Ana Sayfa


"From Function to Fiction"




“Form, Function to Fiction”

Tarih: 18 Aralık 2002

Saat: 14.30

Yer: Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar Üniversitesi, Fındıklı, İstanbul.


Yunus Aran Birlikteliği ve Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar Üniversitesi Mimarlık Fakültesi Mimarlık Bölümü tarafından Mimar Yunus Aran'ın anısına düzenlenen Konferanslar dizisinin 12. konuşmacısı, ‘Kültür, Kimlik ve Kent’, başlıklı konuşmasıyla Prof.Dr. Constantin Victor Spiridonidis olmuştur.

Konuşma 18 Aralık 2002 günü Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar Üniversitesi Oditoryum'unda gerçekleşmiştir.

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Konuşma Özeti

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“Form, Function to Fiction”

Prof.Dr. Constantin Victor Spiridonidis

I would like to thank the Yunus Aran Foundation for this kind invitation to speak here today. I would also like to thank the School of Architecture for hosting this lecture and giving us this opportunity to communicate and exchange ideas between ourselves.

I come here as a teacher and I would like to discuss with you the subject of education. This lecture is mainly addressed to students and lecturers in architecture. However the lecture is also addressed to professions outside of the architectural environment in order to show how easy it is to explain what we are doing when we are teaching architecture. Teachers of architecture do not very often speak to each other about the way in which they teach architecture and more specifically architectural design. Architectural design is the core of our educational practices. However when speaking about Architectural Education we start to speak about architecture and then the discussion veers away from the teaching of architectural design.

As this lecture is dedicated to the memory of the young architect  Yunus Aran I would especially like to focus this discussion on the question of teaching architectural design. I would like to talk about the approach and the state of mind of young students when asked to produce a piece of architecture when faced with a blank white sheet of paper.  Which kind of practices, which kind of approaches should we try to develop to achieve the best results. How should we communicate our ideas so that we can attract the interest of students instead of boring them.

If one tries to follow the debates of the teachers of architecture and more specifically the teachers of architectural design one will have the feeling that one is in front of a broad spectrum of totally different views and aspects. This reminds us perhaps of a very old story about Babel. I would like to mention this in the hope that it will facilitate our communication. This is what the Lord said when he saw the Tower of Babel: “They are one nation, they are speaking one language and this is their first collective work. Now they will be able to realise anything they plan.” We are more or less in the same atmosphere when speaking about the way in which Architecture is taught. In the last ten years most schools of architecture have been developing certain reforms in their curricula. The debate about how to teach architectural design has  become something which has a central place in the preoccupation of the staff and the students. The question of pedagogy has become the most significant issue that we have to exchange between us. We have the tendency to speak about architecture as if it is one single thing and we claim that we are teaching that. However in the end we arrive at teaching totally different concepts or perceptions about architecture because we have not arrived at a common agreement about what architecture or architectural design is about. Maybe this is a weakness or maybe this is our power. The magic of architecture exists behind a multi lingual, multi national and multi cultural plurality of quantity and openness.

In looking closer at what we are teaching our students when we are teaching them architectural design I would like to tell you a story about one of my students. This student finished a 5 year course of architectural studies and told me that he now wanted to do a post graduate course in order to learn how to design. He felt that even after 5 years of study he did not qualify to design. He said that he had 5 different capable tutors during his 5 year course and each said something different about architectural design.

The first tutor said that you start with analysing the functions then decompose them to make a functional diagram and define the relations between the functions. This will be your first step. In your second step transform the diagram to plan and recompose the decomposed functions and you have your design. Design is a problem solving activity in which you must be rational, you must be objective and you must concentrate on the design process.  Architecture is a system of elementary functions having measurable relationships between each other. So architecture must function because the human being who is going to use this design is a biological function and as such this being must function in this place.

The second tutor said of course you start from analysing the functions and of course you have to decompose the design object but this decomposition must be concentrated on the major issues of the design theme. When you define the main issues of the design theme you have to think of the metaphors and analogies of these problems and on the basis of these analogies you must recompose the formal aspect of the form and do this because architectural design is not a problem solving activity but is a creative expression. This as you can see is a totally different definition of architectural design. According to this approach you must not be rational or objective but creative and subjective. For this tutor architecture is a system of functional and behavioural units with a broad spectrum of  relations between them. Architecture must consider the human being and the human being is not a biological but psychological being.

The third tutor said you must start your design by understanding the user instead of sitting in your office and analysing functions or trying to define for yourself which is the bigger issue of the Design that you are to embark on. The user is the only one who knows what he wants. He is socially and culturally aware and his needs are socially and culturally defined. So you must first concentrate on the user and not the functions and then create space according to the needs of the user. Architectural Design is a political activity not a creative and problem solving one. Students must be political and democratic and thus create space reflecting the political and social awareness of the user. Architecture is an ingredient of society, it is not a system but a part of society. Transforming space means transforming society therefore architecture must define the social relations within the context in which it is produced. The human being who is going to use the space created by the architect is a social and political being and not a psychological or biological one.

