what is the good source to study folding architecture?


I am trying to figure out the folding technique and collect several books and magazines about this topic. But I am still am struggling in using it for my office projects. I wish anyone interested in this issue can share me some good experience or source.

Beginning from myself, I felt the folding space can connect several different spaces together, giving people a movement feel. in order to achieve this, I can fold one slab to cover several space, I can also mix two or more slabs together.

Here is Zaha's latest example:

Jan 18, 06 10:07 am

I think the only 'folding technique" I've heard about are origamis... Architecturally speaking, there's nothing else than recipes when you talk about folding.
The great momentum of the folding dates back to the good old days where architectural design magazine issued the "folding in architecture" issue (early nineties I believe), when everybody was re descovering the book of Deleuze about Leibniz (titled "the fold", believe it or not). Nowadays, not only the concept is outfashioned, but it also has lost all of it's potential power because architects of the nineties have used it so much that it has become meaningless. It could be interesting to try to see what's left of it in today's architecture though. Especially since it's champions of then (Eisenman, Libeskind, Zaha...) aren't using it so much anymore, but their carrier is grounded in this trend.

Jan 18, 06 10:16 am

I have a book on it. um. the name is, um....FOLDING ARCHITECTURE.

Jan 18, 06 10:25 am


Thanks for mentionning Deleuze and Leibnie. I heared those names when I looked a review book about Eisenman's works.

I have a different opinion about the rest of your saying. If you looked at last year and two years last issue of Architectural Record. It all about the folding architecture. I personally think no matter how the idea is old or not, if it can solve my office's project's problem, then it is Ok to use.

Jan 18, 06 11:10 am

jlx, you're still slightly missing the point of French's comment, I think. What French is trying to make sure everyone understands here is that "folding" isn't a technique or a style, it's an entire school of thought (philosophically) with just as much theory and thick readings to defend/quantify it as any decon or other pomo sub-strands.

DeLeuze, Liebniz, Kipnis, Lynn... they've all written at great length on the topic. To just grab the formal vocabulary of the "fold" (which, by the way, IS, in fact an outdated idea) and regurgitate without understanding it is like mimicking Parc Villette because your firm wants to do a building that is red. It's missing the meat and potatoes of the argument.

When you choose loaded formal vocabularies, you're not just making buildings, you're positioning yourself in the discourse. We're just trying to make sure you're aware of what you're actually asking about when you ask about the fold. It's not a form, it's theory.

Some (Kipnis) would say that Lynn/Hadid/et al have butchered the Deleuze's concept of the fold and turned it into nothing but a postmodern representational model which seeks to mimic the concept with form, but without actually embodying the concept. That's another post for another day.


Jan 18, 06 11:36 am

Foreign Office Architects

Their exhibition at the ICA last year, or the year before, takes the physical of folding and wraps it into a slightly more organic/genetic paradigm.

Also Folding Architecture: Spatial, Structural and Organizational Diagrams by Sophia Vyzoviti (2003). Small, not that pretty, full of quite inscrutable pictures, expensive, but looks good on the shelf anyway, and has all the right declensions of the types of (physical) fold

Have a look at future feeder with this search:


Jan 18, 06 12:08 pm

jlx, as MMatt is saying, I don't think it's a bad concept to be used at all. I just think there are differnet ways of using it. If it's only about form making, you'll find plenty of nice forms in the project of the architects mentionned above that you can use as an inspiration, but these examples, from what I know, are old and the trend in forms in not so much into these precedents anymore.
If it's about using a concept instead of a family of forms, it takes a lot of time to get it and to understand what it really is about. Reading Leibniz isn't much help, but the reading that Deleuze makes is useful since it's already an attempt to reformulate the baroque conception of the world in the late seventies occidental society. But every attempt to transfer this word in architecture is confronted to the difficulty of challenging a philosophical concept with architectural form, and that's where every previous attempt as failed, as proven by thed iscussion between Derrida and Eisenman on their common project "choral works" (you can find them in his monography Re:working Eisenman).
To go further in the discussion, if you are interested and since my post is already too long and pointless as it is, I'd like to know more about the specific project that you want to use this fold concept for.
What kind of program is it? Where? Why do you think the concept is relevant to this specific program or context?

