Tomy Ward Education
Education for Critical Times
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Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Sunday, 21 July 2013 12:09

Testimonies of Study

In the U. K. rior to 1962, many young would-be architects completed their architectural training in design offices. It was a way of attaining a professional qualification for those who lacked the financial means for full-time university study. In order to regulate and standardise the quality of its membership, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) maintained a standards testing programme through which neophyte architectural trainees were required to submit drawings to the Institute for approval. These projects were called Testimonies of Study. Applicants for architectural registration were required to complete sequential sets of Testimonies, starting out with simple tests for drafting skills, freehand sketching, graphic design and composition, and an understanding of historical building design details and architectural history, before moving on to actual design projects of increasing complexity.
 
As each set was completed, applicants were given a certificate and allowed to progress to the next level of difficulty. Upon completion of all of the Testimonies of Study applicants were then required to sit an examination on Professional Practice, after passing which they were accorded the title of Architect. In 1958, a wide-ranging review of Architectural education recommended that the Testimonies of Study system be scrapped and that access to Architectural registration should only be possible through recognised university courses in Architecture. This recommendation was implemented in 1962, after which date the testimonies of Study system was no longer available. Students who were already in the programme therefore had four years to complete their course of study - a difficult task since all of the people studying under this system were also working full-time in practice and often took as many as 12 or 15 years to complete the programme.
 
My own architectural training began as an Articled Pupil in an architects office in Blackburn and required me to submit Testimonies of Study - for which I attended day and night classes at the local Technical College. I never completed the programme, but instead chose to attend a full-time education programme at the Birmingham School of Architecture in 1962.
 
The drawings shown here are examples of testimonies taken from the first two groups, prior to attaining Intermediate status. They are representative of many more drawings, now lost. Along with my five years of experience in an architects office, they enabled me to enter into a five year programme in the Third Year. They were the first immature attempts that led me into fisty years of professional practice. In this, they have some historical and sentimental value.

Testimonies of Study.

 testimony-stained-glass   testimony-carlisle

Design for a book cover  Freehand pen and ink drawing, Interior, Carlisle Cathedral

 testimony-great-harwood-church   

Perspective Sketch, Great Harwood Parish Church

testimony-history-sheet4

Details of a Corinthian Facade, Entablature amd Capitals

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Detail of aHistory of Architecture Study

testimony-fantasy-bridge

Design for a Fantasy Bridge

 testimony-artist-studio-persp   testimony-artist-studio-plan

 An Artists Studio

    testimony-harbour-beacon

AHarbour Beacon and Shelter

 testimony-blacksmiths-persp

A Blacksmith Workshop

 testimony-branch-library-persp

Design for a Branch Library

 testimony-skiff-and-punt-persp

Design for a Skiff and Punt Club

 

Design as an Autonomous Profession: The Separation of Form from Content.

 autonomous-designer-front
 
Current conceptions of design and of the role and status of the designer had their beginnings during the Renaissance and emerged alongside the development of Capitalism. Among the first and most successful of these designers - skilled in the art of designo, was Michelangelo. His story parallels the transformation of the design profession and the moments that transformed it - the distinction between form and content, the socially constructed myth of individual genius, the institutionalisation of design knowledge etc. All of these factors helped to create his myth and his status just as he participated in the creation these social constructions.

To download the PDF click here  

Milan Cathedral as a Turning Point in Design.

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Throughout the so-called Dark Ages, and the early Middle Ages the Guilds held a virtual monopoly over design theorising. Master Builders, schooled in the lore of the Gothic traveled throughout Europe dispensing their skills with great prestige and autonomy. The Church – the main recipient of these skills was held to ransom by the Guild masters. In these circumstances, the lore of design was a closely guarded secret (or compilation of secrets) which each master carried around in his notes – charting the proportions, heights and mass-in-relation-to-stress  factors in design. Not all of the structures remained standing, and from the failures there emerged a general understanding that is still embodied in the Gothic cathedrals that we still see today. In this situation, cultural differences in form were accidental or informal, rather than intended. It was not until the design of Milan Cathedral in the late 1300s that architectural form as an element of cultural style emerged. The design of Milan marks a crucial turning point in the history of design and of the design professions. It marks the beginning of the end of the Guilds and the emergence of the individual designer schooled not in the lore of structural integrity, but in the skills of design.

To view the PDF click here

 

Saturday, 20 July 2013 23:51

Socially Responsible Design

 soc-resp-des-front
This  PDF comprises a series of reflections on the Exhibition on Socially Responsible Design which  happened in New York and Chicago in 1993. The critique takes the position that the projects celebrated by the exhibition are in danger of promoting the very things they oppose. The point is made through an interrogation of the design by a New Zealand Student, Peter Maher in his studio project where he was asked to reflect (from a design point of view) upon issues of cultural conflict.
 
