This thesis argues that the creation of buildings with the potential of functional and physical change over time is inextricably linked to what can be labelled as ‘frameworks of uncertainty’ – i.e. those tools of architectural theory and design that predict, enable and manage the accommodation
of controlled changes. To this purpose, the differing contexts of British and Japanese post-war architecture, and more specifically the work of Cedric Price and Arata Isozaki, are investigated as instrumental in understanding this friction between fixity and freedom within architectural design.
An interest in systems thinking and a performative conception of built form prompted Price to talk of ‘Calculated Uncertainty’, a phrase that conveys the paradox involved in any attempt to control loosely defined spaces. In Japan, this paradox was culturally longstanding due to a spatiotemporal conception of the built environment as an ever-changing entity. Isozaki, who today is mainly known in Western countries for his postmodernist buildings, in fact founded his first two decades of practice upon the application of cybernetics, interactive artistic/urban performances, and a profound knowledge of traditional Japanese architecture.
The thesis is divided into three parts. The first presents a situated architectural history of the 1960s and 1970s through the clarification of relevant terms in the English and Japanese languages such as flexibility, interaction, ma and kaiwai. In the second part, Price and Isozaki are individually analysed within this context through their theories, design research, modes of representation and built projects. The final part offers a critical discourse on ‘frameworks of uncertainty’ based upon a series of arguments extracted from the two case-studies. Thus the thesis aims to provide a better understanding not only of Price’s and Isozaki’s influential work but also of those significant theoretical and design tools that attempt to balance control and change in today’s architectural practice.