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AUTONOMOUS ARCHITECTURE AND THE QUEST FOR FORM

Tahl Kaminer states that architecture have never had a distinct theory of autonomy similar to art like lart pour lart movement yet, as architecture started to decline modernism and turned into history, adopted aesthetic values and, the term of autonomous architecture became more lucid.1 He continues his statement, the development of idea of autonomy into a crucial issue in 1970s was not a consequence situation, during those years optimistic ideas about improved future of Modern Architecture was changed into doubt and discontent in present and the historical question of past.2 Moreover, Kaminer explains that in mid 1970s before modernism was disapproved, architecture was avoided, outdated and estranged from unstable society, then the term of autonomy came into existence and the situation of architecture developed and transformed within two decades.3 Similarly to Kaminer, K. Michael Hays states that the idea of architectural autonomy emerged in consequence of these conditions of the time and he points out the importance of 1970s in architecture in a few words in 2001:

The most theoretically aware of contemporary architects have rejected what was the most important operative concept of architecture theory at the moment of its re-foundation in the 1970s: namely the aspiration toward autonomous forms and techniques to create and measure the distance between a resistant, critical practice and the degraded languages and ideologies of consumer culture that surround it.4

As a result of the circumstances, firstly in 1973 in the articles of Oppositions, editors began to discuss architectural autonomy but, they did not use the term itself, autonomous architecture was examined under the names of neo-realism, neo-rationalism and
1

Tahl Kaminer, Autonomy and the resuscitation of the discipline, in Architecture, Crisis and Resuscitation, (Oxon: Routledge, 2011), pp. 74. 2 Ibid., pp. 77-82. 3 Ibid. 4 K. Michael Hays, Prolegomenon for a Study Linking the Advanced Architecture of the Present to that of the 1970s through Ideologies of Media, the Experience of Cities in Transition, and the Ongoing Effects of Reification, Perspecta: the Yale Architectural Journal. vol. 32, (The MIT Press, 2001), pp. 100-107.

neo-classicism.5 Later on, in 1983, in the Harvard Architecture Review, the clear title autonomous architecture appeared and autonomy in architecture started to be debated in more perceptible way with relation to architectural production.6 According to the editors of Harvard review autonomous architecture embraced two important traditions, classical as thesis, modern as anti-thesis and, generated relationship between type and form rather than being pressed into a particular style. 7 In the Harvard Review, editors define autonomous architecture as:

Autonomous architecture is closely related to the idea of type and the notion of an architectural discipline. The possibility of autonomy ultimately depends on architectures reference to a priori, ideal forms.8

In addition to these crucial journals, short while ago in Perspecta the Yale Architectural Journal the autonomy in architecture were re-appraised and re-discussed and in the Editors Statement discussions of autonomy in architecture declared as a self-contained project with its own legible, meaningful forms moreover, Stanford Anderson also highlighted the issue of use and form in his article Quasi-Autonomy in Architecture.9

In the light of the information, it can be stated that the idea of autonomy can be interpreted in several different ways and architecture is autonomous or not according to standing point of the dealt with the subject. Main argument of this research paper is a claim that the purpose of embracing the idea of autonomy in architecture is quest for form. Because, form, represents the aesthetic side of the architecture, is a major issue of architecture. Furthermore, form which is the critical point of different intersection of different fields of architecture, gives architects to create relationship between buildings to humanity. Likewise, Gutenschwager defines architecture is a combination of process (design) and product (artifact) and as buildings forms are meaningful both internally and externally, architectural

Canan Seyhun, Introduction, in the role of the architect and autonomy of architecture: an inquiry into the position of the early modern architect and architecture: Le Corbusier and Maison Curutchet, (Middle East Technical University, Unpublished Master Thesis, 2004), pp. 7. 6 Ibid. 7 As in the reader of arch 513 course, Andrew Anker, Mark Kessler, W. Scott Clark, Selected articles from "Autonomous Architecture," in Harvard Architecture Review, vol. 3 Winter 1984. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid.

