Theory and Criticism
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
This subject relates--in a way-- to other subjects posted in the last two weeks by Professor Akhtar Chauhan on architectural and engineering projects that transformed our world in the 20th century.

It would be very useful if we can--in parallel-- generate a discussion on what theories have changed the way in which we think about the built environment and Why? Have these theories had an impact on built environment research, teaching approaches, and professional practice?

Below is a quote of Dr. Suha Ozkan that asserts that an engagement in this discussion is needed

According to Ozkan (1999), there is a substantial lack of understanding and precision about theories... "In architecture, validity arises from the set of values that relate to a particular societal setting; the body of knowledge that produces the built environment and architecture varies depending upon the societal context where architecture is practiced (Ozkan, 1999)."

In order to avoid any misconceptions about theories, I am introducing a linguistic definition of the word Theory:

Theory means a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation of a phenomenon. This means that a theory expresses a proposed explanation that is still conjectural.

The word indicates that there is a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it.

I look forward to a fruitful discussion.
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Ashraf,

Now this thread is very critical in analysing and understanding the societal, environmental and technical context of projects that we wish to identify in other two threads, the 100 architectural and engineering projects that transformed our world in the 20th century.

I am glad that you posted a clear definition of the word theory. It would help us to keep our focus.

But I was wondering, if you would like to restrict the discussion to 'architectural theories' or also include theories from other fields such as sociology, economics, politics, arts, linguistic, anthropology, sciences, philosophy etc. Please clarify as soon as possible!

with best wishes,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment

I assume that we are discussing architectural theories that transformed our built environment.

Let me post a name to start the process of identification:


"In my confusion.. it seems that an abyss separates us as to age. I feel on the threshold of my studies, while you are carrying out your plans... I am a bricklayer, working without any plans, in the trenchill You are, nevertheless, of those I know, he who seems to me the most cleary to be carrying out what is stirring within me.."

Charles Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier)
letter to Ozenfant,June 9, 1918

Ozenfant traced the principal lines of the Purist movement at Andernos near Bordeux, France in 1918.

He met Charles Eduoard Jenneret, through the great architect Auguste Perret. Ozenfarnt found a colleague with whom he could work together as a team. They collaborated between 1918 -1 925 and edited a magazine that promoted Purist ideas and designs in architecture, painting and sculpture.
Ozenfant wrote about Le Corbusier " I divined in him a first class energy; the future confirmed it".

APRES LE CUBISME, was the first art book to be published in France after the 1918 Armistice. Ozenfant describes " .. was an optimistic, lyrical song on the beauty and lessons of machines and some of their products, on buildings for use, and on the part to be played by science in art worthy of out time".

Earlier Ozenfant had written in his review L'Elan, Paris, 1916
" cubism deserves an important place in the history of the plastic arts because it has already realized part of its purist design, namely, the purging of the plastic vocabulary by sweeping out parasite words as did Mallarme with language.."

There was some confusion among art historian about the place of purism in developmemnt of art movement.

So Ozenfant clarified:

" A UNIVERSAL law - of greatest economy - dictates that man, like the ass, is tempted to follow the easiest path. Some art critics have found it economical to fuse Purism with Cubism, or even with Neoplasticism, Mondrian wrote in Chiers d'art, No.1, Paris, 1931:
".. the Neoplasticism has continued Cubism and Purism."

Ozenfant asked the critics " Will this quotation of hte father and theoretician of Neoplasticism be enough to confound certain "art historians' who consider Purism as a follower of Mondrian's Neoplasticism?"

Ozenfant refered to Alfred Barr's equation:

Monet Seurat
Pssarro Signac

Intutive Rationalization


Picasso Ozenfant
Braque Le Corbusier

Intutive Rationalization

free: evocative

" GREAT ART is art which minsters to our moral, affectional, and intellectual needs: the "useful" arts minster to needs that are purely practical. They must not be confounded.Despite their different modes of expression, Poetry, Painting, Music, Architecture have identical aims: to inspire us with lofty emotions."

"Let us call Architects, such as conceive edifices in the essential aim to create beuty: votive monuments, temples, trimphal arches, tombs,etc. For here they are as free as the poet, the musician, or the painter: and their chief function, too, is to evoke emotion in us. Every means is good and lawful if it succeeds in stimulating us to lofty sentiments."

Quoted from:
Foundations of Modern Art by Ozenfant
Dover Publication 1952

" Here is a book that will still be read by the men of tomorrow when so many others will have faded into nothingness" Elie Faure.

"A central contribution to modern culture" Lewis Mumford.

For architectural experssion of PURISM refer to the house of Ozenfant and other early houses designed by Le Corbusier. The Schockern Stores by Erich Mendelsohn 1928-29.

Hope this will stimulate a lively debate on the theories that transformed our built environment.

with best wishes,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thank you Akhtar for your last two postings.

In the beginning my intention in raising this issue was to generate a discussion on architectural theories--parallel to the discussion on 20th century projects that you already posted. However, the question you posted in your first response here is triggering and introduce some leads. Thus, I would not limit the discussion to pure architectural theories. There have been theories, philosophical assumptions, generic frameworks and approaches that influenced the way we think about the built environment and I would include them if possible.

Certainly purism and cubism had a great impact on arcitecture and plastic and fine arts. As you indicated this can be seen in the works of Corbu and others in France and Spain. What was new is that Purism was linked to Machine Aesthetics to meet the spirit of the time! The impact of these theories can be seen as well in the works of some German and Russian architects in the first quarter of the 20th. century (sometimes under diferent philosophical frameworks, but the result is the same). However, cubsim continues to exist implicitly and unconsciously in the works of many contemporary architects.

Your mentioning of Auguste Perret reminds me of the great Apartment Building in Paris that he donated to the UIA- to be the headquarters of the International Union of Architects. Machine aesthetics are heavily emphasized in the exposed concrete columns and surfaces that intersect with Oak wood surfaces and ceilings, and some semi-fixed furniture.

It would be great if we can list some of the general theories, philosophical approaches of architecture or other disciplines which influenced our way of thinking in architecture and design. These in my view can be regarded as theories as well.

My best,
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
It is a good topic to start talking. And I see that even the word theory has been precisely defined. But I am having two problems in this regard.

1. Who are the "we". Only the architects and people who have some understanding/education about architecture. or do "we" include others? Educted and noneducated. And even illiterate. Indians, Asians, urbanites, ruralites, Europeans, Americans...? Whatever.

2. Theory. There are theories and "theories". A theory is by some definition which I agree is the one which goes against common sense. That is to say some thing which disproves an existing belief. Like the theory that sun is not going round the earth but the otherway round, when the world believed the opposit. But in architecture as a discipline is not making theories like that. It is a way of putting things together and therefore has a metaphysical dimension to it and a theory is a point of view which dictates a way of looking at or creating built environment. Being so, we may have to necessarily look beyond aproaches like purism/cubism etc. but to thories or rather aproaches on life and living. Has not the darwinian theory of evolution contributed to the way we look at environment. buil;t or natural? Does not gender perspective change the way we build and gaze at buildings and built environment?

B. Shashi Bhooshan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Ashraf,

Good that you have preferred to keep the debate open to theories from other disciplines. I am fine with such an approach. Only that one should be clear about the scope of discussion and its norms.

But then the idea of restricting to twenty theories may have to be revised! I suggest that we shall decide as we move ahead in our discussions.

Now that Dr. Shashi Bhooshan has introduced two theories, evolutionary theory and gender specific theories, the scope of our discussion has widened.
Here we need to identify the theories behind the issues and problems.

Perhaps, we can relate the discussion to theories that address these issues and problems in the field of built-environment.

It would be good if we can give brief idea about the theory we are talking about, its origin, time, place, context and development.

Just a quick check-list which shows that we have to deal with philosophical, political, economic, social, cultural,linguistic, psychological,scientific, technological, aesthetical, ecological and legal, management and development theories!

Humanism, Capitalism, State Capitalism, Socialism, Fascism and Communism

Theory of colonialism and neo-

Theories of Social Change, Growth and Development

Theories of economic growth and development.

Theories like Romantism,Impressionis,
Expressionism,Purism,cubism, Fauvism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Constructivism, Plasticism, Supermatism,Futurism,

Theories of Modernism, Post-modernism

Theories of Structuralism and post structuralism

Theories of human development, social development and economic development

Theory of sustainable development
Theory of socio-technical systems
Theory of gender specific development

Theories in sciences, technology, humanities, education, planning and management, law and governance...

the list is incomplete, .. ..

I am glad that you have already clarified that we need to discuss theories in a particular context of built environment.

"How they have changed the way we think about the built-environment, and their impact on education, research and professional practice." It is going to be tough!

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Whether it has relevence to this discussion or not, Charles Jencks in 1995 referred to Eco-Feminist theory. Still not sure what this is. Has anyone else heard of this?
Shiraz Allibhai
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Akhtar has introduced critical points and I totally agree with him: Origin, time, place, context of a theory are very important issues that associate it and determine its validity in certain discipline and culture, and among a group of people.

You have introduced a great list of theories and philosophical positions and approaches. I hope we can select one by one and start to comment and have more members engaged. I would like to add that the "Mothers" of all of these approaches and theories are the theories of science that influenced our way of thinking and they are translated into some of the theories and positions you have introduced (will get back to this point in later postings).

I realize the difficulty of the the second part "the impact on education, research, and practice" and whether a theory or a philosophical position has influenced the way we think about the built environment. Let's give it a try and endeavor toward some predilections and elaborations.

Shiraz, I am glad that you have introduced a controversial theory. Charles Jencks used to introduce a lot of terms to the vocabulary of architecture including "the Jumping Universe" and I am really not sure how the universe is jumping, why he did not use "changing universe" "ever changing" ...or others. This goes back to the question of "examining terminology" ...

Eco-feminist theory is a result of the stong feminist movements of the mid-eighties in the US and partially in Europe.

In my view it has relevance, IN A WAY ....(I am smiling now, but serious). Ecofeminist is a social theory that stresses the depth to which human realities are embedded in ecological realities.

Ecofeminism was originally associated with the view that women and nature are connected in morally significant ways because both are identified with femininity. This feminity is seen as a source for ecological and social flourishing that is violently degraded in patriarchal cultures. Women and nature are connected because as providers of life and sustenance they are similarly controlled or violated by men or (patriarchy).The theorist Karen Warren phrased the term and the theory and she argues that feminists ought to pay attention to environmental issues and ecological interdependencies.

The theory paved the road to discuss issues of genderization and gender roles in public spaces, in houses,and how the use of certain domestic spaces is controlled by women while other spaces are exclusively for men. it also opened avenues for discussing the role of women in architecture, education. One notices some impacts at the organizational level (organizations, associations, ....), and at the academic research level where a number of studies emerged to address women issues in relation to the physical environment. However, one cannot argue that there is a physical impact.

One of the important books that went to some extremes by Leslie Wiseman - Descrimination by Design-- where she argues that all design and space standards are based on the average male, while females are completely ignored.

By and large, ecofeminist theory has been criticized heavily, even by feminists, since it did not offer much to women or to the environment!!!.
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
this discussionis abit above me, but you all have mentioned alot of theories but what about people like venturi with his complexity and contradaction or learning from las vegas. or rob krier etc ...or is this discussion about something besides this.
Uzair A. Quraishi
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thank you Uzair for your posting. The purpose of our discussions is basically exchange, enlightenment, and learning. So, it is nice to have you in this discussion.

I am not sure they are considered theories, but yes, the books of venturi can be seen as architectural positions that had an impact on the architectural community worldwide. Both address the complexity of the post-modern life style. I would consider the two pieces as an invitation to the architectural community of the sixities and seventies to acknowledge the tastes and values of the public.

Also, the works of Krier have greater influence in Europe, bacially calling for the "neo-traditionalism" as a response to the crisis of the contemporary city. His work--with his colleagues-- provides a deep socio-physical analysis and reflection on the new urbanism movements adopted in several countries and attempts to compare between them (Netherlands, Genrmany and the US).
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
so sir, if these books are architectural positions , who has written the theories,
Uzair A. Quraishi
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
As part of the learning process you will want to go through the preceding postings. The answers to your question are highlighted in the postings that address what a theory is. Perhaps we need to define what a "Philosophical Position" is!
You can ask the following questions as well:
Is there a theory named "Learning from Vegas"? Is there a theory named Complexity and Contradition in Architecture?? There is a huge difference between "Theories" and "Books about Theories and Philosophical Positions in Architecture"
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment

The 20th Century architecture was marked by tremendous creativity. There were several movements and theories that contributed to its development. At the core of these movements was this quest for truth, freedom and creativity.


Rudolf Steiner ( 1861-1925) was a philosopher, architect, artist, playwriter, editor and activist.

At a very early age of 8, he showed interests in spiritual aspects.
". . . the reality of the spiritual world was as certain to me as that of the physical. I felt the need, however, for a sort of justification for this assumption."

He was very active in the fields of arts, sciences and took part in politics. But his central concern was to trace the role of spirit in the process of thinking.

He attended the Vienna Technical University in 1879 and obtained his Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Rostok. He edited Goethe Archive at Weimar during 1989-97.

His publications include his dissertation "Truth and Knowledge: (1892), "The Philosophy of Freedom",
"Friedrick Nietzche: Battle against his time" (1895), "Goethe's conception of the World" (1897). He edited avant-garde Magazin fuer Literatur in 1897.

He was General Secretary of the German branch of Theosophical Society durign 1902-09. He published "Knowledge of the Higher World and its attainment and Theosophy" was published in 1904. He separated from the Theosphical Society over the issue of acceptance of a young Indian boy, J.Krishnamurthi, as a prophet by the leaders of the Society.

He wrote 4 mystery plays during 1910-13. He designed and built the first Goetheanum at Dornach in 1913.

His architecture reflected his quest for spiritual expression in built-environment.

Around 1919, he developed a new system of child education. Since then his followers have founded schools based on his experiments which focus on creativity in many countries.

He developed Anthrosophy as a science of spiritualism. It is a science which is based on observation and is open to investigation. He believed that the quest for spiritualism starts from the struggle for inner freedom.

His followers started Anthrosophical Society in 1913.

The Nazi fascists were after him. In 1922 the first Goetheanum was burnt down by arsonists.

He founded General Anthrosophical Society in 1923. He was involved in its activities intensively before his death in 1925.

His thoughts, works and activities have influenced many architects, scientists,
educationists and thinkers in the early 20th Century in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and later all over the world.

I was introduced to Rudolf Steiner by my penfriend Monika Steiner ( not related to R.S.)of Graz, Austria,while I was studying architecture in Mumbai in 64-70. Later on Miki Desai, an architect friend,showed the work of Rudolf Steiner as part of his lecture at Rizvi College of Architecture and soon I met Aban Wadia a noted educator and Anthrosophist from Mumbai. Then I read "The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity" reprinted in India by the
Oriental Book Centre, New Delhi.

For further information:
Rudolf Steiner Archive can be accessed at

For more details about Anthrosophy visit

with best wishes,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thank you Akhtar for your marvelous posting and for introducing Rudolph Steiner Philosophy. The websites you have mentioned have very valuable information. What is nice in this discussion is that we complement this information by trying to look at the impact on architecture as you indicated.

It seems that there are several commonalities here. I worked as part of a research team on a project in 1993, at the College of Design, North Carolina State University, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The project title was: "Integrating Educational Philosophies into the Spatial Environment of Children", the team included Professor Henry Sanoff, my colleague Jayashri Deshmukh from India-currently based in New York, and myself.

The idea of the research project was simply to see "what impact does an educational philosophy have on the spatial environment"

We identifed three educational philosophies: Rudoloph Steiner, Maria Montessori, and Reggio Emilia then we started to critically analyze a number of elementary school buildings that were designed and built based on these philosophies.

To complement your posting, Rudolph Steiner Philosophy on Children Education was based on three principles:

- The highest endeavor must be to develop human beings, who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction.
- The main concern is art; the art of awakening what is whithin the human being.
- The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility are three forces that are highly important in the development of a child.

How this philosophy is reflected in the way architects think about the school environment? The answer to this question can be seen in the design of Chrisitan-Morgenstern Waldorf School in Rultingen, Gemrany. A two-story building designed be Peter Hubner, the school was largely built by students, teachers, jobless youth, and architecture students. Most of the mateirals were recycled parts of an old office barrack. The layout of the school was based on the grid of a pentagon, with a central drama and eurythmy space taking priority in the spatial organization. Classrooms are located side by side with a circular corridor connecting them.

Chrisitan-Morgenstern Waldorf School,
Rultingen, Gemrany, Peter Hubner

Since drama and eurythmy have a high priority within Anthroposophical schools, the dance space represents the essence of this philosophy in the floor plan. Due to the symbolism of the pentagon, the school building form reflects the holistic spirit of anthroposohpy.

The other two educational philosophies of Maria Montessori and Reggio Emilia have influenced the design of child-care facilities and elemntary schools in Europe and the US. However, several versions of interpretation can be seen in different designs.

My best,
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Positivism and Anti-positivism are two philosophical positions that have a great influence in terms of the way in which we think about the built environment, approach the design of it, and the built product resulted from this thinking. The two positions can be interpreted within two theories:

- Ontology
- A branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being.
- Examines the nature of a phenomenon.

- Epistemology
- A branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge.
- Examines the way in which knowledge about a phenomenon can be acquired and conveyed.

Positivism adopts the conception that objects of sense perception exist independent of the observer's mind. This mean that reality is believed to be "out-there" objective and available for observation by everyone. Positivists believe that the best way to learn about a phenomenon is through the discovery of universal laws and principles.

In Positivism: the built environment/building is seen as an objective reality with components and parts that everyone can observe, perceive and agree upon. Thus, emphasis is placed on the building's common properties and their universal principles. In turn, this leads to the suppression of multiple viewpoints, and opinions about the built environment.

Ani-positivism adopts the coneption that universal laws have direct relation to the human mind. This means that reality is believed to be perceived by people as individuals and in groups, meaning that people acquire different types of knowledge about the same phenomenon. For Anti-positivists, social and cultural contexts and values are extremely important and should not be avoided.

In Anti-positivism: the built environment/building is seen as having multiple realities depending on the background of the observer (architect/designer/user/student). In turn, emphasis is placed upon the values, preferences and lifestyles of people as individuals and in groups.

Now, the question would be: Should architects be positivists, or anti-positivists, or both?

For more discussion on these and other theories: please go to -Architectural Knowledge and Cultural Diversity, William O'Oreilly (ed.) on Archnet Digital Library. This is one of a series sponsored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture that introduces a knowledge-base about theories and their impact on the built environment.

Happy Eid to Archnet Community,
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Mr. Salama,

I am glad that you raised the issue of positivism and anti positivism ( rather I would call it relativism). This was the issue I was trying to focus on my initial reaction asking the question who are the "we" whose thinking has changed

I am not a positivist who thinks that our reaction is wholly controlled by the properties of an object we are reacting to. If we have such a view lots of things said and done in the name of architecture would be untenable. And everything would end up terribly positive!

Our position and world views decide our thinking about built environment. Now the whole question boils down to what theories influenzed our world views. It can be further framed as what theories have influenced our understanding of events around us and in history. This I suppose that cannot be outside the context of history and culture of the "we", the group of people who think and react.

The topic also presupposes that there have been changes in the way "we" think about built environment. It would require some elaboration on the nature of changes and the time frame of changes in the thinking about built environment.

Together, this refers to the time and space; geography, history and cultural context
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Hi everyone, I'm a third year architecture student from england and just beginning to get my head around a few architectural theories. I haven't heard of many of the paradigms you have talked about so far but my limited understanding leads me to believe that these could be described as the framework through which we view architecture and this is a result of the framework through which we view and understand life. This is the same idea touched on by Shashi Bhooshan on the 21st with mention of the darwinian theory of evolution.

As part of my studies I am trying to find "my position" within the field of theory and it seems that in order to find this position i must first understand my worldview as this will be the only true way to arrive at a position that fully expresses what I believe.

My question, although I understand this is a diversion from the topic, is am I going about this the right way? It seems as though many of my course mates have plucked theories from the air with no regard to their real beliefs about life.

Any help gladly recieved!! I shall be reading your continuing discussion with interest.

Dave Williams
Dave Williams
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thank you Mr. Bhooshan for your posting, which is really encouraging for more in-depth inquiry.

Welcome Dave as a new member in archnet community and glad to have you in this discussion.

Let me first reply to Dave's posting:

- Yes, some of the theories or philosophical positions can be described as framework(s) through which we view architecture. I just want to assert and confirm that there are multiple frameworks not one (even in one specific period of time).

- The expression of "MY world view" is completely wrong. The term "World View" should not be associated with "MY", otherwise it is not "world View", it is "YOUR Own View"

- To answer your question, I would say there is no ONE right way, there are right ways--in qualitative terms.

Now, back to the issues Mr. Bhooshan is raising, I would like to comment first that there have been a considerable number of pioneering books that discussed the concepts of CHANGE, DEVELOPMENT, PARADIGM SHIFTS. Below are some of them:

- Alvin Toffler's three books: The Future Shock, Power Shift, and the Third Wave
- Thomas Kuhn: The Strucutre of Scientific Revolutions
- Donald Schon series of: Beyond the Stable State, Technology and Change, and The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action.

I agree with your statement that a position and a worldview determine our thinking about the built environment.

Positivism and Anti-Positivism are widely acknowledged theoretical positions, and I do not think they need to be renamed to (Relativism).

Partially, one can agree with the assumption that "the question is narrowed down to what theories have influenced our "worldview", and this is based on the definiton of what a worldview is:

"An organized way--shared by a large number of people in a specific period of time-- of describing, explainig, interpreting, all phenomena based on underlying assumptions that can not be proven but are assumed to be true" However, some worldviews co-exist in a specific time frame, while some are seen as successive, or sequential.

On that basis, one can argue that some theories or philosophical positions (at the individual or at the group level) emerge, flourish, decline, re-emerge, ...and so on. Thus, theories go through a cycle of phases, some complete the cycle while others don't.

To Continue......

Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Hi all,

It is developing into discourse on world views (W/V). That is interesting.

I personally have problem with the Anglo/American positivism, though I do not position myself anti positive. Logical positivism or simply positivism as a general W/V tried to dominate most of the English speaking (using) cultures and societies for the last a century or more. Tough the term was first used by French philosopher Auguste Comte and the Vienna Circle was responsible for much of its development. One can read the spread of positivism parallel to the hegemonic emergence of US over political and economic space during this period especially after world war two. Whether there is any causal connection is another matter. Any way, the positivist arrogance of claiming that as the only right way has sidelined the entire Continental philosophies and W/Vs, not to mention the Orientalists, Indian, Buddhists, Islamic, Chinese and others.

Rudolf Carnap and the famous VIENNA CIRCLE leading to spread of positivism looked at the word from a reductivist scientific angle. Carnap-Heidigger debate on this is particularly interesting. The anglo american universities made this view as THE world view in last 50 years. Phenomenological and dialectical approaches to analysis had been little known in English speaking world until recently, but that does not mean they are unimportant. Dialectics and dialectical materialism has been particularly discredited for a long time in the US.

This being the case it is no wonder that all other views are labeled under anti positivists. I dont know if this paradigm of the terminology- even if universally accepted, I have not seen many people using it outside US- is a deliberate choice or not. But it certainly alludes primacy to positivism over other W/Vs. That is the reason why I dont like to use that label.

I think there is no harm in saying MY W/V. Literal meaning apart. It only means the W/V one adapts or subscribes to. If one is of that caliber, one could even cause to develop a particular W/V! It is like saying MY school, though I am only part of it.

Back to the discussion. As built environment is a product of culture, the way WE look at it will depend on who we are. Centers of North America and US today hegemonically overpower the capitalist world system. The cultural symbols produced in such centers spread fast in the capitalist/ consumerist world by means of media and goods. The environmental and built goods and cultural symbols of power and `progress' (scientific, technological, positivist and seemingly neutral) entrench themselves in the psyche of people and ones vies in this regard depends one how much one is part of the system knowingly or unknowingly. Even the theories and their influence on the way think about our built environment depend a lot on economic and political developments. And I think dialectics is at work.
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
A building is akin to dogma; it is insolent, like dogma. Whether or no it is permanent, it claims permanence, like a dogma. People ask why we have no typical architecture of the modern world, like impressionism in painting. Surely it is obviously because we have not enough dogmas; we cannot bear to see anything in the sky that is solid and enduring, anything in the sky that does not change like the clouds of the sky.

Author: G. K. Chesterton
Budoor Bukhari
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
hi everyone,
why do we have to attach all these philosophies to architecture vis. positivitism and antipositivitism etc..??
is not design the bottom line in architecture. philososphies such as these, (i mean, something as abstract) are nowhere to be found in other streams or forms of the design process. who has heard of the design philosophy behind the design of a... lets say ..a camera. it has a function to perform, it can be sleek, look good, but where is the need for a philosophy. there could be design styles or approach or is there a plane that i fail to reach?
Minu Agarwal
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thank you Budoor for your posting.

Minu, below are some thoughts about your posting:

1- I believe you need to re-think your posting, and also you need to understand the context, nature and phrasing of the question, and the various postings.

2- You need to read about what DESIGN means? In one of the discussion topics here on Archnet, there is a thread about the meaning of design, I encourage you to read it and post your ideas under it.

3- You need to ask yourself why you are taking courses and classes in theory, history of architecture and design. Or, you may ask your instructors and colleagues.

4- I wonder who told you that there are no theories and philosophies behind the design, manufacturing, and production of CAMERAS, or any product. Perhaps, you have not had a chance to know or to hear about them. In fact, most of the design theories and philosophies were generated by industiral and product designers (people who design cameras and other products).

5- This is why they in many parts of the world "industrial" or "product" design departments exist within colleges of technolgy, design, and sometimes within schools of architecture. In these programs and deparmtents students study theories and design of different products including cameras.

6- This why they study in product/industrial discilplines "HUMAN FACTORS ENGINEERING that include Anthropometirc Studies and Ergonomics.

7- This is why they have in many parts of the world "industiral design" magazines, "product design" research journals that present theories, philosophies and research findings on the design and manufacturing processes of different products. I encourage you to just flip the pages of Journal of Design Studies as an example.

8- To complete the picture for a better understnading of design, below are some definitions of design (developed by industrial designer as well as architects):
Industrial Designers:

- Design is Decision Making in the face of uncertainty with high
penalties for errors (ASMIOW)
- Design is Simulating what we want to make before we make it as many times as may be necessary to feel confident in the final result/product (BOOKER)
- Design is a process of Relating product with situation to give satisfaction (GREGORY)
- Design is Initiating change in man-made environment (Chris Jones)
Architects and Product Designers:

- Design is an activity that links theory with particular problems
- Design is an intuitive and reasoning activity
- Design is an activity of exploring solutions
- Design is an activity that links the problem in hand with past experiences
- Design is an activity that includes political and economic trends
- Design is not an activity of invention, but one of selection between competing alternatives
- Design is an activity of verbal, numerical, and form exploration
- Design is an activity of gathering information about social, psycholigical, and functional needs of a group of people

9- Collectively, the above definitions provide insights toward understading the nature of design as a mental and a practical activity, as a process and as a product.

10- Everyone as a community member of Archnet is entitled to actively participate in any intellectual discussion. But, if someone is not happy about a topic or a discussion thread, he/she is not obliged to participate.

11- Good luck Minu, and I hope you now realize that Cameras and other products have theories and philosophies behind their design, functions, they way they work, and their aesthetics and the way they look.
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Hi all,
Thanks Mr. Salama for taking pains to explain why design is not a nutral activity and there is nothing like simple pure value free design without theoretical positioning. Functional design is also one approach, though not the only one, and that also is based on certain theretical positioning. Sometimes, mostly, one is not aware of ones position.

Minu, if simple functions define design of cameras, will not all cameras look alike. Apart from that, arhitecture is more to do with how one approaches life and how society is organised and that is not value free. And no design or architecture happens out of the blue. Architecture evolves and even the most celebrated original architecture would have links with and related to what has happened before. Functionalist modernism was not possible in fuedal middle ages and the industrial society and evelving global capitalism was necessary to support and nourish it. Theories make you understand the evolution and one takes position or approach depending on the values in life one subscribes to.
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thank you Dr. Bhooshan for your concise straight-forward explanation. I would like us to move forward:

We have discussed a number of theories (architectural & non architectural), I am listing the three that we have somehow elaborated upon:

- Purism/Cubism
- Ecofeminism
- Anthrosophy

Then you and I have introduced and discussed a number of General theories of looking at things:
- Darwinian Theory of Evolution
- Gender
- Positivism and Anti-positivism

Professor Chauhan has displayed a number of theories for the sake of stimulaitng the discussion.

Now, as you are theoritician, would you kindly list three or four or any number of theories that have had impacts on our way of thinking about architecture and the built environment, and let's put the context aside.

My best,
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear friends,

Here is an interesting contemporary philosophical position:

Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness

A growing consensus of scientists, scholars, and visionaries now recognizes that the Earth Community is facing an unprecedented evolutionary challenge. The ecological, political, and spiritual crisis of late modernity calls for a fundamental reorientation of our civilization, including a transformation of both our institutions and our own consciousness. The cultural historian Thomas Berry has called this task "the Great Work."

The Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Program has been designed to help shape the intellectual, moral, and spiritual leadership necessary for meeting this historic challenge. Drawing upon some of the most powerful ideas and impulses of our philosophical, scientific, and religious traditions, the PCC faculty have constructed an intensive multidisciplinary course of study to help accelerate the journey into your particular leadership role within this work.

The PCC Program will support those called to this great work in three distinct but related areas:
by offering new perspectives and paradigms to build a better world-- these include the emerging new cosmology as well as cultural, psychospiritual, and eco-social accounts of who we are, where we have come from, and where we might be heading;

by exploring new ways of thinking and being that are both visionary and pragmatic, and that resist the paradigm of fragmentation and reductionism which continues to reign within the dominant culture;

by offering students a challenging, supportive, and heartful learning community in which to find their voice as leaders, capable of understanding worldviews and assessing their merits through a deep and broad grasp of cultural history and contemporary critiques.

Another way forward is possible.
Transformation of the entire human project is possible.

The PCC Program is dedicated to this crucial evolutionary task.

The Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness concentration is an area of study within the Philosophy and Religion program at CIIS. The curriculum was designed in the early 1990s by a group of distinguished scholars, teachers, and activists who share a sense of the unique gravity and promise of our moment in history. The program is inspired by a three-fold vision: to revive the original essence of philosophy as the love of wisdom, to pursue a truly multidisciplinary study of cosmology based on the evolutionary unfolding of the universe and the Earth community, and to explore the inner worlds of consciousness and the psyche. Central to the PCC vision is the conviction that these three aspirations profoundly overlap and affect each other.

