Picturesque Eclecticism in Sydney

During the 1980s and early 1990s undergraduate courses in architecture everywhere were inadequate and on the threshold of change, unable to cope with new professional objectives arising from the dynamics of social and technological change. The present writer devised an undergraduate architecture program at the University of New South Wales, Australia, based on a concept derived from aspects of Structuralism and Phenomenology. The course has been in place for a few years and the model is now accommodating recent developments in the human and hermeneutical sciences with bases in the processes of understanding and interpretation. The purpose of this paper is to explicate the theoretical bases and internal contradictions in the typical format of architecture schools; to present and discuss this curricular innovation at the University of New South Wales revealing the basic issues that arose during course planning; and to discuss how the model is sympathetic to hermeneutical and phenomenological functioning.

The architectural character of the city has been a basic factor affecting the development of architectural education in Sydney. Eclectic practices and attempts to synthesise irreconcilable and incongruous elements are endemic to Australian architectural design; to an extent these were the procedures adopted from English eighteenth century design practice in the manner of Batty Langley and his contemporaries, and also those developed from the widespread use of pattern books in the picturesque mode. While this picturesque design process has militated against the formation of a distinctive architecture characteristic of Australia, it has, nevertheless, provided short-lived styles of exuberance and vitality. In the view of John Ruskin, the image or idea of a culture can be perceived, or related to, or built up from a study of its art and architecture. In this respect, the profusion and ephemeral nature of Australian architectural styles provide evidence of a rapidly changing social structure. This constantly changing social structure in Australia has, moreover, traditionally created a condition where it is extremely difficult for indigenous architects to mature and gain acceptance.


A New Course Structure

A fundamental problem with proposals for 'integration' in architectural education is the attempt to link 'vertical' subjects, which run through the course, with 'horizontal' projects determined to bring them to bear upon the syncretic studio design process. This procedure is ineffective because the subjects themselves are invariably wrongly structured. For example, the history of architectural design is taught separately from that of architectural construction, but there is a historical\theoretical component to each which must be taught together. In this case such a change of approach would clarify linkages between past styles and the use of materials over time.

Such a proposal is implicit in the new course structure (see figure 1). The model facilitates individual subject teaching seeking high academic standards, and also structures the studio as the locus for the application of both theoretical and practical knowledge essential to the design process. Seminars, programmed separately from studio functions, monitor knowledge relevant to the design problem gained from research, subject teaching and the domain of practice seeking to dissolve the current barriers between theory and architectural studio functions. The seminars are evaluated and assessed through debate and discussion of students' contributions independently of their performance in individual subjects and studio design work. As a corollary, progress in individual subjects is independent of performance in studio work and seminars. In stages four and five of the course there are elective subjects related to the subject lecture streams for stages one to three.

From the outset of course planning, some faculty members argued that intuition and reflection, processes critical to imaginative problem solving, are being overshadowed by scientific training which provides only a range of technical and behavioural knowledge derived from a rapidly expanding data base. These educators, unconsciously or unwittingly, supported phenomenology in architecture, the concern with holistic, qualitative, descriptive and interpretive values. 1 They distanced themselves from the mechanistic diatribes of the modern movement, postmodern classicism and generally took an 'inclusive' stance influenced by Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Other educators, concerned with the rationalisation of architecture, who earlier had subscribed to the theories of Christopher Alexander or Herbert A. Simon, argued the case for devising and teaching explicit models of the design process.2 Considerations for the implementation of a course centred on a 'science of design' were deemed inappropriate by the course planners for the following reasons.

Many advocates of design science have provided models of the delicate contexturing process of form on the assumption that perfect fit is always the designer's goal. Often, however, until the designer observes a failure in the particular context, such as a capacious space that simply cannot be heated properly, no consideration is given to viewing the design as a composition of distinct structures and elements. Nor is any attempt made to utilise a complex theory. The practicing architect will establish many goals of self-expression, the complexity of the design procedure being clearly influenced by the particularity of the prevailing conditions. Rather than thinking of the design process as a series of problems requiring solution, the practitioner is often struck by a traditional form, the result of centuries of experimentation. Until there is a mistake, the architect will not consider thinking about the abstracted context and the consequences of imperfections in contextual fit.3 In any case, contextual problems are often solved unwittingly through the making of form rather than through the deliberate analysis of context.