products are crucial both for society and architecture itself. 10 Furthermore, Arnheim emphasizes the significance of architectural form in his books The Dynamics of Architectural Form defining form as the creation of a buildings tangible and visible shapes and he says that form as a building shape can be neglected but, cannot do without it. However, form plays an important role, the influencers of development and exchanges of the form always stay unclear. In his book Sources of Architectural Form Mark Gelernter mentions that the main question of design theory is:

How this idea of building form is generated, what influences its shape, from what is derived?

The search for form in architecture and art continued through the years and definitely it will pursue in the future. Form, reflects understanding of architectural design, has distinct connection between different aspects of architecture, always stays crucial issue in architectural theory. Therefore, form became central debate discussions of autonomy in architecture. In this research, the ongoing search for architectural form will be examined through the adaptation period of autonomy in architecture based on assertion that the idea of autonomy was received as a response to quest for form.

Kaminer says that before the emergence of autonomy term in architecture, the idea of autonomy was came into existence during Enlightenment in the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau as connected with ideal freedom and in those years, aesthetics adapted as a philosophy of art because, it was required as a mean of analyzing art's purpose and function, autonomy can legitimize arts role therefore, aesthetics united with autonomy.11 Moreover, he also states that autonomy played an significant role in Kants metaphysics of morals, Kaminer states that Kant used the autonomy term in his crucial work Critique of Judgement as the essence of human will as moral judgement, and in his writings about aesthetics, Kant defined aesthetics as a distinct branch of philosophy, he explained human pleasure in the beauty of natural and cultural object were free and purposeless purposiveness without purpose and were not related with daily requirements.12 Haskins
10

Gerald Gutenschwager, Architecture in a Changing World: The New Rhetoric of Form, in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 49, No. 4, (Blackbell Publishing on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics, 1996), pp. 246-258. 11 Kaminer, op cit., pp. 74-77. 12 Ibid.

summarizes Kants point of view about art and aesthetics in a few words:

For Kant, then, a work of art's aesthetic value (though he uses no expression translatable directly as "aesthetic value") needs to be understood as a comprehensive form of instrumental value, or of what some philosophers have meant by "inherent value": a work is valuable for its own sake and for the sake of some end(s) beyond itself.13

According to Kaminer with the great contribution of Kants notion of autonomy of the human will and his idea of the disinterested reception of art the artistic movement lart pour lart appeared in the romanticism era.14 Wood also states that in romanticism, the idea of purposeless is the focal point of that time, life itself became a work of art that depended on aesthetic principles and world was tried to be changed with making poems and paintings depending on aesthetics values. 15As quoted in Kaminers book Gautier explains the main thought of the era:

The useless alone is truly beautiful; everything is ugly, since it is an expression of a need, and mans needs are, like his pitiful, infirm nature, ignoble and disgusting. The most useful place in the house is the latrines.16

Wood says that unfortunately the attempt of changing world with constructing a building was much more difficult than trying to heal the world with writing poems or depicting paintings.17 Therefore, Kaminer claims that thanks to arts for arts sake rebellion functionalist and utilitarian thoughts in art altered into artistic vision of community but, unlike art in those years architecture did not have same evolution and never had its own autonomous theory.18

In spite of Kaminers statements that the term of autonomy became more lucid after art isolated from purpose, Lefaivre and Tzonis explain architectural autonomy as referencing

Casey Haskins, Kant and the autonomy of art, in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 47, No. 1, (Blackbell Publishing on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics, 1989), pp. 43-54. 14 Kaminer, op cit., pp. 75. 15 Christopher Wood, Why Autonomy?, in Perspecta, Vol. 33, Mining Autonomy, (The MIT Press on behalf of Perspecta, 2002), pp. 48-53. 16 Kaminer, op cit., pp. 75. 17 Wood, op cit. 18 Ibid., pp. 77.

