Ruminations on architecture, from Ken Allinson
Tag Archives: creativity
February 13, 2012Posted by on
Met? With a building? Yes, it’s a silly idea isn’t it? But there only two facets to architecture – the two proverbial sides of the same coin: authoring it and appreciating it.
And there two aspects of these two facets that interest me.
The first concerns the spontaneity of ideas – what the remarkable Charles Peirce referred to as ‘abduction’. Ideas happen, but only if one is prepared for them. Peirce dealt with that engagement in terms of inducement and a state of mind he referred to as ‘musement’.
The second aspect of concern is a correlative experience that similarly flashes up and is gone the moment once focuses upon it. It is aesthetic only in terms of ‘a dialogue of the body’. That is, one feels and senses something quite contrary to what a contemplative state of mind can induce, although such contemplation may be the correlative of Peirce’s ‘musement’.
This appreciative woman (above) isn’t capturing that quality on her camera. However, she may be striving to lay a hold upon something in the in the same manner that an architectural author strives to capture an the flash of abduction in a diagram (that all-important schematic sketch).
Such ‘diagramming’ was very important to Peirce, a scientist and logician as well as philosopher. It’s important to architectural authors, too: how do they know what they are thinking until they draw it? Only then is what is gong on subject to contemplation. It’s the same with But his kind of musement is musement-in-action.
That’s not what architectural authorship is about? If you say that, then you are too focused upon what 95% of that authorship entails: a focus upon the inductive and deductive elaborations upon that initial formal capturing (the diagram). But, in another sense, you’re right: that 95% is frequently ‘contemplative’ in the sense of rational problem finding and solving; it is abductive only in a subsidiary sense relative to the initial schematic idea put in place.
It’s possible that architectural appreciation is also ‘in-action’ – that, as with Pollack, ratiocintation is backgrounded until one stops, looks and, like the woman above, takes out the camera, perhaps only then contemplating the best way to represent what is at issue.
And what is at issue? Well, what flashed by, caught one’s imagination, evinced a positive judgement and prompted the taking of the photo. That was the ‘meeting’. Many people have spoken of this strange aspect of appreciation: the judgement of taste has been even before one is aware of it. (One is reminded of those cognitive experiments that have indicated decisions are made well before we are consciously aware of having made them.) What is really going on is sub (supra?) conscious, and that is itself a disturbing notion.
The common denominator of all this – these two facets of our coin – is the substance of the thing: something strangely impenetrable except in terms of a receptive state of mind. Heidegger referred to ‘called thinking’. Merleau-Ponty referred to all that is ‘sedimented’ in thought and cognition. Cassirer referred to kinds of ‘mythic awareness’ that manifest a subjectivity caught in the currents of the prepredicative. In similar terms, Georges Bataille turned toward a Dionysian heterogeneity. Peirce referred to a ‘Quality’ of ‘Firstness’. For Kant this was the ‘thing-in-itself’. Plato abstractly dealt with it as what was ‘more real than real’. Wittgenstein simply found himself dealing with all this as a ‘bedrock’ beyond which rationality cannot penetrate.
However, mythic awareness does find ways to mediate between the thinking mind and the strangeness of the prepredicative. Authors speak of inspiring Muses. Those being appreciative of architecture speak of ‘meeting with the building’. It’s as if we stood within castle walls whilst, all around, there was a deep mist that defied understanding. It is, to paraphrase Wittgenstein, a queer state of affairs.
The point? It’s hardly original: lovers of technique have difficulty with all this.