Studio Anatomy traces socio-historical layers, starting from the topography (geology, the vertical section) and stretching as far as the full scale architectural (constructive) detail (the section, again), incorporating construction in the design-research process from the very beginning. Doing so, Studio Anatomy covers the full stretch from poetics to technics in architecture.
Critical repetitive drawing (which includes scale modeling) and in depth reflections on architecture’s construction practice and architectural history constitute the core of Studio Anatomy’s methodology.

Studio Anatomy is a new environment where research in/on architecture, architectural education and architectural practice coexist.

Studio Anatomy traces socio-historical layers, starting from the topography (geology, the vertical section) and stretching as far as the full scale architectural (constructive) detail (the section, again), incorporating construction in the design-research process from the very beginning. Doing so, Studio Anatomy spans the full stretch from poetics to technics in architecture.

Studio Anatomy critically questions the too speedy nature at the surface of things we see (in architecture)—the superficiality of the world—by cutting into and under the skin of things (architecture).

Alberto Pérez-Gòmez suggests that the section is of a foremost importance in the architect’s work, as a prediction on the casting of shadows, pointing at the anatomic nature of the section that, applied by the architect, “break[s] the skin of things in order to show” (Pérez-Gòmez 2006), completing his argument with Merleau-Ponty, “how the things become things, how the world becomes a world” (Merleau-Ponty 1964). This cutting into substance is resistant, hence it slows down our thinking and acting. ‘Slowing’ instead of speeding. Because ‘slowing’ permits one to look longer, better, deeper.

Through this act of cutting, the investigated subject (architecture) is being anatomised.

Methodically, drawing the (full scale) vertical section occupies the central position as a research, education and design instrument in Studio Anatomy, both as drawings and scale models, because the section not only offers a more direct access to a readable and makeable spatiality than the plan is able to do, but also because it permits to draw, investigate and understand the anatomy of the architecture in all its technical, material and physical aspects (to anatomise). This critical repetitive drawing (which includes scale modeling) continuously resonates with in depth reflections and discussions on construction practice, art and architectural history.

Far from wanting to annihilate the importance and the presence of the plan, Studio Anatomy rather sees the plan as the derivative from the section. This approach breaks through habitual ways of seeing (in architectural education) and unveils new knowledge that otherwise would remain hidden.

In this drawing of sections, the dimensional experience of drawing, built around the concept of scale, especially through full scale architectural drawing, acts as a ‘body check’ or quality control based on scale knowledge that works through the body of the person who draws. Every time this happens, embodiment takes place, and layer by layer embodied knowledge is being produced by and for the student.

This ‘body check’ continuously travels along an invisible line that has to be activated by the person who draws and passes by three overlapping scales: the whole, the fragment and the detail. It is the scale of the fragment that is most fascinating, because it simultaneously penetrates into the whole and into the (architectural) detail, connecting these, and ensuring the flow of architectural meaning, coherence and (technical) consistency.

In spanning the wide range from poetics to technics, the team of Studio Anatomy consists of Mira Sanders (visual artist), Jo Van Den Berghe (architect) and Laurens Luyten (structural engineer / architect).



Studio Anatomy builds on the experimental tradition of eAD (Explorative Architectural Design). The studio’s approach basicly banks on the connections between practice, education and research. These connections are established and investigated through research by design, primarily based on rigorous drawing and making, and framed by history and theory in architecture, the arts and engineering.


This academic year, Studio Anatomy will do an in-depth investigation of the architectural detail, more specifically the full scale window[1] detail in its architectural and structural context.


Fig.1: open air brick factory, Belgium


This research starts from a mass of stacked bricks (fig.1[2]) like the brick stacks at open air brick factories. The number of bricks is limitless[3].

The student can decide whether this stack of bricks should either be situated in an existing site, or in an imaginary field. Subsequently, and if appropriate, this stack of bricks can be multiplied in order to form a pattern of stacks in an imaginary field[4].

The student can exploit the potential of the brick stack both through the application of a subtractive compositional principle and through an additive one. These design principles can be applied separately (comparatively) or combined in an integrated composition. It is important that the student applies both principles simultaneously as a mutually invigorating learning process (cross pollination).