The project itself had been originally set up precisely to explore issues of sensitivity in a nation struggling to make sense of itself from a bicultural point of view. A recent “Maori Renaissance” had, in fact brought bicultural issues onto the front burner in post-colonial Aotearoa (New Zealand). The programme objectives had been explicitly to, “explore the differences between indigenous and colonial concepts of public space, to develop culturally based sensitivities and abilities in urban and architectural design expression, and to explore what a contemporary “New Zealand” town or city, if such a thing exists, might be.” 
 
In the evaluation studio process, Maher's designs are criticised for the very principles that he has been asked to explore. This PDF interrogates the value systems of Architectural Education in terms of their Espoused Values in comparison to their Values in Action. (Argyris and Schon) and suggests the need for a  radical discourse of architectural education which might demystify these ambiguities.

To Download PDF click here  

 

valencia-1943   valencia-2004

                Valencia Gardens 1943                                                    Valencia Gardens 2004      

"As I squinted through the viewfinder, I heard the sound of running feet approaching, and looked up just as the camera was wrenched from my hand.
I still held the strap, and clung tight to it determined to not give way to my fear as the young man on the other end tried to pull it from my grasp. We faced each other.
He, (6 foot six, black, broad and all muscle) “Let go the camera!”
Me (too dumbfounded to think) No!

There we stood, face to face and at two-arms length apart, as the rest of his group caught up to him and slowly formed a semi-circle, edging me back up against the brick wall of a body shop. The street, which until then had been thronged with workers and passers now strangely empty and quiet.

“Let go the camera!

“No!” (surprised that he had not used a profanity).

Whereupon he reached over with his other free hand, took the lens in one hand and the body in the other and quickly snapped the two apart.
 
I felt a deep rage welling up inside, and insanely I moved towards him, only to have a much smaller youth of about 14 step in my path. I stopped, confused. He was wearing a dirty raincoat pulled closed in front of him, and was smiling broadly. Slowly, he opened the front of his raincoat to reveal the twin barrels of a sawn-off shotgun.....

In early 1993, I was visiting my family in San Francisco. Reading the S. F. Chronicle I noticed a debate going on about the City Council’s decision to locate a number of very expensive and modern abstract art sculptures in the internal courtyards of Valencia Gardens at 15th and Mission. The Gardens were an award-winning public housing project designed in the late 1950s, early 1960s, by William Wurster, a prominent Bay Area architect (and founder of the famous Berkeley College of Environmental Design (and School of Architecture where I had earlier taught).

The projects were now reduced to total slum status – graffiti everywhere, boarded up windows, litter and trash, and unliveable apartments, many with missing or un-maintained plumbing. The cost of the Beniamino Bufano sculptures was enormous – reputed to be around $5M – a sum which, in the properly supported hands of the residents themselves might have gone a long way to developing an environmental self-help process that could have significantly improved their quality of life. The San Francisco City Planning Department, had, in its wisdom, decided instead to install some “uplifting” art in what could only ever have been a complete misunderstanding of the culture of the residents themselves. The idea that the imposition of a white, middle-class aesthetic upon the predominantly black and Latino residents would have been laughable, were it not so patently paternalistic.
 
I had the idea to go to the Gardens, and photograph the sculptures in the context of their actual surroundings, and put together a lecture for my students in New Zealand. The lecture would cover issues of critical aesthetics, culture and power, hegemony and neo-colonialism. What happened next was a literal eye-opener.

To download PDF click here

 

Saturday, 20 July 2013 22:46

Hegemony and Space

Hegemony and Space

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To download PDF click the image or here
 
The theories of French philosophers Henri Lefebvre and Pierre Bourdieu have contributed significantly to our understanding of the process of social reproduction. In particular, their theoiries of Space have revolutionised our awareness of the process of hegemony and the reproduction of the Social relations of production. This PDF looks in detail at their theories and the relevance they may have for design theorising and for design education. It offers a more detailed academic portrayal of the theories outlined and hinted at in another PDF, The Social Construction of Space.

SPACE-FRONT
To download this more concise Social Construction of Space click here

 

 Theris also a much more comprehensive analysis available in three separate PDFs: Critical Space Part 1, Critical Space Part 2, and Critical Space part 3. They can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here

Saturday, 20 July 2013 22:20

Resistance or Reaction

 make-some-trouble  OneAction

This PDF was first published by Architecture and Behaviour Magazine for a special issue: Vol. 9 (1993), No. 1. pp. 1-156. The paper was presented at an invited seminar in Monte Veritas on Lake Locarno, Switzerland in April of that year. In it, I review the cultural politics of design and design education. As noted in the Introduction:

"In architecture .... postmodern design theorists have developed structures of understanding which reinstate design practice as a depoliticised sub-category of fine art production, which takes as its sine qua non the building-as-beautiful-object, founded upon what are reputed to be universally accepted aesthetic norms. In so doing they have at the same time divorced form from its social, cultural and political roots, and have presented it as a value free commodity, the embodiment of the postmodern conception of the "free-floating-signifier" to be bartered and traded in an ever-escalating attempt to transform the use value of buildings into the exchange value of speculative, designed environment. In this process, notions of how the shaping of the built environment might reflect and reproduce asymmetrical arrangements of power which benefit these theorists themselves have been entirely elided from the theoretical discourse. These theories are paradoxically represented as value-free, while at the same time their ideological roots have been masked in logical mystifications which inhibit critical interrogation. They have played a crucial part in bringing about the abandonment of scientific rationality as a mediating factor of architectural design, and their ideology now stands as the dominant belief system to a whole new generation of design students. Yet postmodern theory has been applied in the design disciplines in a partial and selective manner calculated to prescribe the ways in which the professional designer might operate as a public intellectual. Its proponents in the design professions seek to preserve a sacrosanct domain of professional expertise, based upon normative theories of aesthetics, through which the designer might exercise control over what stands for quality in the built environment

Download PDF here 

 

The Emergence of Design as a Social Category.

vitruvian-man

Introduction

In the modern world, the concept of Design has achieved a mythic status. The designer is seen as having some special powers - some access to esoteric knowledge that he or she alone can transmute into forms that have special powers or symbolic experience. The concept or identity of the designer as an inspired genius living in splendid isolation, connected to the muse is how most people thing of it. Yet this identity, this concept has not always been this way. It has grown and developed over many hundreds of years alongside of and in response to the development of capitalism. In this modern sense, the most successful designers are those professionals who are able to muster their symbolic and cultural capital most effectively in the production of surplus capital in the built environment.
 
Since the mid-1800s there has been a growing critical understanding of how design serves capitalism. William Morris, for one, shaped his design theories and his life around such challenges. The Marxist designer Hannes Meyer - Head of the Bauhaus in the 1930s during the rise of Hitler and National Socialism was another. (Interestingly, Meyer believed, like Morris, that students should make buildings, not just draw them. His students constructed the low-cost houses they designed in studio). This building craft, as we shall see, is largely frowned on in architectural education because it is seen as diluting the (artistic) creativity that can only be achieved through drawing.
 
In more recent times, the emergence (under Modernism) of Social Design has been yet another example of a resistance to this normative concept of design and of the designer. Latterly, the emergence of Postmodernism has added yet another variable to the dynamic of resistance and contestation. Postmodern Theories of Design are themselves a site of struggle and resistance.
 
In other words, design theorising is a contested space in which the main contestants and antagonists are those who normatively believe that the built environment has no further purpose than the production of style in the fashionable pursuit of increased surplus capital. Against this ideology are those, including myself who believe that the shaping of the built environment is deeply connected to issues of power and control that are themselves the product of the social relations of capitalism. The war between these two ideologies is ongoing and unrelenting. The Suppression of the Social in Design is one element of this war. Included in this section of the website are a series of papers which chart the progress of the normative conception of design. It's emergence has been gradual as we shall now see.
 

In the Beginning... 

In the Modern context, design education exists in an ambiguous relationship to Architectural practice. Since its integration into the University, it has achieved a degree of autonomy from practice that was previously unthinkable - developing in its own right a level of theorising which seems at times almost self-referential. Prior to this, however, architectural education and practice operated on a closely-linked reciprocity, and the former was intimately connected to the political economy of the latter. It is therefore not possible to engage in a critical appraisal of design education without also undertaking a parallel review of the development of architectural practice. Unfortunately the history of architectural practice has to a large extent been constructed on a non-critical basis being scripted in ways which legitimate and normalise its existing operations, roles and cultural practices. There has, until recently existed no comprehensive history of the profession which might have revealed its social, political and economic determinants. In developing a critical theory of design education, it is therefore necessary to outline an alternative critical history of design practice from which systematic professional education emerged.

Numerous authors have pointed out that architecture will never see another Brunelleschi - that the design field has become far too complex for any one individual to be able to command the experience and expertise necessary to play such a dominant role in the social relations of building production. The increased complexity of the building industry, the continual proliferation of ever-new products, the continual expansion, transformation and updating of regulations and codes, coupled with the increased responsibility and therefore danger of litigation - all ensure that the pressures upon practicing architects to divest themselves of some aspects of the building production processes are heavy and unremitting.