Jan 18, 06 12:11 pm

Go back to the source, study the baroque movement,


I was amazed when I walked into the S. CARLO ALLE QUATTRO FONTANE- the space it self folds, it is remarkable.

Another notable is Mr. niemeyer, it has been theorized about the inflluence that brazilian baroque architecture had on him.

Jan 18, 06 12:15 pm

take +q's comments seriously, I would add that St. Ivo (also in rome, just of the piazza navona) is an even more extreme case of the description given for the quattro fontane. the space is really intense but yet not overly busy.

neimeyer is so underrated(think that is changing), in fact I did not enjoy his work much until visiting some sights in brazil. much contemporary architecture owes many debts to mr. neimeyer - pure genius uniting structure and space....not to mention some of the most extreme and trippy interior environments that I've ever experienced.

Jan 18, 06 12:22 pm

Jan 18, 06 12:27 pm

And here I thought that folding architecture had to do with simply taking a building plan and then folding it. Boy, I'm glad I never told anyone else this before because they'd surely think I was just plain stupid. I mean, I didn't know that the point was not so much to fold, but rather to tie architecture up in theoretical knots where even the architects doing it don't even know that what they are really doing is advertising (more than selling) what they think is a definite Zeitgeist reality. And what? Now it's just a quondam trend or fad that's still over-intellectualized.

Jan 18, 06 1:00 pm

Ohoh, I think I understand what this last post is about, but my English skills are not good enough to be sure that I understand (and my html skills aren't good enough to let me use italic, so just asume it's there with the "sure").
So I guess you mean that folding doesn't have to always refer to philosophy when it meets architecture. I guess you are right, and I kind of implied it in my last post... I just think it's too bad to pretend that it has never been done before. And the last time they did it, they did (all of them, including those who where doing advertising) refer to phylosophy Deleuze and all that stuff. I mean, even Roche did...
So the over intellualisation is probably not that trendy anymore, since every body only talks about sustainable this and energy efficient that, cheap materials, and stuff like that... But somebody asked a question about a specific vocable that I'm still not sure has its place in the architecture field (I mean, where did you see an architect folding something else than plan, as you pointed)?
Anyway, I'm done with this attempt of answer. Now everybody, explain me what quondam really meant please.

Jan 18, 06 1:11 pm

French, I think I offered a folded answer, and maybe that's why you're not really sure what I meant.

Russian proverb:
So the question, so the answer.

Go figure.

Jan 18, 06 1:17 pm

French I disagree with this comment:

"So the over intellualisation is probably not that trendy anymore, since every body only talks about sustainable this and energy efficient that, cheap materials, and stuff like that... "

Economy, and Efficiency are as much a theoretical position as it is a pragmatic concern.

Jan 18, 06 1:23 pm

quondam, thanks for the unfolding. I knew there was something fishy, but didn't figure exactly what. On one hand I whish you would always explain your posts this way, and at the same time I think it makes me think by myself a little bit more whenever I try to understand them on my own.

+q. you are right, I was just trying hard to be polemical myself, just not being so good at it.

Jan 18, 06 1:30 pm

i heard this building can be unfloded into a flat plane

Jan 18, 06 2:10 pm

This is the kind of folded architecture I like:

MVRDV, Sloterpark Swimming-pool, 1994

Jan 18, 06 2:38 pm

Nice. I didn't know this one. Thanks for the eye candy.

Jan 18, 06 2:51 pm
Sloterpark Swimming-pool

is well documented in El Croquis 86.

Jan 18, 06 3:01 pm

Thank you very much guys. These response really help me alot no matter it is negative or positive to the Folding theory/technique using "Fold".

I just caught up to do some drawings for a late meeting in two hours. But I will check them later and post my comments too.

I like the simplicity of the MVRDV's swimming pool. Any interiors?

French: Dont you want to contribute the pictures to support yours opinion?

Please contiune...