Each of the major areas in PCC encompasses specific fields. Philosophy at PCC moves beyond the conventional academic forms to embrace such subjects as the history of ideas, metaphysics, complexity sciences, esoteric thought, ecofeminism, and new paradigm studies. Cosmology in PCC includes not only the latest discoveries from astronomical and evolutionary science but also the study of cosmological and ecological ideas in politics, culture, and religion. The study of Consciousness in PCC incorporates depth psychology, archetypal studies, cultural history, transpersonal theory, ecopsychology, mythology, and religious studies. While the PCC program is primarily grounded in the Western cultural and intellectual tradition, it is enriched at every point by contributions from Asian and indigenous cultures -- and is tested in the fire of our own experience.

text courtesy:

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
really dont know much about architectural theories...but i find the principles of Albert Speer really impressive...
to add to the list, perhaps...can we talk about his theory of "ruin value"...according to this "all new buildings would be constructed in such a way that they would leave aesthetically pleasing ruins thousands of years in the future. "

a less magniloquent, but i believe " socialism" in modern context, specially in the third world countries has played an important role in letting architects realize the real need of the time and design accordingly...perhaps the works of architects like Hassan Fathy or Laurie Baker can be catagorized under this.

the topic floated is no doubt, thought provoking and interesting and full of intellectual approach.

but, like most of the students, i have a major problem with the pure theoretical words/phrases...:- most of the times i have tried to innovate in my design, i tried to be happy with the "new" kind of work i was dramatically named only as an influence of some theories, i have never known about...and these words have really never helped me improve my designs.

as far as the comprehension of most of other students like me is concerned, the theories are "devised" during analysis by writers, except the ones propagated by a very few who had predetremined notions about the design philosophy...
"...In architecture, validity arises from the set of values that relate to a particular societal setting..."
" ...a theory expresses a proposed explanation that is still conjectural."
"...Design is Simulating what we want to make before we make it "

i find it difficult to relate the theories like CUBISM, DECONSTRUCTIVISM, POST STRUCTURALISM, etc to the "societal settings". donot"such" theories limit the scope of architectural practice within literary aesthetics?
when we relate these theories to buildings, are we always sure that the architect had similar notions in his mind before he started working on the design? if not, then how do these theories support the principles of design?
is not functional design, explained with simple words, a better approach so that even a not-so-intellectual common man, who happens to be our client actually understands our efforts and enjoy the built environment?
please counsel!
P Das
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
but it does not mean every set of relate statements are theory.

......In architecture, validity arises from the set of values that relate to a particular societal setting; the body of knowledge that produces the built environment and architecture varies depending upon the societal context where architecture is practiced (Ozkan, 1999)."....
theory :a {coherent} group of general propositions...coherent propositions..which means 1_clear and 2_easy to understand statements expressing 1_a theory or 2_an opinion 3_an offer or 4_a suggestion.
but nor philosophically neither scientifically this is not definition of {theory}.as, has been said ,by ashraf salama,it is just an linguistic definiton of {theory}
.as an example:
Argument: in philosophy,An argument is a connected series of statements or propositions, some of which are intended to provide support, justification or evidence for the truth of another statement or proposition. Arguments consist of one or more{{ premises}} and a {conclusion}.
In everyday life, we often use the word "argument" to mean a verbal dispute or disagreement. This is not the way this word is usually used in philosophy. However, the two uses are related. Normally, when two people verbally disagree with each other, each person attempts to convince the other that his or her viewpoint is the right one. Unless he or she merely results to name calling or threats, he or she typically presents an argument for his or her position, in the sense described above. ....In philosophy, "arguments" are those statements a person makes in the attempt to convince someone of something, or present reasons for accepting a given conclusion.
In normal conversation, certain important elements of an argument might be left implicit or unstated.

{premises}:ALL the body of knowledge that produces the built environment varies depending upon the societal context .
ALL ARCHITECTURE is build_nevironment
{ conclusion} In architecture, validity arises from the set of values that relate to a particular societal setting.
one who read this argument, probably thinks that the conclusion is justified by the premise, but he or she would be mistaken. The reasoning here is fallacious. The premise could be true without the conclusion being definitely or even probably true.

{premises}validity arises from the body of knowledge that produces architecture.
In architecture,{ALL}the body of knowledge varies depending upon the societal context where architecture is practiced .
{conclusion}In architecture, validity arises from the set of values that relate to a particular societal setting.
other conclusion of thiese phrases is that {all particular societal settings are valid.!!!!!!}
Arguments must be separated off from other uses of language, such as to explain something, give an example, or tell a story.

there is a big question..:
so called {social sciences},are realy science{physic,chemistry,....}?
Keykavoos Amini
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
keykavoos i wish u could leave those {[paranthesis]} out of your replies. as if its already not confusing, u add {paranthesis} where they are not required, and it all becomes like a [{riddle}].
Ali Hassan Salameh
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear ali hassan salameh
thank you for your attention.for me,until our comments in these forums are focused on topics,names of people are just diverse signes for diverse minds.nothing else.but when someone follow personal comments,rise some question:are agent educated?are student?are educated architect?or non educated architect? set a relevant answer.totally i do not follow and suggest others to dont follow personal comments.
after all,it is interesting to have your comment about {theory},{scientific theory},or worlviews about particular fields!!!?

best regards
Keykavoos Amini
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
some of the threads here are becoming rich enough to form a great basis for some kind of publication!

anyway, for my two cents, i would say that, as some of the responses here have touched upon, i believe the main effects on architecture come from the overeall theories that drive every culture: the worldview changing (paradigm shifting)theories, and many of these come from revolutions in knowledge (theological, philosophical, scientific). most 'theories' quoted above can in fact fall back into major moments and paradigms.

those who are familiar with my work would recognise my suggestion that the city (and by extension architecture) has been following three moments in the history of knowledge: 1. the Organic Worldview (pre-cartesian), 2. the Mechanical Worldview (born with the Objective Revolution in Science) and 3. the current worldview, i call it the "Quantum paradigm", and it promises a synthesis of organic/ecological with scientific/informational ideas, with potentialy far-reaching effects on architecture.

i invite those interested to read this paper: THE 70 YEAR ITCH OR THE DAWN OF THE QUANTUM CITY, and those who have Quantum City will find many of the themes of this forum in the first 2 chapters.

all the best to all.

i hope these discussions are archived!

[[[LUCIEN, SHIRAZ, whatever happened to our idea of throwing together a New Science/New Architecture Conference? we have a Word to spread! :) ]]]
Ayssar Arida
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Parshant, Thanks for your posting. I read with interest your argument before you edited it and after. I would like to let you know that the reason I am here in this forum, is simply students. To me, they are the most important component of this community, because they represent its future. There are good ways where students can introduce their ideas, and you have already done so. But, when students introduce their ideas in a manner that places "low value" on the discussion, someone should draw their attention.

Your point is valid, and certainly any theory has reaches and limits. Thus, we are not saying that one theory would be a key to the production of the environment. The attempt in this discussion is to simply try to think of how a theory influences our way of thinking by establishing links between a particular theory to a particular form of production of "Architecture." How a theory would have any kind of impact on our way of thinking, and how this impact is manifested in the built environment. I hope the discussion will continue as it was intended, so that its objectives are achieved.

Keykavoos; many thanks for your elaboration on the meanings of some terms such as Arguments, Premises, Conclusions,....However, this is not the intention of the discussion. We can generate a discussion on "research methods" and the the associated terminology and start to debate some issues if you are interested.

Ayssar, thanks for your posting: I would like to add to yours, that the classification of Organismic world view, Mechanistic world view, ....the current world view is not new, what is new is relating the current world view to the quantum theory.

There have been some studies developed in the early eighties at the university of Pennsylvania. One of them is a Ph.D. Dissertation (1984), titled "World Views and the Design Decision Literature 1950-1980, by Moustafa Baghdadi. Creating Architectural Theory (1987) by Jon T. Lang has also addressed the world views, and many others. Both Baghdadi who was a student of Lang and Lang introduced the three world views: Organismic, Mechanistic, and Systemic. So, they have based the "Current" world view-and that was in the eighties- on the "General Systems Theory" and Cybernetics. In short, what is new in Ayssar's work is basing the current world view on the "new Science" or the "new Physics", and this has not been addressed before, it is new reading and interpretation of the current paradigm or world view.

There have been continuous analysis and criticism of the field of theory in architecture/built environment. Below are some positive and negative arguments stated by theorists, The positive statements represent a recognition of the role of theories in the practice of architecture and their value for architects/designers and their thinking about the environment (process/product). The negative statements represent criticism against theories:

Positive Statements

Tom Health 1991:18
Theory seeks to discover by critical inquiry what actually happens, to show how things work ... Theory does not seek to persuade people to do this or that.

Peter Rowe 1987:115
To the extent it has a community of subscribers, theory represents a corpus of principles that are agreed upon and therefore worthy of emulation.

Fesrikowski et al.,
All great theories reflect this understanding: a deep intellectual and intuitive understanding of past and present conditions, and only they contain truly creative possibilities.

Fitlinger 1977 - 1997
When theory and practice are united in one person, the ideal condition of art is attained, because art is enriched and perfected by knowledge.

Pablo Bonta 1979:64
Theory can change practice by legitimizing usages condemned by previous theories.

Alexander Tzonis 1972 : 16
... Theory is related more to the investigation of systems of decision making in design than to the verbalization of different design decisions.

Negative Statements

Peter Collins 1965:16
An architect thinks of forms intuitively and then tries to justify them rationally; a dialectical process governed by what we may call his theory of architecture, which can only be studied in philosophical and ethical terms.

Jose Merquior 1985:85
Theory is not like a pair of glasses; it is rather like a pair of guns; it does not enable one to see better but to fight better.

Diana Agrest 1991.1
Architecture tends to make an absolute separation between theory and practice, between analysis and synthesis. This difference, however, could be better expressed in the difference between discourses: an analytical, exploratory, critical discourse and a normative discourse. Most theories are developed within the first category, while practice falls into the latter.

Mart Wigley 1988-19
The traditional status of theory has changed. No longer it is some abstract realm of defense that surrounds objects, protecting them from examination by mystifying them ... propositions now take the form of objects rather than verbal abstractions.

Pablo Bonta 1979-231
... In fact, designers very seldom acknowledge having been influenced by the writings of historians or theoriticians.

I hope this would clarify the ambiguity of the term "theory" and how people look at the role of theory in architecture.

Best to all,
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Ashraf,
I believe, sir, that the essence of my posting is unaltered. Only a few later postings made me fear that my statements were misleading to some negative notions that I had never meant. Thank you for your response, but perhaps, you should please drop the notion that any responses can be intended to place low value to the discussions. I believe these are all reactions...honest, raw, reactions.

The discussion is really growing into a rich archive. Lots like us will benefit.
P Das
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thank you Parshant for your note. No, the essence of your posting was not altered at all. Yes, the discussion is moving and useful. However, it is not the "notion" of placing low value on discussion topics, it is the way ideas are introduced. I had a discussion recently with our friend Mirjana Dvetakovic, and we were talking about the "e-etiquette." and the need for some kind of guiding principles for running, managing, and forms of interventions in online discussion fora. Best,
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
The discussion on theories has shifted in this thread. However, before moving forward, it is important to highlight some paradigm shifts and their impact on our way of thinking in architecture and education, I believe this is one of the aspects that are not emphasized in our debate. In case any of the discussants is interested, I have written an article entitled: Environmental Knowledge and Paradigm Shifts: Sustainability and Architectural Pedagogy in Africa and the Middle East can be found in Archnet digital library Salama, Ashraf M.A., William O'Reilly &, Kay Noschis, eds. 2002. Architectural Education Today: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Lausanne: Comportements..

