Precision in Architecture: Certainty, Ambiguity and Deviation, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Precision in Architecture

Certainty, Ambiguity and Deviation, 1st Edition

By Mhairi McVicar


224 pages | 100 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-05-13
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This book offers a detailed insight into the desire for, and consequences of, precise communications in the daily life of contemporary architectural practice through close readings of constructed architectural details and the practice of cultural contexts in which they were produced.

In the professionalised context of the contemporary architectural profession, precise communications – drawings, specifications, letters, faxes, and emails - are charged with the complex task of translating architectural intentions into a neutral and quantifiable language which is expected to guarantee an exact match between the architects’ intentions and the constructed result. Yet, as any architectural practitioner will know, it is doubtful whether the construction of any architectural project may ever exactly match all written and drawn predictions. This book challenges claims to certainty which have been attributed to such communications from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, and critiques ongoing expectations of certainty in contemporary architectural production.

Table of Contents


Part I: Two Projects

1. A Precisely Ambiguous Wall

2. In Praise of Deviation and Control: the Mortar Joints of St Peter’s (Klippan, Sweden)

Part II: Interpretations of Precision in Architecture

3. Defining Precision in Architecture

4. Disputing Precision

5. An Emerging Desire for Precision

Part III: Four Projects

6. The 1856 Iron Museum (London, UK): A Precise Specification

7. Anticipating precision at the Museum of Childhood (London, UK)

8. The Precise Control of deviation at the IIT Commons (Chicago, USA)

9. A Precisely Crude Ceiling at the MTCC (Chicago, USA)

10. Productive Deviations from Certainty

About the Author

Mhairi McVicar is a Reader at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, UK and practiced architecture in Chicago, London and the Orkney Islands. Her research, critically examining intersections between architectural theory and architectural practice, has been published with Routledge and Architectural Research Quarterly.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Design, Drafting, Drawing & Presentation
ARCHITECTURE / Professional Practice
ARCHITECTURE / Project Management