In thinking of the design act as a series of problems to be solved, a 'science of design' only fetters the imagination; the designing mind can only worry about specific relations in the object or building. Under its influence the designer strives to drive beyond the logic provided in his or her culture to perfect ever more rational fits of form and context. Often, architectural problems are small ones with easy solutions because they are derived from traditional forms. Design scientists argue that traditional processes could be made observable in the science of design, but the act of integration is made immeasurably more difficult as complexity increases. Ideally, the architect's logic should be tempered by a balanced view of the external culture of architecture. In the resolution of form and contextual fit, an element may not fit well, but it fits well enough. In the 'science of design' attempts to fit context perfectly may result in a tautness similar to that created out of competence too little conditioned by context. That the behavioural sciences had an important role in creating architectural education theory and regulating architectural and environmental design was emphasised by some staff; 4 and a couple held that network analysis, the mapping of patterns of decisions in the design process, and then the application of the 'map' to a predictive model, should serve as the paradigm for architectural education. 5

There was a general consensus amongst the staff that: history should embrace elements of both structures and construction; art historical argument and explanation should be introduced into the studio as a genuine design tool; and practicing architects, painters and sculptors should participate in both seminars and studios. Overall, it was felt that the theoretical matrix of the syllabus must respond to the Vitruvian model, or at least its eighteenth century English standards: firmness, commodity and delight.

But the lack of a general agreement by staff on the broad issues posed grave difficulties for a working party seeking new dimensions for architectural education and, at the same time, to eliminate a proliferation of elective subjects at the periphery of the existing core curriculum. These electives, expressive of the diverse interests and activities of the staff, had widened the schism between studio design teaching and the technological subjects. The source of this conflict is inherent in the complex nature of architecture; it is derived from the relationship between construction and design, the fundamental problem of architectural aesthetics. It was defined and analysed by Geoffrey Scott in 1914.

"Empirically, by intuition and example, [the art of architecture] learns where to discard, where to conceal, where to emphasize and where to imitate the facts of construction. It creates by degrees, a humanised dynamics." 6


Traditional Provinces of Thought in Architecture

Orthodox theorists view architecture as a focus where three separate purposes have converged - commodity, firmness and delight. They are blended in a single method and are fulfilled in a single result. Yet in their own nature they are distinguished from each other by a deep and permanent disparity. It is argued that, in recent times, the analysis of architecture has been confused in its process and built up strangely diverse theories. Paradoxically, this diversity has forced on architecture unreal objectives, often a false unity of aim, not distinguishing clearly between the three provinces of thought. In fact, there is no prime reason to assume that there exists between them a pre-established harmony; consequently a perfect principle cannot be laid down unless it can be proved that these apparently different values are in reality commensurable. If axioms such as 'form follows function' or 'the house is a machine for living' were completely untrue they would be easy to dismiss; if they were based on fully reasoned theories, they would at any rate be easy to discuss. They are neither.

Fully reasoned theories of architecture are rare, and they seldom coincide with the most significant eras of architectural creativity. We subsist on a number of architectural habits, on caprices and prejudices, on scraps of tradition and, above all, on more or less specious axioms such as those above. Under these circumstances discussion is almost impossible. In the Vitruvian view, therefore, there ought to be three separate schemes of architectural analysis, criticism and evaluation: the first based on structure and construction, the second based on utility and convenience, and the third on aesthetics. Each should be rational, complete, and within its own province, valid. However, confusion in architectural criticism, which stems from our failure to appreciate the necessity for the separation of these categories, often results in concessions that science and utility should make to aesthetics, and vice versa.

With the desire of planners to restore a coherent basis for the application of this Vitruvian orthodoxy, the new course structure established the autonomy of the separate subject strands: architectural theory, history of architecture, structure, construction, communication, environmental control and architectural practice. It was evident, however, that the existing subjects would require extensive structural change.

During the past decade, as a result of the emphasis placed on the 'integration' of technology in the studio work, the academic standards of individual subjects had declined. Technical and 'practical' projects had largely ceased to simulate the hard terrain of professional, client and consultant relations, or to relate to studio design projects. Individual subjects were, therefore, freed from the constraints of 'practical' application, much to the chagrin of the positivist architectural scientists in the school. This left the lecture-stream leaders better able to re-organise their theoretical concerns, and pass to the newly formed seminar groups relevant parcels of knowledge in the practical sphere.


The Architectural Studio

The traditional functions of the architectural studio have in recent years been widely criticised. The architectural studio is the product of full-time education, developed after the first professional courses in Britain were imitated from American versions of the Beaux-Arts courses.7 Studio functions remain the most intractable problem in architectural education in most parts of the world. Many practitioners still claim that the part-time study of individual subjects, supplemented by employment, in the manner of the old atelier system of indentures and articles, provides superior professional education. The 'masters' of the modern movement, Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, were both trained in this way.

