289.1, Technology Seminar
Erin Besler, A.UD Teaching Fellow 2013-14

What was in Palladio’s mind when he experimented over and over again with the same elements? Once he had found the basic geometrical pattern for the problem ‘villa,’ he adapted it as clearly and as simply as possible
to the special requirements of each commission. —Rudloph Wittkower 1
It should come as no surprise that the twelfth villa - the one that resulted from a ‘cancellation of differences’ 2 - still presents a difficult problem. In his publication “Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism” Rudolph Wittkower developed an idea rooted in geometry and the mathematics of form as a generic system underlying eleven of Palladio’s villas. The Problem Villa, then, is the project that surrounds the production of the twelfth villa. Compositing the eleven other seemingly similar things and then reducing the discrepancies exposed a set of ‘fundamental’ regulating lines. And still, the problem persists; it continues to present a curious question: What’s to be done with the differences?
It could be said that problems are superfluous to building, and yet, they occupy so much intellectual space that they foreground the discourse of architecture. Problems expose the disciplinary organization of knowledge over time through the repetition of a common project. As it has (at times) been discussed in terms of distance, or the swerve away from a common ground, the Problem of Difference shifts attention away from the measure of disparity between one thing and the next toward establishing a convention across multiples. Some projects have sought an end in irreducibility approaching the most discrete description of shape and form; others have focused on calibration, layering or averaging in order to smooth out irregularities; and some have been invested in the production of an order of irregularity.
Rather than looking at this problem only through the lens of a universal set of generalized categories or ideal irreducible geometries, the course looks at the differences between multiples of some fairly mundane (even banal) objects to shift the focus by cutting across materials, technologies and sites of production including: The projected line as a profile of form and the registration and calibration of projected points in space; the digital image and its pixels through compositing, sampling, and reconstruction; and the mock-up as a particular category of model, constructed with ‘actual’ materials, to selectively isolate the workings of a specific architectural element.
1 Rudolph Wittkower. Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, 72.

2 Greg Lynn. “New Variations on the Rowe Complex,” in Folds, Bodies and Blobs, 205.
Students: Refik Anadol, James Barron, Ryan Conroy, Daniel Feig, Cristina Gasso Palop, Ava Ghiassi, Nicola Manzini, Julie Mithun, Raman Mustafa, James Skarzenski, Nicholas Solakian, Ladan Zolfaghari.