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The Architectural Signifier, Mario Gandelsonas MS ACT Architectural Theory Keynote Lecture

Apr 04, 2022


Master of Science in Architecture, Computational Technologies


Informed actualizations: From AI to physical computation

The MS ACT Lecture Series aims at discussing research framed by invited guest speakers. The MS ACT Program focuses on architecture expanding relationships in architecture between science, technology and cultural criticism.


Introduction and Moderation:

Pablo Lorenzo-Eiroa, Director, MS ACT, New York Institute of Technology-SoAD


The Architectural Signifier.


FAIA, Professor, School of Architecture, Princeton University

Architecture seen as a complex “secondary” signifying system involving 2 and 3-dimensional representations is supported by language, it is related to its categories, but with its own organization and specific logic. It is
accessible through the subject’s discourse, the architectural discourse, and supported by architectural drawn and built texts. I am going to present a brief description of the notion of signifier as it first appears in structural
linguistics and then how it is borrowed and transformed in other fields, such as structural anthropology and psychoanalysis, to finally discuss the notion of the architectural signifier.

Bibliography Recommended for the Lecture

The Urban Text, MIT Press

X-Urbanism, Princeton Architectural Press

Gandelsonas, Mario and Morton, D. “On Reading Architecture”, in Progressive Architecture,1972

Gandelsonas, Mario “The Architectural Signifier,” paper presented at the First Congress of the International Association of Semiotic Studies, Milan, 1974

Gandelsonas, Mario “Linguistic and Semiotic Models in Architecture” in Basic Questions of Design Theory (New York: North Holland. 1975)

Gandelsonas, Mario “From Structure to Subject: The Formation of an Architectural Language” in J. Ockman (Ed.), House X, Rizzoli, New York, 1982


Mario Gandelsonas is an internationally recognized theorist, teacher and designer. As a theorist, he introduced and developed a post structuralist approach that influenced a generation of theoretician and historians. He was a fellow at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies and a founding editor of Oppositions magazine.Mario Gandelsonas is a professor at the Princeton University School of Architecture where he is the Director of the Program in Urban Studies and the Co-Director of the Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities. As a partner of Agrest and Gandelsonas, he has designed and built houses, buildings, and urban projects in the US, Argentina, Europe and China. His articles and designs have been widely published in national and international magazines. His books include The Urban Text, Agrest and Gandelsonas, Works, X-Urbanism: architecture and the American city, Shanghai Reflections, In Search of the Public, Garden [City] State, and Fluvial Metropolis.

Lecture Information