Since architects cannot be experts at everything, it is becoming increasingly necessary for them to relinquish to others (who can become expert and therefore assume professional liability for) key elements of the process. The question then becomes which particular elements are relinquishable without eroding fatally the normative conception of the socially-constructed, two-century old public conception of "architect"? Already, of course, some elements have gone. Engineering was relinquished at the very inception of the profession in the early nineteenth century. Since then, landscape architects, quantity surveyors, HVAC consultants, acousticians and a realm of other specialisations have usurped provinces that were once the domain of the architect, and have developed these into marketable service industries.

In the face of an ongoing imperative to divest the profession of "inessential" work elements and responsibilities, the question then remains conceiving what it is precisely that remains "essential" to the makings of an architect? The stock answer, as we saw earlier, and according to Cuff and others, is design. But this is not really an answer. Design, considered either as a process or an product, is not an objective reality, but may have multitude of meanings depending upon the context in which it is used. Indeed, as I hope to show, its normative meanings have been shaped by the desire to circumscribe a unique position in the marketplace of skills in the building production process. The term has both broad and narrow meanings as Cuff points out:
"The activity of design (as in design process) is commonly thought to be what the designer does, alone at the drawing board. It is in this... sense of the term, referring to the activity, that I would like to consider. Temporarily suspend the common definition, and imagine instead that every individual with a voice in the design process is a kind of designer - the client, the engineer, the contractor, the inhabitants, the college president, the fundraiser, and so on. The architect-designer among those individuals, has the added responsibilities of coordinating all contributions and giving them some spatial expression. Design, then, is taking place whenever any of these actors make plans about the future environment. While these actors may not sketch their concepts into architectural form, their input will frame design solutions. Moreover, it is from the context of all these interactions that a building emerges.... "
It will be clear that this more general conception of design probably does not carry the same cultural capital with the building owner or financier as the more restrictive sense in which it is used by professional designers- embodied, as students have reminded us, in the role model of Howard Roark - and this should alert us to the purpose of its restricted usage. In the realm of education, it is considered as an art or a craft, and is highly valued, I would suggest for its ability to maintain the normative definition in the marketplace.  If this is the case, then it is not surprising that there is professional resistance to tampering with its categorical meaning. In a very real sense, the primacy of design as a core concept of architectural identity and status is indicative of its historical centrality in the development of the profession as a profession. The history of the profession is, in other words, the history of the evolution of the social conception of the activity of "designing" and of the role of the "designer" as a separate social being.

In his contribution to the Architectural Education Study, Julian Beinart pointed to  fundamental disagreements between teachers about the meanings of key concepts of "design" and "architecture".  The normative meaning of the term "design" evolved in specific social and economic conditions which helped to shape its current multiple meanings. Its origins, in the more "artistic" and restricted sense of the term, lie in the Renaissance, and in the development of the concept of disegno. This concept was closely associated with the needs of an emerging design community founded upon an artistic epistemology, to distinguish themselves from Guild masters, and to both rationalise and consolidate the emerging distinction between manual and intellectual labour in the early days of capitalism. It parallels directly the intellectualisation of architecture as a category and its consequent academicisation - initially in the form of publications through which individual artist/architects sought to extend their influence and attract commissions. The concept emerged contemporaneously with the parallel notion of the artistic architect-genius.
 
"Design" as an Emergent Economic Category

Professional theories of design are those formal and informal codes and rules by which members of the design professions distinguish themselves from others either in the kind of product they produce or, more usually, the kind of process by which they produce it. For instance the profession of architecture distinguishes itself from the role of the draughtsman by presuming a special quality of production (architecture as opposed to building) as well as in the way in which that production happens (creative design as opposed to mechanical drawing). Such distinctions do not stand in isolation. They shape and are shaped by the political, economic and social cir¬cumstances in which they evolve. It is highly questionable, for instance, to suggest that the draughtsperson never acts creatively, or that he/she never designs or that an architect is continually creative (even presuming an agreed definition of creativity). To suggest as much is to reduce the concept of design to a very narrow band of activities which cannot be sustained. Indeed the social construction of the act of designing is one of the pivotal elements by which the architectural profession distinguishes itself, but it is also one of the concepts which is both extremely specific and at the same time extremely general. It is a "slippery" concept, having two distinct common meanings, the first as a noun, the second as a verb:

Design (-zi'n) n. 1. Mental plan; scheme of attack (have ~s on, plan to harm or appropriate. 2. Purpose (by ~, on purpose; whether by accident or design); end in view; adaption of means to ends (argument from ~, deducing existence of a God from evidence of such adaptation in the universe). 3. Preliminary sketch for picture, plan of building, machine, etc.; delineation, pattern; art of making these. 4. Established form of a product; general idea, construction from parts. [f. obs. F desseign (desseigner f. L designare DESIGNATE)] and:

Design (-zi'n) v. 1. v.t. Set (thing) apart for person; destine (person, thing) for a service. 2. Contrive, plan; purpose, intend, (designs an attack, to do, doing, that; design thing or person to be or do something). 3. Make preliminary sketch of (picture); draw plan of (future building etc.). 4. v.i. Be a designer. [f. F désigner appoint & f. L designare DESIGNATE]