At the inception of the architectural studio it was argued that ' in design is not a form of teaching but something quite different', that 'there are no facts about design', and that design is ' intuitional process about which nothing secure can be taught.' 8 Debates on the validity of this educational philosophy have persisted for three decades with little resolution of the basic issues. This dispute continues regardless of the impact of knowledge engineering, expert systems and computer aided design.

As it now operates in most places, the studio system is an ineffective compromise between different modes of instruction. The old system of design juries and occasional or irregular debates and group discussions, in which the range of staff (architects, artists, scientists, historians and theoreticians) attempt a multi-level commentary on the final studio submission, is inadequate. Students require an input of knowledge or feedback as design problems progress, or at salient points, rather than at the conclusion of the project. It is not an apprenticeship, as working in an office is an apprenticeship, because demonstration at the drawing board has largely ceased. It is certainly not explicit teaching, for there is no systematic theoretical description which the student can seek to understand, remember and apply.9

A multitude of factors emerged to influence course planning. It was, therefore, necessary to return to basic considerations in order to achieve a point of departure.

"The local child, who will mature into a designer and builder of houses, may feel an early confusion, not unlike that of the stranger in his land. His visual sensations are not neat, for his world does not present itself as an ordered assemblage of geometric entities. In such surroundings, however, the learning designer develops a set of pure and simple geometric ideas. As a thinker, as a perceiving, conceptualising human being, he shatters and rebuilds reality by dint of an inward capacity for sundering and ordering. Without limiting his thoughts in terms of future need, he constructs ideas that are inherently useless, but of enormous potential owing to their very simplicity. He relates these essential ideas into a geometric repertoire in much the way the learning speaker develops a set of phonemes or the learning musician develops a scale of notes..."

The ability to design is intellectually grounded on the geometric repertoire. Competence proceeds from this set of geometric ideas, ‘spiraling from the abstract to the concrete, from useless ideas to livable habitations...’ 10 This account of architectural competence is provided by Henry Glassie. He concludes:

"The account of competence, then, must consist of rules that might have been used to generate perceivable things. These rules are the structure that binds distinct elements into a synchronic system. The set of rules, taken together, is the whole that is greater than its parts; the rules structure the whole. Once the designer's basic planning decisions are made, the structure is set and he becomes free to fret about specific relations within.... These rules, precisely like those in a grammar, are unconscious, but they are not unknown, as their proper use proves, and they can be brought into consciousness through questioning or contemplation." 11

In his writing on 'The architectural Competence' and 'Reason in Architecture', Glassie describes an intimate and intuitive learning process whereby the budding architectural designer proceeds in erratic bursts of progress as he or she develops a taxonomy. It is a potent exposition of great explanatory power, coalesced from manifold sources in the human sciences. Before this, Le Corbusier argued along similar lines 'that great architecture is at the very origins of humanity and that it is the immediate product of the human instinct.' This concept is invoked at the very beginning of his best-known book, Vers Une Architecture. Early builders had been able to fulfil the two essential conditions of great architecture; the first, that having measured by units man had derived from his own body (the inch, the foot, and so on), his buildings were made 'in man's measure, to human scale, in harmony with man'; and the second that:

"having been guided by instinct to the use of right angles, to axes, to the square and circle...[man] could not create otherwise than by demonstrating to himself that he had created. For axes, circles, right angles are truths of geometry, they are the truths our eyes measure.... Geometry is the language of the mind."12

Henry Glassie continues to deal with contextual fit in architectural design. He describes the particular context, that is, the phenomenal setting, the observable environment of an expression of culture - a descriptive device which surrounds the object in the real world. Glassie argues that there is another type of context which cannot be seen: it is the abstracted context in mind which is a more profound explanatory device and surrounds the competence.13 It serves to control the competence to ensure that designs generated will fit into their particular contexts, so that a building will be weatherproof or even provide a desired symbolical message. The abstracted context embraces portions of the particular context ordering them into a concept; it binds the object to external variables such as the moderation of the climate, the materials available or even the expectations of the client. And it is a structure which can relate the object being designed to human, natural and supernatural forces beyond the design field. When the object is placed in its abstracted context a prediction is made as to its influence on the design field in which the consequences of the act may be felt. The abstracted context is a structure of potential source and consequence; it relates the object being composed to the maker's view of himself and to the structure of the cosmos that exists beyond:

"The object being studied is made up of parts, and it is, in turn, one of the parts of a larger object, which, in turn, is part of a still larger object, which in turn, is.... For an old home, the particularistic context would consist of the land concentrically ringing its walls: the building provides the context for its parts, the farm or lot is the context for the building, the community is the context for the lot, the landscape is the context for the community, the political division is the context for the landscape, and so on and on until the universe gathers its own into order."14

No matter how powerful and efficient the designer's competence, the particular context, the reality of the environment, controls what can be done. But the competence controls shaping and moulding, and can be described, nurtured and expanded without consideration for the particular context; it proceeds through the interaction of relevant or essential ideas with the geometric repertoire. Glassie's structuralist perspective, the mainstay of his position, would seem to arise from a quite different epistemological base than that of phenomenology but there is a certain resonance with past philosophy for his method depends on influences from several disciplines: history, anthropology, linguistics, cultural geography.