Through the subtractive compositional principle the brick stack is gradually excavated—a ‘mining’ operation—in order to create an opening in the brick stack in which a window will be developed, that eventually becomes a space (a room). In concertation with the window details, the load bearing structures—the beam (arch, vault, …), the column (the support, the batter pile, …) will be thoroughly investigated and conceived (tension, compression). So doing, ‘a room’ grows out of the architectural detail. From this room, additional ‘mining’ creates an opening as a new window that has its own architectural (window) details, and that gives access to an additional room with its own window that looks out into the world again. And so on.

The subsequent creation of openings and windows includes the possibility to develop and test variants through the play with variables, e.g.: a comparative study between wood and steel for the window frames in the same structural context, or the impact of variable materialisations of the window frame on the conception, the configuration and the dimensions of the structural context, etc…

Gradually, the window (and its frame) becomes a room in its own right that occupies the centre of the composition and the investigation.

Through window making, the closed brick volume—moratorium space (see footnote)—gradually becomes an accessible and enlighted room.


Through the additive compositional principle of brick laying the given brick stack is gradually consumed. This includes an investigation of brick bonds and of the load bearing and space defining capacities of brick. Little by little newly built brick masses (foundations, walls, vaults, …) form three-dimensional brick corners[5] with an opening (or several openings) that becomes the window, the window detail, its materialisation with a size and proportions. Out of this brickwork and the emerging window, ‘a room’ begins to appear. Subsequently, and through window detailing, another opening will be developed as a door or a window, with its own architectural detail. This window gives access to a next room, that gradually comes into being. So doing, variants of the combination of brickwork, window detail and ‘a room’ will be developed through a playful research with variables, comparable with the examples as formulated in the subtractive section (see above).


These investigations will be done on two integrated levels:

  1. As a technical study:

  • the (architectural) drawing as an investigation tool:

    • scales 1/50, 1/10, (1/5), 1/1;

    • a special emphasis will be put on the full scale architectural drawing, both as a technical investigation and as a body check through comparison between that what is being drawn and the dimensions of the human body—the comparison between the size of the human hand and the size of the architectural detail;

    • the section will be the most prominent way of drawing: the Chronological Drawing, the X-Ray-Drawing (Van Den Berghe 2012, and forthcoming 2013, 2014, 2015), the Tracing DrawingsTracings (Sanders 2013), propositional drawing (Luyten 2012);

    • drawing, here, includes the application of the scale model.

  • the (architectural) drawing will be applied for:

    • designing and developing different window and door details, evidently in combination with

    • designing and developing different concepts of the beam: lintel, arch, vault, slab…

  • These technical investigations will start from the study of existing concepts, but the investigation of innovative concepts and solutions will be encouraged, both in window making and lintel making;

  • The whole process will benefit from the full support and assistance (education) from the professors of Studio Anatomy, based on experience (practice) and knowledge (research);

  • The whole process is new knowledge production for the discipline of architecture as a whole.

  1. As a explorative study:

  • Wherein ways of subtractive and additive concepts are investigated, gathered and concealed by making on different scales (1/1, 1/20, 1/50…);

  • Wherein ways of imaging concepts and points of p(r)eference(s) are explored and cristallised;

  • Wherein ways of perceiving traces (drawing, modeling, photographing, filming…) are influenced by the state or condition of physical touching (Didi-Huberman, 2008);

  • Wherein ways of atlassing question the deduction of gathered knowledge (tacit and explicit).

  1. As a litrature study:

  • The literature study will be conducted simultaneously with the technical study, and it will contain the study of writings (books, articles, papers, …) and reference projects in order to contextualise and situate the technical study in architectural practice, history and theory;

  • So doing, the technical study and the literature study will be fully integrated into one another. Based on this integration, the student has to develop a consistent architectural discourse.


Friedberg, A. (2006), The Virtual Window: from Alberti to Microsoft, the MIT Press, Cambridge MA, US.


  • Cage, J. (1944). A Book of Music,–VJ5BH2u8.

  • Edison, T. (1893), The Black Maria,

  • Diderot, Denis (1713-1784), en D’ (1717-1783) Alembert. L’Encyclopédie. [1], Gravure et sculpture : [recueil de planches sur les sciences, les arts libéraux et les arts méchaniques] ([Reprod. en fac-sim.]) / Diderot et d’Alembert, 1751.