I would like to share with you all three paradigm shifts, and I will name them: The Old and the New. This classification is based on the principles of the "Mechanistic" world view, and the "Current" world view (whatever we would like to name it). Some theorists classify these two paradigms (old and new) as Machine Age and Systems Age (A classification of other world views is at the end of this posting).

Paradigm Shift 1
Things Versus Relations between Things:
The old paradigm adoped the view that the dynamics of the whole can be understood from the properties of the parts, while the new paradigm adopts the view that the properties of the parts can be understood only from the dynamics of the whole.
Example: In the old paradigm, the built environment was viewed within the quantifiable attributes of space. In the new paradigm, the built environment is viewed within relationships between process, product, and people. This impact is evident when thinking of housing projects, workplaces, learning environments.

Paradigm Shift 2
Fight Versus Fit with Nature, or
Economy and Ecology: Isolation Versus Integration

The old paradigm is characterized by three aspects: A) Man is more valuable than nature, B) Man has the right to conquer and subdue nature, and C) Man has no responsibility for nature. In the new paradigm, the environment is valued alongside economic development, and social equity is valued alongside material growth.
Example: Sustainability, sustainabile development, humane architecture,smart growth ...etc. are sub-paradigms that emerged in architecture and planning as a reaction/result to the overall view.

Paradigm Shift 3
Reductionism Versus Wholism
The old paradigm adopted the belief in reductionism, while the new paradigm adopted the belief in wholism.
Example (education): In the old paradigm, education is not treated as a whole, and the educational process is reduced to a number of disconnected components. Based on the Machine age philosophy, students are treated as machines in an assembly line, and they are evaluated based on their abilities to retrieve what they have been shown or told. Teachers also are treated as factory workers, where production is the key. In the new paradigm, education is treated as part of a process much of which occurs within society where students have opportunities to relate the pieces of information tpgether and to differentiate between relevant from irrelevant information.

I hope this would stimulate some debates
There have been different names, and interpretations of the world views. Below are some of them:

The world-view of the classical sciences which conceptualises nature as a machine composed of intricate but replaceable machine-like parts.

All phenomena are ultimately the result of matter/energy interactions. Humans can be objective observers.

We learn about reality by studying what we can measure and by reducing complex phenomena to their constituent parts.

Natural systems are wholes with irreducible properties. Natural systems are self-maintaining and adaptive in response to self-creativity in other systems.

The universe is seen as an interconnected whole that is intimately connected to the consciousness of the human 'observer'.

Higher (or deeper) states of consciousness are possible than the limited ego-bound state.

I look forward to more postings and interaction.

Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment

One of the foremost thinkers on the issue of ecology and philosophy is Prof.
Henryk Skolimowski of Poland.He was honored by eco-philosophy symposium in 1999.

The Marshal of the Polish Parliament held a symposium to celebrate the 25th anniversary of eco-philosophy on Oct. 26, 1999 in Warsaw. Eco--philosophy was created and then developed by Henryk Skolimowski, professor emeritus of humanities.

More than 200 philosophers, ecologists and activists, as well as parliamentarians attended the event. Eco-philosophy, or ecological hu-manism, calls for the appropriation of man to nature and views man as being part of nature rather than having dominion over it. Skoli-mowski has published numerous books to out-line the philosophical system, including Living Philosophy, Eco-Philosophy as a Tree of Life, A Sacred Place to Dwell, Living with Reverence Upon the Earth, and Eco Yoga, Practice and Meditations for Walking in Beauty on the Earth.

What is Eco-philosophy?
Eco-philosophy is "ecological" in the broadest sense: it sees humanity as one with nature, as an integral part of the process of evolution which carries the universe onward from inanimate matter to life, to consciousness, and ultimately to divine.

The central concept of eco-philosophy is "The World as Sanctuary". This is offered as an alternative to the Newtonian vision of "World as a Machine". This new worldview emphasizes the unique, precious, and sacred nature of our planet. All other principles of eco-philosophy follow from this one.
The five key tenets of eco-philosophy are:
1) The world is a sanctuary.
2) Reverence for life is our guiding value.
3) Frugality is a precondition for inner happiness.
4) Spirituality and rationality do not exclude each other, but complement each other.
5) In order to heal the planet, we must heal ourselves.
Eco-philosophy arose in response to the failings of both the mechanistic worldview and the impotent linguistic/analytic philosophy that came from it. These failings are evident in our violent and selfish attitudes toward fellow humans, and in our widespread abuse of the environment.

Eco-philosophy is philosophy as it should be -- meaningful, relevant, and participatory. It is not the stuff of dusty library books, but rather a thoughtful, contemporary approach to understanding the world, and ourselves.

He is at present based at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.

I am aware that in every country there are several scholars and professionals, centre of research and institutes of education who are engaged with the issues of environment and sustainable development. Architects need to learn from them and collaborate with them in evolving a sustainable and environment friendly architecture. A Japanese friend of mine, Architect Koichi Nagashima calls this ecotecture as opposed to what one generally finds egotecture.

for further details please visit:

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Hi all,

MMMM. The discussion is really getting thick and wide, though there are only very few participating! I missed a lot for the last week; I could not read and respond to all that happened last 10 days.

Ashraf: I am not a theoretician per se. I am in the thick of practice and a little, very little, teaching. How ever, I have interest in theory and do not hold any view irrelevant in architecture. One of the great lessons of twentieth century should be that there is nothing absolute! About anything. I believe so.

I think you have missed my point in the repeated posting that theories are not directly responsible for the way we look at environment. (I take that WE means architects and planners) But history and social and economic evolutions are. A theory is a set of propositions, which formally establish the relationship between things, and explains certain phenomena. It could be used to support a design and architecture. A design theory has to fit into the current social realities to be successful. Because architecture is not a fully autonomous activity. Further, as a metalanguage, architecture cannot convey all with out the help of intertexuality of words.

Das: Even when you talk about functionalism, please do not forget that much of social productions in built environment are not of functionalist category. The functionalist modernism has been a predominant view for quite some time and that has made it look like simple and unquestionable. I do not think that all common men do follow the functionalist logic always. There are non-functional aspects of architecture like novelty and symbolism which people look at more passionately.

I do not consider that post modernism or deconstruction or post structuralism and all literary and psychoanalytic theories have no relevance in architecture. It all comes as a reaction to the modern condition in the west. As modernity has not been fully arrived in most developing countries, these theories make no direct relevance to the conditions of the developing or eastern cultures. And most often, the architectural applications of these theories tend to be mindless transfers of visual images without trying to evolve a social idea and converting that idea into building. Such design evolution requires an active community critically examining and participating in the environmental production beyond the idea of novelty, social status, and commercial profit. Architecture has to become worth discussing in public.

So I come back to my stand that critical theories of any kind make sense or influence the environment only as much as the larger social conditions fit into it. That does not make any theory per se irrelevant or even relevant. Surface appliqué masquerading as theory or as justifications (crutches in support) of design is, however, questionable.
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment

Here is an interesting issue.

How does a practicing architect function (understand,design, build,critcal appreciate, develop) with respect to theories and social context?

Earlier, Hammad Husain has also made some critical comments in this regard, which necessitates that we probe this issue deeper. Now, Dr. Shashi Bhooshan has made observations that call for some deep thinking on the issue.

This leads to the following questions:

Why do we need a theory in any discipline and in architecture in particular?

What role does a theory play in developing an understanding?

What is the contribution of theories in developing expertise?

How does a practice architect practice, with respect to theory?

Do practicing architects create, design and build, architecture without any theoretical know-how?

What is the knowledge base of a practicing architect and what is the contribution of theories to the knowledge base?

How much of this knowledge base is applied in practice and what is the contribution of theory in this practical application?

How does a practicing architect understand a context: human, social, cultural, economic, political, legal, environmental, technical, artistic and philosophical, while designing, planning, building, conserving, developing and managing an architectural project?

How societies function with respect to theories? How much of their functioning is influenced by theories?

How can societies afford to use only a part of the few of the theories and
why do they dump most of the parts and most of the theories to the dustbin of history?

How does a society appreciate a practice with / without theoretical
understanding ?

We are probing something very sensitive, therefore, it is advisable that no one takes this personally but we should all collaborate in this probing.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear All;

Thank you Akhtar for introducing very important questions, but I wonder why you say they might be taken personally; it was never the case in previous discussions!

I am just having couple of notes here: Hammad did not participate in this thread. I believe the discussion is already deep. However, yes your questions put the issues in focus, and if discussed seriously--the value of the subject will be evident.

I will get back to your questions. But, I am really frustrated that in this and in other discussions very few people participate, and perhaps the same people and actors. Are we raising irrelevant issues? or, are we raising difficult issues? are we raising issues that are not of interest to Archnet community?

Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Akhtar;

I reviewed all the postings in this thread, and I found that many of your questions are answered --partially-- in my postings of November 25, December 4, and December 6. I ask you to kindly go through them. The negative and positive statements about "theory" is a "content analysis" mechanism, where specific messages dervied from the literature are identified. The statements establish links between theory and practice and highlights reaches and limits of theories of architecture.

However, below is another endeavor, I hope this one complements my previous postings!

1. In its Latin and earlier Greek usage, theory originally was conceived as the ideal of a spectator contemplating an event. This notion of theory is now obsolete. However, some people argue that the stance of the theorist as a spectator still infects the conception of theory as a way of viewing or construing matters outside or beyond a discipline or set of practices. Paul Alan Johnson (1994) and others made a close examination of the use of the word "theory" over two centuries. Their investigation reveals interesting results. In some cases, it has been used as a hypothesis; a proposition made as a basis for reasoning. In other cases, it has been utilized as a starting point for further investigation. All in all, it has run the full range of notions--as argued by theorists-- from the principal to the idiosyncratic.

2. According to Jon T. Lang in his book Creating Architectural Theory (1987), successful theories consist of simple but powerful generalizations about the world and how it operates. These generalizations enable us to predict accurately future operations. A theory can not be proved, but it stands until it is disproved. Lang goes to the extreme and argues that theory must address issues of practice and if theory does not do this, then it is irrelevant.

3. When looking at the evolution of the profession, one can observe that what has been referred to as the "theory of Architecture" has predominantly been the cumulative body of knowledge that has been stemming from interpreting ideas about architecture within a specific value system or a specific social and prefessional milieu.

4. Linguists argue that the word theory means a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena. A theory expresses a proposed explanation that is still conjectural. The word indicates that there is a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it.

