In Search of Elegance

In Search of Elegance: Towards an Architecture of Satisfaction

Michel Lincourt
Illustrations by Louise Beauprè-Lincourt
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 422
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt8002k
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  • Book Info
    In Search of Elegance
    Book Description:

    Michel Lincourt calls for a dignified architecture, centred around the concept of elegance, that will provide satisfaction to both its users and the surrounding society. Elegance, defined as the symbiosis of excellence and magnificence, is the ultimate attribute of any creative endeavour and achieving it is the architect's prime motivation. Using this concept, Lincourt develops a set of archetypes for designing a more satisfactory architecture and provides an in-depth analysis of three examples of architectural elegance: the Palais-Royal and the Fondation Rothchild Workers' Residence in Paris and the Municipality of Outremont in Montreal.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6733-7
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 INTRODUCTION: A THEORY FOR THE PRACTICE OF ARCHITECTURE
    (pp. 3-6)

    Society considers that the architect’s mission is to assume the prime design responsibility in the vast industry entrusted with making the places where people live. It follows that the architect’s professional credibility rests upon the success of his mission.¹ What is required of the architect is nothing less than to perform his duties at the highest possible level of efficacy. To do so, the architect needs to be knowledgeable, sensitive, competent, and creative.

    The architect’s sine qua non undertaking is the architectural design practice, a multifaceted professional activity that seeks to meet people's habitation needs by supplying architectural products. Simply...

  6. 2 A THEORY BASED ON PHENOMENOLOGY
    (pp. 7-44)

    In architecture, as in other problem-solving procedures, analysis always starts with observation. The architect observes the world and scrutinizes his own design activities within it. It does not take long for him to realize that the prime problem of architecture is how to fulfil a client’s needs properly. Every contract he obtains, every mandate he assumes, every proposal he makes, every design he creates, is an attempt to meet one or several of such human habitation needs. As a rule, the architect strives to solve the prescribed problem to the best of his ability.

    Is he successful, however? A simple...

  7. 3 UNVEILING ARCHITECTURE
    (pp. 45-84)

    The journey towards an enlarged awareness of the architectural phenomenon necessitates the conducting of two successive epochès. The first suspends all existing theoretical knowledge in order to uncover the architectural phenomenon as it presents itself to our consciousness. The second probes the architectural phenomenon through the removal of the successive veils that drape its factual reality, uncovering its eidos.

    By “architectural theories,” I mean the successive attempts at explaining the architectural phenomenon. Even though theories of architecture are as old as architecture itself, few writings produced before the Renaissance have survived, at least in the Occident. Some speculations by Ancient...

  8. 4 VALUES AND DESIGN CRITERIA
    (pp. 85-122)

    Architectural design entails the conscious enactment of a comprehensive decision-making endeavour, which necessitates, on the part of the architect, a never-ending sequence of value judgements. In all cases, the formulation of judgements requires the explicit use of criteria. In this context, a criterion may be understood as a standard by which a thing is assessed. Whether explicitly expressed or not, the validity of the criteria depends upon how well they conform to corresponding human values, which, in turn, underpin judgements. A list of value-based criteria for evaluating places that have already been built and assessing the design of new buildings...

  9. 5 PALAIS-ROYAL: A PERENNIAL ELEGANCE
    (pp. 123-168)

    You, the reader, are invited to join me on a visit to the Palais-Royal in Paris. I encourage you to observe what you encounter with the inquisitive eye of an architect.

    For those not familiar with French anecdotal history, the Palais-Royal is an urban complex with an ill-chosen name. It was never the royal palace of the Kingdom of France or even one of the king’s main residences; these, of course, were the Louvre, the Tuileries Palace, Versailles, and Fontainebleau. Rarely did a king of France even visit it (Exhibition Catalogue1988,²—35). Yet, it is one of the most...

  10. 6 FONDATION ROTHSCHILD WORKERS’ RESIDENCE: AN HONEST ELEGANCE
    (pp. 169-208)

    You are now invited to accompany me to a remarkable residential complex in a traditional working-class neighbourhood of Paris, the twelfth arrondissement.

    My first visit there was late on a Thursday afternoon in September 1994. Many more were to follow. I wanted to see a subsidized housing complex that had been brought to my attention by a French colleague.69Fortunately, he had provided me with an address - 8, rue de Prague. I could not have found the complex without this information. No exterior features distinguished it from its neighbours. Should foreign visitors be surprised to find that this, a...

  11. 7 OUTREMONT: A CONVIVIAL ELEGANCE
    (pp. 209-244)

    Now for our third phenomenological journey. I invite you to Montreal, where we will stroll through the municipality of Outremont, my home. Outremont is a small community tucked into northern flank of Mont-Royal. The mountain is at the geographic centre of Montreal, a large island on the Saint Lawrence River. To say the least, Montreal is a place of very sharp climatic contrasts. Summers in Outremont can be surprisingly hot, springs and autumns always seem too short, and winters are bitterly cold.89But all the seasons have their pleasant days. The summer of 1993 was particularly felicitous. Mild mornings were...

  12. 8 REVEILING ARCHITECTURE
    (pp. 245-318)

    The preceding epochès and constitution were attempts to grasp the essence of architecture. Using three examples, we explored the symbiotic idea of high quality and great beauty as the necessary conditions for producing an architecture of satisfaction. But our inquiry is not yet finished. We have not taken the final step of the epochès. This step might involve a fuller formulation of the essence of architecture and lead to a respectful, successful design. And we have developed only one constitution; more are required.

    At this juncture, it might be worth recalling what we have accomplished so far:

    a. A theoretical...

  13. 9 ARCHETYPES OF ELEGANCE
    (pp. 319-350)

    Archetypes of elegance are created with the sole purpose of helping the architect in his design endeavours. They provide design models for him to follow. They are only suggestions, not rules. The architect and his client are free to accept or reject them. However, if they do accept them, they increase their chances of obtaining the kind of architecture to which they aspire. My argument is this: as these archetypes are inspired by places that are elegant and successful, they are likely to produce an elegant architecture.

    Artefacts that result from a design process buttressed by archetypes are simultaneously universal...

  14. 10 CONCLUSION: ELEGANCE FOR AN ARCHITECTURE OF SATISFACTION
    (pp. 351-358)

    At the beginning of this book, I maintained that the world is plagued by rampant environmental mediocrity. More than ever, the architect’s efforts are required. We urge him to design better places to live and to ensure that they are well built. To help him produce a more satisfactory architecture, I have offered a theory. With it, I suggest answers to the three fundamental questions that were posited at the outset of our journey.

    Harnessing the phenomenological method of inquiry, the theory undertakes to answer the first question by defining the architectural artefact: it is a physical object, time and...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 359-380)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 381-398)
  17. APPENDIX: Sample of the questionnaire used for the survey conducted at the Fondation Rothschild Workers' Residence
    (pp. 399-402)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 403-409)