An authentic Navajo rug contains a single line of contrasting yarn - an intentional error – in order to distance itself from perfection, a quality that is deemed impossible for mortals to achieve. The mistake provides a way into and out of the object. The weaver confronts the equivalent of a contemporary architectural dilemma, acting as a gatherer of diverse strands, imparting just enough chaos or setting exactly the right limits in order to disassociate the product of his or her labor from an impossible - or entirely undesirable - normative condition.
In this issue of Offramp we seek to interrogate what might remain as a tool, or tools, for producing the idiosyncratic in a technological era of increasing precision. The term tolerance has historically been defined in the practice of architecture as a degree of dimensional variation that takes into account variables that will affect the accuracy of construction. Woodwork may require tolerance as small as 1/64 inches whereas concrete footings can be acceptable within a variance of up to 2 inches. Through the digital turn we are capable of precision that was previously unattainable. The human eye, however, craves a degree of the imprecise, thus this “allowable amount of variation” has drifted from material application to the design process itself. The role of the architect has thereby shifted from acting as a decisive instrument to operating as the definer of constraining behaviors within a field of possibilities.
The projects presented in this issue are considered categorically as the effort afforded by multiple inputs within carefully considered rulesets. These rulesets pertain to tolerances of construction but also to aesthetic outcomes - be it through a glitch, the incorporation of solar data into the design process, or the use of interactive surfaces - the final result of which is not directly controlled.
The disciplinary outlook on tolerance requires a lens through which we can navigate philosophical and aesthetic variation. The architectural discourse changes as it reacts to other disciplines such as art or philosophy. An alternate definition of tolerance in architecture emerges; it can be understood as an ability to resist intoxication. This can be beneficial to those attempting to have a conversation in the midst of the excessive forms of communication in contemporary society.
The essays and texts included in this issue examine the relationship architectural discourse has with other disciplines and the effects on and of architecture. By shedding light on these relationships, Offramp 12 establishes new frameworks through which to view projects seeking such aesthetic variation.
The Design Theory and Pedagogy Team