The verb is what interests us most, because it is what designers do in order to be designers. Two interesting items are to be found here. The first is the association of design with either the process or the product of the making of a preliminary sketch or drawing (perhaps) for the construction of a future building. This is the commonly accepted notion in everyday life with respect to the professional designer. But what is also interesting is the association of designing with the doing of something for someone, coupled with a sense of intentionality. In other words, one cannot design by accident, or unselfconsciously. Putting these together in the context of architectural design we can say that designing is "a conscious act of making a picture of a future building for someone." There is no mention of whether or not (Kostof not withstanding) that person needs to be another, or whether it can be oneself. It is clear, though, that designing means making some kind of mental or physical model (in the most general sense) of the thing to be built before it is built in order to guide the process of building.

Professional designers, then, are those who do this for others for remuneration. What is strange about this definition, is that, in its most general sense it could apply to anyone. I have already noted the assertions of Bandler and Grinder and Berger and Luckmann that the creation of an image of reality is an ineluctable component of being a conscious person - of orienting oneself in the world. And indeed, we can say with some certainty that each person, given the time, thinks through, plots, or designs both the sequencing and expected effects of their actions in the world, the better to be more effective in those actions. Granted that some seem to have a greater or lesser capacity for this kind of forethought, but it is nevertheless one of the defining moments of being human.

In a similar vein, that Freire and others have suggested that all people think, and that each person creates culture as an integral part of their humanity, these factors combine to suggest that the process of design  in its most general form, the one suggested by Dana Cuff, is therefore also an essentially human activity - as the innumerable creative acts of vernacular building amply demonstrate. What is therefore being suggested is that design in the sense understood within the design professions, is a rather special version of this human process, as something over and above the general attribute common to all people.

It is this special sense of the term which Kostof, Scott and others refer to when they speak of the discontinuity which took place in the Middle Ages, and its etymology is to be found in the writings of Vitruvius, but more particularly in those of the Sixteenth Century Renaissance historian Giorgio Vasari, who, retrospectively characterised the newly emerging architects since the preceding century as being particularly schooled in disegno.  Disegno, was developed by Vasari (following on from Filarete almost a century earlier) into a theory of artistic creativity, which, according to architectural historian Catherine Wilkinson, was:
".. the foundation of the liberal status of the practice of art, without which it would not have been possible to distinguish painting, sculpture and architecture from, say, silversmithing or furniture-making, and the artist from the craftsman."
In other words, the skills and techniques of disegno were first and foremost a device of social distinction and discrimination.  Alberti himself, of course, had established a precedent for the newly emerging gentleman-architect-artist, and Wilkinson notes that his De re aedificatoria presents us with the first characterisation of the new role model of the artist-intellectual, based upon the authority of Vitruvius. Realising that the artist's striving for a new social status depended upon a new style of patronage:
"The architect aspired to be educated like the courtier and to behave like one; and between him and his patron was the bond of a shared appreciation of the theory of architecture."
What was happening at this time was that the designer was distancing himself from the other building trades, eschewing any need for practical skills in stonemasonry or carpentry, and promoting, instead, the abstract aestheticism of the Classical Orders, and of a theorised visual aesthetic backed up with a new and exclusive graphic skill. The transformation from Guild collectivism to individual entrepreneurship took place over an extended period.

From the beginning of the thirteenth century for two hundred years art remained an essentially collective affair, largely dictated by the structures, processes and limitations of the Guild system. Even in fifteenth century Florence most of the recognisable painters, sculptors and architects had begun and usually completed their training in one of the Guilds, the most usual being that of the goldsmith’s. As the century progressed, the craft training in the workshops became more individualised, and apprentices began to choose specific masters whose work had achieved some public recognition. The more famous took on a greater number of apprentices, no doubt because they offered the cheapest form of labour.

Mastery, then, began to undergo a qualitative differentiation which evidenced a growing public awareness of distinctions of quality. Yet within the workshop itself, the prevailing ethic was one of communality, and the work of art was not recognised as the expression of an individual personality. As we shall see, the design and construction of Milan cathedral at the end of the Fourteenth century was still a collective event - the decisions being made by the Council of experts. Yet within less than sixty years, this had changed. and design had become established as an individual act of conceptualisation.

Key Moments in the Emergence of the Autonomous Designer

The evolution of the role of the modern, autonomous designer from the undifferentiated Guild membership follows the same trajectory as the development of the European economy from feudalism to capitalism. As successive cycles of capital accumulation have seen the economy of Europe wax and wane over the last half millennium, and the centre of economic power shift geographically from one part of the continent to the other, so also has the form and content of the design "profession" altered to adapt to the changed economic circumstances, invariably following the fluctuating economies of the European States.

