Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Recursion. The Undimensional Method: A speculative exploration of formalism through an unconventional approach to the orthographic, scale and site.

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posted on 2021-11-21, 20:09 authored by York, Jessica

In a society of mass-production, architects, conscious of their social responsibilities, can be lead to focus on urban issues such as town planning, prefabrication, housing or building developments that often prioritise time and money over human needs. The architect’s duty, however, should embody the emotional and psychological needs of both, people and place. In the context of this thesis, formalism, scale and the orthographic will be the measures to which people (humans) and place (site) are represented. Traditionally, scale and the orthographic drawing in architecture have been independently discussed, but their dependant relationship is yet to be creatively challenged. This thesis argues that formalism can act as a mechanism to vehicle a relationship between the two.

This thesis re-evaluates some of the traditional design methods and conventional approaches to architecture. A speculative and unconventional approach will aim to reconstruct the orthographic, test the limits of translation in scale and redefine a new conceptual term to ‘formalism’. To achieve this, an anthropomorphic and unidimensional methodology will be generated, considering the site as the client, a representation of people and place simultaneously. This project will not present a resolved building design as an ending solution but looks to present a methodological process to find the outcome of this research. It is through the application of this method that a novel strategy for formal design is identified.

In a digital age, the use of the orthographic projection has gradually become marginalised in preliminary architectural design processes and is generally utilised in succeeding final designs in the technical construction drawings. The orthographic, as a device of representation, demonstrates an inability to be manipulated and is commonly interpreted as a static construct. This limitation activated an interest to challenge or reconfigure the constructs in the early design phases.

There is a significant relationship between representation and perception. How something is perceived visually and the way it is experienced spatially, can offer direct comparisons but also provides the potential to discover what happens in between. In architecture, the perception of the conceptual drawings to the final built design is almost disparate. To explore this relationship; representation, perception and experience, this work will oscillate between the 2nd and 3rd dimensions. Drawing will be used as the mechanism for the 2D realm and modelling the mechanism to demonstrate the 3D realm.

This investigation will position its focus into two main parts. First, critiquing the orthographic projection and notions of form and formalism, creating the methodology and initial designs. The second part concerns challenging the idea of fixed scale in the application and development of the design. A speculative and explorative process gives rise to the creation of a new methodological approach to architecture. A formally recursive theme is discovered through the developmental process which denotes infinite iterative possibilities that can be applied and adapted repeatedly to any specific site.

Architects should aim to contest the traditional design methods codified in our field, and not always conform to the conventional approaches. The method proposed could be a solution for a future of architecture that can adhere to the many different layers and values in our society simultaneously. As a result, architectural formalism could embody the needs of both people and place in an era where this has slowly been diminished.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Wood, Peter