With the rapid development of architectural design and communication tools over the last two decades, access to the range of possibilities for geometric description in architecture has been widened. Isolated from the resistances borne out of interaction with material properties and manual techniques, these predominantly digital tools often bypass an engagement with the tectonic dimension of architecture, yet the two are not mutually exclusive. Significant opportunities exist for hybridised tools and techniques to be developed, and the aim of the research is to establish methodologies of ‘design through making’ that adapt such tools and techniques to the contemporary technologies used in architectural design.
The research is presented in two parts. The first part is an analysis of Antoni Gaudi’s design methodology. Gaudi used specific design tools and techniques to investigate plastic space and form through simple, rational means that were founded on tectonic principles. Gaudi’s Colonia Guell Church is a key exemplar, and is compared to the work of recent and contemporary architects that have adapted his methodology, drawing particular attention to their alternate approaches to processes of synthesis and optimisation. The second part of the thesis is research by design, and explores a design methodology based on Gaudi’s, through a series of architectural investigations consisting of material experiments and hypothetical projects. Methods employed include construction prototypes, maquettes, analogue models and digital parametric models. The outcome of the research is the demonstration of a hybrid methodology of ‘design through making’ that integrates tectonic principles with contemporary technologies, which in the final conclusion can be shown to bring ‘tectonic dimension’ to otherwise materially ‘neutral’ representations, and in particular, extend the opportunities for processes of transformation and synthesis in design.