Scaling up and down: Extraction trials in architectural design

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How do architects imagine, see and define a distant object that is meant to become a building? How does it become knowable, real? To answer these questions, I follow architects as they fabricate models and scale them up and down at different rates of speed. Instead of being a logical, linear procedure for generating a new object that becomes progressively more knowable, ascending from the abstract to the concrete, scaling is a versatile rhythm, relying on surges, 'jumps' and returns. By focusing on the most frequently repeated moves such as 'scaling up', 'jumping the scale', 'scaling down', and describing their cognitive implications, I depict how architects involve themselves in a comprehensive dialogue with materials and shapes. Their material dialogue takes into account dispositions, resistance, stability and other properties that change proportionally with scale. In the scaling venture, two alternative states of the building are simultaneously achieved and maintained: a state of being 'less-known', abstract and comprehensive; and a state of being 'more-known', concrete and detailed. After multiple up and down transitions between small- and large-scale models, the building emerges, becomes visible, material and real. These scaling trials bring the building into existence. © SSS and SAGE Publications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-894
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • Architecture
  • Building
  • Design process
  • Ethnography
  • Models
  • Reality
  • Scaling


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