top of page


The Poetics of Historicity and Tradition in Contemporary Architecture

This Website functions as repository of material concerning the progress of the project in question. It will be updated as fieldtrip itineraries and works are studied, evolve.

The project investigates contemporary works of “dis-placed” architecture to elaborate a theory of metaphor – Aristotle’s “alien word” – which argues for metaphorizing as the crucial mode through which history emerges and is rendered immanent in the present.


Para-Doxa engages an understanding of metaphor, poetics, and narrative to articulate (and mobilize) the power of architecture in addressing crises of historical consciousness. Drawing on key thinkers on not only poetics but also cultural and social points of inflection of past centuries, the project explores key works of contemporary architecture, themselves inflected by time and often in space. Conducting in situ research into these works, including photographic and written documentation and interpretation, Para-Doxa explores how they involve metaphor in the production and making-sense of material and built form. It posits their contribution to the development of a sustainable cultural milieu reconciling and poetically merging the historical in the contemporary. The project intends to nurture, among those who will contribute to the creation of new built worlds, an amplified awareness of the importance of history to architecture’s capacity to help resolve crises stemming from historical, cultural and social dislocations. Para-Doxa builds on preceding theoretical elaborations on Syndesis, and graduate seminars at the University of Manitoba.    




The fundamental concern of Para-Doxa is: by what means, today, can history operate, and bear meaning, in architecture? We seek an understanding of historicity and contemporaneity far more fluid than frameworks inherited from the recent past. Setting aside conventional notions of “reference,” we instead propose metaphor as the crucial mode through which architecture engages history. We propose a new theory of metaphor in architecture, starting with Aristotle’s conception of “the alien word.” By analogy, that word is the building, or architectural fragment, displaced in time – and often in place also. This understanding of metaphor opens up a broader and more sustainable perspective on the cultural context of architecture. Now and then imply also here and there; thus the project de-territorializes analysis, opening up the rich multi-temporal and geographic context of Interinfluences in today’s hybrid global culture(s). Our thinking draws on the writing of Paul Ricoeur, but secondary theoretical sources include critical cultural thinkers from specific “moments” in the development of globalization: extending back from our contemporaries Agamben and Zizek on temporality now; to Giedion and McLuhan on the post-war context; to the Romantics, Novalis and Stendhal on the emergence of 19th century modernism. 

This theory is to be supported by case studies in which historical tradition and displacement coincide in the work and/or in the condition of their author: architects displaced from their own tradition. They will share a latitude of approach to the notion of the contemporary, articulate a palette of gestures, materials, and strategies of assembly which cannot be reduced to terms of simply here and therenow or then, revealing them as, in Ricoeur’s term, “Para-Doxa”: beside or outside convention. This exploration, and related documentation and writing, will form the research and development component of a volume for which completion is anticipated between 2023 and 2024.


The attempts of so-called “post-modernism” and even “critical regionalism” to orient the contemporary to the past and to place have been, for the most part, left in our wake. But architects today still seek – or at least, need – a meaningful way to relate to tradition. This also matters crucially for cultures and communities. So while our first audience for this work is architects, we intend to craft the outcomes of our research in terms accessible to the general public. This is a key intended impact: to develop a public openness to the role architecture can play in addressing core civilizational problems, crises of historical consciousness, and cultural sustainability – what is nowadays referred to in Europe as BAUKULTUR. Between these two audiences is a third: architecture students. There is, currently, no accessible text presenting a vision of architecture that reconciles the contemporary with tradition. Design culture, particularly in architecture schools, sees contemporary work as flying free of any historical context. This is another key intended impact of this work. Engaging fabulation, fiction, poetics and narrative, and an openness to multiple forms of temporality and transculturation, we can nurture a more adequate disciplinary response to the conditions and challenges of our times.


Main Researchers: Carlos Rueda and Lawrence Bird

Research Assistant: Ralph Daniel Gutierrez

Collaborator/Cinematographer: Juan Andres Rueda


Mediterranean Greece, and Spain: respectively, they configure a Journey to the origins of the West and a relevant historical context of hybrid cultures

South America: as cultural (and poetic) transfer of heritages (Judeo-Christian, Islam, Africa and the East in coexistence) and new amalgamation with Indigenous and African cultures for over half a millennium

Puerto Rico: pays a visit to a singular work that exhibits the territorialization and creative transculturation 

Canada and the USA: a milieu which constitutes a relatively new centre of Western civilization nowadays experiencing massive welcoming of diasporic communities that are currently reshaping the notion of mainstream culture itself

Northern Europe and UK: it traces through punctual examples of meaningful approaches to the evolution of modern tradition in the context of the crisis of the European city and the concept of Europe

as such

bottom of page