Jan 18, 06 3:07 pm

Common, I do pictures all the time. I'd rather stay with words on that one, even if they are useless to others. Well at least, we have this thread started.

Jan 18, 06 3:19 pm

useless? French, you really want to pick up a fight? I don't know what you are thinking.

Basically, when we are doing architecture. We don't care whether it is the old or new design theory, what we care is if we can use it to generate our idea and the clients will buy it. Period.

Even Robert Venturi is still in practice. And obvious his theory is out of date( mm.?)

Then what is the new design theory you think it is worthy of discussion?

Jan 18, 06 3:48 pm

jlxarchitect when did Venturi go out of date?

Jan 18, 06 3:51 pm

+q.: I just pick up one very quickly. Actually I don't think he is out of date. Just because someone said Fold theory is out of date. It force me to think Venturi is out of date too based on his idea.

Jan 18, 06 3:56 pm

James Stirling used to talk about taking an evolutionary approach to architectural design, rather than take a revolutionary approach to architectural design.

rhetorical question:
Is folded architecture evolving, or is it extinct?

Jan 18, 06 4:08 pm

"James Stirling used to talk about taking an evolutionary approach to architectural design, rather than take a revolutionary approach to architectural design."

Philip Johnson " Elevation is everything"

I like both

Jan 18, 06 4:56 pm

MMatt wrote:
What French is trying to make sure everyone understands here is that "folding" isn't a technique or a style, it's an entire school of thought (philosophically) with just as much theory and thick readings to defend/quantify it as any decon or other pomo sub-strands.

Personally, I've lost most of the confidence I've ever had in this type of sentiment/position as it relates to architectural design. Nonetheless, what MMatt wrote does reflect how most student architects are now trained to think about design, technique or style.

Yet, when it really comes down to an architectural design, folding architecture really does boil down to what it looks like. So, as far as I'm concerned, folding architecture is just another form, in the long history of forms, that architecture can take on, and, like jlxarchitect says, "if it can solve my office's project's problem, then it is Ok to use."

Otherwise, the notion of "an entire school of [failed?] thought" is stillborn, rather than being something within the evolutionary continuum of architectural design. And just because it's what is taught in school doesn't necessarily make it the truth. For example, the "Metabolist" architects of Japan talked a lot about architect reflecting "life giving" forms, while at the same time appearing oblivious to the fact that metabolism as a operation is a creative/destructive duality. Likewise, everything Tafuri and Eisenman said/say about Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii is just plain incorrect, yet their mistakes are taught and published over and over again.

I hope you all now understand what I mean by saying that I've lost confidence...

Jan 18, 06 5:39 pm

There is more folding, this time also fractal, in Libeskind/Balmond extension to the V&A (that will never be built). In this case it is the elevation that is folded and not the plan.

What we see, in the discussion above as much as in built work and theory is "new" being "folded" into the current of ideas, eventually becoming mainstream and/or sidelined.

This does not mean that there is no more value in the sidelined/mainstreamed ideas, just less currency (both in terms of currency = money, and in terms of currency = present now). Deleuze's explication of the fold is frankly shite, though liebniz' mathematics is beautiful. It all depends on how close to the source you want to go.

Thom Mayne gets his inspiration from his therapy, Tschumi from nature and its patterns. Both involve the fold, implicitly. Whatever you see most clearly, and in which you see humanity, and from which you can derive form that functions elegantly in response to programme, explore it and you will see the fold.

Jan 18, 06 5:48 pm

I didn't mean the conversation was useless, nor the folding was. I was just being sarcastic about my own comments and posts, since I have the feeling that I should practice a little more English before posting in a serious discussion such as this one.
Since my first post in this discussion, I think I've tried to express the same kind of feeling toward the possibility of an architectural theory, using words stollen from a different field to attempt a formal translation in architecture. Yet, since ther's no such thing as a blank page when you start a project, I do think that the connotation left by the deconstructivist period are to be adressed whenever someone mention the word "fold" in relation to architecture. I think it's ok for jlx to talk about folding if its does the job for his firm. I was just trying to hijack the discussion towards a topic that interests me. Something like a discussion about what architecture as a discipline really is, and about it's relation with words than mean something different for the rest of the world. There's nothing like a direct, literal translation of the word "fold" in architecture, it can only be used as an operational metaphor or can only be represented in an architectural form, like any other word.