The fourth tutor said when you start your design the first thing you must do is to read the signs of the culture of the place and based on this you must reveal the identity of the place and visualise and think about the meaning of the space that you are going to produce. So when you are making forms you must express cultural identity through the forms you design. Design is not a problem solving activity, it is not an expression of creativity, it is not a political action, but it is an activity of syntax. In other words design is the creation of meaning through architectural form. Therefore students must be sensitive to the cultural aspects of architecture, must be expressive through the forms they produce and must concentrate on the cultural aspect of the place that they are designing.  Architecture is an expressive garment of society. It must have a meaning as the human being it addresses is a cultural being and not a political or social being, nor a psychological or biological being.

The fifth tutor said that you must start a design by thinking about the subject of design. To do this split the subject of design into smaller pieces. But you must do this from your own personal viewpoint and not from a functional point of view. You must create a central strong concept to your design by creating your own story of why the design is and what it is. This idea will be the generator of your form. The design practice is in this case an activity generating form. You must be individual, and concentrate on your own ideas as architecture is an individual gesture open to multiple readings. Architecture must in a very particular way express individual views as the human being you design for is also an individual.

So as a result in one school of architecture in one course the student was presented with 5 different definitions of architecture. It must be kept in mind that the methods of teaching were not different, we are talking of 5 different concepts of approach to design:

1-     Architecture as a problem solving activity. A system of elementary functions. A design which must function.

2-     Architecture as a creative activity. Creating a design with behavioural units. A design which must behave.

3-     Architecture as a political activity and an ingredient of society. A design which must express this character.

4-     Architecture as a syntax activity and a garment of society. A design which must have a meaning.

5-     Architecture as an individual gesture and a generator of forms. A design which performs.

No wonder the student was confused. I had to explain to my student that this happens in all schools of architecture and not just in ours. I then went on to present him with the history of architecture from 1950s to the present in order to explain this phenomenon not only for our school but in general.

During the early 50s and 60s education in schools of architecture concentrated on a basis of particular disciplines such as system theories, decision theory, mathematics, management, technical knowledge, ergonomics and so on. In this system the architectural studio was considered as a tentative laboratory where people had to be rational, objective and precise. The professor was the authority and the students were the problem solvers. Pedagogy was considered as the method of design.

This atmosphere changed a little during the 60s and 70s. Psychology, behaviourism and ergonomics appeared as the main disciplines supporting architectural education. The method was orientated towards ways which increased the creativity of the students. Changes with a participatory view led to a lot of interest in schools of architecture. The human sciences, sociology, elemental psychology, ethnology, statistics and political sciences were now in support of architectural education. The participation of the public had to be achieved and this meant that the architectural studio relationships between the students and the staff and even the character of the design studio itself also changed.

Following this post modern period of architecture, changes gave the student a new environment in which to think about architecture. Discussions on philosophy, the cinema, visual arts became sources of inspiration so that students would transform architectural forms through a personal way of thinking.

As the tutors are products of their period of teaching and as I mentioned each period has a different approach so will the tutors and thus we have different teachings on how to approach design in our present day schools. The result is that teachings become the sum total of all past teachings.

So in this case what should one do? Cultures change with time and so does architecture. We must be prepared for change and adapt ourselves accordingly. We also notice that in each of these paradigms of architecture there are new definitions of architectural design, new conceptions of the design process, new conceptions of architects and new conception about the arguments by which the architecture will be legitimised.

I have no answer to the question of what to do at this stage. However let’s make an effort and take a step. Teaching architecture means to teach how to learn about architecture, not a piece of a precise paradigm of architecture but how to achieve the knowledge in order to follow the changes and be able to adapt yourself to the teachings of your tutor. In order to achieve this aim I think that we have to understand the power of the context in which architecture is produced and the power of the values in which architecture is emerging and the power of self expression of the student, of the architect and of the designer.

I would like to tell a story about the power of context. This is addressed to the teachers. A few years ago 5 schools of architecture collaborated in an educational programme. The same project was run in five different schools. We found that the 5 schools had put forward totally different aspects of architecture. The studios consisted of different age groups, different nationalities and different educational histories. However in the end we were not able to put each school’s work into specific groups. In all 5 schools a mixture of different approaches was observed, be it post modern, rational and so on.

Here the question is what are we teaching? If the result of our teaching does not influence the final design of the students, what does? There must be something outside of the lecturers influencing the final decision of the student and this is what must be taken into account and this is what we must find out about. And this is the “The Power of Value”. The primary material of architecture is values, not bricks and mortar, but values. These values are everywhere in our lives and they influence all of our activities.

The power of values can overcome rationality. Educational systems familiarise and teach students the importance and effects of such values. These values generate and legitimise forms.

Students must be taught not to fly very high otherwise the sun will burn their wings. That is they must keep in touch with the culture of the society. They must not fly very low either because then they will be close to banalities.

The last thing to teach is how to play with your ideas. Ideas which rise from the minds like shadows, dance and make metaphors, disappear and appear again. They dance again and always leave us with a sense of joy and maybe a tear in our eyes.