Codes, as systematic forms of regulation and organization, are not the innocuous or neutral documents they are often considered to be. Operating with or without legal sanction, they are formulated to ensure specific and predictable outcomes and are laden with authorial and authoritative intent. Nevertheless, while codes have come to be an increasingly pervasive force in contemporary architecture, they are still frequently dismissed as onerous and quotidian. This volume of Perspecta—the oldest and most distinguished student-edited, university-based American architecture journal—investigates the historical and ongoing evolution of the relationship between codes and architecture, from Vitruvian systems of mathematical proportion through current strategies in building legislation.
Although regulations created to establish restrictive power over building have existed throughout history, architecture today is more than ever bounded, shaped, and directed by codes. Codes simultaneously manage the complexity of architectural practice and establish the terms of its interaction with a widening range of internal and external forces. While codes impose the particular interests of their authors on both the architectural profession and the inhabitants of the built environment, they are seldom the focus of critical inquiry. Approaching the topic from a variety of backgrounds and positions, the authors contributing to Perspecta 35 examine the impact of codes on architecture in contexts ranging from contemporary technology to the foundational traditions of the discipline. Collectively they reveal the breadth and impact of codes affecting architecture and speculate on how the relationships between the two will continue to unfold.