Charalampos Charitos

Mechanical Engineer NTUA



Myrianthe Moussa

M.Arch.II Architect Engineer NTUA



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Could we analogize the course of Architecture over time to a journey on a train, where train-stations would represent the architectural trends/movements? And if we were the passengers of the train, wouldn’t we be able to observe from our window the transitions from one "station" to another through a sequence of images, just like the sequence of landscapes we would meet in such a journey?

And when we come to the present, would it be suitable to parallel contemporary Architecture with a dive in the deep blue ocean? Where contemporary Architects, already surrounded by endless influences, may experience an unprecedented freedom of movement, which – combined with each one’s personality, knowledge and previous experiences – leads to chaotically increasing options. 

What has triggered us to write this article is of lack of – and consequently the research for – a suitable term to define the global architectural production of our times, as long as “Postmodernism” cannot cover contemporary architecture. Postmodernism has crystallized and it is correlated to specific Architects and projects, and specific trends/attitudes/moods/characteristics.

To be more precise, we intended to generate a self-defined term, not a hetero-defined term (contrary to terminology like “postmodern” - meaning after the “modern” - or “neo-classical”, or terminology using contrasts, like “anti-art”, or even terminology expressing a mood, like “Romanticism”). However, in the following lines we will support the view that neither a self-defined nor a hetero-defined term can be used. Furthermore, it would be preferable to generate the new term today, in present, not retroactively by the architectural historians in the future.  

Our proposal wittingly includes the generation and establishment of a new, original term for the contemporary architectural production: Asymptotic Architecture.

This is a term which, first of all, does not face a time commitment (achronic/timeless term). It will be able to characterize the architectural creations for an indeterminable number of years, as long as the term remains suitable and necessary, without seeking an egotistical definition (modern, classic etc) to be associated with, thus claiming the exclusiveness of the term and the era, while being caged in temporal, aesthetic, morphological, functional, technological, cultural and other parameters.

“Asymptotic Architecture” does not antagonize modern, postmodern or any other architectural trend. It has achieved to reconcile with and surpass them.

The term “Asymptotic Architecture” does not represent a specific trend. On the contrary, it can express multiple approaches and influences, which do not necessarily have major touchstones, except for a common knowledge base and a common timeframe. The dialogue with past, present and future is constant. Today, the utilization of the fluid borders between trends, the elimination of restrictions and the culmination of the perpetual architectural analysis-synthesis, are more obvious than ever before. Differentiation is further reinforced by the boom in communications, since the constant feedback of influences and ideas gives the chance to every single Architect to become familiar with other Architects’ projects (easily accessible information) and look up to them, get influenced by them or even reject them, and in any case create something unique.

Creativity in our era is also facilitated by the extensive dispersion of information and cultural elements in global dimensions – “Globalized Architecture” – where the mix of cultural elements is only one of the various “consequences”. Architectural culture is spread, transformed and redefined with the greatest freedom and easiness ever known. 

Contemporary technology has suspended an indefinite number of restrictions and has spectacularly increased the degrees of freedom in architectural design, thus introducing pioneering elements. The production of pioneering elements (which is facilitated by the technological advances, the spread of culture and knowledge etc) coexists with the re-utilization of currently existing elements, and, as a result, the possible outcomes are multiplied – which is one more reason why contemporary Architecture cannot be confined. 

All the above, combined with many different factors, such as: the large number of Architects, the multiple influences, the infinite ideas, the numerous projects realized – which are rapidly increasing owing to the spectacular economic growth of countries and societies, and also the rising standards of living – have been offering the right opportunities for an unprecedented florescence of architectural creativity. 

We live in the era of images and animation, the era of continuously changing (non-static), living Architecture, the era of communications, travels and the World Wide Web. Furthermore, we live in the era of Star Architects and branded Architecture. The Star Architects as a rule do not have commonalities or common touchstones in such an extent that would result in prevailing characteristics. Each one of them tries to promote oneself through one’s uniqueness, by one’s pioneering work, or even by being provocative. Moreover, the buildings themselves are being used as a way of showing off and gaining prestige, exposure to publicity, distinction, impressiveness, supremacy, dominance, and all kinds of means are used to achieve it. There is an effort to impose buildings as landmarks – so different from one another, so many of them.

The need for dominance and differentiation is also being served by corporate identities, which nowadays are developed very carefully with the help and the interaction of various experts, not only Architects. The identities seek diversity and uniqueness in such a way that they become hallmarks for the organizations/corporations/brands, simultaneously having the potential to replicate and adapt in different spaces and places.

In addition, we should also refer to the increasing trend for consumption, which affects and is affected by Architecture, with evident consequences in the interaction with Advertising.

At the same time, the rapid changes and the diversity in the way of life (for example: pluralistic, minimalistic, ecolological etc) do not allow contemporary Architecture to reflect it adequately and to interact in such a way as to result in a bijection. Even when Architecture manages to reflect it, it is only a capture of a snapshot (for example: the Millennium Dome in London, designed to house the Millennium Experience, or the facilities for the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, or the facilities for the Olympic Games in London in 2012 etc). In a similar manner, we witness, among other things, the production of temporary architectural creations, mainly aimed to serve commercial applications/purposes/activities (for example: exhibition stands, which have the size of a city block in big international car motorshows).

Apart from the suspension of restrictions, we often witness disapprobation of conservatism by contemporary Architects, together with free interpretation. Even the way they “audaciously” push aside the history and theory of Architecture – a beloved postmodern rhetoric – is so familiar nowadays. A retrospect of the past may be performed as criticism, sometimes scoffing it or even expressing the rejection of the “authorities” of the past.

The results of all the above may vary from diverse prototypes to composite architectural trends. Take for example the use of recycled materials, the re-use of traditional elements in their original form or in a variant/transformation/adaptation/contemporary version with the use of contemporary design, production methods and materials. Besides, even when their characteristics do not coincide, they are still recognizable as creations of the present time. 

The term “Asymptotic Architecture” can also be justified by what contemporary Architecture “is not” or “does not have” – for example, it does not have doctrines. Also, there is another unshakeable argument, which supports the selection of the term: it is the fact that “today’s tend” cannot be taught in Architecture Schools because there is not one single contemporary trend to represent and characterize our era, unlike what happened with Modernism, which had specific ideological fundamentals and theory.

Finally, we realize that the attribute “Asymptotic” could express not only the contemporary Architecture but also the whole of the contemporary Art, for the same or similar reasons. Moreover, the interaction between Architecture and Art (the other forms of Art) is timeless and constant. The interchange and mutual assimilation of elements from both sides along their parallel pathways has also been facilitating a multiplying effect in forming trends and producing prototype work. 

Asymptote definition -
excerpt from

In analytic geometry, an asymptote (/ˈæsɪmptoʊt/) of a curve is a line such that the distance between the curve and the line approaches zero as they tend to infinity...

The word asymptote is derived from the Greek óýìðôùôïò (asumptōtos) which means "not falling together"

Greek / ÅëëçíéêÜ