Measure 2



Play with measurements: reacquaint yourself with feet and leagues (if only to make it easier to read Stendhal, Dumas or Jules Verne); try to get for once and for all a clear idea of what a nautical mile is (and by the same token a knot); remember that a journal is a unit of space, it’s the surface area a labourer can work in a day.

Georges Perec, Species of Spaces

Just over two hundred and fifty years ago two men, Pierre-François-André Méchain and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre travelled from Dunkirk to Barcelona to measure an arc of the earth’s surface in order to establish a universal unit of measure free of the imperfections of human dimensions. A length of exactly one ten millionth of the quarter meridian would define their universal ideal, which would be verifiable anywhere in the world. But as with all terrestrial affairs, our globe is not spherical and the metre could only be an approximation. But no matter, the search for the universal unit of measure had taken root in the Enlightenment imagination and ever more abstract definitions have been used to define the metre, the latest in 1983, as the distance travelled by light in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458th of a second.

As architects we need not testify personally to the reliability of such definitions but nevertheless the concept of measure is at the centre of architectural production and experience.

In this elective we shall reacquaint ourselves with measure as a product of human experience in a series of actions or situations in order to measure ourselves in relation to each other and our environment. We shall use our great number as the primary instrument of measure and reflect on how relations of human experience and scientific faith has shaped our world and how we operate within it.

We ask you only to participate in as large a number as we can gather. Join us on Monday between 15h and 17h dressed for outdoor (rain or shine) for a series of practical exercises and personal reflections. We will not always meet at the same place, so every Sunday there will be an e-mail describing the following Monday's meeting point. All sessions have to be attended in order to gain credit for this elective.