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to medieval texts with utilitarian its approach. According to Lefaivre and Tzonis, as in the writings of Socrates in Pistols, the new architectural design attitude came into existence which whether forms are normative in themselves that is autonomous became an issue, in mediaeval texts some forms were seen as auspicious some of them seen as bad or unluck so, the measure of autonomy defined with architectural form.19 Lefaivre and Tzonis asserts that utilitarian and autonomous point of view of architecture appeared in De Architecture written by Vitruvius but, because of its poetic written it was not easy to comprehend the text, after Vitruvius, in the Ten Books of Architecture by Alberti the theory of autonomy became more clear and architectural forms were defined as products of formal norms whose warrant is the pleasure of the viewer and, the idea of autonomy in architecture accepted as purely formal activity20. Lefaivre and Tzonis explain the importance of form and pictorial effect of architectural autonomy with its social content and use as turning in the beginning of architecture, the aim of their examination, returning to idea of autonomy, was not receiving back to the beauty norms yet, emphasizing preciousness of form will always be stayed crucial issue.21I have drawn from the results here as depending on the writings of Lefaivre and Tzonis is that the idea of autonomy was in the heart of architecture from Vitruvius to now, and in the autonomy discussions architectural form was always key issue and main problem at the sometime. However, until 1970s as architecture was captured by district utilitarian approach, architecture did not need to return idea of autonomy although the idea was existed unconsciously essence of itself. As architecture threatened from mechanization, by working to return to the essence of architecture, architectural forms became main instrument.

Vidler points out that in 1933, the Viennese historian Emil Kaufmann was the first who used the term autonomen architectur in his study Von Ledoux bis Le Corbusier , Kaufmann did not accept modernism as a brief avant-garde experiment in the 1920s, he interpret the period a development of aesthetic with the philosophy of Kants autonomy of will.22 As in quoted from Vidler, in the translation by Teyssot, Kaufmann says that:

At the time when Kant rejects all the moral philosophies of the past and decrees the autonomy of the will as the supreme principle of ethics, an analogous transformation
19

As in the reader of arch 513 course, Liane Lefaivre and Alexander Tzonis. The Question of Autonomy in Architecture, in Harvard Architecture Review. vol. 3, 1984, pp. 25-42. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid. 22 Anthony Vidler, Emil Kaufmann and the Claims of Kantian Autonomy, in Perspecta, Vol. 33, Mining Autonomy, (The MIT Press on behalf of Perspecta, 2002), pp. 16-29

takes place in architecture. In the sketches of Ledoux these new objectives appear for the first time in all their clarity. His works marks the birth of autonomous architecture.23

Fig. 1 Sketches of Ledoux (Source: Anthony Vidler, Emil Kaufmann and the Claims of Kantian Autonomy, Perspecta, Vol.33, Mining Autonomy, pp. 19)

According to Vidler , Kaufmann examined autonomy from Kant to Le Corbusier in philosophy and architecture, at first Kaufmanns works were found generalized and

underestimated by protective historians like Hans Sedmayr but, in 1970s his works reinterpreted by Peter Eisenman and Aldo Rossi and he was accepted as an architectural theorist who works on autonomy with linguistic terms.24 In addition to Vidlers statement, Kultermann claims that as a result of the changes in 1910, 1930 and 1950, in 1970s a new perspective of architectural thought was developed by architects who were born in between 1930s-1940s, their works were related with 1960s, 1970s and developed through that years yet, also affected from earlier achievements.25 Hays also states that however, the ideology of autonomy was very old in fact depended on Enlightenment period, the autonomy concept became a significant issue in 1970s, because at that times, there was a great pleasure of technological optimization and utilitarianism on architecture which turned to the servant of industry and started to lose its own specificity, autonomy saved architecture from collision into another discourse with intervening culture negatively.26 Moreover, Vidler declares that architectural autonomy has spent it transformation of its own meaning in modern period with emphasizing the importance of architectural forms opposed to the style and changing to role