Jan 19, 06 7:22 am

And it appears (to me at least) that the only person in this discussion practicing "what architecture as a discipline really is" is jlxarchitect.

Most of the rest of the discussion here focuses on disciplining the discipline, and I seriously question whether the "disciplinarians" have any real authority.

Jan 19, 06 10:50 am

"I am trying to figure out the folding technique and collect several books and magazines about this topic. But I am still am struggling in using it for my office projects. I wish anyone interested in this issue can share me some good experience or source."

You know, I'm just talking. I practice architecture every once in a while with friends. I enjoy it. I have no authority, but I'm just trying to share my own experience of "struggling in using it (the fold)". Architecture is playful because everybody can set his own rules for the game. I have mine, you have yours. I'm not trying to discipline anything. You guys can do whatever you want.

Jan 19, 06 11:46 am

French, I completely agree that "Architecture is playful because everybody can set his own rules for the game," and that is how I see "what architecture as a discipline really is."

You also wrote, "...and about it's relation with words than mean something different for the rest of the world." (Should that read "words that mean something different"?--you're English is just fine, I only want to be certain what you mean here.) This relativity only adds to the "playfulness." but might it not be more worthwhile to discuss architecture in relation to words that mean the same thing for the rest of the world?

Jan 19, 06 1:12 pm

"but might it not be more worthwhile to discuss architecture in relation to words that mean the same thing for the rest of the world?"
that's what I'm questionning. The word "fold" certainl means plenty of things, like any other word, to anybody that speaks english. The question these architects where asking was the possibility to transfer this broad ensemble of meanings into an architectural form. I think that's the reason why this architectural genre is related to post structuralist thinking: since philosophers like Deleuze or Derrida where questionning the possibility of a word to mean something, it was possible to consider this as a starting point for a transposition of a word into architectural form.
The "failure" of this attempt is almost a proof of the success of the philosophical theories it was based on: their assumption, in the end, is that in a way a word doesn't mean anything. That's pretty much what I have understood from my own readings of Derrida, and in a way that's what all "the fold" from Deleuze is about. The possibility of a re interpretation of a word with a specific meaning in the XVII th century makes it a completely different word in the XXth century, even if it's form is the same. I think that's an interesting start for a project, but I'm not sure it's useful in jlxarchitect's case, as he pointed out.
It's just a fun discussion for me, and for others I hope.
(By the way, you are right about "words that mean something different").

After reading this post, I'm not sure anybody will have fun reading it. But thanks for the discussion quondam.

Jan 19, 06 1:29 pm

OK French, I'll "play" along. Can you be more explicit about where and how the "failure" manifest itself architecturally?

Just for general reference, there are a couple pages on "fold" in The Metapolis Dictionary of Advanced Architecture, and under "bend" in the same book is: See 'braids,' 'circuits,' 'coilings,' 'contortionism,' 'fold,' 'folding' and 'fold (unfold-refold).'

Jan 19, 06 1:55 pm

quondam. I'm not sure I have the energy to keep playing, but I'll try since it's one am and I'm still at work. I wrote it "failure" for three reasons; the first one is that, from the philosopher and the architect's point of view, the most emblematic of these attempts, "choral work", is not succesful, and never got near completion as a project. They both considered (Derrida and Eisenman) this experience as a dead end.
The second one is the evolution of the work of many if not all of the firms and architects that were part of the decon/ fold era. There are traces of it of course in the work of Zaha (which is probably a good example for jlx since she has never been into the theoretical aspects of the question), but Eisenman's or Tschumi's work has evolved into a more technologically oriented approach, where form making relates to the tools of production of form more than to external, metaphorical objects as it used to in their previous work.
The third one is Daniel Libeskind.
I've never read The Metapolis Dictionary of Advanced Architecture and never heard about it. But it may be a standard in the US. Anyway, I don't know if this comment was adressed to me or others.
'up to you.