Phenomenology is as old as Jean Rondelet's Traite Theoretique et Pratique de l'Art de Blair, and Nicolas-Durand's Precis des Lecons d'Architecture, both published in 1802. The Phenomenology, by Hegel was published in 1806 and contains three fundamental ideas from Winckelmann's Kunstgeschichte des Altertums, (1764): 1 the divine dignity of art, that is, art, a manifestation of transcendent values; 2 historical collectivism; 3 historical determinism.15 Hegel's metaphysical optimism, based on the theory that the entire historical process was a necessary development leading to the evolution of the self-knowing spirit, carries with it a further principle, that of relativism. In Hegel's work, this is a result of the dialectic and is no less fundamental to Hegel's conception of the history of art than it is to his interpretation of all other historical events. This dialectical relativism becomes important in the Lectures on Aesthetics. Derived from Winckelmann, Hegel's aesthetic theory of categories formed an integral part of his total system of philosophy for, as stated in the Aesthetics:

"... only the whole of philosophy can be equated with the knowledge of the universe as the one organic totality in itself... within the crowning circle turning in on itself, while on the other hand, it has a simultaneous and necessary connection with other parts - a backwards from which it is derived and a forwards towards which it drives itself, in so far as it fruitfully engenders an 'other' out of itself again, making it accessible for scientific knowledge." (AI 42-43)

Hegel was the last and most consistent philosopher to construct such a system in which every conceivable natural, spiritual or historical phenomenon has its place. Phenomenology came to impact on architecture through sociology and environmental psychology from the 1960s through the work of Canter, Lipman and Parkes; and that of Norburg-Schulz from the 1980s. But the underlying principle - dialectic relativism - that the world is one vast inter-connected system, is the legacy of Winckelmann and Hegel. Henry Glassie's perspective regarding architectural competence - "The set of rules, taken together, is the whole that is greater than its parts; the rules structure the whole"; and his idea that the abstracted context is a structure of potential source and consequence relating the object being composed to the maker's view of himself and to the structure of the cosmos that exists beyond seems to accord with Hegelian phenomenology. Overall, it is the recognition of Glassie's distinction - that design education (competence) can proceed irrespective of contextual constraints - which allowed the taking of a combined structuralist and phenomenological stance in the framing of the new course, and in establishing the character of, and relationship between the lecture, seminar and studio functions.

It would appear that the architectural studio has grounds for a rejuvenation on a phenomenological base but this will hardly satisfy those positivists who strive for objective, reliable and value-free knowledge.16 The movement towards revived studio functions led by Donald Schon, suggests that subjects can be taught in an academically rigorous way without their application in the studio having to take a similar approach.17 He argues that the architectural studio could have its different, but equivalent rigour. This approach was adopted in the new course planning but with certain reservations.

It is implied by Schon that the design process is most appropriately studied, not in terms of a language of precise logic which manipulates elements in an exact sign system, but rather in terms of hermeneutic structures. It belongs to the domain of dialogical question and answer embedded in a human situation, the antithesis of computer-based models of design. The parallel of design is the language of everyday conversation and social interaction. The protocol studies of Donald Schon indicate that the design process he describes works according to the dynamics of the hermeneutical circle, that is, a dialogic exchange with the design situation.

Hermeneutical philosophy claims that the hermeneutical process is primordial and universal. It operates in every act of understanding not only in the understanding of language and texts. The origins of the hermeneutical circle, the circular relation of the whole and its parts in any event of interpretation, trace to ancient rhetoric and to processes of construing sentences. The hermeneutical process is more basic than the use of logic, formal languages and scientific method, and therefore forms the foundation of all rationality. Its profound implications have been defined by Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer from identification as the process of interpretation by the Romantic hermeneuticists, Ast, Schleirmacher, and Dilthey.18

Schon's designer begins the design task by shaping the situation in accordance with an initial appreciation, which, in hermeneutical terms, is the projection of a preunderstanding - a fore-conception or something we have in advance.

