Occlusions of the Operational Sequence: a coincidental conversation between Robert Matthew and André Leroi-Gourhan in six diagrams

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Abstract

In the 1960s, with western narratives of technical progress at their height, Robert Matthew, then president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan independently advocated totalising, systematic and technical models of human progress. Each model a reflection of the aims and methods of their own discipline: for the anthropologist, the evolution ofHomo sapiensfromHomo faberand the dissolving of human/technological boundaries; for the architect, a “collective welfare-socialism” and the systematisation of its built manifestations. Each of these models made manifest, I argue, through profoundly influential diagrams. Leroi-Gourhan’schaîne opératoiredescribes the manufacture of pre-historic stone tools, whilst the RIBA’s Plan of Work describes the design and construction of buildings. Through the embodied objects and processes of these diagrams this paper sees “chaîne” and “Plan” engaging in a kind of reciprocating exchange: a diagrammed conversation revealing, for each discipline, processes occluded or overlooked in the other.
LanguageEnglish
JournalArchitectural Theory Review
DOIs
StatePublished - 10 Aug 2017

Fingerprint

Diagrams
Anthropologists
Royal Institute of British Architects
Manifestation
Systematization
Stone Tools
Socialism
1960s

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Architectural Theory Review on 10/08/2017, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13264826.2017.1350728

Keywords

  • anthropology
  • archaeology
  • architecture
  • chaîne opératoire
  • design
  • reconstruction

Cite this

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title = "Occlusions of the Operational Sequence: a coincidental conversation between Robert Matthew and Andr\{'e} Leroi-Gourhan in six diagrams",
abstract = "In the 1960s, with western narratives of technical progress at their height, Robert Matthew, then president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and anthropologist Andr\{'e} Leroi-Gourhan independently advocated totalising, systematic and technical models of human progress. Each model a reflection of the aims and methods of their own discipline: for the anthropologist, the evolution ofHomo sapiensfromHomo faberand the dissolving of human/technological boundaries; for the architect, a “collective welfare-socialism” and the systematisation of its built manifestations. Each of these models made manifest, I argue, through profoundly influential diagrams. Leroi-Gourhan’scha\{^i}ne op\{'e}ratoiredescribes the manufacture of pre-historic stone tools, whilst the RIBA’s Plan of Work describes the design and construction of buildings. Through the embodied objects and processes of these diagrams this paper sees “cha\{^i}ne” and “Plan” engaging in a kind of reciprocating exchange: a diagrammed conversation revealing, for each discipline, processes occluded or overlooked in the other.",
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