Ibid. Ibid. 25 Udo Kultermann, Autonomous Architecture Since 1970: Regional Identity and the Regaining of Tradition, in Architecture in the 20th Century, (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993), pp. 185-187. 26 Hays, op cit.
24

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of the architects in professional world.27

As autonomy in architecture plays significant role in continuous search for form, the critical question is -what is the main tool of autonomous architecture? In the Harvard Architectural Review editors explain the term of autonomous architecture with its connection to type and they claim that as if autonomous architecture simplified with a particular style, it was type, although it can be assumed that type is generated with a certain power and precedence as a source of identity and considered as affected from force of function, there is an arbitrary meaning of type and its relations.28 Lawrence and Low explain the importance of type in architecture in the article Built Environment and Spatial Form:

Architecture is typically defined to encompass the built forms, often monumental, characteristic of civilizations, and self-consciously designed and built by specialists. The current typological debate among architects, architectural historians, and folklorists, seems only tangential to our concerns here, since we believe any anthropological theory of the built environment should be able to accommodate and explain all types.29

Additionally, K. Michael Hays declares that in 1970 as a result of the demands of autonomy and architectural presentation of the city, the theory of typology in architecture established by architects. 30 As quoted in Oppositions by Hays, Rafael Moneo explains the significance of typology in a few words:

To understand the question of type is to understand the nature of the architectural object today. It is a question that cannot be avoided. The architectural object can no longer be considered as a single, isolated event because it is bounded by the world that surrounds it as well as by its history. It extends life to other objects by virtue of its

27 28

Vidler, op cit. Anker, Kessler, Scott, Clark, op cit. 29 Denise L. Lawrence, Seths M. Low, The Built Enviroment and Spatial Form, in Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 19, (Published by: Annual Reviews, 1990), pp. 453-505. 30 Hays, op cit.

specific architectural condition, thereby establishing a chain of related events in which it is possible to and common formal structures.31 Moreover, Anthony Vidler explains that in 18th century there were two dominant typologies that one of them was related with historical explanation of the city and the other was occurred as a result of industrialization and assimilation of architecture into a machine production.32 Vidler continues to say, after modernism was started to be declined, architects turned into past and the issue of typology became a crucial issue with the contribution of Leon Kriers and Aldo Rossis ideas, later than the new, third typology which main thought is the adaptation of architectural forms into the city and consideration of entire city as its past and future fragments rather than connection between form and use, was born.33 In addition to Vidler, the editors of Harvard Architectural Review defines autonomous architecture as a synthesis of classical and modern at the sometime, it accepts classical as thesis and modern as antithesis, and two important architects, examined about type and typology in a different ways, reflects the two different aspects of autonomous architecture. These architects are Aldo Rossi whose ideas related with classical tradition and Peter Eisenman who reflects the modern side of autonomous architecture.

Aldo Rossi defines architecture as an everlasting artifact which is a witness of evaluation of civilization and occurred with the history of the city.34 About Rossis work Mario Gandelsonas points out that:

Rossis Architecture of the City presents a theory involving the persistence of form, the insistence of urban traces in the permanent process of differentiation that characterizes the historical city.35

Rossi also states that the spirit of the city and psychological effects of buildings on people were relevant with the legibility of form thus, as a result of the intercourse between form and type, type was developed according to two main characteristics of architecture which are
Anthony Vidler, Third Typology, in Architecture theory since 1968 / edited by K. Michael Hays, (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998), pp. 284-296. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid. 34 Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City, in Theories And Manifestos Of Contemporary Architecture edited by Charles Jencks and Karl Kropf, (Great Britain: Academy Editions, 1997) 35 Mario Gandelsonas, The City as the Object of Architecture, in Assemblage,No.37, (The MIT Press, 1998), pp. 128-29.
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aesthetic desire and demand for better environment for life.36 Rossi continues to say that the logic of type generated according to form, type is complicated and continual and variable from society to society so, type became basis of architecture. 37 According to Hays, although city combines fragmented and isolated architectural parts in a whole, each of them is crucial and every single type creates the genetic code of the city and, Rossis Modena Cemetery is a significant example of this idea.38 Hays explains the project:

The project attempts to solve the most important technical issues in the same manner as they are solved when designing a house, a school, or a hotel. As opposed to a house, a school, or a hotel, where life itself modifies the work and its growth in time, the cemetery foresees all modifications; in the cemetery, time possesses a different dimension. Faced with this relationship, architecture can only use its given elements, refusing any suggestion not born out of its own making; therefore, the references to the cemetery1are also found in the architecture of the cemetery, the house, and the city. Here, the monument is analogous to the relationship between life and buildings in the modern city.39

Fig. 2 Aldo Rossi, Cemetery of San Cataldo,Modena (Source: Aldo Rossi. Moderna Cemetery, in Oppositions Reader: Selected Readings from a Journal for Ideas and Criticism in Architecture, 1973-1984. ed. by. K. Michael Hays,, pp. 68-72)

Hays also highlights, Rossis typological demands can be seen as reminiscence for the traditional European city which had its own architectural meaning was completely lost, summarily, his interpretation of architecture was in full historical awareness.
36 37

Ibid. Ibid. 38 Hays, op cit. 39 Aldo Rossi, Cemetery of San Cataldo, Modena, in Architecture theory since 1968 / edited by K. Michael Hays, (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998), pp. 68-72.

As Aldo Rossi represents the classical attitude in autonomous architecture and architectural representation of the cultural city, Peter Eisenman symbolizes the modernist aspects of autonomous architecture. Hays points out that the term of traditional city is started to be disappeared, and as a result of the changing and developing technology media, the technology of communication itself, began to force public spaces to be change, the meaning of public became related with pluralist, consumerist, suburban culture.40 Moreover, according to Hays, unlike Rossis idea of revising traditional city, Eisenman claimed that the idea of autonomy should be accepted with the importance of heterogeneity of the mediatic city. 41 Eisenman states that architecture should be separated from the weight of past or future, architecture was a fiction with its own values, representation and experiences.42 Eisenman explains his ideas about the era in a few words:

With the rise of industrialization, this balance seems to have been fundamentally disrupted. In that it had of necessity to come to terms with problems of a more complex functional nature, particularly with respect to the accommodation of a mass client, architecture became increasingly a social or programmatic art. And as the functions became more complex, the ability to manifest the pure type-form eroded.43

Eisenman defines architecture as work of the language itself and he extends a theory that called Post Functionalism for developing new alternatives to functionalism and responding changes of interaction between man and objects which main purpose turned description of itself rather than speak about the man, his theories were interpretation of relationship between form and function in a humanist aspect related with the evolution of the form.44 Moreover, according to Muzaffar in his book Eisenman Inside Out: Selected Writings, 1963-1988 he declares his intention as:

40 41

Hays, op cit. Hays, op cit. 42 As in the reader of arch 513 course, Peter Eisenman, The End of the Classical: The end of the Beginning, the End of the End, in Perspecta, Vol. 21 1984, pp. 154-173. 43 Peter Eisenman, Post-Functionalism, Oppositions 6 (Fall 1976), in Architecture theory since 1968 / edited by K. Michael Hays, (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998), pp. 234-240. 44 Ibid.