As economic, ideological and political power have shifted from one nation to another, so also has the centre of design theorising moved as well. Throughout the struggle for territorial power, one institution continued to exercise a disproportionate amount of influence up to the eighteenth century - the Church - acting as both patron and power-broker, and operating first as an all-powerful moral authority (despite being rife with simony, corruption and material ambition), and then as antagonist to the emerging Reform movement, as religious persecutor.

During this period, from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, several key moments stand out as significant in the development of the professional ethos as we recognise it today, and each was connected to a shift in the structure and relations of capital production in its time, in the transformation of the growth of capitalism itself. The four downloadable PDFs cited here are designed to be read in conjunction)
    
    1.     Emergence of Cultural Autonomy
The first significant moment in the emergence of the autonomous designer took place within the Guilds themselves, as different Guild Masters working within the fraternal monopoly of the Guild political economy which transcended national boundaries began to respond to the imperative of cultural identity - the development of a regional vernacularism as a point of local identity and pride - confronted by the contradictory demands of French and German Masters seeking to impose their own actually differing but theoretically universal rationalities on the building design. This was particularly evidently in the design of Milan Cathedral. Related to this issue of building-as-cultural-emblem rather than building-as-universal-exaltation was the parallel split which occurred between the form and content of the building - form-as-cultural-representation, compared to content as universal liturgical function. (To download The Emergence of Cultural Identity in Design click here )
    
    2.     Separation of Form and Content
In Medieval ecclesiastical works, the meaning is concentrated on the content of the work while in the Renaissance it is devoted rather to the formal aspects of representation. It was a shift first encountered in the struggle to give shape to the Cathedral at Milan, but did not become fully recognisable until somewhat later.

In the new scheme of things, art was to be judged not for its spiritual meaning, for its relationship to religious appropriateness or significance, but as Geoffrey Scott tells us, for itself.  Just as the artist eventually achieved economic autonomy and status, so also did his art achieve its own distinct identity, divorced from craft, imbued with status, albeit still married to its eventual antagonist, science. For both, the influence of the humanist tradition ensured the incorporation of a level of Platonic abstraction, of high-minded theory, of ideological independence, and of a distinction from everyday life which would characterise theories of design down to the present time. (To download The Emergence of the Autonomous Designer click here )    

    3.     The Isolation of the Visual Aesthetic
For the cultural distinction of the form to be recognisable as a cultural distinction, not only was it important that the form and the content of the building be apprehended as distinct, but that formal attributes be generalisable in a specifically visual manner. It was the possibility of recognising a separate visual component which could be identified with other cultural-characterological traits which allowed for a form of identification to take place.
    
    4.    Distinction Between Art and Craft
The emergence of designers as autonomous individuals from Guild activities required that they forge a separate and distinct identity, to distinguish themselves from the other Guild members, and most particularly from the Guild Masters. The fourth moment in the emergence of the autonomous professional designer was a recognition of a distinction between art and craft, between the theory of building and the practice of building. It was a shift which allowed for the re-emergence of the Classical as a counter-hegemonic formalism set against the Gothic and for the related emergence of a distinction between intellectual and manual labour.
     
    5.    Emergence of the Individual Designer from the Guilds
The factor in the emergence of the profession was the emergence of the design community itself as a distinct social collective, freed from Guild restrictions and allowing designers to practice as autonomous individuals engaging in professional discourse, but not yet acting as a community. The impulse for this change came from the Church's own desire to rid itself of the monopoly of the Guilds.  
    
    6.    The Distinction Between Theory and Practice
The distinction between intellectual and manual work equated with a distinction between theory and practice in which the distinction between the theory of building design and the actuality of building practice (ie.the building's realisation) became further conceptualised as a distinction between the theory of building design and the theory of building practice - in other words, the development of an autonomous expertise, completely separated from the activity of building labour. This consolidated the distinction between the designer and the Master Builder, in ways consistent with similar differentiations in emerging divisions of labour in the wider community.

    7.    Conceptualisation, Inspiration and Authority
The seventh major moment in the development of the design disciplines was the definition of the process of conceptualisation and the (theoretical) moment of inspiration in the design process as the distinguishing element between the "gifted" designer and the patron, in which the designer is elevated above the patron, to the status of "genius" which works to consolidate the market appeal of the autonomous individual without destabilising the otherwise cordial relationship of equals cultivated between the two.  
    
    8.    Systematisation of Knowledge
The eighth moment in the evolution of the role of the autonomous design professional was the systematisation of knowledge facilitated by improvements in the printing industry, allowing individual designers to reach a much wider audience with more graphic information. This allowed for both the consolidation and the development of a theory of design amongst individual practitioners, as well as for the formation and education of a potential patron class. Scholarship, at this point, became a defining element of both theory and practice (of design). (To view the PDF Institutionalisation of Design click here ).    

