Overlapping of the oscillatory domains of extended Beauty, Utility and Stability, illustrated as an operative model. These classical axiomatic categories are reconstituted as singular occurrences within a broader continuum of heterogeneous production, thus yielding extended, non-hierarchical possibility spaces of potential spatial practices.

Is the classical paradigm of Vitruvius’ Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas still suitable to describe contemporary spatial practices?


UGLY, USELESS, UNSTABLE is a research project tracing productive intersections between architecture and the discourses of post-structuralism and neo-materialism, investigating how their novel ‘ontological regimes’ can supersede the classical framework that –even to this day- still informs the description and the production of architecture. The work challenges one classical trope of architectural assessment at a time: Beauty, Utility and Stability. The spatial and procedural qualities of these three axioms are first critically unpacked, then confronted with a non-binary framework of development and evaluation articulated through neo-materialist conceptual modelling methodologies. In doing so, those three formerly absolute categories are reframed as singular occurrences within a broader continuum of heterogeneous production: A series of extended, non-hierarchical phase spaces of potential spatial practices.  Further explorations elaborate on the dimensional components and the boundary conditions of those phase spaces: trans-beauty, trans-utility and trans-stability, mobilising them as tools for both the design and the critical assessment of architecture. The three extended spatial domains emerging from this enquiry operate beyond the restrictive thresholds set by classical criteria of architectural evaluation. In doing so, they put forward three distinct projective categories: Topological-emergent systems, Non-linear systems of generic interaction and Intervals of dynamic interaction (or field-event alloys). As a critical-projective endeavour Ugly, Useless & Unstable provides a comprehensive ontological interpretation of this extended realist-materialist architectural domain, working across vastly different scales and tracing back its relationships with consolidated disciplinary canons.


A research website by Miguel Paredes Maldonado


The work looks into the different modalities of spatial production emerging from different ontological positions. In doing so, it advances the notion of ‘ontological regimes’ of architectural production, providing a reflection on their gradual evolution, occurring in line with (and in response to) the evolutionary timeline of key philosophical paradigms.

Lines of departure from the Beauty attractor. Note that the axes approximating the asymptotic line of the Platonist beautiful are deformed in order to depict the tendency to converge into a three-dimensional “plateau of stability”.

Lines of departure from the Beauty attractor. Note that the axes approximating the asymptotic line of the Platonist beautiful are deformed in order to depict the tendency to converge into a three-dimensional “plateau of stability”.



Only the ugly is attractive.

Champfleury (Jules François Felix Fleury-Husson 1820-1889)


Venustas / Beauty was originally associated by Vitruvius with both a formal adjustment to the natural proportion of the human body and with a symmetric configuration. Consequently, any prospective built incarnations of the Beautiful would always necessarily point towards architectures of hierarchical, compositional nature, and anything that fell outside of this narrow organizational framework would be contemptuously deemed as “ugly”. However, Ugliness as a counter-notion to the platonic concept of Beauty need not be considered negatively, and can in fact constitute a very productive path of actualization for the current critical approach to the validation of architectural work. 

Following this approach, the Ugly immediately becomes resonant with a wide array of contemporary architectural design methodologies that, by deliberately failing to comply with the formal constraints imposed by platonic beauty, keep falling outside the outdated scope of our collective critical framework.

Thus, the Project of Ugliness will focus in the organizational qualities of the anti-symmetric, as well as in lack of proportion understood as a loss of scalar reference. This leads us to mobilise the notion of Diagram as a topological mapping of dynamic transformations, a non-scalar abstract machine awaiting actions on specific material traits. The static, homogeneous idea of classical beauty is then be actualized towards the production of differentiated formal instances with the ability to absorb and integrate multiple possible contextual affiliations. 




(Challenging and expanding the operational framework of Utility in architectural production)

The basic, recurring conditions that any work of architecture must fulfil to receive positive reviews frequently gravitate around the notion of usefulness. However, if questioned, it is unlikely that a given architect or critic will be able to precisely determine what they understand as ‘useful’, or what the implications of the useful are for the formal or organizational qualities of a piece of architecture. Despite this uncertainty there appears to be universal consensus on the appreciation of the use-value of any given product or project, above any other consideration. The things that surround us have to do the job, to serve a purpose; extracting the maximum degree of performance becomes paramount. However, when examined in depth this propensity to utility simply indicates a socially constructed norm based on a simple binary opposition, a norm that in turn conceals the social mechanisms that govern the relationship of any given object with both the fulfilment of a given function and the accrual of value. 

Download Paper: The Limits of the Useful


(or the Spatiotemporal Processes of Becoming)

Bergson’s duration -a transformation that is simultaneously continuous and heterogeneous- is used as the basis to discuss architectures and spatial practices that are unstable when considered through the operative framework of the classical. We therefore describe the unstable in architecture (or, more precisely, the operations leading to an expanded notion of architectural stability) as a medium of continuous development over time, in which design agency is articulated as a series of operations of both framing and capture.

Download Paper: Más Allá de la Firmitas / Beyond Firmitas


(Protogeometrical Drawing Machine)

This active visual urban representation can open up spaces of resistance to the homogeneous, technocratic ‘smartness’ of contemporary urban governance. The relayed digital-analogue drawing process is mobilised to address the domain of the commons as a subject that emerges gradually and collectively. In doing so, the institutional narrative of the neutral, efficient flow is confronted with a narrative of collectively assembled citizenship. Borrowing again from Manuel De Landa’s lexicon, this visual research methodology does not ‘fold’ the urban into singular, homogeneous ‘assembled whole’, but rather unpacks it as an assemblage of heterogeneous components. 

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