Upsetting the Axioms of Architecture

It's easier to maintain assumptions than challenge them. What might architects miss in doing so?

The practice of architecture is predicated on a level of critical thinking in order to advance the quality of the work. Does a building achieve the standards we hold to be if importance, such as environmental standards, aesthetic, commodity firmness delight, standards of economy, and so on? There is no correct standard and they’re ever changing. All are fair game in critical consideration and it comes down to personal perspective. Yet the profession is often less concerned with appraising itself in a more critical light.

When applying critical thinking it’s important to either move from assumptions known to be indisputably true (deductive reasoning), or alternately start at truth and move towards identifying assumptions (inductive reasoning). Assumptions are easy to hold on to, escaping critical thought because they’re easier to maintain them than challenge them.

When a client approaches an architect, it is assumed by both parties, that the clients want either a new building or alterations and/or additions to an existing building. If we were to step back for a moment and let go of that assumption, things are a little different. The client has a need to be satisfied, this might be about more space, more rooms, better utility and so on. Their first assumption is that this can only be achieved through building. When the architects are approached, their immediate assumption, is that the clients need some building to be designed. Neither are necessarily wrong in their assumptions, they might also be wrong and what if they both were to challenge those assumptions first? What might the outcome be instead? It’s a hard question and one without an easy or obvious answer.

One starting point is to ask about what is being ignored in order to make the assumptions the profession is currently making? At one extreme, there’s a danger that the profession might end up like Kodak or Fairfax who ignored the looming changes in their industry (I wrote about this here). By assuming what they did was acceptable and sustainable in the face of change, they fell to their demise. It’s similarly fair to ask will architectural practice remain the same? Most practices would acknowledge that the practice of architecture will change, yet in the face of change many maintain a resistance to change.

We know change happens whether we like it or not. Change can be small and incremental or massive and sudden (like a pandemic), and it happens. If architects maintain their assumptions around their work, what they do and how they do it, what opportunities are they ignoring? What possibility are they missing? What change may come and take away their work altogether?

The practice of architecture is not immutable. What assumptions need to released in order to allow positive change to happen in the practice of architecture?

OR, perhaps a more interesting question is

How might architects let go of their assumptions and create an opportunity to make practice better?


Picture by Pixabay on Pexels

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