     9.    Social Distinction and Stratification
All of these factors collectively shifted the meaning of design in the direction of  another defining factor - design as a mark of social distinction, both for the designer himself as well as for the newly-educated patron being served. In this dialectic, and for the purposes of acquiring close relationships which might lead to commissions, patrons and designers presume a relationship of equality and mutual respect and understanding.
    
   10.     The Distinction of Design as a Separate Category
The realisation of the importance of inspiration as a common factor in related but separate craft disciplines offered a vehicle for the necessary social distinction to be made between manual crafts and intellectual design - that component - -disegno- both uniformalised and decontextualised the creative process and inadvertently introduced a form of technical rationality into design which would eventually find its fullest expression four hundred years later in the Modernist conception of the universality of the designer-role, eventually crystalising at the Bauhaus and in architects like Le Corbusier, Buckminster Fuller, and (eventually) in the emerging fields of Design Methods Research. The decontextualised operation of disegno was now separated from any particular craft or concrete technique and rendered abstract and therefore communicable as a technique in   its own right.

    11.    The Academicisation of Knowledge
Out of these transformations emerged the need for the Academies - developed to teach aspirant designers the principles of disegno across a range of design arts, and to distinguish designing itself as an activity distinct from creative activity particular to each of the individual arts in question. This academicisation of design knowledge served two further purposes, however. On the one hand it absorbed the increasing numbers of aspirant designers intent on making a name for themselves, while at the same time establishing a stratified culture of distinction within the design community itself by paradoxically promising to impart that which was otherwise defined as inspirational - that is, unteachable.

    12.    The Replacement of Technique by Conceptualisation
The increased academicisation of disegno of allied crafts allowed for a much more broad-based discourse across crafts which tended, by virtue of its multi-faceted technical aspects (painting vs. sculpture vs. building design etc.) to focus on those elements which different arts shared, rather than those by which they distinguished themselves. In this process, conceptualisation began to outweigh technique as a subject of discussion.

    13.    Epistemological Censorship
The academicisation of knowledge in the sixteenth century corresponded to a strict form of censorship by the Church, occasioned by the needs of the Counter Reformation. The restrictions placed on forms of representation were then included in the codes of behaviour which developed within the arts which were policed not only by the Church itself, but by those who operated the Academies and who wished to continue the productive professional opportunities which they enjoyed.
    
    14.    The Institutionalisation of Design
The repression of the newly-emerged independent designers, and the strict limits on their work imposed by the Church produced a profound sense of frustration bordering on despair in important and influential designers in the mid-sixteenth century. Design activity was strictly controlled and monitored by both the Church and the Academies in ways which completely contradicted both the myths of divine inspiration and artistic freedom. Design, having been the means of escape from the institution of Guilds, became itself institutionalised.

    15.     The Creation of High and Low Cultures
The academicisation of design also led, through the wider struggle for cultural hegemony,  and economic power during the Reformation, to a sharp division between popular or peasant experiences and cultivated or educated experiences. This tendency built upon the already widening poverty gap caused by the devaluation of European currencies caused by the importation of precious metals from the colonies. This economic distinction translated into a cultural distinction which was expressed through cultural forms, eventually to emerge as the cultural weapons of the bourgeoisie.
    
    16.    Design as Ideology
Once brought under institutional control, it was then possible to develop the arts in ways which directly served the ideological needs of the Church. The development of the Baroque stands as a major ideological weapon in the fight against the Reform Church. Design forms follow a developmental logic so that a precise and articulate language of forms appears, which has been empirically tested in the field as a Counter-Reformation tactical weapon. Against this, the Reformists develop their own forms, expressive of an ideology of rationalism and democracy.(To view the PDF The Emergence of Design as an Ideology click here)

    17.    Design as a Total Institution
The increasing secularisation of Europe, coupled with the diminishing role and authority of the Church created a political vacuum which was filled by the emerging State - in particular the French Monarchy which adopted and extended the institutionalisation of design standards and education into a total system under strict bureaucratic control.

    18.    Design as Emblem of Democratic Progress
With the fall of the French Monarchy, design remained firmly institutionalised, but was adopted as a symbol of progress, and specifically that form of progress  embodied in the Enlightenment ideal of Democracy. The democratisation of Europe and America transposed Monarchic power to that of the secular State which now became the final arbiter of taste and quality - instituting standards of quality based not upon the personal idiosyncratic whim of the Monarch, but on principles of rationalism.

