Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Relationship Between Experimentation and Theory

(This is really a comment on Kevin's post from March 10, placed in the main thread in order to draw attention back to the question.)

The question of the relationship between experimentation and theory is a sub-set of the larger question: what is the relationship between action and thought? The answer is: thought drives action, and it is subsequently informed by action. This is the core lesson of the feedback loop. To act effectively, we must guide our actions with knowledge acquired from our observations of the world, and to enhance and expand our knowledge of the world, we must engage it in action. We must explore and discover. The relationship between action and thought is not unilateral, in which one element dominates the other, because we are integrated beings, possessing both a body and mind. We need both to survive and to thrive. To paraphrase Ayn Rand: A body without a mind is a zombie, and a mind without a body is a ghost. Both are archetypes of the undead.

Experimenting is an action. It is a way of doing the work of design. Its antithesis is perpetuating, which is the mainstream’s dominant way of working. That is a different action. So the question really is: what ideas (i.e., what theories) are coupled with these actions? What are the ideas that complete the necessary coupling of action and thought in the work of architects? Perpetuating … what? Experimenting … for what? Experimenting is pointless as an end-in-itself. It must be directed, guided by a curiosity about something. It is always guided by an idea (explicit or implicit) about what is important to explore and discover about the world. In other words, every act of experimentation implies a value-judgment – a choice to explore this as opposed to that, which implies that the selected subject of experiment is more important than alternative subjects not pursued. Every act of experimentation expresses a view of the world – a view of what is important about the world or life in it.

Perpetuating is the same. What does one choose to perpetuate? Every act of perpetuation involves a choice, and thus, it too expresses a view of what is important.

So what have you been experimenting with in your projects this semester? What aspects of the world have been drawn out and accentuated? What conventions have you accepted and perpetuated in your work this semester? Answering these questions will lead you toward an understanding of the view of the world embodied in your work. It is a good way to begin to see what your work means.

1 comment:

  1. This most recent project has especially allowed for experiments between the contrast of perfection and error, to find a compelling balance that is architecturally compelling.
    Paul was working on assembling our components into clusters, which then are to be assembled into an entire composition. He soon discovered how we failed to design for error, a critical aspect of making our idea work as planned so far.
    However, we don't have the technology to make components without some sort of inherent variability; the computer says it will work, but production is proving to be a challenge. Even tiles, which are not unlike the FireFly composition, have the grout between them to adjust for inconsistencies in the product.
    I am trying to steer my thoughts to "why the combination of the highly ordered plan guiding a highly unordered articulation."
    Simply put, I believe this is much like the way the world functions: structure guiding un-structure to create a beautiful composition; at least in the case of man.
    I would need more time to contemplate on the structure of nature, or rather, the world out side of what man produces.


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