Architectural Research Quarterly


Building simply: ethic or aesthetic? Thinking and making in an era of specialisation

The difficult art of the simple

Gordon Murray


The recent history of architecture can be characterised as a battle between attention-grabbing, ‘iconic’ buildings and a counteracting tendency towards the aesthetically reduced, even avowedly ‘minimal’. But beneath the surface appearance of these contrasting formal tendencies – restless or serene, as demanded by their aesthetic ideals – the means of building have become relentlessly more complex to meet ever more demanding environmental and other performance requirements. It was against this background that the Design Research Unit at Cardiff University convened a one-day symposium to explore the possibility of ‘Building Simply’: the topic proved, not unexpectedly, elusive. Below we publish some reflections by Gordon Murray on some of the issues raised, and these are followed by three design papers – by Pierre d'Avoine, Roland Raderschall and the organisers – that addressed the topic from differing perspectives.


Gordon Murray is a principal in Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects and Professor in Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Strathclyde. From 2003 to 2005 he was President of The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.