Philosophy, Architecture, and Clarity

What is philosophy?  The website <> has some wonderful podcasts about various philosophical subjects, including an interesting podcast in which philosophers all over the world give their individual, brief definition of philosophy (see What is philosophy?).  Philosophers ask questions, and propose answers,  to the central questions of life… (and so forth).

The noteworthy thing is how diverse the definitions are, and yet how clearly and succinctly so many of these philosophers express their ideas and definition about this ultimately complex discipline.   Many of the definitions argue that philosophy tries to make clear some of the most difficult questions in life.  Concise, clear language about super complex and very subjective issues is the goal.

It all brought to mind a couple of questions related to architecture studio:

1) What is architecture?  Can you give a short, succinct, and specific answer?  It would be wonderful to gather the definitions of 100 great architectural thinkers.

2) How is your architectural design work related to philosophy?  What are the larger questions you are asking, and answering through your designs and projects?   If architecture can have meaning, should philosophy not be central to our concerns?  Can we make statements about the nature of human life with buildings?  Can we make political statements with architecture?  Were any of the projects or pieces you made last year political in nature?  How so? Why?

3) Many students are ambitious, incredibly intelligent, and seek out complex questions and issues in their architectural explorations.  They are not satisfied with the rote or simple answer.  The question remains: why are their answers, solutions, or projects so often so complex and convoluted?  Might we try to instill an ethic similar to the philosophers, where clarity and brevity are the goal, especially about the most complex things, so that others can understand? Or is architecture somehow different?

** This post was motivated by Adrian Shaughnessy’s post  “Philosophy, Graphic Design and Virtue of Clarity” at The Desing Observer Group Blog; which was forwarded to me by my colleague Jeremy Ficca.

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