5. The core of any theory of architecture is the conception that there are two conjoint worlds: the external and the internal. The external world is the world of things- objects that is assumed as given and potentially knowable. The internal world is the world of hypothesizing that includes thoughts, imaginings, and interpretations. According to Johnson (1994), the internal world accommodates the conceptions of the external world, molded by notions handed down across generations through persuasion. He affirms that architectural theory inhabits the internal world constituted by our assumptions, concepts, ideas, attitudes, and intentions. In many respects, the internal world appears to be dualist in the mind / body connections it makes. However, it is monist, since it is only knowable by our constructs of it and through our experience of it.

6. Unlike positivist philosophers who deny the metaphysical world, architectural theorists tend (need) to incorporate the metaphysical in their explanations of architectural exemplars (please refer to my posting of November 25). Other than positivists, one can link the empiricist and rationalist approaches with architectural theories. Empiricists argue that ideas and concepts can be known only from experience. On the other hand, rationalists argue for the innate and for the authority of external principles. If this division is accepted, it is evident that most architects and architectural theorists would claim that they have a foot in both worlds with principles guiding action and experience judging the rightness/wrongness of such action.

7. The preceding paragraphs suggests that theory becomes contradictory and meaningless when it is conceived as guide to future actions, where the derivation of innate ideas and of principles serves only to guide actions-the success or failure of which reconfirms the principles. In this respect, it can be argued that if theory precedes designing and is dependent on experience for its affirmation, neither theory nor designing can start. Concomitantly, one can argue that theories of architecture, are not (in general terms) theories for designing new buildings, rather they are theories for looking at and thinking of buildings/built environments. However, based on certain experiences, and based on linking those experiences to specific theories they can inform professional practice!

Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Hi all,

Here is some thing I came across. To lighten the discussion.

The caption below the cartoon reads:
" You are a terrorist? Thank God. I understood Meg to say you are a theorist.'

I am also reminded of Robert Frost's lines:

We dance around and suppose,
Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Theory has been accepted today in literary circles with four charecteristics:
1. Theory is interdisciplinary= discourse with effects outside an original discipline.
2. Theory is analytical and speculative - an attempt to work out what is involved in what we call sex or language or writing or meaning or the subject.
3. Theory is a critique of common sense, of concepts taken as natural.
4. Theory is reflective, thinking about thinking,enquiry into the categories we use in making sense of things, in literature and other disursive practices
--- from Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory

I believe, architecture is a discursive practice not just building and therefore these charecteristics should fit. Perhaps this statement is also debateable.
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
nice one!
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Ashraf
I think that this discussion is turning into a sea of knowledge (with high waves). That we all need.

In fact I feel physically tired after going through it, which by the way is a very good sign of a higher concentration.

I would like to ask a question. When you are going through the design process what are these theories to you. Meaning, Does certain theories apply for certain designs or you have been touched by all of these theories and thus it touches all of your designs.

I am not sure that this question is relevant but it will greatly help me to understand how these theories affects our architecture.
Ahmed Sabry
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
I would like to add here what I wrote in a paper long time ago: Perhaps it may add to the discussion and answer some queries about theory.

Architecture, as phenomenon, happens in many levels. Spatially and socially. Globally and locally. The assimilation and perpetuation of symbols and values cuts across culture and barriers though distortions and noises do enter on the line.

We consider four simplified levels:

1. ARCHITECTURE OF THE INTELLECTUALNcreated by truly artistic and intellectual intentions.
May be philosophical, professional, rational, conscious
of implications and influences.

2. ARCHITECTURE OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN dictated by political and bureaucratic compulsions
this includes corporate hierarchy

3. ARCHITECTURE OF THE MARKET PLACE dictated by market forces, developers

4. ARCHITECTURE OF THE PEOPLE vernacular and current vernacular

This is a continuum and not a clear-cut division. And this could be considered at global levels, national levels, subnational levels and local settlement levels.

The folk architecture at on extreme and intellectual formal architecture at the other. The former is one produced by the people with out self-conscious attempts at design and with out any or much professional involvement. This is craft level. It could be banal and even ugly, but that need not be the rule. It can be exceedingly sensible. The intellectual level is at the other extreme of architectural creation where creation is not only self-conscious, but would also speculate on philosophic foundations of design and theories. There could be layers of creative levels in between. And some of the productions in between layers may be not so informed by theories or even be as self conscious and be driven by market and other forces.

In a culturally integrated society, different layers of architectural creation reinforce each other. The intellectual tradition should take what is happening in the folk level and abstract them to higher forms of art insuch a way that they will have impact on the folk tradition. Geographically, the urban architecture should be an abstraction of the rural. Conversely, the intellectual architecture influences and changes the folk level. The current vernacular adopts elements of the market place and intellectual architecture and mixes with the folk tradition and constantly creates and recreates a current vocabulary. The professionals hardly take a serious look at it though.
Can the intellectual tradition simply discard these as meaningless? When the integration does not happen, the result will be cultural disintegration, each layer of society having nothing to do with the other and that is certainly disastrous in the long run. A fragmented cultural scene.
We in India have a history of encapsulated cultural layers in the form of a hierarchy of caste, rural urban and other barriers. Yet, cultural symbols and values of surface created at the elite level do percolate, as there is always a desire at the folk level to upgrade them imitating the elite. When the Indian elite attempts to westernise to raise their status, the folk adapt external symbols of such westernisation. Consumerist and wanton adaptation of showiness pervades. The result is senseless architecture of violence and oppression. Can there or is there architecture of resistance. And an architecture of harmony; social harmony and environmental harmony.

The processes of architectural linkages at the ideal level could be diagrammatically represented as below:

As at present backward linkages are weak and the mass level tries to ape the upper level. The elite scrounges at the mass only at an ephemeral level for creating pop excitements. The generated ideas at the intellectual level hardly find sympathetic understanding, but create only awe.

The result is indiscriminate acceptance of symbols of consumption as icons of so called progress.

The progress driven, technology driven and excitement driven elite society perpetuates a lifestyle and architecture that other segments of the society want to get in and participate. But unfortunately cannot. What do we get? Social tensions or fads? Low cost architecture becomes a fad, so also ideas of sustainability. Good sounding slogans with out any real meaning.


It is in this context that ethnic and cultural identity appears important to counter the globalization of taste and sensibilities. Culture cannot be planned. It has to evolve itself. But individual ideas of its components can be pursued and in this context only we should see architecture as a means of expression of cultural identity. In fact architectural expression has more direct a bearing on the common life that it is more important a vehicle than other forms of cultural expression like performing arts and visual arts. Architecture is not an isolated phenomenon.
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear All;

Dr. Bhooshan: Certainly the four characteristics you have mentioned add to a deeper understanding of theories. I second your opinion on viewing architecture as a discursive practice.

Thank you Ahmed for your posting and your open ended questions that will allow all of us to further debate many issues. To answer your questions:

My personal view and the way I approach a design problem or situation is like this:

Depending on the nature of the design problem, building type, the type(s) of users, site and context issues,..etc., one starts by adopting a set of principles derived from past experiences (that help one to shape a philosophical position). This set of principles helps initiate thoughts about the "design situation" in the inception stage. However, the principles are shaped and re-shaped throughout the act of designing as issues become clearer. In the process of shaping the principles and fitting the principles into the design situation, a set of design imperatives and requirements is established, forming the basis for preliminary and succeeding design decisions.

I would argue that this process occurs either conscioulsy or unconsciously and either implicitly or explicitly. If it occurs consciously and explicitly, the designer will be able to justify and illustrate his/her major decisions, why he/she defined the design situation in a certain way, and why and how certain decisions are made and why and how certain alternatives are selected and developed, and finally, the designer will be able to develop a convincing argument that supports his/her design solution.

I can further discuss several underlying issues, if this will be of interest.

Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
I have made my last posting actually in response to Mr. Ahmed's query on influence of theory on design process. As Dr. Ashraf has clarified design is a evolving process where on approaches a design by rationally analysing a situation and then responding to it. In the process, the design and the principles become clear and clear. Certainly this is a dialectical process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

However, the theory or design philosophy one subscribes to guides one's design evolution consciously or unconsciously. For example, if one has a strong influence of modern architecture's functionlist school one tends to abhor figurative decorations and acute angles and sloped roofs etc. and his/or her design in whatever context or client, will not have any of these elements. If one is influenced by the diconstructivists school, one tends to break down the common logic of putting together the tectonic planes and juggles with the accepted construction logic.

These are just simplistic examples to clarify the query by Mr.Ahmed. I am proposing an other thread on the design process.

Thanks Dr Ashraf. We seem to be going parellel in thoughts. I think you have not seen my last posting.
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Doesn't the very notion of "theory" dialectic attempt to partition the Whole into disparate arcs, in essence, to breach what should be unbreachable?
��If we look at the world in the form of a circle, let us look at what is on the inside of the circle as experience, culture and knowledge: let us look at this as the past ... What is outside of the circle is yet to be experienced. But in order to expand the circle we must know what is inside the circle ... it has been the art that has brought us back to our roots." Robert Davidson
Robert Marmaduke
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thanks Dr. Shashi for your posting of December 14 03. Actually, I read it but it took some time to respond to it.

What you have written while ago is still valid and appealing. I like the classification of intellectual, public domain, market place, and people. In fact this classification can be utilized to describe the general status of architecture in a region or country. I second your views that different layers reinforce one another. However, one can argue that the disintegration of these four categories/layers does not necessarily lead to "cultural disintegration". Some may see it as "cultural plurality"

The interpretation of the status in India can be applicable to other developed/developing countries at different levels. I would argue that sensless architecture of oppression exists everywhere. The architecture of resistance can exist at the level of "your classification" and may exist at a more general level. You might be interested in an article I have written, published in Medina Magazine... Salama A. (2001), CEDARE Headquarters: Glocalism and the Architecture of Resistance However, I used a personal definition of resistant architecture like this: An architecture that resists the absolute emmersion in following global trends while at the same time refuses to copy/paste from the past.

Yes, we get social tensions and fads. Yes, culture cannot be planned. However, within a culture there are sub-cultures formed of different groups. Each of which evolves at its own pace (with the inclusion of their architecture). The trend of "NEW Urbanism" and "Gated Communities" among others manifest this paradox. Despite our good intentions to creat harmony, equity, equality, we are dealing with social phenomena and architecture as an individual discipline cannot do much in this regard. The integration we seek might require a step up at the policy and political level.

My best,
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear friends,

The science of human settlements

Faced with the exploding cities, rising problems of urbanisation and industrialisation and its adverse impact on the quality of life in human settlements, the Greek Architect Planner C.A.Doxiadis developed the science of human settlements - he called it ekistics. He first used the term ekistics it in his lecture at Athens Technical University in 1942.

He developed ekistics as a philosophy, theory, methodology and founded an organisation, the World Society of Ekistics to promote further studies and research in this new discipline.

