Norma e Forma in Architettura: Effetti Distorsivi e Modelli Normativi

Translated title of the contribution: Norm and Form in Architecture: Perverse Effects and Normative Models.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The morphological consequences of architectural rules and regulations have an extremely relevant impact in the determination of both architectural and urban quality. Despite that, the relationship between the normative domain and architectural practice is often overlooked, and current scientific works tend to (1) concentrate on the political, the social, or the historical dimensions of architectural normativity and (2) elaborate on norms as external to the design process. This research tackles the norm-form relationship with two aims: the first is to elucidate the role of rules in determining architectural form, as a part of the design process, rather than an external constraint. Rules that have an impact on the design process can be considered as design acts, and their agency can be judged on the basis of their contribution to design quality. The second aim is to develop an understanding of the normative traits of architectural practice, by delving, through historical analyses, in the ‘modes of transmission’ of normativity inside the discipline—i.e., how architects elaborate, communicate and implement the normative process as a specific part of the project itself. Architects use norms as part of the design process, which is, in turn, inherently normative. To this end, the first part of the thesis elaborates on the theoretical framework in which the question can be addressed. Drawing on Choay’s work, the twofold foundation of architecture as a discipline, based on one side on Rules—notably with Vitruvius’ and Alberti’s works— and on the other on drawn or built Models, is investigated. Architectural normativity, namely the manifold manifestations of normativity along the process of production of space, is questioned, to build, through the use of instruments pertaining to philosophy of law and social ontology, a taxonomy of the normative ideas underlying a variety of architectural phenomena. The second part of the thesis is dedicated to the interactions between architecture and the domain of state-enforced norms, to define the ‘perverse effects’ of existing norms in the Italian normative framework, namely effects that are neither expected nor intended, and whose formal consequences, although derived from deliberate decisions taken during the design process, is distant from the norms’ telos. The third part of the thesis consists of three in-depth case studies that serve the scope to investigate and clarify the relationship between architectural practice and rules. Drawing on the notion normative model —namely a built or designed architecture invested with deontic value, explored and defined in the first part— the thesis delves into the idea that architectural artefacts can carry a deontic meaning. It shows how it is possible to conceive, within an adequate normative framework, an effective drawn or built normative artefact that is capable of solving the aporias investigated in the second part of the thesis. In the three case studies discussed, the verbal regulation acts as a reinforcement vis-à-vis the normative models, which in turn express a series of ideas that can be declined in the design process flexibly and efficiently. The work concludes that the complex relationship between architecture and normativity is determined on one side by its historical development, in particular at the dawn of the print age, where architectural drawings drastically replaced the verbal discourse as a vector of architectural information, and on the other side by the crystallisation occurred during the rise of urbanism, that articulated regulation in its current, parametrical form. While rules and regulations pertaining to the architectural realm must be intended as part of the discipline, architecture itself can contribute to the development of a more articulated and effective regulation through the exploration of the project as a normative tool.
Translated title of the contributionNorm and Form in Architecture: Perverse Effects and Normative Models.
Original languageItalian
Awarding Institution
  • University of Cagliari
  • Chiri, Giovanni Marco, Supervisor, External person
Award date6 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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