discussing with Jinan, a case for critical thinking in architecture

Jinan as you can see gets really annoyed when anyone brings up critical thinking. I have tried to explain during several instances that critical thinking, the context I am using it is distinct from the situation that he sees it from. My attempt with the linked second essay is to continue the position on learning through conversations and now here introducing the idea of the discussion.

Words, as I have proposed, are something Jinan uses quite loosely therefore a result of my attempts to learn from Jinan ‘Reimagining Architecture as a Cognitive Space’ — from Product to Process’, means different things to both me and Jinan. I have a practice position that I stand by and so does Jinan with his pursuits of decolonisation. How does the experience of modern architecture shape us in the way we think? _ is the question I attempt to answer here.

The title of the book is ‘Think like an architect, How to Develop Creative and Collaborative Problem-solving Skills’ by Randy Deutsch. Its audience is clearly not Indian architectural practices since the work culture the book addresses is mostly directed towards cooperate and heavily regulated western architectural practices. We do not have that culture here and ideas given in a book may seem alien to many Indian architects.

It is not from that lens Jinan has seen the text and made a cursory deduction of the contents. Ends of critical thinking are to understand where someone else is coming from and thereby as a result present an informed position of the problem, they have entrusted to you. Know what they know while presenting your reading of their knowledge based on your re-reading of content against their aspirations.

Reimagine, Architecture, Cognitive Space, Product, Process, Experience, Modern Architecture, and the Way We Think are all broad terms and require extended resources to articulate. What I attempt is to try and locate this broad form. Most of these are notes I wrote in response to exchanges we have had on the group some I have posted some remain archived.

There is a general confusion always if Architecture and building are the same things. For a purist, it is not. Everywhere around us are buildings while architecture exists only virtually. To bring down that claim to a common plane is to state architecture is a form of art. Anyone can make art as they can make architecture. But in the case of architecture, buildings deemed as architecture falls into the canon of the history of building practices.

Any spatial formation deemed under the gauntlet of architecture mostly is published as such. To Rethink Architecture is only possible how publishing practices in architecture are aligning themselves. Jinan’s aspiration would be closer to the rethinking of a building as a cognitive space. If there was a singular authoritative figure to look at buildings as spaces of cognition, in a sense learning it is Herman Hertzberger. Other than his monograph all his other books by him are on the imagination of spaces for learning.

Museum design is a significant sub-domain in architecture to heavily invest in facilitating discussions on crafting spaces as learning environments. Zoos and Botanical gardens all have taken their spatial products into creating enabling processes that transform them into educating ecosystems. Most of the time the mandate for spatial animation is informed by the agency in charge of the place.

By Modern architecture, I am of the impression Jinan means is contemporary architecture. So, reworking the question of what it could mean is, does the built environment we inhabit today shape the way we think? How do we think in contemporary designed spaces? Why do we think in certain ways about them? Are questions outside the domain of architecture and building practices. How spatial practitioners create spaces for transforming thought, is a practice to investigate.

Roden Crater by James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama are contemporary art projects that critically inform how space is accessed just in its most basic forms. In utilitarian architecture, Seattle Public Library by Office of Metropolitan Architecture and the Chichu Art Museum by Tadao Ando are pivotal examples of crafting space to perform in ways that are truly transformative.

It is possible to create spaces to think in. It does not need to be always physically manganous, but they can form as prototypes to create miniature situations that emulate the same. If owing to the lack of resources a complete overhaul may not be possible interior retrofitting too helps. But in most cases, there is a level of spatial programming that goes into making thinking possible in a certain way in a certain part of a building.

There is a physical space of architecture while at the same time there is a virtual space any project creates. It is done by modifying norms of practices that are around you, by questioning how certain activities perform, where they perform, and why they perform in space in the way they do. Any performance that resists convention locates a creative-critical position and changes how activities perform a certain way. Changing conditions of performance of activity change, however minuscule it is, perception of how the said activity can happen. At least there is an attempt to do so.

To do any form of writing you need a good keyboard and access to a respectable number of references or associated reading material. It depends on your work ethic that the quality of work you produce is subject to the physical space it's created in. Writing as an activity to change the way how someone rethinks the space writing creates is only possible if existing contextual or spatial conventions are critically reassembled. As it is with any art, architecture, or design it transcends time and not limited to modernity alone. Modernity simply makes us modern.