Enabling variations and dimensions of Technology in architecture: a complex debate

From Firenze University Press Journal: TECHNE

University of Florence
4 min readSep 12


Filippo Angelucci, Dipartimento di Architettura, Università degli Studi “G. d’Annunzio” di Chieti-Pescara

Pietromaria Davoli, Dipartimento di Architettura, Università degli Studi di Ferrara

The definition of enabling technologies highlights a still partially unsolved question. The so-called KETs are identified and remodulated according to the variability of financial markets and leading industrial production sectors. It is not surprising that the debate and experimentation on them has affected the field of Architecture with a preference for the digitization aspects.

In the disciplines of Architecture, however, it is important to focus on the technology that not only anticipates or solves problems thanks to the digital processes and devices, but it also contributes to enabling multiple states of co-evolutionary adaptivity between bios and techne.

On these questions, the issue of the enabling role of technology has been brought to the attention of some researchers who deal with the multiple challenges posed by technological innovations with respect to the complexities of doing Architecture. The contributions of Nicola Emery, Maurizio Ferraris, and Paolo Tombesi highlighted that the problem is not to classify, reorientate, deny, or exalt techniques as more or less enabling resources. A much more complex scenario emerges concerning the theoretical, anthropological, and methodological aspects of designing. The real challenge is to regain possession of the technological skills to connect or recompose different technical levels in an enabling, plural, and multidimensional organic vision, to guarantee, consolidate and improve our behavioral and housing attitudes.

“Have”, “inhabit”, “enable”It is useful to highlight a termino-logical question concerning the verbs “have”, “inhabit”, and “enable” towards a starting reflection on the enabling roles that technologies can play in the design of anthropised habitat. They share the same etymological root. The verb “have” (from Latin habere), actually contains elements in common with the verb “be”, it is often opposed to, even if it refers to the exclusive idea of possessing in the current meaning. In several languages, “have” also means that “you have a certain way of being” (Virno, 2019; Agamben, 2019) and, therefore, you have skills and habits that put yourself in specific conditions of being. The verb “inhabit”(iterative of habeo), has got the same root as both habitus (way of being), and habitudo (way of behaving), and habilis (able to do certain actions), from which the verb “enable” derives. In common usage, the three verbs are used to indicate different activities, but they are much more deeply linked with one another. They confirm a connection between the human being and his need to inhabit, by modelling his own living space, assuming certain be-haviours, using techniques to remedy his own biological deficiencies of adaptation (Galimberti, 1999; Severino, 2021). It is around the trinomial“have, inhabit, enable” that the core of our in-vestigation should probably be identified on the enabling role of technology to make decisions, create living spaces, and reasonably use resources in design of Architecture.Enabling technologies: as yet an in-complete definitionThe need to identify some “enabling” technological segments highlights a still partially unsolved question. It is underlined that some branches of technological development have the exclusive potentiality of enabling new processes, attitudes, intellectual and application capabilities. At the same time, it seems that what has charac-terised the use of techniques and their dynamics of change up to now can be archived in an anachronistic and ir-reparably unsustainable past time.The concept of enabling technology has certainly contributed to fuelling this gap. The first definition elaborated in the European Community for Key-Enabling Technologies (KETs) focused on the identification of some support-ing technological axes, corresponding to the main needs suggested by the EU member countries (EU-COM, 2009). So, the first recognised list of KETs was outlined: advanced materials, na-notechnology, micro/nanoelectronics, industrial biotechnology, and photonics. They were defined as multidisciplinary technologies of systemic relevance; they were considered as strategic pri-orities for the innovation of processes, goods, and services because they were characterised by high knowledge in-tensity, research and development, rapid innovation cycles and high in-vestment costs.This definition of KETs suffered from an excessive technocratic vision for sectors, products, and objects, and it did not consider many other tech-nological segments that were simply excluded from possessing enabling ca-pabilities. The first generation of KETs was also affected by the high variability of the financial and industrial markets, which lead to continuous remodula-tions of the production sectors. Not by chance, just ten years after the first EU document, the KETs already appear significantly reoriented and, partly aggregated into new classification cat-egories. In this second period, there is a transversal and supporting position-ing trend of some sectors (AI, micro/nano-electronics, photonics, security, and connectivity) compared to other more specialised but supported sectors (STOA, 2021). The Piano Nazionale Impresa 4.0, developing the contents of the Piano Nazionale Industria 4.0 in 2016, expands the Community defini-tion of KETs in the same direction, and prefers the aspects of digitalisation, any w ay.It is not surprising that the debate and experimentation about enabling technologies has interfered weakly in the architectural sector and, perhaps, also in terms of repercussions within the design. Innovation perspectives, characterised by particularly rapid times, have emerged contrasting those aspects of Architecture historically featuring prolonged chronologies of change and forms of technical hy-bridisation (Nardi, 2000). The trinomial “have (be), inhabit, enable” shall be investigated also considering other dimensions, compared to people and society’s behavioural attitudes, individual and collective ways of living, and demands for architectures that can enable new comfort conditions with-out completely denying the past times.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.36253/techne-14627

Read Full Text: https://oaj.fupress.net/index.php/techne/article/view/14627



University of Florence

The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy