A window is not a window is not a window any more.
—after Gertrude Stein
From the Renaissance onwards, the discourse on architecture was largely based on the definition and analysis of architectural elements. Alberti’s six elements (locality, area, compartition, wall, roof, and opening; 1452), Gottfried Semper’s four elements (hearth, roof, enclosure, mound; 1851) and Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture (pilotis, free facade, open plan, long window, roof garden; 1928) were all, in various degrees, efforts to analyse the history of buildings and codify the future of architecture. But since the globalization of modern architecture in the second half of the 20th century, the possibility of an elemental systematization of architecture has been largely ignored. Elements that used to be the specialty of architects—the ceiling and the window, but also even the façade—have become devices and ceded to more advanced technological domains. Architects themselves have largely ignored other elements in which they used to excel, like the corridor. There is a paradox though: today, despite standardization, device-ification and the attempts of parametric architecture to merge formerly distinct categories like roof, wall, and window into an ideally continuous architectural surface, the fundamental elements of architecture endure, albeit in sometimes radically different forms.
GSD/AMO Rotterdam Studio