Why architects should always doubt
“Il dubbio non è in se stesso prova di debolezza, perché è anzi il lievito di ogni azione intellettuale e morale, ma bisogna che siano posti con chiarezza i termini del dilemma; se no, il dubbio decade nella confusione.”
[Doubt is not a proof of weakness, it is indeed the engine of every intellectual and moral action, but every term of the dilemma has to be state clearly, if not the doubt lapses into confusion.]
E.N. Rogers, Casabella Continuità
In every field of interest the doubt is generator of inventiveness and source of new discovery.
Socrate was the first to argue that there is no better knowledge than the one of the doubt.
The situation of crisis where the architect – or artist – is often stuck can be seen as both the horizon and the starting point of the research process.
The continuous research – sometimes dramatical and neverending – combined with the unsatisfaction for all actions already said and made pushes the subject to doubt.
As stated, the action itself to doubt about something, doesn’t have to be considered as the impossibility to make a choice, but it has to be seen as the capability to consider different possibilities, sometimes even contraddictory between themselves, in order to find some positive elements.
As architects, every time we develop a problem it doesn’t mean that we are looking just for the solution but as soon as we clarify the themes that caracterize the problem itself, we make possible a specific discussion about it.
Architecture is always about critical projects.
Tafuri – one of the most famous italian architecture historian – expresses this condition as a state of crisis; he explains:
“Every time we assume that a contraddiction can exists, we necessarily get caught in it” – the only way to avoid to fall in a pure idealism is to “use” the contradictory situation underlining and bringing to life its positive aspects, in order to transform to positive aspects what reality gave us as negative.
This dimension belong particularly to Architecture – it is the science that sums up all these dynamics in all their complexity and tries to hazard a solution.
The architectural phenomenon suffers the vicissitudes of time and cannot be locked into designed patterns and static interpretations.
When the old values are violated, we start to deal with the chaos – in other words it is an order not understandable, that emodies the possibility of synthesis.
Deep architectural crisis confirm that is necessary to try and try again.
If we consider the reality in which architecture acts as changeable and dynamic, we can infer that architecture cannot be based on a priori and static models.
In this context, the theme of the doubt, seems to be a positive element of research, of even the search engine.
Have we already lost the ability to critically question what is already there?
Are we still able to hold together contradictory possibilities, in order to contribute and evolve the architectural discipline?
Sometimes it seems like there is nothing more to add, and the only way of reasearch that we know is the one that leads back to a variation on theme.
When developing a project, often can happen that a student find himself in front of insurmountable obstacle, and even when the project seems to be finalized, a small part of it is still unsolved and it seems that is impossible to deal with it.
As it often happens, at that moment the research of the solution is redirected to a path already followed many times.
Without daring to doubt that that solution might be applied again and again, we are used to replicate what has been said and done before, without even – sometimes – having coscience about it.
Seems like the architectural practice has lost its capability to doubt – maybe because of the speed of the contemporary world.
To better understand this topic, I do believe that an example of the past can be useful for the present generation of young architectural students – his name is Giovanni Michelucci.
Giovanni Michelucci (Pistoia 1891 – Fiesole 1990) is a central figure in the architectural panorama of ‘900 and beyond. His personality was crucial for insisting, during his whole life, in declaring the importance and value of the architectural practice.
He is the architect of the doubt:
“non sono mai stato in grado di trasmettere certezze, piuttosto ho seminato dubbi”.
(I was never able to communicate certainties, I rather sown doubts)
Michelucci expresses the need to do not take for granted anything, and to always re-discute the project, not just with the deep thought that precedes the work but also rethinking at the result itself.
Drawings are one of his best known way of expression. Various sketches represent projectual ideas that are never the final ones.
Ideas overlap and accumulate to define the architectural result, mixing, replacing, chasing, correcting themselves and so on.
For the architect, drawings are the real evolution of the design process, real intuition fulfilled with hard work.
As he stated:
“Cosa aggiunge il disegno nell’ attività di un architetto? Rappresenta sicuramente il diario più attendibile di una disponibilità alla ricerca, una preparazione continua alla realizzazione dell’ opera. Questo senso di un’ attesa laboriosa di qualcosa che può anche non concretizzarsi in un progetto rappresenta forse il punto di rifermento più suggestivo fra l’ opera e l’ uomo?”
What does the act of drawing add to the activity of the architect? Certainly it is the most reliable diary of a will to research, a continuous preparation to the realization of a work[…]
His continuous intellectual process tormented by the multiplicity of thoughts aspires to an open work, to something that never ends.
His drawings allude to a sincere feeling for ongoing project, to build a space that can be upgradeable rather than a project to be realized.
And now, just let the drawings speak.