The second class became more familiar to me. I was asked to sit in front of the class to lead the discussion on Philosophy for Laymen, a piece by Bertrand Russell, with the other graduate student in the class. What I wrote:
Russell defends the merit of philosophy. He says we must find out ‘how to best utilize our own command over the forces of nature.’ As an architect I read this to suggest I should think from many perspectives to find a solution to my work. This can be applied directly to design questions within projects, questions about how to practice and even in the way a project may be created.
Before I discover where philosophy leads an architect I must ask what are architects questioning? –Sheltering the world, organizing shelter, the materials we use? Each architect must understand that his or her own upbringing is not exclusive. ‘The knowledge that gives most help in solving such problems is a wide variety of human life’, and we are building for more than the common good of ourselves. We are seeking solutions for the good of the world. Russell speaks of dogmatism, or close-mindedness that is against growth. Philosophy becomes an ethical solution to problem solving. When I start to debate or defend an idea, or bring in another person’s opinion, the exercise often leads me to a new place. There are many instances in practice that I should encourage myself to ask more questions. Do I ask myself to question what a client really wants, or do I question the affects of introducing certain solutions thoroughly? Can I take the time to consider what I think cities (places) need? What’s the benefit? This is what Russell suggests with his solution, ‘the love of wisdom’ –we have to believe answers are out there that are better because we’ve considered the alternative. From those alternatives perhaps something has come out of it that was more encompassing, something that works on many levels as a balanced solution.
‘Philosophy has a theoretical and a practical aim.’ he states. At what point do we find that these solutions must be applied and evaluate the move from the theoretical to the practical? Theory can be a tool during the entire process of work. At some point architects must trust that our critical thinking has pushed solutions to be intuitive. We must flexibly produce the work from which we began to question it and be open to where it goes. Why else would Russell say ‘for the learning of suspended judgment the best discipline is philosophy’?
Reflecting on the topics the vocal class offered later that night lead me into deeper thoughts. I observed the professor and the role he played with the students. We began to debate the truth of details. Is it better to provide shutters on a home that will never be used to protect the windows as simple screw-down models, or use the type with hinges that have the ability to be used? This is called Truth in architecture. The idea has been with me ever since and has made me wonder if I could develop a list of common things that Architects theorize. I went to the Wiki source with this question in mind and found these voices: Derrida, Vidler, Rowe, and Frampton.
When architects want to discuss Pattern who do we look to? Plato and Pythagoras. German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel painted hundreds of marine organisms to emphasize their symmetry. Scottish biologist D’Arcy Thompson pioneered the study of growth patterns in both plants and animals, showing that simple equations could explain spiral growth. –Wiki
Photo above from The Savoia