Practical Wisdom 2

“…the Moderns find themselves face to face with raw materiality, or they have to turn towards representations that reside only in their heads…they have to choose between the two, in theory of course, because in practice they never choose…why is what is necessary in practice impossible in theory?” (B. Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, Harvard U.P., p. 163).   By ‘Moderns’ Latour means those subscribing to the Enlightenment project of betterment through the exercise of Reason; and he seeks to suppress a characteristic set of dualities – e.g., matter/thought, object/subject, nature/culture – for the sake of a plurality of “modes of existence”.  Once the perspectivist ‘perception-of’ is abandoned in favour of ‘involvement-with’ or ‘claim-of’, it is obvious that one is no longer operating with the optics of space-and-form (the CAD 4-screen is a 16th century invention) but within a much more rich, concrete, metamorphic, conflicting and granulated continuum of differences that accords significance to non-human agency.  Now orthodoxy in ecological and anthropological writing, the consequences of this revision are still very much unresolved (e.g., the alternately interesting and maddening Tim Morton, The Ecological Thought).  Haunted by Anthropocene guilt, at least three issues attract contribution from architecture – levels of involvement (discourse moves faster than, but depends upon, gestures, the furniture, the room apprehended in peripheral vision), the insights of practice between recollection and anticipation, and the nature of ethics in these conditions.

The seminar will meet once per week and is intended to provide a framework for individual and collective exploration of this milieu from within design practice.  The sequence of seminars will proceed approximately historically, supported by relatively short primary readings (with supplementary readings for those interested).  Grades will be based on participation in discussion (30%) plus drawings assigned at the end of each seminar (1 drawing per seminar) submitted in a ‘book’ with brief text at the end of the semester (70%).  There will be a mid-semester and final reviews of these drawings.  The course is open to anyone who wishes to reflect on design and upon what it contributes to the contexts it articulates.