Imagination, fantasy, creativity, play and the ‘real world’

A Sustainable Project for the Future

1. Introduction:

Disengagement from the ‘real world’ is a common criticism of the discipline of architecture. With architects serving only 10-15% of the population and an even lower number in housing design, it is not difficult to understand the reasons for this critique.
Conversely, architecture is also about imagination, creativity, play and fantasy—all activities promoted in architectural education, particularly design studio. Through this subject, we will explore whether, why or how architecture could touch base with the ‘real world’. We will investigate what this mean for architecture and what is needed for imagination, fantasy and play to become tools in the search for a sustainable future.

Time and location: 1.15-3.15 pm, Arch 524

2. Grounding the question:

For the first two thirds of the semester we will be focusing on exploring the theoretical and practical foundations for the notions and approaches referred above. During the last third of the semester we will ground the question by applying the knowledge acquired—preferable after constructing some models of how these can work—to a ‘real project’. For this, we have two options:

    a) Student’s choice: suggestions about suitable projects and gathering of information will start on week 2. b) The Victorian townships of Kinglake or Flowerdale, recently destroyed by the bushfires.
It is not the aim of the exercise to re-design (although this is also a possibility), but to analyse current approaches and to offer alternatives that make the best use of the notions and models analysed.
    a) Topics will be investigated in teams, with each group member taking care of one or more aspects. b) Real world projects with be undertaken in teams of 2 people max.

3. Suggested topics and questions to investigate: teasers
  • Is knowledge about the ‘real world’ important to a discipline that needs and promotes imagination and creativity?
  • What role does ‘play’ have in design studio?
  • How can imagination best serve our contribution to a sustainable future?
  • Reconciling science and imagination in design studio
  • Is there such a thing as quality of imagination and if yes, how is it expressed in architecture?

4. Requirements and Outcomes:

This tutorial requires active class participation and commitment to team work. Attendance is essential.

I expect that this tutorial will offer students self-awareness and preparedness for sustainable architectural design tasks. By this, I mean that you will understand what function imagination, reality, empirical knowledge, play and creativity have in your project. Accordingly, you should become aware of their purpose and limitations while making them effective tools in projecting for a sustainable future.

5. Suggested bibliography:

Note: I will be able to provide with a copy for most of these readings.
  • - Benedikt, Michael. "Reality and Authenticity in the Experience Economy:The New Experience Economy Challenges How We Judge What is Real." Architectural Record 189, no. 11 (November 2001): 84-86.
  • - Conesa Sevilla, Jorge "The Singularization of Reality: Implications of a Synnomic Evolution of Language to Semiotics, Biosemiotics, and Ecopsychology." International Community for Ecopsychology (Jan-Dec 2005).
  • - Maturana, H. R. "Reality: The search for objectivity or the quest for a compelling argument." Irish Journal of Psychology 9, no. 1 (1988): 25-82. (No relation to this tutor)
  • - Monaghan, Peter. "The "Insane Little Bubble of Nonreality" that Is Life for Architecture Students." Chronicle of Higher Education 47, no. 2 (2001): A34-A36.
  • - Morin, Edgar. Seven complex lessons in education for the future (Les sept savoirs necessaires a I’education du futur). Translated by Nidra Poller. 7 place Fontenoy - 75352 Paris 07 SP - France: UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1999.
  • - Ockman, Joan. Architecture, Criticism, Ideology. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Architectural Press, 1985.
  • - Roy, Ananya. “Urban Informality: Toward and Epistemology of Planning.”. Journal of the American Planning Association. London,UK: Routledge, 2005.
  • - Salama, Ashraf. "Skill-based / Knowledge-based Architectural Pedagogies: An Argument for Creating Humane Environments." Paper presented at the 7th Intl Conference on Humane Habitat-ICHH-05 Â – The International Association of Humane Habitat, Rizvi College of Architecture, Mumbai, India, January 29-31 2005.
  • - Sokal, A., and J. Bricmont. "Defense of a Modest Scientific Realism." In Knowledge and the World: Challenges Beyond the Science Wars, 17-55. Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, 2004.
  • - Speaks, Michael. "Design Intelligence and the New Economy." Architectural Record (January 2007): 72-79.
  • - Teymur, Necdet. Architectural Education: Issues in Educational Practice and Policy. London: ?uestion Press, 1992.
  • - Wheelwright, Peter. "Why There Is No Such Thing as 'The Real World'." Journal of Architectural Education 57, no. 4 (May 2004): 56-57.>
  • - Winnicott, D. W. Playing and Reality, Routledge classics. London; New York: Routledge, 2005.
  • - Žižek, Slavoj, Rex Butler, and Scott Stephens. Interrogating the Real. London; New York: Continuum, 2005.

Also relevant and out of interest:

  • - ABC, By Design, on “Architecture of the Absurd”, by John Silber. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bydesign/stories/2008/2154627.htm
  • - Goodbye, icons; hello, infrastructure: Obama inaugurates a new era of architecture The Skyline. "The age of the architectural icon—that extravagant, exuberant, “wow”-inducing building on a pedestal—is dead, " By Blair Kamin. Originally posted: January 24, 2009, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Architecture.
  • - Some free advice to President-elect Obama Critique Architectural Record. "Obama is a lawyer, and I’m sure he’s thinking more about social issues than about architecture or urban design". --- Comment: architecture and urbanism are about social issues. "Maybe architects will begin to have some influence on public architecture? It doesn’t happen often. Architects aren’t known for their political skills. My friend Dick Swett, who used to be a United States Representative from New Hampshire, believes he was the only architect to serve in Congress in the 20th century."
  • - FARE for an architecture of reality: http://www.farestudio.it


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