by Amale Andraos – Dean Columbia-GSAPP, Co-Founder WORKac

In our era of architecture-as-image—in which the spectacular rendering, with its atmospheric glow and happy people, has taken over architectural representation to the point where it is seemingly no longer necessary to build—this book reinstates architecture’s commitment to engaging the real through its smallest and yet most critical element: the detail.Bringing together ideas, aesthetic sensibilities, material pleasures and technological performances embodied in the small fragments of architecture, Detail channels larger questions about social and environmental engagement by asking how and what we build. Through a series of highly focused and disciplinary lenses—from Sustainable Detail to Chassis Geometry, and from Threshold to Transitions and Transformations—this book reveals new ways to imagine our commitment the built environment.

The “detail” as it turns out, is a surprisingly loose term even when used by architects. Detail turns this vagueness into an opportunity to unpack the concept of detail and the many ideas and projections embedded in details in new and provocative ways. In so doing, it moves beyond notions of singular authorship and unique signatures to find, instead, new typologies, scales, and modes of indexing minute architectural constructions that offer new possibilities for students, scholars, and practitioners alike.

Through careful structure and pacing, Detail not only creates a unique dictionary of the detail, but also invites the reader to consider a new kind of manifesto, one that defines the building as more than the simple sum of its parts, and invites us to consider the possibility, and pleasure, of inlaying the most ambitious and at times contradictory ideas into the smallest detail. In this manner we are able to rediscover the building as a “composite” rather than as synthetic object, create new lines of inquiry for assembly, and arrive at many alternate and imagined futures for building and for architecture.


Amale Andraos; Columbia University – GSAPP, Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Co-Founder WORKac
Andraos has taught at numerous universities including the Princeton University School of Architecture, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the University of Pennsylvania Design School and the American University in Beirut. Her recent design studios and seminars have focused on the Arab City, which has become the subject of a series of symposia entitled “Architecture and Representation” held at Studio-X Amman in 2013 and on campus in New York in the fall of 2014. Her publications include the recent 49 Cities, a re-reading of 49 visionary plans through an ecological lens, Above the Pavement, the Farm!, and the forthcoming Architecture and Representation: the Arab City.Andraos is a co-founder of WORKac, a twenty-five person architectural firm based in New York that focuses on architectural projects that re-invent the relationship between urban and natural environments. WORKac has achieved international recognition for projects such as the Edible Schoolyard at PS216 and PS7, the Centre de Conferences in Libreville, Gabon, and the Beijing Horticultural Exposition Masterplan and Pavilions. Andraos received her Masters Degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and her B.Arch from McGill University in Montreal.




three challenges…

Architectural details are typically communicated through technical drawings. A photograph or model might convey details in context or the ultimate visual effect generated by a detail, but the drawing remains its standard referent and it is from drawings that details are archived, revised, and appropriated.

One challenge of Detail Kultur is: How do we come to understand the relevance of details through their drawings? How are drawings handled as more than illustrations for text? Can text serve the drawings and suggest new ways of looking at these drawings?

Another challenge involves opening up details as typological elements with their own histories and cultural associations. A door, for example, is a physical thing and a metaphysical construct- and details get implicated in both directions of door-ness. Is it fair game to recollect all the implications of a door or threshold when also studying their handling by select architects for specific constructions?

Lastly, how can one reformat a book or treat a subject that is not best served by a classical progression of arguments? Multiple case studies, many details, a profusion of drawings are a part of the story and their organization as a cross-referencing index is central to this investigation. In this way it is a compendium, but also a trigger for new work and research.

… three opportunities





This is a remarkably elegant orthographic work which is at the same time the result of a unique program of meticulous research into the technical constitution and construction of thirteen outstanding modern buildings realized in seven countries over the past fifteen years.  What is audaciously effective is the way in which the author synthesizes on the same page, precise analytical drawings of the detailed construction involved with a photographic image of the result, compelling the reader to come to terms with the unavoidable gap between the technical complexity of the means and the often dynamic simplicity of the final form.  All of which makes this into a uniquely didactic study which should prove to be equally useful for students and practitioners alike.
Kenneth Frampton; Columbia University – GSAPP, Ware Professor of Architecture


Where a design concept meets material construction, the detail emerges – its importance parallel to its aspiration. This book is a source of inspiration, for students, architects, engineers, when asked both “why” and “how.”
Julie Janiski; Buro Happold, Sustainability and High Performance Design Leader


In this spirited and original tome, Christoph Kumpusch analyzes architecture by drawing new kinds of sections, ones that deconstruct and re-order comparative typologies, and examine the intimacy of the detail in relation to the epistemology of the concept.
Kimberli Meyer; MAK-Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House L.A., Director





Christoph a. Kumpusch is a New York-based architect and the Core I Coordinator at Columbia University’s GSAPP – Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where he teaches design and visual studies and he is the director of Columbia GSAPP’s brand new Extraction Laboratories.

He is the founder of Forward-slash, a multidisciplinary practice founded in 2008 and the head of Back-slash, the experimental arm of Forward-slash (/), investigating technology and material effects on form and tectonics. It grounds its work in a concentrated research program focused on architectural details and the spawning of new buildings from the smallest parts outward. A theoretical project runs parallel to this work, identifying historical and cultural contexts triggered by detail innovation. The office is both a design and publishing outfit, producing essays, books, exhibitions, installations, podcasts, performances, films and buildings. Forward Slash strives to be intellectually rigorous, materially sustainable, and socially responsible.

He was a Leonardo da Vinci Fellow and a Rudolf M. Schindler Scholar, MAK Center Architect in Residence, USAA Scholar, National Collegiate Engineering Award-winner and a 2013 and 2015 Graham Foundation Grantee. Kumpusch is co-author of System Wien with Lebbeus Woods, Anthony Vidler and Manuel DeLanda (Hatje Cantz, 2005); editor of IDEA(u)topsy ( / Productions, 2010); IDEA(L) ( / Productions, 2011); Built Ideas (Theoharis David, 2012); Light Pavilion (Lars Müller Publishers, 2013); Urban Hopes – Made in China (Lars Müller Publishers, 2014).

Kumpusch has previously taught at Cornell University’s AAP, Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, Ohio State University, Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture and the Department of Humanities and Media Studies, and SCI-Arc.

He has been an invited juror at Harvard University, Yale University, The Architectural Association, Bartlett and Greenwich University in London and the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Marseille. In 2010 Kumpusch co-founded the Institute of Mutating Cities with Youmna Chlala.

In 2012 Kumpusch completed his Ph.D. on “Detail Kultur – If Buildings Had DNA: Case Studies of Mutations” at the Universität für Angewandte Kunst – Wien (University of Applied Arts – Vienna).

Recent projects include an elephant playground and water park in Patong, Thailand; an East Village Think Tank; a co-working-space in Shoreditch, London and a feasibility study for a theater in Havana, Cuba. The Light Pavilion at the Sliced Porosity Block in Chengdu, China, one of several projects spanning a decade of collaboration with Lebbeus Woods, was recently completed.

Forward Slash was the winner of an international competition to build the first ever hub and theater-space for Performa 15 – a world renown venue for performing arts in New York’s TriBeCa.