Jan 19, 06 7:33 pm

French is right, the entire "folding" phenomenon is predicated on an impoverished reading of Deleuze. To take a compex and nuanced philosophical TERM and attempt to translate it into FORM is not only difficult, but it is completely misguided. In fact, a building that was constructed with an actual understanding of the notion of "the fold" would probably not "look" like any of the ham-fisted work of the first and second wave "deleuzian" architects.

Too often architects read the work of prominent theorists (Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida, Benjamin, etc) for "words that would make cool-looking buildings". Thus, architecture becomes a hackneyed parody of philosophy awash in semi-understood terms like "fold", "rhizome", "heterotopia", "multitude", etc.

Most architects read philosophy for, literally, the words.


Jan 19, 06 8:39 pm
vado retro

my kind of folding...

Jan 19, 06 10:37 pm

Parody implies an intentional satirical reduction based on a full understanding. Caricature is more apt, but still doesn't capture it. Srchitects, as generalists, are always only penetrating the walls of other disciplines for fodder and some of us are good at selling semi-understood. But, as Wittgenstein’s forays into architecture show, the prevailing mode is probably better for all involved.

I haven't studied it, but have heard "folding" evoked in lecture after lecture including Balmond/Libeskind and i'm mostly seeing the literal -i.e. folded material. Given jlxarchitect's post, can anyone share an example of folded space? And just for fun, limit it to post 1995.

Jan 20, 06 12:21 am

You're right waxwings, I'll start another thread later. This one shouldn't talk about that. And I'll try to find some picture exemples for jlxarchitect (more serious ones than vado's of course). Apologies to you by the way.

Jan 20, 06 5:57 am

I was hoping to see or read about some architecture designs themselves. Yes, I'm aware of the literature being cited here, but none of that is the architecture.

You could very well say that the fold has been part of modern architectural design since Le Corbusier's Palais des Congrès, 1964.

Jan 20, 06 12:19 pm

quondom, I like your references - MVRDV and Corb are great examples of the type of folding you discuss (in fact I prefer the fold you discuss), but I feel you may be forcing your closed mind on the conversation. How can you state so boldly (and seemingly arrogantly) that what is being discussed is not architecture? Do you try to get a rise out of people or are you just a stubborn guy that "doesn't work well with others"?

Jan 20, 06 12:27 pm

garpike, go to hell.

Jan 20, 06 12:29 pm

I think folding spaces go much farther back then LeCorb and Libeskind talks big game but....

On a(n) (un)related note, I just rewatched adaptation last night. That movie literally folds into itself. Might want to check film and literature (the beginning paragraph of "100 years of solitude" is as much folding as you'll ever get of architecture). Im not sure how that can help you, but Im not the one doing the research.

Jan 20, 06 12:31 pm

WTF? I ask an honest question. I even agree with you. You seem to stir things up anywhere you go yet I get the "go to hell"?

Jan 20, 06 12:33 pm
badass japanese cookie

wasn't calatrava's phd dissertation called 'the foldability of space frames/structure" or something like that

Jan 20, 06 12:38 pm

garpike, i think he may be answering your question.

Jan 20, 06 12:38 pm

You got go to hell because of your very arrogant and ignorant comments of:

forcing your closed mind on the conversation

seemingly arrogantly

"doesn't work well with others"

So here's what I think of you:

big copycat designer that thinks he knows a whole bunch and is frustrated by my being here.

Jan 20, 06 12:41 pm

I over-reacted because yes, you frustrate the Hell out of me. I apologize for offending you. My intentions were not to offend. Trust me.

But please, don't call me a copycat designer. I don't take offense to that because I have no idea where that came from. And sure I may know a whole bunch, or I may know a whole bunch of nothing, but I am sure there is even much more that I don't know. A LOT more I don't know. I like that. I just get frustrated by black-and-white this-is-that comments.

Jan 20, 06 12:52 pm

one more thing:

always ready with the bull-shit

Jan 20, 06 12:58 pm

You're impossible.

