An Attribute Study on Architectural Eclecticism


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date4 Oct 2023


The process of cultural globalization has blurred the previously established consensus and resulted in conceptual disputes. At the same time, the rapid development of science and technology has further heightened people’s awareness and ability for self-expression, leading to growing expectations for novel spatial experiences. Against this backdrop, some architects have begun to use the attributes (abstract nature) of phenomena to interpret ambiguous concepts and spatially translate them into heuristic models for inspiring formal innovation. With keen social observation and rich modeling experience, they transcend traditional formal constraints and enrich our urban spaces. However, an excessive reliance on the perception of a select elite group indicates greater risks in decision-making. This approach is not only limited by the level of individual understanding and expression skills but also runs counter to the democratization process. The formal innovation of contemporary architecture requires a more scientific, comprehensive, and efficient auxiliary design tool.

“Eclecticism” in architecture is a prime example of a professional concept that has become ambiguous due to societal changes. Classic eclectic architecture refers to a style that combines multifarious (predominantly Western classical) styles, and was popular in Europe and the United States from the second half of the 19th century to the early 20th century. However, the enhancement of self-awareness and shifts in perspective have enriched social life, yet have also inevitably rendered this concept increasingly unwieldy and ambiguous. In this regard, this paper follows the idea of eclectic architectural attributes, raises three study and application questions, and proposes a “Trilogy” pre-design strategy consisting of architectural attribute analysis, editing, and translation.

The first question is how to scientifically interpret ambiguous concepts at the level of abstract essence. In the corresponding attribute analysis phase, the study employs Edmund Husserl’s Phenomenological Intuition Theory and Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) as the thinking framework, and uses the Cartography of Controversies method re-interpreted the architectural concept of “Eclecticism” as a design philosophy that encompasses six main attributes of Pluralism, Historicity, Decoration, Innovation, Elitism, and Symbolism, as well as 12 secondary attributes. This “original novel analysis” process establishes the “Concept Model of Eclectic Attributes” and lays a scientific foundation for the following research.

The second question is how to coordinate real-time and on-site social information to enhance the relevance of the attribute study. In the corresponding attribute editing phase, the study uses the Event Structure Analysis (ESA) method based on the counterfactual reasoning theory and related software (ETHNO), combined with current event narratives to perform a series of editing operations, such as selecting, sorting, and weighting the parsed eclectic attributes. This “script editing” process establishes the “Event Structure Network Model” and “Event-Attribute Expression Impact Model”, and improves architects’ grasp of the particularity of attribute expression.

The third question is how to translate the results of the attribute study into inspiration for formal innovation. This paper first reviews the current (2018-2023) technological methods available for visually expressing abstract concepts, and in the corresponding attribute translation phase, the study comprehensively applies the interdisciplinary AI-Generated Content (AIGC) technology to conduct two-dimensional and virtual three-dimensional translation experiments on the edited eclectic attributes based on Internet data. With the advantages of artificial intelligence technology in terms of modeling efficiency, information coverage, and working logic, this “stage performance” process implements a comprehensive spatial translation, providing architects with a more scientific and democratic design reference while expanding the method’s impact dimensions and application scenarios. In summary, this strategy strives to offer designers a tool to interpret ambiguous concepts, coordinate social information, and combine collective wisdom to promote formal innovation in the increasingly complex field of architectural design.

This paper aims to break free from the influence of pre-existing forms by adding layers of thought, and the significance of this study extends beyond eclectic attributes: by focusing on the organization of information and technologies from an architect’s perspective, the approach seeks to create a platform for democratic communication and interdisciplinary integration while enhancing the design quality, which will hopefully have a positive impact on future architectural practice.