"In interpretation we do not, so to speak, throw a 'signification' over some naked thing which is present-at-hand, we do not stick a value on it; but when something within-the-world is encountered as such, the thing in question already has an involvement which is disclosed to our understanding of the world, and this involvement is one which gets laid out by the interpretation."19

The projected situation then 'talks back', to which the designer responds with 'reflection-in-action', that is, a reflective conversation with the situation's back talk on the construction of the problem, or any parameter - the conditions of the site, the brief, the strategies of action or the model of the phenomena. The dialogue becomes multi-facetted, with a multitude of questions and answers - 'back and forth, back and forth.' The designer spins out 'a web of moves, consequences, implications, appreciations and further moves' 20: a process of developing combinations in a circle. It is argued by Hans-Georg Gadamer that the hermeneutical structure acts in every mode of cognitive acquisition, including the acquisition of language. 'Understanding is the original character of the being of human life itself.' 21 In an extension of this concept Donald Schon locates the design process in the domain of social actions and interactions firmly embedded in a human situation, and the focal nexus within a network of intersubjective relationships.22 He gives protocols which typify simulated professional and client episodes, but also illustrate the many failings of informal teaching. It might be argued that the teacher speaks for the design situation in the dialogic question and answer hermeneutical structure of the design process.

A certain criticism has emerged in terms of linguistic philosophy and concomitant design teaching procedure in the studio. The reaction to it poses problems for those who seek to apply research results to practical design. A stream of empiricist and positivist criticism claims that the hermeneutical circle is vicious. We are caught up in an endless cycle of interpretations because the 'validation' of an interpretation can only be made by appeal to other interpretations of the 'parts' - an infinite regress.23 This critique argues that there must be some criterion or method, independent of the circle of interpretations, which can assess the truth or falsity of the interpretations.

It can be said in answer that we do not choose to enter the circle of interpretation for we are already in it, in all our thinking and actions, including the act of establishing objective scientific criteria of validation. The operation is an inter-referencing of whole and part: we establish an interpretation by appealing to other interpretations as a grounding for our own. Any lack of final and absolute certainty applies to any event of understanding and is the inescapable epistemological predicament that is built into the human condition.24 In terms of design, the process that proceeds by question and answer can have no final end. Every designer knows that any design could always be taken further whatever the nature of the external constraints that force an end to the ongoing process.

This answer seems to allow Donald Schon to reject the established procedure in professional education of building application upon basic science and theory; he dismisses the idea that professional practice is based on the rigorous application of theoretical knowledge. This is the core of the problem with the postmodern stance in architecture. Critics argue that the traditional provinces of thought are denied: the boundaries between subjects dissolved. The primacy of the accepted canon of architecture is abandoned and the emphasis of education shifts to studies of themes, processes, and the social, economic or even the political consequences of architectural design. Ecological and contextual paradigms often pre-empt basic consideration for the architectural values of mass, space, line and coherence.

Schon's view is based on his observation that theoretical knowledge intimidates students who wish to apply research results to practice. It is, however, an assertion which has grave implications for the future of architectural education in the universities. Academic boards are becoming increasingly critical of professional schools that fail to make adequate contributions to research. It is a commonly held view that the concept of a 'science of design' along the lines proposed by Herbert A. Simon is fundamental to the problem of locating design within the university.25


The Structure and Role of the Seminars

The seminars function primarily to prepare the students for studio design work; they are specifically structured around the hermeneutical event in order to reveal the dialogical basis of understanding - the dialectical process of question and answer that takes place in serious discussion. Debates and discussions generally are structured to proceed in accord with the ideals of Alberto Perez-Gomez as expressed in his advocacy of "Hermeneutics as Architectural Discourse":

"The issue for architecture is not merely "aesthetic" or "technological" (which would become exclusive, autonomous values only since the Enlightenment), it is primarily ethical. Architectural practice must be guided by a notion of the common good as it preserves a dimension of politics in the human search for stability and self-understanding. Instrumentalized theories, regardless of whether they are driven by technological, political or formalistic imperatives, or by a desire to emulate models from the sciences, are always unable to account for this dimension." 26

and he goes on to conclude:

"Our effort of interpretation is meaningful, this capacity to interpret is in fact our endowment, a gift that comes to us from having fallen into history, a truly modern/postmodern faculty. The self-awareness of our questions, the world ‘in front’ of the work, mandates that we construct a plot and bring our insight to bear on present actions, to bear on the future. As Hanna Arendt has pointed out, we must recognize history as a vast treasure, barely touched, to construct a future in the absence of living traditions. In hermeneutics truth is interpretation, always revealing-concealing, never posited absolutely and objectively. On the other hand, hermeneutics accounts for change, growth, and perhaps even evolution" 27

The seminars deal with theoretical knowledge gained from research and lecture material, and practical knowledge from architectural practice and built work; through their autonomy and separate evaluation, the seminars also serve to stimulate the intellectual life of the school. Within the paradigms expressed by Perez-Gomez, they seek to establish the necessary level of theoretical and objectively measurable dimensions, such as structural stability, making the building weatherproof, moderation of climate, thermal delight, acoustic performance, economy of energy and materials, and durability of the building fabric. By fine tuning the syllabus through the seminars and lectures, the studio becomes the locus for the application of both theoretical and practical knowledge.