[p]rohibiting into the heat of architecture by an architect, not a historian or academic theoretician, in attempt to explain its interior discourse, its inside, as something other than a study of essences or dialectic strategies.45

Muzaffar also summarizes that Eisenmans approach is so crucial because, his aim is exposing the essence of architecture as cultural response and aesthetic demands, his works are not escaping from past, explanations of the unnecessary demand of returning into past. 46

As seen in the works of Aldo Rossi and Peter Eisenman, after refusing solid restrictive ideas of modernism, the connection between architecture and city became stronger with contribution to the idea of typology and architecture now became a part of culture and society. Moreover, due to humanistic aspect of autonomy, architecture is started to be used as a protective tool against assimilation of city. Aurelli defines autonomous architecture is a period when the autonomy of architectural form from political, social and commercial significations was discovered.47 According to Editors Statement in Perspecta 33: Mining Autonomy, autonomy was considered as the only way to withstand capitalist cycle of production, architects in Oppositions emphasized the importance of social role of architecture and they were against technocracy and used autonomy as resistance to status quo.48 In his book Pier Vittorio Aureli explains the importance of autonomy:

Autonomy became a way neither to master nor to resist capitalism but instead to transform it by means of a very sophisticated hermeneutics of its cultural effects, and within the highly progressive perspective of the development of forces that were supposed to be its antagonist.49

Kaminer summarizes that although the theory of autonomy grew up in modernism, the idea appeared after declination of modernism and autonomy played an important role to resuscitation of architecture and led architecture to become a part of society rather than

45

Ijlal Muzaffar, Eisenman Inside Out: Selected Writings, 1963-1988, in Future Anterior, Vol 1, No. 2, 2004. Ibid. 47 Ibid. 48 Editors Statement, in Perspecta 33: Mining Autonomy, (Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/156729 ), pp.7. 49 Pier Vittorio Aureli. The Project of Autonomy, (New York: Columbia Univ., The Temple Hoyne Buelle Center, Princeton Architectural Press, 2008), pp.5-14.
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alienated in changing world. 50

As a result of all of this information, depending on Lefaivres and Kaminers statements, it can be claimed that the idea of autonomy has always been in the essence of architecture from Vitruvius to now but, it re-read, re-revised and re-appeared in modernism period because, at that time architecture was captured by distinct utilitarian limitations. According to Wood a synonym word of freedom, the autonomy term provided architecture to be saved from solid functionalist ideas and reconnect humanity with culture and city.51 Hays say that culture can be interpreted as a cause and content of built form and architecture provided culture to sustain its continuity.52 Lefaivre and Tzonis explain that this relationships between architecture and man with city and culture gives architecture an as-if situations, architectural practice can be seen as totally psychological but in fact it was about society.53 Briefly, according to adaptation period of autonomy in architecture above is that when architectural form threatened from standardization and mechanization, the idea of autonomy re-appeared to sustain and response quest for form in architecture which reconnect with society again and become an artifact of the city.

At this point, the critical question is - how architecture can be autonomous? Unlike art, architecture has constant relationship between human and the limits of human are the limits of architecture, it is not possible architecture to have freedom like art so, - in which aspects can architecture seen as autonomous? The answer is form which is both meaningful for building and city at the sometime also represents the aesthetic attitude of architecture. Form is like a thin boundary point of connection architecture to art, it has its own truths, values and visuality different than other architectural subjects. As a result of this uncertainty and difference, architecture has always been in permanent quest for architectural forms through the centuries. Similarly, one of the main problems of Modern Architecture was finding form and the idea of autonomy provided architecture to move away from utilitarian ideas and architecture gained its own freedom and as a result of the freedom in architectural thought, the limits of architecture changed and architectural forms developed with new concerns and new technological possibilities. Although the discussions about autonomy in architecture is a very
50 51

Kaminier, op cit., pp. 81. Wood, op cit. 52 K. Micheal Hays, Critical Architecture: Between Culture and Form, in Perpecta, Vol. 21, (Published by Yale School of Journal, 1984), pp. 14-29. 53 Liane Lefaivre and Alexander Tzonis op cit.

subjective and open-ended issue in architecture, it can be claimed that everlasting search for form plays an important role in architecture and one of the main purpose of reappearance of autonomy in architecture is quest for form.

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