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    Neufert Vs. AGS: Cage Match

    By bryan boyer
    Mar 6, '08 2:34 AM EST
    Uh, yeah, excuse the absence. Little busy working on my thesis right now.

    My desk is lodged between two bookshelves so, as you may imagine, the books that are close at hand tend to matter to me a bit more than the ones that stray to the outer limits of the shelf. It's this immediate access that brought to my attention the curious name of a book that I frequently refer to, Neufert Architects' Data. I've preferred it over Architectural Graphic Standards, the more common book here in the US, for some time but was never quite sure why.

    In its own right this name is interesting for the fact that the architects are plural; this is a book for the use of a discipline. It's not an architect's book, it belongs to the whole lot of them. Can the simple title of a book bind a profession? But it's also revealing to compare this, the European standard for typical dimensions and other fundamentals of building design, to the North American equivalent, Architectural Graphic Standards.

    By name alone1 it would seem that the two contain vastly different information. While AGS claims an authority on convention, specifically to define the conventions of architectural drawing (and thus the specification of making), Neufert has decidedly more modest goals. Rather than proclaiming weighty standards, Neufert seeks to arm the reader with data, that most essential precondition for forming an opinion. This difference is borne out in the contents as well. Whereas AGS provides tables of standard dimensions, typical drawings for a number of generic conditions, and abstract guidelines, Neufert bookends the abstract and the typical with the microscopic and the built.

    In addition to typical layouts for a dining room (p. 255) you will find seemingly superfluous drawings of four different place setting types and a guide to cutlery, all properly dimensioned. The very rawness, the exact quality that makes it seem extraneous, is what also makes it a powerful resource because it avoids assumptions about the problems its readers are trying to solve. Opposite these minutiae, one also finds examples from built work that serve to demonstrate the application of this data. With great efficiency, Neufert compresses abstract ideals, typical conditions, minutiae, and the messy contingencies of reality all into one volume.

    I guess that's why I favor Neufert. It's a resource in the truest sense: stuffed full of data waiting to be resolved into answers rather than static solutions shopped from its pages.

    1. In reality the contents are more similar than the names would imply, save the two notable qualitative exceptions mentioned above.


    • I'm a Neufert user as well, granted I work in UK dependency so it is understandable to some extent. I however have to constantly convert the dimensions to imperial because most of the things we import are from the US (due to proximatey)

      Mar 6, 08 8:17 am  · 

      as far as i know the rest of the continent is in metrics and uses neufert. at least here in ecuador we do. but i got an ags when i was a student, and have been using both ever since. i'll use ags when i need/want a specific, standard dimension, and neufert perhaps more for architectural configurations and specific dimensions of objects [well, like you said]. i think also ags has more construction details than neufert [this off the top of my head]...

      but i thought i was going to see a photo of both books menacingly staring at each other. bah.

      for some data you really weren't asking for, ernst neufert studied in the weimar bauhaus and worked with walter gropius. i say this because i was always fascinated by the fact that he was an actual person [in contrast to the more anonymous ags]. there's a photo of him in the leaflet of my neufert, this little old man with a toothy smile and a bow tie.

      Mar 6, 08 8:56 am  · 
      Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

      Here's a little tidbit from the cobweb-ridden corners of architecture history: Albert Speer hired Ernst Neufert to devise a system for converting housing to bunkers and gun emplacements as well as a manual for industrial building in Germany (apparently, Speer was a devotee of Neufert's Bauenwurfslehre).

      Oh yeah, Neufert was also a Nazi.

      Mar 6, 08 9:37 am  · 

      yes, i was suspecting he must have been because there's a big whole in his bio come ww2.

      Mar 6, 08 12:38 pm  · 

      damn you evil nazi guy with the sweet grandpa smile, you fooled me!!!

      Mar 6, 08 1:36 pm  · 

      anyone have the neufert discs where you can plug in your height and all the corresponding dims for tables, chairs, etc are revealed?

      but yeah, i'm more partial to neufert but try to pay attention to the AGS for detailing cos i'm not so good at it.

      Mar 7, 08 12:50 am  · 

      Sounds like I might take the money I didn't spend on Architectural Graphics Standards three years ago and purchase a copy of this. If I account for interest rates and inflation maybe I'll break even. Good review.

      Mar 14, 08 12:50 am  · 

      Sounds like I might take the money I didn't spend on Architectural Graphics Standards three years ago and purchase a copy of this. If I account for interest rates and inflation maybe I'll break even. Good review.

      Mar 14, 08 12:50 am  · 

      I don´t know about the nazi background, I think he was Gropius´s assistant, and teached ergonomics at Bauhaus.

      Aug 14, 08 11:51 am  · 

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