From this point onwards, design achieved all of the rudimentary characteristics and structures which would only be refined by subsequent developments within the profession - most specifically, the organisation in the nineteenth century of examinations, licensing and professional codes of conduct. These would bind and consolidate the architectural community and give it a clearer set of operational limits, but only as an extension of the structures laid down between 1350 and 1800, such that, early in this century, Geoffrey Scott could propose the somewhat blunt definition of architecture which encapsulates the underlying imperative of our normative understanding:
“Architecture is the art of organising a mob of craftsmen. This, the original meaning of the word, expresses an essential fact...the conceptions of an architect must be worked out by other hands and other minds than his own”  (emphasis added)
Tuesday, 09 July 2013 13:34

The Barrance Houses

The Barrance Houses

In 1985,  Phillip Barrance was a young builder who bought s steep and very wooded section in Freemand Bay, in exclusive inner city Auckland. Phillip wanter to build three townhouses on the bottom portion of the section, and to sell them. He wanted houses that were essentially private, but with an internal feeling of spaciousness, all within a tight budget. They were to have an expression that connoted "South Pacific" with overtones of mMori and Polynesian influence. The resulting design is on four levels, stepping down the site and wrapping around a private garden. The lower level comprises the bedroom areas. The top level is a study high in the trees. In between are mezzanine levels with lkiving and dining areas. The entrance is at the third level which also houses a guest (3rd) bedroom.

The houses were to be finished in cedar ply with applied battens. Sadly, they were never built -victims of the 1987 stock-market crash. The client was unable to raise the necessary capital and instead built two, prefabricated units.

 
barrance-1.small
Entrance
 
 
barrance-2.small
Garden/Deck
 

barrance-plan2.small

Entry/Mezzanine Floor Plan

barrance-plan.small

Lower Floor Plan

 

 

Friday, 05 July 2013 20:35

Hand Made Houses

Hand Made Houses

 barry-smiths-house   barry-smiths-sink

Barry Smith's House                              Barry Smith's Sink               

During the 1970s there was a plethora of writings which celebrated the skills of the non-professional designer/builder. Bernard Rudofsky's Architecture Without Architects, and his equally engaging The Prodigious Builders werecompanioned by Art Boerike's The Craftsman Builder, and Handmade Houses. In 1978, I was approached by Architectural Design Magazine (AD) to write an article on the subject for a special edition. This is that article. Looking back now, it is interesting to see how, even then, I was interested in design as an instrument of cultural identity - an interest that has grown over the years to embrace many different cultural forms. Beyond that, this was a time befor globalisation, before the so-called "Free-Market ideology took hold, before the commodification of life itself. These houses represent the embodiment of Paulo Freire's dictum, "In creating our world we create ourselves". They are houses that bhave been lovingly conceived and constructed in the best meaning of the term "Vernacular" in that they respond to personality, idekntity, site context, climate and an inate deesire to eschew institutiopnalised forms of building, culture, behaviour and life itself. They are the antithesis of the bureaucratic requirements of building regulations, planning laws and social conventions. They express what is best about the unquentiable zest that lies at the centre of the human spirit.

To download the PDF click  Handmade Houses. 

 Barry Smith

Barry Smith was one of my heroes. He lived in the small rural community of Canyon in Contra Costa County,, just over the hills from Berkeley where I worked. Barry had moved in and built his house before the area was populaed - before the suburban sprawl started to push up real estate values for fifty miles around. The house had no external walls - just a soaring series of plywood hyperparabolic structures set on poles over an enormous sand-filled firepit. His chickens, dogs and goats wandered freely thoughout his home. I asked him once if he ever got cold in Winter? "No" he said, "If I start to feel cold I just put on another sweater!"

The bathtub was suspended in the trees over a brazier that he used to warm the bathwater. The building inspectors and planning moguls hated him. Three times they had "red-stickered" his house (posted a non-occupancy and demoltion notice. Each time Barry had taken them to court and won. But they wouldn't give up. He was standing int he way of vast development profits from the potential subdivision of virgin redwood forest development and he couldn't be allowed to prevent "progress" from its inexorable advance. On an impulse one beautiful Autumn day I drove over the hill to visit Barry. As I drove up I saw that he was shepherding his goats and his dog into his VW campervan and that the roofrack was piled high with equipment covered in a tarp. "Hi, Barry", I said, Where are you going? Taking a Vacation?"

"I'm gointg to Russia," he replied, "across the Bering Straight. It will be frozen over by the time I get there!" I was incredulous. "Are you leraving for good?" I asked. "Yup! he said. "But what about your house?" I asked. For yeasrs you've been fighting to stay here and winning. Are you giving up?"

"Tony," he responded. "I've decided that no matter how much they want me to leave, this time I'm actually going to do it!". He recognised that he had become addicted to the fight and that his life had otherwise been on hold for over ten years. Without a backward glance, he got into his van and disappeared down the road, leaving me to wander bemused through the silent citadel he had created.

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