What Is an Academy?

Peter Bertram

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 9, 2015
venue: Orpheus Institute, Auditorium
format: in words
practice: space
keywords: architecture, Bergsonism, Foucault

abstract video about the author(s)


The presentation shows an artistic research project made by the author at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, in Copenhagen. The project explores the academy institution through written reflection and the making of architectural models and drawings. The drawings and models will be shown visually, accompanied by a verbal and textual presentation.

Initially, the presentation will discuss aspects of the intuitive method as it is developed in Bergsonism (Deleuze 2006a, 13–35). The intention is to frame the relationship in an artistic research process between written reflection and the making of architectural models and drawings. If architectural designs are often developed with the intent of solving a problem or improving a given set of conditions in accordance with some desired state, it is through the wrestling between different components of a drawing or a model that a problem is invented. In this respect the role of writing is not to explain the dynamics of drawing, for instance. Rather the invention of a concept challenges a bad concept already integrated in architectural practice. Language and architectural media are conceived as different material domains. Second, the presentation will discuss how an academy institution might frame a problem-inventing process, elaborating the relationship between the articulable and the visible suggested earlier. The discussion makes specific reference to the distinction developed in Foucault (Deleuze 2006b: 41–43). It presents a series of architectural models and drawings of an imaginary academy developed alongside the aforementioned reflection. The intention is to exemplify a number of concrete ways in which the different elements of the project influence one another across the difference between writing and making. It will attempt to draw different diagrams of the relationship between the “programme” of the academy and its spatial disposition. Finally, the presentation points to a general problematic posed by the research project. The principle architectural question explored by the project is the nature of the relationship between spatial arrangement and life. Architecture is often conceived solely within a moral dimension and the necessity to control the outcome and its implications for a given social context. The intention is to suggest an artistic dimension of architectural practice transgressing a narrow understanding of the exploratory drawing or model as a speculative artefact removed from the world. If a moral and problem solving approach strives to render the channels of translation as direct and clear as possible, the project explores the notion of immanent life and the implications for architectural practice (Deleuze 2001, 24–33). In this respect architectural media are productive precisely because they are different from buildings and because “aesthetic” manipulation cannot be divorced from ethical inquiry.


Deleuze, Gilles. 2001. Pure Immanence: Essays on Life. Translated by Anne Boyman. New York: Zone Books.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2006a. Bergsonism. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone Books.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2006b. Foucault. Translated by Seán Hand. London: Continuum.


about the author(s)

Peter Bertram

Peter Bertram is an architect, researcher, and educator at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, Copenhagen. He received his master’s degree from the Royal Academy in 1995 and completed his PhD at the same institution in 2008. His PhD was conducted as an artistic development work concerned with the conditions for the production of the new in architectural processes. On numerous occasions, he has exhibited his work in Denmark and abroad, including at the Architecture Biennale in Venice in 1996. He has written a number of articles published in anthologies and conferences and has published the following books: Intuitiv Metode (intuitive method) (2009), ­Frembringelse (the bringing forth of difference) (2011), The Makings of an Architectural Model (2012), Invention of a Problem (2013), and On the Art of Notation (2014).

info & contact


Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, DK