Scientific Method & Inspiration

If drawing/modelling in design process is about testing and hypothesizing, is it like or unlike scientific method? Yes, certainly. Scientific method begins with a question or problem, uses research to formulate a hypothesis, and follows this with a series of trial-and-error experiments which are then analysed to come to a conclusion. Drawing and modelling can happen at any stage in the design process, indeed for Renzo Piano they should happen at all stages (Robbins, 1994). They should be used to identify the question or problem, as vehicles for research, for experimentation, for analysis and to represent conclusion. Drawing and modelling are the pictorial equivalent of verbal propositions, mathematical equations, graphs, charts and diagrams. They are appropriate alternatives of these scientific tools when used in architectural design. The natural sciences require other tools because the scientist experiences their content with the mind. Architectural design requires tools that represent pictorially because the architect experiences the elements of his or her task with the senses, and the sense of sight in particular. Of course architects also have rational thoughts and ideas about their work, just as scientists can sometimes see the cells or molecules or effects of magnetic fields  that are the object of their work – rarely, if ever, can anything be experienced or understood purely with the senses or purely with the mind, though that is a debate for philosopher or shaman.

The inspirations that have informed my project work in studio have not so far come from the readings, but from the materials themselves that we have been using. I feel that, apart from making the plasticine island, the tasks have been less about creativity, concept and purpose, and more about listening to the materials, and allowing them to help us explore their use. Of course this does involve creativity, concept and purpose, but on a much more subconscious level, where the doing reveals the concept rather than the concept guiding the doing. It is like the phenomenon of automatic writing, where a person clears their mind while moving a pen randomly across paper so that words appear that they did not consciously intend. Like a graphologist studying the personality of my handwriting, perhaps some psychoanalyst somewhere could read my models and tell me things about myself and the conflict between my conscious and subconscious that even I did not know. I’m not sure I believe that, but maybe the analyst of my models would be able to tell that too.


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