At all levels of the course subject lecturers, supervised by the head of school, determine academic standards and the level of both theoretical and practical knowledge expected of students. Studio masters then map out the nature of studio projects with a studio coordinator checking desired progression over the spectrum of the course. Seminars are then structured along similar lines to a methodology suggested by Moura Quayle and Douglas Paterson in "Techniques for Encouraging Reflection in Design":Instructor-Centered; Individualized; Interactive; Experiential.28 The seminar coordinator, in conjunction with the studio master, establishes the seminar program for each studio project also with a view to the admission of knowledge from the sphere of practice and built work. The finalised seminar program requires close co-operation between the subject lecturers and the seminar coordinator in order that theoretical material is given out as necessary for design application in the studio.

Quayle and Paterson note that "Techniques for encouraging reflection can be used for re-enforcing objectives or information, for constructive criticism, and for identifying the nature of design learning."29 With the application of the new course in recent years, it has been found that the last of these can be achieved by peer learning and group discussion - reflection-in-action in the studio environment - but the first two objectives require a seminar environment to an extent distanced from the studio and supervised by a coordinator who is not the studio master. The authors argue that "The programming of reflection exercises is one way of avoiding an overly linear progression in a studio. The exercises tend to produce creative lateral movement."30 Lateral thought and action is crucial in the design task but can often lead to the establishment of personal solution domains which depart from the core of a solution space; students may easily drift to the periphery and produce either irrelevant designs or excessively innovative ones.31

Gabriela Goldschmidt uses the term "problem representation" to describe the process of deriving problems from the given task materials by an individual designer or design team 32 and notes that "The representation of problems has as much to do with the designer as it does with the task, hence the disparities among what are considered essential design issues by different designers for the same task."33 She goes on to argue that a solution space in architectural designing can be conceived of

"as a bounded area in which or in relation to which there exist yet smaller bounded areas which isolate those solutions that are accessible to a particular designer while following a particular design path. The bounded spaces have centers, which we can see as the loci of central issues or problems pertaining to the design task at hand. If the problems a designer represents to him\herself are central, he or she works within the core of the solution space. It seems natural and sensible for designers to stay around such cores. But ... this is by no means always the case. Designers often work in the periphery of a solution space, where there is less coherence and more ambiguity and uncertainty, where meanings are implicit and ends are loose."34

Cognisant of the above issues, staff planning the new course employed in principle two different kinds of seminars in relation to studio projects. At the beginning of the project "interactive" seminars based in the dialogical process of direct/indirect question and answer, comparative analysis of design objectives, and group discussion regarding problem representation are intended to frame the core of a solution space for each student. After students have searched the given program, with its qualitative and quantitative objectives and constraints, for a solution space within which they select issues and problems considered worthy of attention, other seminars of a more "individualized" and "experiential" nature are programmed to encourage linear progression in design. At this point each designer is expected to produce a proposal which responds to the items included in the program and does not violate imperatives reflecting norms in various aspects of design domains. Of course, constraints are tightened or relaxed according to the nature of the design task and to educational goals. Seminar coordinators attempt to exemplify the implications of both.

Clearly, reflection and contemplation must be engendered by the studio scene. A place of well-being is crucial to the problem of expression, of specifically channelled thought, and to the sequence of representing, testing, and re-framing of the task.35 Quayle and Paterson however, acknowledge that the programming of reflection techniques too frequently can cause students to become self-conscious about their work and effectively become paralysed. Donald Schon also admits that certain tasks require reflex action, where stopping to think or reflect is dangerous, but he believes that the ingrained model of technical rationality generates the fear of immobility. Where designers are able to reflect without fear, attention is given to the scope of reflective attention and intuitive understandings are brought into play.36 In "Toward a Marriage of Artistry and Applied Science in the Architectural Design Studio", Schon provides a rationale for the relevant seminars in the new course at the University of New South Wales. He notes that the studio has much to teach other professional schools on the basis of its traditions of coaching and learning-by-doing; and he argues that teaching what scientists do, rather than their research results, can influence science teaching in the studio.37

Seminars in history and theory, construction, structures, computer application, building services and environmental control embrace prototypes, exemplars and precedents in architectural technology and applied science seeking an ambience conducive to the dialectical process of question and answer in the studio activity of the new course. As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, subjects like construction and structures have a theoretical component and a historical component. The most recent innovation in the course is the establishment of a history/theory seminar at all levels which effects lateral connections in all the theoretical lecture subjects especially with regard to the history of ideas. History is brought into the studio not only as an explanatory and analytical device but as a creative design tool. Students in structures for example, are made aware of cultural history, that there are valid alternatives to the cheapest or most facile structural system; and in construction, that a sense of permanence and durability is an important architectural issue apart from guarantees of longevity made by suppliers of materials.