"Ekistics, as a discipline concerned with metamorphic processes, required an analytical set of scales based on dynamic morphology- a classification scheme which would reflect the evolutionary nature of settlements and the natural stages of their growth. The first problem to be encountered in the creation of such a scheme was simply to determine what constituted a settlement. What was to be included?"

It identified two major components:
"Anthropos, who is the content, either alone or in great numbers leading to societies; and the physical settlement with its surrounding environment, which form the container, and which consists of both natural and man-made element. These two fundamentals can be further subdivided into five elements, which we will call henceforth the five ekistic elements. They are:

Nature: the total natural environment which provides the basis for the creation of settlements and the context in which they function.
Anthropos: the inhabitant, as an individual
Society: the systems of interactions between Anthopoi
Shells: the structures which shelter Anthropos, his functions and activities
Networks: the natural and man-made connective systems which serve and integrate settlements, such as roads, water supply and sewerage systems, electrical generating and distributive facilities, communication facilities, and economic, legal, educational and political systems." Later he added the sixth synthesis of human settlements in the ekistic grid.

It identified 15 ekistic units as follows:
No.Unit Population

1. Anthropos, 1
as an individual
2. Room 2
3. House 4-
4. Housegroup 40
5. Small Neighbourhood 250
6. Neighbourhood 1,500
7. Small polis 9,000
8. Polis 50,000
9. Small Metropolis 3,00,000
10.Metropolis 2,000,000
11.Small Megalopolis 14,000,000
12.Megalopolis 100,000,000
13.Small Eperopolis 700,000,000
14.Eperopolis 5,000,000,000
15.Ecumenopolis 30,000,000,000
(Global system of human settlements)

He has written many books on Ekistics.

Anthropopolis: City for Human Development, Athens Publishing Centre,
Athens, 1974

Between Dystopia and Utopisa, Trinity College Press, Hartford, Conn. 1966

Ecumenopolis: The Settlement of the Future, Athens Centre of Ekistics,1967

Ekistics: an introduction to the Science of Human Settlements, Oxford University Press, New York, 1968

Emergence and Growth of an Urban Region: The Developing Urban Detroit Area, Vol I, II and III, Detroit Edison Company, Detroit, Michigan 1966,67 & 70

The Two Headed Eagle: From the past to the Future of Human Settlementsl Lycabettus Press, Athens, 1972

Urban Renewal and the Future of the American City, Public Admn.Services, Chicago, Illinois, 1966

Doxiadis planned many towns, cities and regions all over the world. Islamabad was planned by him.

The World Society of Ekistics continues to function and contribute to the advanced studies and research in the field of human settlements.

The WSE includes distinguished scholars, scientists,educators, researchers, environmentalists, economists, sociologist, anthropologists, adminstrators, policy makers, architects, engineers, planners, legal experts, landscape designers, urban designers and related professionals.

Athens Centre of Ekistics of Athens Technological Organisation publishes Ekistics journal edited by Panayis Psomopoulos.

It is a great honour for me personally to be associated with the world wide community of ekisticians and it was great gesture on the part of the society to have elected me as a memeber of its Executive Council and its Vice President for a term during 2000-02.

For further details:

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear All;

Thanks Akhtar for this very enlightening posting. It would appear that one has to go in detail through the work Doxiades again. I believe some European scholars are following the same principles and are currently working on "Typo-morphology" of human settlements.

Shashi, I have posted a response to your thoughts on December 15. 03. Below are some thoughts about theories:

For some sciences like social science, psychology, ...etc. a theory is an understanding of a phenomenon: Why it happens, what causes it, and what limits it. For others theories were thought to be mathematical predictions, an ability to predict a phenomenon that will occur. The preciseness of the prediction was a measure for the goodness of the theory. One of the latest definitions of theory (1998) by Robert Bechtel-- professor and environmental psychologist-- "A good theory should be one that A) predicts, B) summarizes, C) provides understanding, and D) is heuristic. The word heuristic in this context means "tending to provoke discovery" and this in fact fosters the understanding of theory in a "research" context.

Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear friends,

I am curious to know about the impact of Islamabad on the planning of cities, towns and villages in Pakistan.


In India, Chandigarh made a tremendous impact in terms of its architecture but more so on planning of towns and cities. Although Le Corbusier who was working on high density high rise cities, in Chandigarh he made a city which was low rise and medium density.

It introduced the idea of a planned city, which influenced the work of Indian town planning in a big way. The use of a strong geometry of roads, reflecting cubist and purist concerns of Le Corbusier, became an ordering principle. The conflict between the organic pattern of Indian cities and the superimposed geometry was seen in almost all the town planning schemes.

Le Corbusier was a great believer in the theory of the straight line! " Man walks in a straight line because he has a goal and knows where he is going; he has made up his mind to reach some particular place and he goes straight to it."

"Tha pack-donkey meanders along, meditates a little in his scatter-brained and distracted fashion, he zigzags in order to to avoid large stones, or to ease the climb, or to gain a little shade; he takes the line of least resistance," Le Corbusier was uncompromising in his belief and opinions. He said " Pack-Donkey 's Way is responsible for the plan of every continental city; including Paris, unfortunately."

The new capital of Gujarat, Gandhinagar was inspired by Le Corbusier's Chandigarh. Gandhinagar was planned by a team of planners of the Government of Gujarat led by Chief Town Planner
Makwana. There are many issues related to Chandigarh that have been discussed in many a forum. Particularly in 1999 when there was an international conference to mark the 50 years of Chandigarh.

The discussions and debates in CIAM and its break-up. The work of Team 10 in Europe and Africa had its impact on architecture in India. The issues that were raised by CIAM and the Team 10 should be discussed in order to find out the relevance and impact on 20th century architecture.

Planning of Chandigarh has inspired Indian architects to undertake large scale urban development projects. Balkrishna Doshi has planned several townships and Charles Correa planned Navi Mumbai along with Pravina Mehta and Shirish Patel. Achyut Kanvinde planned the new node of Dronagiri, Doshi planned the Kharghar node and Charles Correa prepared the plans for Ulwe node, in Navi Mumbai. It was quite an experience for me to work as a consulting planner for Ulwe as part of Correa's team.

In conclusion, let me quote Le Corbusier

" Things are not revolutionized by making revolutions. The real Revolution lies in the solution of existing problems."

We have a lot of problems and issues to solve.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear friends,

While we are engaged in some serious discussion, I wish that we also have some time to amuse and entertain ourselves without loosing track of the thread.

Here is a question. Was Le Corbusier right in opting for the straight path as more intelligent than the meandring path of the donkey which he criticized as being scatter-brained?

..more on that later!

with best wishes,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
My personal appreciation for theory is through its capacity to provide tools of understanding and making of space. Three works have influenced my academic and professional practice:

1- "The Production of Space" by Henri Lefebvre where space is understood through the dialectics of the:
percieved, physical space (the space of form, location, and network).
concieved, mental space (the space of power and the profession).
lived, social space (the space of daily life).

2- "The Logic of Practice" by Pierre Bourdieu where subjectivities (personal preferences and unconcious daily actions) are dialectically understood through their relationship to objective structures (such as laws, regulations, religions...etc.).

3- "The Urbanization of Capital" by David Harvey where the making of space and the actors involved are seen through the processes of circulation of capital.

The three works critically use Marxism as a 'springboard.'
Marwan Ghandour
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Thanks Marwan for your postings. Now, we have the following set:

04-Darwinian Theory of Evolution
05-Gender Theories
12-Other....ISMS (art related)
14-Quantum City
17-Space Production Theory
18-Space Making & Ciruclation of Captial

Anymore theories, is there a way to conduct some sort of classification on the basis of (science related, art related, human related,..... or on any other basis?

Happy New Year to all!
Ashraf Salama
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear friends,

Wish you a Happy and Joyous New Year!

Well, we are so near and yet so far!

Spritual Humanism, New Humanism, Transhumanism, Creative Humanism

"Humanism is a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values, stressing an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason and other human skills. It usually rejects supernaturalism, but some religious people consider themselves humanists."


"The term structuralism is used in many contexts in different disciplines in the 20th century. Structuralism proposes the idea that many phenomena do not occur in isolation, but instead occur in relation to each other, and that all related phenomena are part of a whole with a definite, but not necessarily defined, structure. Structuralists, in any area of knowledge, attempt to perceive that structure and the changes that it may undergo with the goal of furthering the development of that system of phenomena or ideas."

" In film and literary theory and criticism, the term refers to a line of thought stemming from the structural linguistics usually identified with Ferdinand de Saussure. The generalization of linguistic models by the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss inspired others to apply their versions of structuralist ideas to a wide range of subjects. Thus, Levi-Strauss' views affected the social sciences from the 1960s and onward.
As with any cultural movement, the influences and developments are complex; other linguists besides Saussure were important. Roman Jakobson, in particular, worked on specifically literary problems long before structuralism became a general trend. For a description of structuralist principles, Levi-Strauss is an adequate representative of the approach; trained in both philosophy and social science, he states his views methodically."

" Also, other major figures in structuralism have written a good deal of work in which other influences dominate. Both Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault have been called both structuralists and post-structuralists. Louis Althusser's chief concern was to enlarge Marxist theory. In America, the work of Leonard Bloomfield, who was inspired by Saussure, represents a more specific sense of structuralism, which is now thought to be too restrictive. In the fifties, Noam Chomsky rigorously criticized many aspects of structuralism, while at the same time he contributed to it as it is perceived today."

"(But Levi-Strauss was an anthropologist, a point to remember in searches for further information. He uses certain terms, including "structuralism," in the way his field uses them, even though they have other meanings elsewhere. He repeatedly contrasts structural anthropology with the work of "functionalists" while relying on two linguistic authorities, Roman Jakobson and Nicolas Troubetzkoy, who are functionalists as far as many linguists are concerned. Indeed, the purpose of calling them functionalists, along with other members of the Prague School, is to distinguish their work from the structural linguistics of Saussure. Even more confusingly, the Prague School is occasionally referred to as "functional-structuralist", while there is a well-known position in the social sciences, deriving from Talcott Parsons, which is sometimes called "structural functionalism." A Google search on any of these terms can be exasperating.)"