Jan 20, 06 1:05 pm

+q, I agree with your views of Adaptation, and the brief overlap with Being John Malkovich further adds to the folding. Being John Malkovich might also be regarded as a film that folds, (actually, I see a comparability between Adaptation and Saving Grace--orchids, desperation and drugs--but Saving Grace is more of an unfolding that doesn't fold back in on itself until the very end), but there is another structural element within Adaptation that needs addressing, namely it's continual use of [the] double theater--the two brothers, the book and the screenplay, the two lives of the author: Susan and Suzie Q., and the overall blurring of the real and the virtual. CQ is another movie where double theatrics is the overall structure.

I now wonder whether what is today seen as folding may more accurately be double theatrics. Granted, however, [the] double theater necessarily employs (at least) one fold, especially in the Baroque.

The following is from Timothy Kitao, Circle and Oval in St. Peter's Square, 1974:

"In the well known production of the DUE TEATRI, first given in 1637, Bernini developed a simulated amphitheater of a very elaborate kind. This is, of course, the best known of Bernini's theatrical works, but a recapitulation is in order.

According to Massimiliano Montecuculi, who witnessed the performance, the stage was prepared with "a flock of people partly real and partly feigned" so arranged that, when the curtain had fallen for the opening of the play, the audience saw on the stage another large audience who had come to see the comedy. Two braggarts, played by Bernini himself and his brother Luigi, then appeared on the stage, one facing the real audience and the other the ficticious; and recognizing each other in no time, they went on to claim, each in turn, that what the other saw as real was actually illusory, each firmly convinced that there was no more than one theater with its audience in that half he was facing. The confusions of realities in mirror image thus heightened, the two firmly decided "that they would pull the curtain across the scene and arrange a performance each for his own audience alone." Then the play was performed to the real audience, that is, the main act to which that preceeded was only a pleasant prelude. But through the play another performance was supposed to be taking place simultaneously on the second stage introduced by Luigi; the play was, in fact, interrupted at times by the laughter from those on the other side, as if something very pleasant had been seen or heard.

At the end of the play, the two braggarts reappeared on the stage together to reaffirm the "reality" of the illusion. Having asked each other how they fared, the impresario of the ficticious performance answered nonchanlantly that he had not really shown anything but the audience getting up to leave "with their carriages and horses accompanied by a great number of lights and torches." Then, drawing the curtain, he displayed the scene he had just said he had shown to his audience, thus rendering complete the incredible reversal of reality and illusion to the confused amazement of the real spectators, who were now finding themselves ready to leave and caught in the enchanting act of feigning the feigned spectators."

The two theater's are definitely hinged, and there lies the fold, but the results are more complex than merely a hinge or a fold. In 2000 I wrote, "Bernini's theatrical performance manifests the Baroque's consummate ending. Within his double theater Bernini capsulized the beginning of Western culture's new bifurcation of the real and the illusory, introduced mirroring as a henceforth dominant Baroque (stylistic) theme, and, at base, inverted reality
into a reenactment of its own illusory mirror (--is this perhaps also the
genesis of historiography?)."

My point now would be to go back to Baroque architecture not only with the fold in mind, but looking for the double threater that is probably even more there.

[Around this time in 2002 I was researching and writing "Theatrics Times Two" and "Theatrics Times Two, too" but I don't think the fold was ever involved. Interestingly, amphitheater literally means 'theater with both sides' and double theaters go back at least a couple millennia--from and online source:

Slightly off the subject, but too interesting to pass up, is the story of another theater, which was built in 53 BC (i.e., at the time when Pompey's theater was under construction) by Caius Scribonius Curio for his father's funerary games. It was actually a double theater -- two wooden theaters set back to back to allow for two simultaneous dramatic performances. But the two theaters were set on pivots so that they could be rotated, audiences and all, and when face to face they made an elliptical amphi theater ("amphi" means "on both sides") for gladiatorial games. Curio's "amphitheater" is the first one documented and he (or an architect he employed) may have been the inventor the concept. Pliny the Elder documents it in Book 36, section 117, of his Natural History, but I've only found it in Latin on the Internet.

Jan 20, 06 8:14 pm

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