A most important factor affecting architectural education in Sydney during the earlier twentieth century was that the intense neo-classical debate that transpired in Europe and America about the virtues of the Classic and Gothic styles - arguments that were highly influential in the development of the theories of functionalism and organic architecture - did not occur in Australia in a period of intense building activity.38 Neither were serious architectural students in Sydney at the time sufficiently aware of the practice of the Art Nouveau style in art and architecture nor of the reaction against it by the Austrian movement led by Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos - a reaction crucial to the development of modern architecture.39 Nor did there exist in Sydney in the mid-twentieth century a genre of architectural writing and discussion to compare with that genre in England and America as derived from the influence of the theory and practice of the picturesque movement. The theoretical background to architecture and the decorative arts had derived its impetus from William Morris and his associates in England, an influence which had declined by the end of the nineteenth century. Architectural historiography in Australia has not flourished from the 1960s, the consequence of a lack of scholarly journals devoted to analytical and critical writing. The picturesque-eclectic design practice as developed from the earliest times became the orthodoxy, unchallenged by any sustained theoretical critique - a condition which exists today.

In architectural education the criteria for the validity of designs hinge on interpretive values established in this course by the integration of lectures, seminars and studio activities. The legacy of eclectic design practice in Sydney impinges on this scenario requiring clarification of significant issues. The history/theory seminars, into which the technology seminars are keyed as required, explore deep into the past rejuvenating concerns such as the site as a determinant of form, enclosure, materials, empathy, the podium, decorum, symbolism and stylism, in order to overcome the tendentious, incipient copyism prevailing in architectural design practice. In a recent design project offered by the present writer, a large secondary school based on the Waldorf system of Rudolf Steiner, it was gratifying to see that the history/theory seminar engendered a high standard of design and it also liberated computer graphics studies and modelling of Steiner's Goetheanum, a major dissertation on the syncretic religion of Anthroposophy and a post-graduate study of the influence of the Hermetic Temple on the development of early modern architecture.

A major difficulty in the establishment of the new course was the tendency of specialists who strive for "objective" and "value free" knowledge, to jealously guard their respective domains. Some remain intractable. A particular problem has arisen with the application of computers. Generally, computer modelling, expert systems and knowledge-based engineering are anathema to the hermeneutical process of dialogical argument upon which the course is based. Such applications must be actively discouraged to the chagrin of some positivists, but the use of computer graphics as a exploratory design tool has been encouraged. Overall, the new course has unified the staff encouraging new levels of co-operation, the result of nearly all staff, even specialist visiting lecturers, participating in seminars and therefore relating their contributions to studio design activities. There would seem to be no real obstacle in the foreseeable future that will create a disjunction in this amalgam of applied science and design artistry in the architectural studio.



1 Phenomenology rejects the notion of methodology. It gained a wide following in architecture through environmental psychology and was crystallised by C. Norburg-Schulz, Genius Loci; Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture, Academic Editions, London, 1980.

2 C. Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1964.

3 H. Glassie, 'Reason in Architecture', Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: a Structural Analysis of Historic Artifacts, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1975, p.119.

4 H.A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge MA, 1981. For an account of the potential education of architects, interior designers, landscape architects and urban designers in relation to the quality of the built environment see J. Lang, Creating Architectural Theory: The Role of the Behavioural Sciences in Environmental Design, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1987.

5 T. Heath, Method in Architecture, Queensland University Press, 1985, passim.

6 G. Scott, The Architecture of Humanism: a Study in the History of Taste, Doubleday Anchor, London 1914, p.79.

7 For insights into the changing function of the architectural studio see J. Esherick, 'The Beaux-Arts Experience', Architectural Education 1, Royal Institute of British Architects, London 1983, pp.23-52.

8 Llewellyn Davies, The Education of an Architect, Inaugural Lecture, University College, London. Published by H.K. Lewis, London 1960.

9 See editorial, 'Architectural Education' Architecture Australia, Vol.74, No.5, July 1994, p.23.

10 H. Glassie, op.cit., 'The Architectural Competence', pp.19-20.

11 idem.

