An award presented to a study of the modern origins of industrialised architecture and prefabrication

The dissertation of Bartolomé Serra Soriano, Professor of Architecture at CEU UCH, has received one of the Extraordinary Doctorate Awards that the University presented on the 1st of February during the investiture of new doctors at the academic act of the Commemoration of Saint Paul’s Conversion.

Bartolomé Serra Soriano, a recipient of the Extraordinary Doctorate Award.

The application of concepts of optimisation, efficiency, standardisation, and production rate to materials like wood, concrete, and steel resulted in a shift in the way architecture was designed and constructed. This change revolutionised completely the construction processes and was fundamental to the following development of prefabrication in architecture as we understand it today. Professor of the Department of Projects, Theory, and Technique of Design and Architecture at CEU UCH, Bartolomé Serra Soriano has studied in his doctoral thesis the influence of six contributions by great masters of architecture to this process: Wright, Gropius and Wachsmann, Le Corbusier, Kahn, Buckminster Fuller, and Mies. The dissertation, under the direction of Alfonso Díaz Segura, has received one of the Extraordinary Doctorate Awards that CEU UCH presented on the 1st of February at Palau de la Música, during the investiture of new doctors at the academic act of the Commemoration of Saint Paul’s Conversion.

In his awarded study titled “Great masters of industrialised architecture: six pioneering contributions of prefabrication in wood, concrete, and steel” Professor Serra observes how the great masters of the 19th and 20th centuries approached architecture from the deep understanding of the nature of the materials, aiming to master not only their properties regarding construction but also their potential for industrialisation and their manufacturing processes. “These pioneering examples of industrialised architecture have turned into unavoidable references for everybody who have since tried to tackle new questions in the field of prefabricated architecture. The value of these contributions is their status as indispensable models for further progress toward optimised and effective architecture today,” emphasises Professor Bartolomé Serra.

The first examples of industrialised construction

The studied cases that appear clearly as prototypes of prefabricated construction with industrialised elements are Frank Lloyd Wright’s American System-Built Houses and Le Corbusier’s projects in Lège and Pessac. In addition, Wright reshaped the traditional system of the balloon frame, achieving “a prefabricated construction that was, at the same time, versatile in its function to answer the demands of every job.”

Other pioneering examples that Professor Bartolomé Serra discusses in his doctoral thesis are the conception of catalogue architecture through Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann’s Packaged Houses, the preciseness and order of the prefabricated pieces in Louis I. Kahn’s Richards Medical Research Building, Richard Buckminster Fuller’s utopia of tensile structures, and the essence of steel construction by Mies van der Rohe. “These pioneering proposals have built the foundation for today’s industrialised architecture: without them, the evolution of prefabrication until our days would have been compromised, to say the least,” the Professor of Architecture points out.

Bartolomé Serra defending his thesis at CEU UCH.

The duality of architecture and industry

According to his research, the progress of the duality between architecture and industry is not limited to the use of standardised elements: “These masters demonstrated that architecture was capable of taking scientific knowledge, digesting it with critical thinking, and elevating it to the category of art, achieving a symbiosis between the industry — focused on objective improvement of processes, resources, and time — and architecture, which goes beyond the simple act of manufacturing.” For the Professor “this constant pursuit for integration of the defining values of the art of construction under the scientific parameters of the industry constitutes the compromise that any architecture, independently from its level of prefabrication, should be obligated to meet due to its dual nature of art and science.”

Professor of Architecture at CEU UCH Bartolomé Serra Soriano received his Extraordinary Doctorate Award for the thesis “Great masters of industrialised architecture: six pioneering contributions of prefabrication in wood, concrete, and steel” on the 1st of February during the investiture of new doctors at the academic act of the Commemoration of Saint Paul’s Conversion.

Read the original post in Spanish here!

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