Often we hear ourselves and other architects comment on nice detailing, but we seldom discuss what we actually mean. Details are not a separated layer simply applied to a building – details are in fact the building. A smooth surface without joints is a detail just as much as a jointed surface would be. Details cannot be reduced to simply being a product of a particular drawing or a certain scale, or just being the art of joining things together. This would be to underestimate the power of details, as they can influence everything from dimension, proportion, and space, to natural light, acoustics, or even a building’s relation to its context.
I like to think of nice detailing not being so much about precision, but rather about making the exact choices that will clarify the reading of the building in the most effective way. Even though I might get impressed by innovation and adventure in detailing (a kind of nerdy obsession with details that are, for one reason or another, difficult to conceive), if these efforts are not efficiently enhancing the understanding of the building, they might seem pointless.
Even so, innovation is an aspect of details that is widely overlooked, and sometimes even criticized for being too crafty, too expensive, or even unprofessional. Of course, in most cases there is a limit to how inventive an architect can be in the realm of detailing. Often detailing is about tweaking and improvements by small increments, but the same would be true for most scientific research.
Precision, however, is a rather boring evaluation of details, unless taken to a completely different level. Precision can often be bought in a system and applied with known methods, whereas nailing the true reading of a project and the details to express that is always a challenge, can seldom be bought off-the-shelf without tweaking, and often requires deep involvement, experimentation, and knowledge.
All of this might seem obvious, yet the general appreciation of detailing seem to be stuck in the precision aspect. So, to juries and journalists – when are you going to get nerdy enough?
Jonas Elding / Elding Oscarson