unified architectural theory: chapter 7 | archdaily

Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 7 | ArchDaily
Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 7 | ArchDaily
Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 7 | ArchDaily
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  • 11/3/15, 7:08 PMUnified Architectural Theory: Chapter 7 | ArchDaily

    Page 1 of 4http://www.archdaily.com/530832/unified-architectural-theory-chapter-7

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    Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 7

    We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series ofinstallments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world.The following chapter, written by Salingaros and Kenneth G. Masden II, delves deeper intothe limitations of current architectural philosophies, including Critical Regionalism, andjustifies the creation of Intelligence-Based Design. If you missed them, make sure to readthe previous installments here.

    As the architects of tomorrow, todays students must come to understand the role andresponsibility of their profession as something intrinsically tied to human existence and thelived experience. A new suggested educational system provides a direct means to designadaptive environments, in response to growing needs of the marketplace (client demand).Nevertheless, most architectural institutions continue to propagate a curricular model thathas sustained an image-based method and its peculiar ideology for decades. We can tracethis support to early twentieth-century anti-traditional movements. Reform is impossiblewithout addressing the systems long-forgotten ideological roots.

    Evolutionary compulsion forces human beings to establish a system of relationshipsbetween the physical body and the human minds mental perceptions, which enable us toexperience the world and our existence. These relationships provide us with our sense ofwellbeing, our sense of belonging, and our deeper sense of who we are. Through thephysical and the visual aspects of human perception, the body managed humankindsearliest interactions with the world.

    Evolution developed a neurological structure in humans by which they could negotiate theimmediate conditions of their lives. Through the surrounding informational fields physicaland visual information embedded in the natural structure of the world humanssuccessfully evolved to construct artifacts for living. These creations range from jewelry, tofurniture, to buildings, and ultimately to cities.

    As the human mind continued to develop through the impulse of emotion, there came apoint where humans were able to manufacture abstract ideas and thoughts, outside thephysical reality that confronted them on a daily basis. The schism between thesubject/object natures of perception permits the manufacture of an alternative reality. Thismental capacity has been the protagonist of human thought and enquiry for millennia leading to some of the greatest achievements of the human mind at other times it led

    Jyvaskyla University, designed by Alvar Aalto, is commonly cited as an example of "CriticalRegionalism." However, according to Salingaros' Unified Architectural Theory, "Critical

    Regionalism" does not go far enough in removing architecture from the influence ofModernist principles. Image Nico Saieh

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    02 AUG2014by Nikos A. Salingaros & Kenneth

    G. Masden II

    News ArticlesUnified Architectural Theory

    Nikos Salingaros

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  • 11/3/15, 7:08 PMUnified Architectural Theory: Chapter 7 | ArchDaily

    Page 2 of 4http://www.archdaily.com/530832/unified-architectural-theory-chapter-7

    humankind towards the greatest atrocities imaginable. During the last century, architecture as the formation of a world outside our bodies has been consigned by contemporarydoctrine to the intellectual creations of a purely subjective mind.

    The informational fields that surround us are more important today than ever, given thedependency of students on image-based learning. Supplanting natural information byintellectual abstraction effectively removes the essential informational content needed forhuman engagement with the outside world, replacing it with blank walls.

    Throughout the twentieth century, one of the important situational constructs that enabledarchitects to substitute images for what is real was their ability to use the written word tosubsidize their informationally-poor structures. So began a long history of political andpolemical texts operating as the philosophical surrogate for embedded knowledge, whichwas henceforth lost from the built world.

    Critical Regionalism and intellectual submission

    Critical Theory has had its most insidious effect on architecture with the spread of thedoctrine known as Critical Regionalism. Proponents of this self-contradictory ideologyassert that vernacular tradition and culture are dead, and that henceforth, regionalarchitecture must adapt to modernist uniformization. They proclaim that the patterns andpractices from which a regions identity is derived are mere nostalgia, and insteadrecommend the abstract aesthetics of international modernism. Any architecturalexpression, other than those possible within the restricted modernist aesthetic, is rejected.

    Those writers avowed intention is to create forms that do not belong to the vernacular formlanguage. What results from this schizophrenic approach is not regional architecture in anysense, but a set of self-referential objects detached from their cultural roots, created andmanipulated without regard to their regional context. (One occasionally sees an attempt atsite-specific climatic adaptation, but nothing more).

    Teachers thus use purely ideological arguments to validate a narrow set of design styles forstudents. That is as wrong as it is unsupported. It is only a means to further sustain a cultideology that has dominated architectural education for the past several decades. The pointis that good architecture and urbanism have nothing to do with political beliefs. Worst of all,teachers apply techniques learned from political ideologues to coerce students and otheracademics into intellectual submission. Such forms of censorship are typical of a systemthat considers itself above all others. It gives itself the authority to re-frame every membersworldview. Whenever evidence is ignored, and is substituted by the irrational, that createsdogma. This erroneous style of teaching has become solidly established in todays system.

    Philosophy informs architecture

    The common justification given for studying philosophy is that architecture and urbanism areintimately tied to social phenomena, so that philosophy prepares a student to confrontarchitectural problems. This explanation is a subterfuge, however, operating more as ameans to avoid teaching architecture to students directly. The modernist teaching method,wherein all useful derived knowledge is thrown out in the tabula rasa approach, cannotopenly admit that architectural and urban knowledge ever existed. If it did, then someonewould have to explain how over 2,000 years of knowledge was lost, discarded, or ignoredduring the modernists 70-year reign. By diverting architecture students towards carefullyselected philosophical authors, this action conveniently covers up the deliberate avoidanceof any genuine, newly-derived or historically-relevant architectural theory.

    So much of what now passes for architectural theory is therefore little more than doctrine.It conditions students to have absolute faith in a body of beliefs established in the absenceof real-world criteria. Those beliefs set up the students worldview as shaped by thedynamics of in-group affiliation: a cognitive filter that bends information to fit, and rejectsinformation that does not fit.

    Architectural education must in the future clearly separate architecture from politics, andalso separate architecture from self-referential philosophy. Only teachers can train theirstudents to do this. Both teachers and students can achieve this clarity of thought only afterthey understand the genuine theoretical basis of architecture, expressed in strictlyarchitectural terms. Schools have a responsibility to teach a genuinely architectural basis fordesign.

    Architecture students should ultimately study philosophy, but that is productive once theyhave formed a basis of what is really going on in architecture. And the philosophy they studyhas to be positive and humanistic. Many philosophers throughout history emphasize thenecessity for human beings to connect to the universe, but architects hardly ever study

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  • 11/3/15, 7:08 PMUnified Architectural Theory: Chapter 7 | ArchDaily

    Page 3 of 4http://www.archdaily.com/530832/unified-architectural-theory-chapter-7

    Cite:Nikos A. Salingaros & Kenneth G. Masden II. "Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 7" 02 Aug 2014.ArchDaily. Accessed 3 Nov 2015.

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    those authors.

    What we propose as Intelligence-Based Design has deep philosophical foundations.Humanly-adaptive architecture and urbanism arise out of a respect for humanitys highermeanin