Selected Texts by AOC
Selected Texts about AOC
Tom Coward
Geoff Shearcroft
“Have you ever noticed, when you get an idea,
how much I can make of it?” 1
Some people have some capacity to inspire through original thought. Other people have the ability to make something that already exists much better. This is as true within after dinner humour as it is within discoveries at the science lab.

Within an open society notions of originality are difficult to maintain, in that they quickly proliferate – each new idea is quickly reconfigured, re-articulated, given new worth and eventually made generic or esoteric.

Copy and Duplication are at the heart of creativity – the base hubris eroding the unique: a leveller of bad ideas, the alchemy improving half-cocked notions, the maker of fashion and even type.

Treated as nouns they suggest either weak thievery or diligent study – but as verbs (as activity) they create the slippage required for sophistication. “immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

Within the architectural world copy and duplication is the mainstay – if you trade on your uniqueness you end up copying yourself, if you are busy you will duplicate what you did last time, if you have aspirations to be ‘better’ you will copy your heroes. The educational use of architectural precedent is shorthand for establishing the cyclic concerns of architectural culture. The thoughts of a second generation modernist cum first generation post modernist are worth duplicating.

“I, for one, welcome the passing of the revolutionary stage of the modern movement... Architects have always looked back in order to move forward and we should, like painters, musicians and sculptors, to be able to include ‘representational’ as well as ‘abstract’ elements in our art... So, freed from the burden of utopia but with increased responsibility, particularly in the civic realm, we look to a more liberal future producing work perhaps richer in memory and association in the continuing evolution of a radical architecture.”

One does not need to limit copy and duplication to the realm of purely architectural discourse. Architecture can potentially synthesize into the broader intrigues of everyday life, enriching the capacity of architecture to relate beyond its own remit. To copy another’s sensibility “We have always been interested by how architecture communicates with people, and herein lies one of the advantages of this technique. By taking things that are familiar to people, you have an automatic language that you can use to communicate with them.”

Through imperfection, to copy and to duplicate is to change and to reinvent. Amplify the error. They are operations which promote the smudges of a photocopier, the scissors and paste juxtaposition of a collage, the space between social geography and social commentary, they gain static charge as they move on. By ‘common law’ consensus the ideas get better.

33% of this essay is copied and duplicated.

1. Richard Ellmann, Introduction to Stanislaus Joyce, My Brother’s Keeper: James Joyce’s Early Years, ed. Richard Ellmann (New York: Viking Press, 1969), xv.

2. T.S Eliot, “Philip Massinger,” in Selected Essays, 182

3. James Stirling 1983, Neue Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 1984, Staatliches Hochbauamt 1

4. Sean Griffith 2007, Keep up the bad work, RIBA Research Symposium 2007: Reflections on Practice: capturing innovation and creativity

I suggest a toolbox of copy and duplication, easily tested in theory and practice. Likely to have mixed results. Try them out.

Using an imitation or reproduction of craft as architectural expression

To partially obstruct and alter the rendering of an image or pattern within the architecture through material tectonics.

A composition in which several well-known details are combined, either simultaneously or, less frequently, sequentially, for humorous effect.

To render an exact copy, as of a formal object, dimension, or social history.

Imitating a natural phenomenon’s or environment’s efficiency and survival mechanisms in applied case-based reasoning

Considering something as a general quality, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances.

Work within the systematic classification of types that have characteristics or traits in common.

An assemblage or occurrence of diverse elements or fragments in unlikely or unexpected juxtaposition

A small part of anything or one of a number, used to pre-empt the quality, style, or nature of the proposal.









Published by Tom Coward
P.E.A.R Magazine
June, 2009