The picture was taken from a magazine AI Issue 104 February 2016
Deficient spaces – synthetic schools of architecture
Category Research / Project of the Year 2015/16
competition AI Magazine and the European Union
At a time in which aesthetic solutions are easily supplied by computers, one might suggest replacing the anachronistic question of “Is it beautiful” with “Is it right”. That is, does it fit the declared purpose in terms of the entrepreneur’s economic calculations, customer needs, or the designer’s aspirations? Is it at all possible to speak of feelings and intentions when computers produce realities?
The debate on aesthetics is an essential chapter in philosophy, particularly with regard to art, here angles range from a ‘universal aesthetic’, to a ‘personal aesthetic’ and from fine arts to applied arts. Although practical in nature, architecture is understandably designed to embody a certain degree of creativity, or it remains outside the “picture”. In this context, it is worth recalling Louis Kahn’s frequently quoted phrase: “What does the building want to be, ”which clearly indicates that the building is meant to express intention, emotion, and desires. The inherent connection between the factual and the expressive is discussed by art historian, Erwin Panofsky, who pointed out three levels of creativity where inter-connection is stronger than any imaginary expression: pure forms; cultural iconography; and content. According to this, culture is not only a response to problems, but a set of schemas embedded in early stages of life that can produce an infinite number of variants adapted to different situations.
Following the September 11, 2001 memorial concert in New York given by the Vienna Philharmonic, American philosopher and aesthetician, Nicholas Wolterstorff, criticized the loss of the dimension of feeling, asking: “Why is it that the philosophy of art can no longer express touch and tears?” Wolterstorff contends that the notion of the ‘aesthetic’ and especially the meeting point between theory and practice that deal with feeling, must be re-examined. Such a meeting point naturally occurs in schools of design and architecture, where, deficient in professional knowledge, students tend to inundate their projects with subjective content, phrases like “it was important to me” and “I felt a need” come at the expense of functional rationalization. Consequently, many teachers tend to reinforce rational thinking, while diminishing the importance of a subjective view. In many cases, the actual result is a marked abandonment of any aesthetic expression, that until recently was considered the very essence of art work. The status of the aesthetic in schools of architecture and design was discussed with four professors – Hillel Schocken, former Head of the School of Architecture at Tel Aviv University, Micha Levin – Head of research at Shenkar, Yael Moria – Head of the Department of Interior Design, Building, and Environment at Shenkar, and Zvi Efrat, former head of the School of Architecture at Bezalel. Some interviewees claimed that the artistic element is notably absent from overall architectural work, but is naturally present beneath the surface and, in some cases, takes over the building. Others argued that architecture today provides no room for personal expression since it is no more than an act of organizing theoretical content in physical reality. That is, since the instrumental aspect lies at the center, it should be the sole reference. In this reality, the aesthetic remains an expression of changing fashion, primarily adapted to the exigencies of public taste. The conclusion of the research is that the manufacture of industrial, mechanical and duplicated architecture relates to instrumental efficiency while ignoring local multi-cultural traits, which generates deficient spaces, thus diminishing the traditional role of architecture as a reflection of emotional expression. The study suggests that in order to cure architecture of its deficiency, we should consider returning to subjective architecture, instead of favoring objective instrumental creation that lacks expression.
The study was done MA in History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University, is available for download in full