12 Le Corbusier, Vers Une Architecture, Editions Cres, Paris 1923, p.55.

13 H. Glassie, op.cit., Ch.7, 'Reason in Architecture', pp. 114.

14 idem.

15 E. Gombrich, 'Hegel and Art History', On the Methodology of Art History, Architectural Design Profile, Architectural Design, London 1981, pp.3-9.

16 For a study of the impact of phenomenology on architectural science see G. Stevens, 'Architectural Science in Retreat? The New Anti-science Movement in Architecture', Architectural Science Review, Vol.31, No.4, pp.145-152.

17 See D.A. Schon, The Reflective Practitioner - How Professionals Think in Action, Basic Books, New York, 1983; idem., The Design Studio, R.I.B.A. Publications, London, 1985. See also P.G. Rowe, Design Thinking, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1987.

18 See M. Heidegger, Being and Time, Basil Blackwell, London, 1962; H. Gadamer, Truth and Method, Sheed and Ward, London, 1975; idem., Reason in the Age of Science, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA., 1981; idem., Philosophical Hermeneutics, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1976.

19 Heidegger, Being and Time, op.cit., pp.190-1.

20 Schon, The Reflective Practitioner, op.cit., pp.77.

21 Gadamer, Truth and Method, op.cit., p.230.

22 A. Snodgrass and R. Coyne, 'Is Designing Hermeneutical?', Working Paper, Faculty of Architecture, University of Sydney, p.14.

23 See E.D. Hirsch Jnr., Validity in Interpretation, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1967; and C.L. Altieri, 'The Hermeneutics of Literary Determinacy: a Dissent from the New Orthodoxy', New Literary History, Vol.10, No.1, 1978.

24 A. Snodgrass and R. Coyne, 'Is Designing Hermeneutical', op.cit. p.10.

25 See R. Maxwell, 'The Two Theories of Architecture', Architectural Education 1, Royal Institute of British Architects, London, Jan. 1984, pp.113-24. Maxwell, successor to Llewellyn Davies at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London University, finds Simon's vision '... an inspiring one, and one which I believe will commend itself more and more as we come to appreciate how complex and dangerous is the artificial world in which we live and in which we must learn to survive.' p.119.

26 A. Perez-Gomez, "Hermeneutics as Architectural Discourse", Cloud-Cuckoo-Land; International Journal of Architectural Theory, 1997, Vol. 2, p.1.

27 Ibid. p.6.

28 M. Quayle and D. Paterson, 'Techniques for Encouraging Reflection in Design', Journal of Architectural Education, Vol.42, No.2, pp.30-42. Fifteen techniques for encouraging informed reflection in design studios are identified and clarified through specific examples: Instructor-Centered; 1. Post-Design Lecture 2. Demonstration: Individualized; 1. Thinking-Mode Changes 2. Programmed Instruction 3. Computer Programs 4. Measured Drawings: Interactive; 1. Individual Critque 2. Questions: Direct/Indirect 3. Comparative Analysis 4. Peer Analysis 5. Group Discussion: Experiential; 1. Design Re-Think and Re-Draw 2. Role Playing 3. Gaming 4. Field Testing.

29 Ibid. p.40.

30 Idem.

31 See generally, G. Goldschmidt, 'Problem Representation versus Domain of Solution in Architectural Design Teaching", The Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, vol.6, no.3, Autumn 1989, pp.204-15.

32 Ibid, p.206.

33 Ibid, p.204.

34 Ibid, p.207. Goldschmidt acknowledges Habraken as the originator of the notion of 'solution space'. N.J. Habraken, The Appearance of the Form, Awater Press, Cambridge, 1985.

35 See generally, J. Zeisel, Inquiry by Design, Brooks-Cole, London, 1985.

36 D.A. Schon, 'The Architectural Studio as an Exemplar of Education for Reflection-in-Action', Journal of Architectural Education, vol.38, no.1, Fall 1984, p.3.

37 D.A. Schon, 'Toward a Marriage of Artistry and Applied Science in the Architectural Design Studio', Journal of Architectural Education, vol.41, no.4, Summer 1988, pp.4-10. Schon considers this problem "in the light of four ideas which are as important to science teaching in general as they are to the special case of science in the architectural studio: 1. Science as a body of research results vs. science as a method of inquiry; 2. Learning theories about phenomena vs. getting a feel for the behaviour of phenomena; 3. Prototypes, exemplars, and precedents in scientific inquiry and architectural designing; 4. Kinds of thinking peculiar to skilled scientists and skilled designers.

38 B. Smith, 'Australian Architecture', Historical Studies, vol.14, 1969, p.14.

39 V. Scully, Modern Architecture: the Architecture of Democracy, George Braziller, New York, 1974, p.24.