by Larry R. Barrow
In this article, architect and teacher Larry Barrow presents a perspective on the importance of communication media.
Information technology (IT) per se is a modern obsession, but the importance of information exchange in accomplishing architecture is as old as recorded history.
For hundreds of years before the Renaissance, the integrative knowledge required for the processes of design and construction was typically embodied in one individual — a generalist architect/ master-builder — who was dependent on and collaborated with fellow guild workshop cohorts. These were typically specialized craftsmen such as stonemasons and carpenters.
In my view, the Renaissance was both an innovative and disruptive period for the processes of design and building collaboration. Then, as now, the technology of communication was a significant factor in structuring relationships within the building team.
By studying past changes that may have been driven by historic communication methods, I think we can discover clues to how new digital communication tools may change communication within the modern AEC industry. A historical perspective may help to understand and address some problems found in the complex contemporary communication relationships.
Before the Renaissance
The pre-Renaissance medieval architect was an integrator of design and construction services for his patron. Construction was labor-intensive, used limited local materials, and relied on persistent collaborative relationships between the designer and fellow craftsmen.
Santa Maria Novella, 1456 to 1470, Florence, by Leon Battista Alberti.
Great Buildings Photo © Donald Corner and Jenny Young
Before the Renaissance, a generalist master-builder depended on specialized craftsmen such as stonemasons and carpenters.
Image: Larry R. Barrow
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