  • Didi-Huberman, Georges. (2008). La ressemblance par contact Archéologie, anachronisme et modernité de l’empreinte. Les éditions de minuit.

  • Duchamp, Marcel. “La Boîte verte”. Geraadpleegd 20 augustus 2016.

  • Frampton, K. (1995). Studies in Tectonic Culture. The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture, ed. John Cava, the MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., US.

  • Jensen-Klint, P.V. (1913-1940). Grundtvig’s Church, Copenhagen, Denmark.

  • Lewerentz, S. (1962-1966). St. Petri Church, Klippan, Sweden.

  • Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964). Eye and Mind, in: The Primacy of Perception. Northwestern University Press.

  • Perec, Georges. (1985).Penser/Classer. Seuil.

  • Pérez-Gòmez, A. (2006a). The Space of Architecture: Meaning as Presence and Representation, in: Questions of Perception: Phenomenology in Architecture, William Stout Publishers, San Francisco, US.

  • Pérez-Gòmez, A. (2006b). Built upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, US, and London, UK.

  • Prouvé, Jean. (2014).Jean Prouvé Maison Démontable 8×8. Édition Galerie Patrick Seguin.

  • Mennour, Kamel, en Yona Friedman. (2010).Yona Friedman Drawings & Models 1945-2010. les presses du réel.

  • Queneau, Raymond. (1947).Exercices de style. Éditions Gallimard.

  • Mies Van der Rohe, L. (1923). Brick House.

  • Mies Van der Rohe, L. (1926). Monument for Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, Berlin, Germany.

  • Suter, Batia. (2007).Batia Suter: Parallel Encyclopedia. ROMA publications.

  • Van Den Berghe, J. (2012). Theatre of Operations, or: Construction Site as Architectural Design, Ph.D dissertation, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

  • Van Den Berghe, J. (2013). Architectural Drawing as verb, not as noun: extending the concept of Chronological Drawing and X-Ray-Drawing, in Knowing (by) Designing, International Conference: Knowing (by) Designing, KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture Campus Sint-Lucas, Brussels, Belgium, pp. 665-673.

  • Van Den Berghe, J. (2014). The Carpenter and the Draughtsman: an Embedded Report on the Architecture of Juliaan Lampens, A+U 523 Juliaan Lampens, 14-19.

  • Van Den Berghe, J. (2015). Drawing Is / Not Building: Question Mark, book publication by the Adam Art Gallery, Christina Barton, Simon Twose, Sarah Treadwell eds., Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

  • Van Den Berghe, J. (2015). A Window on Drawing, ADAPT-r Conference Making Research, Researching Making, adapt-R publication, Aarhus School of Architecture, Aarhus, Denmark, pp. 402-411.

[1] The window detail, in this investigation, also includes the door detail, the gate detail, etc…

[2] This brick stack is one possible materialisation for a Moratorium Space, a concept that occupies the actual research of Jo Van Den Berghe. Moratorium space is a space of which the access is postponed through temporary prohibition. Hence moratorium space rather feels like a solid than a void. Moratorium space is often perceived as a mass of dark substance generated by its closed appearance and our physical confrontation with the estimated thickness of its substance. Our imagination urges us to go ‘in there’, into that mass of dark substance. Moratorium space is this ‘absent’ imaginary room we are homesick of, and that often contains mystery and the promise of a new insight, which paradoxically may be generated by a new outlook into the world through the incorporation of ‘the window’ “… as practical device … and an epistemological metaphor” (Friedberg 2006), only accesssible for those who make the effort to go into the moratorium space from one end, to wade through the thickness of its substance, and to keep wading until the outlook through ‘the window’ at its other end occurs and anatomically explains (fig. 2).

[3] This limitless supply of bricks enables one to overcome the childhood frustration of not having enough Lego bricks, always wanting to have more of them in order to materialise a dream. Moratorium, in the context of this design-research assignment, is also a metaphor for the gradual hence ‘postponed’ generation of new knowledge and insights, both as education(student) and as research (discipline as a whole) in architecture.

[4] This multiplication of stacks may open up possibilities to investigate design variants through the play with design variables.

[5] A floor, a wall, another wall, a ceiling.

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