapse backwards in 'technical time' to the very state of technical primitivity which caused the 'catastrophe' of Modernism in the first place, 100 years ago, when 'decoration' was destroyed in order to release technique from its bonds. My Architecture has already succeeded in navigating this dire strait.

To conceive of my work only as a Modern reworking, or a merely decorative 'imitation', of Tradition is to fail to escape from the very self-fulfilling prophecy that has consigned the Tradition to its present oblivion. My aim has been to 'invent' a new, seamless, synthesis of Modernity and Tradition that seeks to extend and exceed them both, leaving the period of their 'absurd' disjunction as the History of 20C Architecture.

This is why I call my work a 'Canonic Freestyle' Architecture. It seeks to found a new 'canon' a new orthodoxy, a new rule, as a precondition to an new freedom of expression in the media of 'architectural 'writing'. It seeks to prioritise 'writing' because only in this way can the necessary, that is to say 'naturally functional', or 'naturally compatible', physical and social ordering of our lifespace be rendered transparent, or at least open to interrogation, to the understanding and thereby authenticated. For to attempt to justify the 'ordering' that is the aspect of Architecture that is considered most problematic, if not absolutely rejected as dictatorial and Fascistic, by any other route than a freely judged opinion, founded on the widest understanding, is no longer 'working', as it might have in the past, prior to the 'information culture'. Nor should it, either.

'Canonic' comes from the Greek kanon meaning rule and rod. Kanones is also a bulrush or papyrus reed, like 'canna' in Latin. My 'canonic' architectural members are hollow and tubular, housing a core of fiery power. The kanon is a rule, an authority, a column of power, like a baton.

Freestyle is free, obviously, and also a stylus, a greek styli, a pen that writes as well as a stele, a gnomon that casts its shadow around with the wheeling sun. A stylus writes words seen in the light of the sun, like images. It writes them on the paper that is made from the river reed, beaten out from the papyrus and laid cross-grained, at right angles, one on the other. The rule of the kanon supports, by its empowerment, its law, the freedom to 'write' whatever pleases one to bring to the de-light of the mind.

"Canonic Freestyle" is the paradox that there is free expression only under law, the 'sweetness' of life only in its denial.


End of FAQ No. 2: "Buildability",

Return to "The List of FAQ's"".  


* JOA can be reached by E-Mail at anthony@johnoutram.com , by telephone on +44 (0)207 262 4862 or by fax on +44 (0)207 706 3804. We also have an ISDN number : +44 (0)207 262 6294.




John Outram