Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Question 3: how knowable?

3. Is the perimeter a knowable circumstance? Or is it, by definition,
formless and out of focus? Is it possible to manage a condition that is
seemingly untamable?

Ahh, EPISTEMOLOGY--my favorite topic in philosophy--(and Immanuel Kant's favorite too.)

Something can be quite knowable and yet not have form or focus: hope, for example. Or in realm of the spatial: the distribution of Starbucks franchises.

To speak of "the perimeter" as a singular noun could be presumptuous. Our studios' topic uses the word as an adjective: "the perimeter projects." (That title was taken from an obscure and barely readable essay published 20 years ago--if it were food you would spit it out instantly--but for good reason that sometimes (not always please) to educate is to confound-- the first step too often neglected by our "expert" counterparts in other fields is to remind ourselves that we don't know much).

A perimeter project could for example be devoted to a frontier of the knowable. Robert Adams' studio went to Fermi Labs to see such a place. My own studio has been hosted by people who believe that much about the Great Lakes is not yet known.

Architect's usual approach to the frontiers of knowledge has been through art more than science, however, and especially, I think, through the art of composition. Much as in music Bach is still the mystical summit of the knowable and not just for simpering snobs, so architecture has its oeuvre. Tastes change of course, but some works endure. But seen though this lens, the discipline of architecture has a knowledge base that appears quite alien to present times--as alien as the English Suites would sound to someone reared on reggae. I mean, who else, except perhaps a few cooks or chemists, has as sense of proportion anymore? Certainly not the mainstream cultural media...

Alas, "to manage a condition", as the question puts it, seems to have little to do with it. (Aside: when I arrived at TCAUP, one senior faculty member astutely advised me that as soon as the junior faculty start talking about any "condition," it is time to leave the room.)

Nevertheless: epistomology of the transurban infrastructural landscape. That is the sort of word length that architecture theorists prefer. What would be brought into harmonious proportion? The flows? Crossover points? Does anybody know?

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