The Nine-Square Grid
The Surviving Image of an Architecture without Content
Directly influenced by Colin Rowe’s essay “Mathematics of the Ideal Villa” (1947) and the Warburgian art historical tradition, John Hejduk’s nine-square grid studio exercise had an ambiguous relation to the instrumentality of architectural history. When the nine-square grid exercise was copied in many architecture schools around the world as a first-year studio project, initiating the novice student in the realm of architectural composition, the pedagogical interpretation of its relation to architectural history varied. This paper questions the relational model of architectural history to practice in the nine-square grid exercise, and subsequently investigates the reuse and reinterpretation of the exercise at the Versailles school and at Ghent University in the 1980s. It proposes a reading of the survival and return of this diagrammatic figure in studio pedagogy and villa architecture in the late twentieth century by reckoning with the history of its self-referentiality and the temporality of lateness.
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