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Around the Bottega

The Editorial Board of “Ardeth”
A proposito della bottega
Francesca Frassoldati, Alessandro Armando, Leonardo Caffo, Daniele Campobenedetto, Valeria Federighi et Federico Cesareo
p. 5-8
Cet article est une traduction de :
A proposito della bottega [it]

Notes de la rédaction

DOI: 10.17454/ARDETH02.01

Texte intégral

1This second issue of “Ardeth” is dedicated to the bottega of architectural design, and it aims at investigating the factual work of architects, starting from the tangible dimension of material production to the larger implication of practice. In his 2010 Cogitamus. Six lettres sur les humanités scientifiques, Bruno Latour defines as a ‘laboratory’ the model of actions that marks scientific production, by distinguishing three settings within it: the atelier (‘bottega’), the bureau and the Académie. The bottega is the place of direct experimentation, the office (bureau), the place where exchanges with the world take place through the development of intellectual technologies, and the academia represents the order of institutional legitimation. In analogous terms, the ‘laboratory of the project of architecture’ might be a place for the production of tools and experiments, just as the bottega is; production of intellectual technologies, of extremely specialized representational codes, of evaluation measures, of writings, just as the office is; finally, the place for the production of institutional objects that, if legitimized on the one hand by academia and by legal procedures, once endorsed by authorities are, on the other, a constitutive part of urban governance. Thus, this issue might have been titled “from bottega to laboratory” and perhaps “to world”.

2In the bottega intended as the laboratory in which the project of architecture is developed, materials, utensils and intellectual technologies are tools through which the project takes the form of writings, drawings and maquettes. The project, seen from the laboratory, is at once a tool producing technical objects, and an intellectual apparatus producing figures and models. In the first case, a laboratory can be observed as the breeding ground for technical-bureaucratic objects able to insert themselves into formalized processes and to produce effects in the form of contracts. In the second case, it can be considered as the place in which different aspirations and requests find a way to associate, and visions and narratives are consequently constructed.

3The association between the bottega of the project and the bureaucratic dimension might be perplexing: architects like to call their professional offices ‘bottega’, certainly not to emphasize the bureaucratic aspect of their work. The reference to the artisanal, or indeed Renaissance, bottega, is most often aimed at stressing an immediate relationship between project and object. In such a bottega architects want to deal with buildings and physical objects, rather than documents. Here lies the reason for the question that this issue of Ardeth wishes to raise: is it possible to find a direct link between the project and the material construction of space, or are architects inevitably destined to work through intermediations, conventions and representations?

4The contributions that we have collected with Albena Yaneva through her call for papers face the issue of bottega from multiple standpoints, mainly following the approach of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and applying to architectural design methods derived from Actor Network Theory. Such a consistency around STS is obviously not unintended, not only because Albena Yaneva is guest-editor. The problem of describing the action of the project, outside of a consolidated phenomenology that describes the subject as author, has not been systematically confronted by architects. This issue wishes to be a place in which designers meet their most dedicated observers – ethnographers of architecture, researchers of so-called ‘ecology of practice.’ How can architects respond to this ecological, ethological and pragmatic study, while occupying the position of observed objects – guinea pigs? – and simultaneously researchers themselves? This short premise, voiced by an editorial board which consists of mainly architects and designers, found its form in a map of contributions, starting from two main oppositions: practice/theory and actors/actants. From our perspective, it seemed to us that texts oscillate sensibly between the poles of these two oppositions, and that it might be useful to propose a representation of their positioning accordingly constructed – with all the partiality that such an attempt involves.

5Practice vs theory: the difference in approach to analysis reflects first of all the style of research, in the sense proposed by Gilles Gaston Granger in his Essai d’une philosophie du style (where each discipline answers to its own first names). But we can also recognize, in the texts that appear in this issue and that are stylistically different, a clear distinction: between those that depart from an observation of concrete actions and proceed to find a number of invariants, and those that start from a theoretical hypothesis and strengthen it through empirical evidence. We can find authors that observe the action of design within a specific situation (Sharif; Stender; Mommersteeg) and others that analyze and deconstruct system of documents and tools built for a specific circumstance (Lefebvre; Smitheram, Kidd); others still are interested in defining a model for describing the phenomena that is initially generalized and that only later is specified through fieldwork and interviews (Van der Linden, Dong, Heylighen) or through the analysis of specific objects (Cayer; Gottshling; Ferracina).

6Actors vs actants: the distinction between the two terms must be clearly referred to the development of Actor Network Theory, but ‘actant’ is a term that comes straight from Gremais’s (and Propp’s) narratology. To observe actants rather than actors requires the existence of non-human – even non-subjective – entities that are able to do something autonomously, but without intentionality: theirs would be an ‘agency’ rather than an ‘action’. The contributions to this issue of “Ardeth” meet both forms of agents, often implicitly and not without a certain amount of ambiguity. Some authors evoke ‘non-human’ entities but concentrate almost exclusively on subjective actors, on their cognitive sphere, their decisions and their system of values (Sharif; Van der Linden, Dong, Heylighen; Malinin; Smitheram, Kidd). Others do the opposite, by exclusively looking to de-subjectivized dynamics of processes: through the analysis of standard documents (Gottschling), by observing the economic and marketing dimension (Stender), specific intellectual technologies (Ferracina) or even staging designed objects as living ones (Lefebvre).

7When to these texts that answered the call for papers, the others, invited ones, are added, the resulting picture shows two reference orbits. One that is concerned with practices from the point of view of those that practice them, through the testimony of the “workers” that we have collected for this issue, those that practice the bottega in all its aspects but prefer the narrative highlighting the project’s chain of production, the creative side rather than the office work. In this orbit the interview to Giovanna Borasi finds its place, that by reflecting on the exhibition The other architect calls for a subjectivity that is multifaceted if not variable, as well as the graphic article by Federighi and Bonino which deconstructs the practice of a research group as the result of a collective action. A second orbit, on the other hand, utilizes the practices of specific ‘botteghe’ in order to reconstruct a general and generalizable point of view, from the professional world to the construction site (Sacchi) and between professional practices and academia (Capuano). More central is the position expressed by Dana Cuff, which reflects on the possibility to express problems through practices of design and the (meta)projection of professionals within the transformation of urban space.

8Results are quite varied, not only because articles deal with objects of a diverse nature (people, documents, procedures, buildings) but also because they give these entities different roles and different weights with regard to the purposes of an architectural project. Such differentiation allows to open a number of issues around the way that design practice is looked at, and made the object of a scientific analysis. We try to enunciate here three questions for our readers:

9Is there an ontological difference between the description of a bottega design action that produces as its final effect a built object, and the action of the built object itself? Or should we consider the two dimensions to be inextricably linked and necessarily described together?

10What-who are the non-subjective “actors” of a design action? Other than documents, are there entities that we should take into account?

11The bottega is a place of scientific innovation or, more simply, a workshop in which systems of knowledge and competence coming from other places are applied?

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Francesca Frassoldati, Alessandro Armando, Leonardo Caffo, Daniele Campobenedetto, Valeria Federighi et Federico Cesareo, « Around the Bottega »Ardeth, 2 | 2018, 5-8.

Référence électronique

Francesca Frassoldati, Alessandro Armando, Leonardo Caffo, Daniele Campobenedetto, Valeria Federighi et Federico Cesareo, « Around the Bottega »Ardeth [En ligne], 2 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2020, consulté le 28 février 2021. URL :

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Francesca Frassoldati

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