Post Structuralism:

" Post-structuralists are quite simply all people who take structuralism very seriously and recognize its importance, yet on some level profoundly disagree with or even actively reject it. This ambivalence echoes a deeper ambivalence towards the whole Enlightenment project. Like Kant and his contemporaries and successors, they believe in the importance of critical thinking (the philosopher Jürgen Habermas is probably the most important heir to Kant today -- not that he is strictly speaking a "Kantian", but in a more general sense that he believes that through reason we can understand the world and achieve enlightenment). Unlike Kant and his successors, they are highly skeptical of progress. You might say they take Kant's critical approach one step further by turning it against itself, and thus criticizing the Enlightenment assumptions that objectivity is possible and good, and that the positive accumulation of objective knowledge is possible and good. They are so true to this critical spirit that, unlike post-modernists, they do not whole-heartedly celebrate the demise of the Enlightenment project. (In this ambivalent turn they are something like contemporary heirs to Nietzsche, and many explicitly refer to Nietzsche for inspiration, even if they do not agree with everything he wrote.)"

"Other than a disagreement with the tenets of structualism, many post-structuralists are sharply critical of one another. This is one reason why a group with such divergent views are called post-structuralists and not something else - once you get beyond their debt to structuralism and the fact that they nevertheless are not structuralists, there is nothing else to define them as a group. The most famous post-structuralists - although they express often fundamentally divergent views - are the philosopher Jacques Derrida, the historian Michel Foucault, and the sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Bruno Latour."

These are some of the philosophies which affect the way we think of life and the way we evolve our built environment.

I would strongly recommend the participants in the discussion forum to view the website:

to find more about these philosophies and so many more. It is a great source of information and basic introduction to concepts, ideas, terms, personalities and philosophies.

It is time for us to move on to detailed discussion on each one of these theories as they relate to architecture, engineering, urban design, urban planning, landscape architecture,interior design, infrastructure planning and design..
in fact the whole of built environment!

That would be a great agenda for the New Year.. Happy discussing,reflecting and interacting in 2004!

Thank you all for making 2003 a memorable year, wherein I found so many new friends, so many new ideas, issues and ways for evolving architecture!

with warmest greetings,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear friends,

Checking through our list of theories, I found that one of the most important theory is missing..i.e. Rationalism!

"Continental Rationalism is a philosophical creed that human reason is the source of knowledge. It originated with Rene Descartes and spread during the 17th and 18th centuries, primarily in continental Europe. In contrast, its contemporary rival, the British Empiricists held that all knowledge comes to us through experience or through our senses. At issue is the fundamental source of human knowledge, and what the proper techniques are for verifying what we think we know. (See Epistemology.)
Rationalists argued that starting with intuitively-understood basic principles, like axioms of geometry, one could deductively derive what was true. Descartes, with his mathematical background, was naturally drawn toward this method, and famously claimed to derive his own existence from pure reason (cogito, ergo sum). On the heels of his work came continental philosophers such as Spinoza and Leibniz who sought to enlarge and refine the fundamental theory of rationalism.
Immanuel Kant started as a rationalist, but after being exposed to David Hume's works which "awoke [him] from [his] dogmatic slumbers", Kant arguably synthesized the rationalist and empiricist traditions."

"Rationalism may also be used to refer to a philosophy that human behaviour and values should be based primarily on rationality, as opposed to emotion or dogma."

The 20th Century "modernist" architecture can not be viewed without understanding the philosophy of rationalism. The "neo-rats", Aldo Rossi, Manfredo Tafuri etc, as they were identified by Charles Jencks in his books, have made a great contribution to contemporary, the so called "post-modern", architecture. The critical relationship of building in the urban context and the production of architecture in the capitalist societies were some of the key issues that they explored.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Ashraf,

Reading the quote of Dr. Ozhan, it is the valuation of ways of thinking that ultimately define what we create as a body of knowledge. To understand the
future of architecture, first one should understand the theories of engineering. At the heart of it reductive strategies aimed at economy of labor and effort
expended in any activity.

Engineers are the new inventors in an a society that changes its path from an agricultural and agrarian base to an urban industrialized one. The interface of engineers to design and build practice have while making immense construction practical and cost effective in many ways, a sequence of rectilinear constructions that have little relevance to the whole of human history. Ironically, the greatest document to human creativity that endures over thousands of years is the direct result of the 'hammer as building technology'. Urban environments are the culminations of applied building technologies creating civilization designed by architectural professionals hand in hand with tool users as a labor team. At this point in time (the last century) we are balanced on the head of a pin - turning and looking, but without an overall awareness or perspective that takes into full account the changes at hand.

I am creating a virtual historical - anthropological walk through description of changes that are defining architecture not by intent, but by default creating "modern" at the expense of all other options. It is solely in my professional opinion the result of engineers inventing labor saving strategies that give no thought or consideration to what is the heart and soul of traditional vernacular architectures. "Modern" is generally a smooth surfaced series of boxes. "Traditional" is anything created with a hammer that allowed for curves.

As long as humans have created "technologies" that later become accepted as "tools" in common usage and as labor saving devices, these objects or processes have as they became familiar, come into widespread use moved from a realm of pure functionality into their own unique aesthetic potential. The actual difference between a "tool" and a "technology" is purely semantic. The typical common explanation is codified into romantic myth that anything made by machine cannot be graceful, sensative or elegant. "Tools" (my definition) are devices that the general population can control with facility, and their uses are widespread in belief and acceptance. They have been essentially devoid of romantic notions that limit application. Belief and acceptance encompass two areas that vary widely in potential: function and design. The limitations are defined by two things: the performance characteristics of the material themselves and the skill set of the tool user.

As it relates to design, build and architecture, the impacts are mind boggling. At the core of an emerging problem addressing design and build is the sole vision behind 99% of the CAD/CAM industries. CAD was developed as an engineering technology. The initial processe were invented for engineers to use. You have to take a trip back in time to day one of CAD. From that moment in time, a fork in the road was defined, limiting more and more as time progresses what is the future of design and build, ultimately the artifact that we leave behind for other future cultures to preserve or let perish.

What engineers gave to architecture was not so much a set of tools, but a focussed way of thinking about what they offered as inventor of labor saving devices. Their 'gift' is rectilinear geometry as the defining paradigm of any machine part production that is created using .dxf dependent machinery. AutoCad was originally intended to feed geometry coordinates as CNC into 2 axis manufacturing for cutting steel parts using oxyacetylene torches on gantries. Since that time, virtually nothing has altered from that path. The imput guidelines are identical on all routers, mixed oxyacetlyene, plasm, hi- definition plasma, lasers and waterjet cutters. Devices were added to the mix increasing material capability, but the feeding through .dxf remained constant. Vendors as job shops have increased a thousand fold allowing for competitive pricing and delivery schedules.

Engineers are trained to think cumilatively constructing new tools on previous successes. Early on they created a string of expected results that worked well for simple machine parts. The ultimate look of "modern" as rectilinear is a direct result of looking at everything as a component part that is mass produced, plugged together. The smallest simple part is the end all be all.

It is not an individual architectural or engineering construction project, but rather simple technologies transforming potentialities of practical implementable geometries that are defining architectural design and build.

Between WWI and WW2, the impact of automotive engineering and the mass produced transportation appliance eliminated the blacksmith as a necessary labor craft in high demand. This labor pool served architectural design and build both humble and maginficent expressions.

In the post war period until the mid 1970's, civil and structural engineers mastered effective applications for large scale concrete pours creating tiltup construction, freeway overpasses and bridges. They implemented a redesign of urban infrastructure weaving a new fabric for cities. Traditional stone masons ceased to be a part of the prevalent building formula.

Then AutoCad comes along. Its conversion utility format .dxf killed all the curves, replacing the hammer as cost effective building technology. Data exchange format, native arc and radius closed polyline files 128kb or less are the replacement technology for most larger building projects. The problem as I initially mentioned is that while .dxf and CAD are in their infancy, the familarity with this new "tool" as it relates to architecture holistically is just not adequate for the needs of the client, both historically and aesthetically. We have thrown the baby out with the bath water.

Diverse design professionals with both cultural and vernacular requirements that exceed pure functionality are stymied when they seek to create a connective thread and embrace traditional visuals and aesthetics. In a current environment, the tool users of these engineering processes believe the precedent established by its focussed inventors is the only practical use. Additional assumptions have trickled across the practice of computerized and large firm architecture, down to the practice of specifying out of catalogs. If it does not appear on a catalog page or tear sheet, it cannot be CAD or CAM and cost effective.

The bottom line is the fact that machines can make things that far exceed the potentials of the hammer for a labor saving of about 90% or cost savings of between 50 to 96+% competing with hand craft in both visual and functional realities. They can also make anything that one can program or draw, exactly and precisely. They can be so competitive as to alter the complete course of architectural design and build. CAD and CAM as a tool when mastered can put curves on equal status with a straight line in any material up to 10" thick granite. To the complete antithesis of the common accepted beliefs that prevail, the smallest simple part or component is not the only cost effective labor saving part, to be mass produced, assembled, warehoused and distributed. The largest complex part can be a handmade appearing thing and simultaneously the most cost effective labor saving paradigm.

Architectural professionals are the only ones that can alter the course by reinventing their understanding of CAD and CAM to their own intent, hopefully discovering and mastering for themselves an aesthetic potential with their hands on a mouse. The new "tools" are still unfamilar and trapped in their original manufacturers shrink wrapped and obsolete theories.

I reference a recent book on Edgar Brandt who as a traditional blacksmith at the turn of the last century embraced an emerging technology for metal working that revolutionized all subsequent work with metal in an architectural setting. The specific technology or tool was the welding torch invented by Edmond Fauce' in 1903. Brandt was young, adaptive and probably in awe of its labor saving and aesthetic potential. Joan Kahr, the author places the quote on the predominant frontpiece, because of Brandt's foresight about creative artistic uses of new scientific technology as a holistic part of design practice. Roughly put, "the artist must use all the means that science has placed at his disposal....... to limit one self to ways gone by, is absurd". (Edgar Brandt - Master of Art Deco Ironwork, Harry Abrams 1999 pub., Joan Kahr, p. 7). Brandt molded the application of "technology" to his vision. It became an essential part of his creative process and he is remembered and revered for it.

The same potential must be applied to the current replacement "technologies" allowing more flexible autonomous control by architectural and design professionals, versus relying of the focussed vision of engineers. The reality of any tool or technology is in its function. .dxf feeds both straight lines and arcs into manufacturing. It is inclusive at the most rudimentary level, allowing for the box to become that of a creative Pandora. Consider what you could and would do in any project or design if you had that personal flexibility to reintroduce curves on a practical cost effective level. That is the most profound thing that would influence architecture for thousands of years into the future. It is not impossible.

--Eileen Webb
Eileen Webb
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Eileen,

A great posting, indeed! Engineering has contributed immensely to architecture. You have rightly pointed out the mind boggling extent to which it has determined the course of 'modern' architecture. However, I am curious to find out 'theoretical premises' of engineering, since the debate is focusing on the theoretical contribution to our built environment.
What does a theory mean to an engineer? Are they different from the theories which influenced architects? It would be interesting to trace the development and application of theories in engineering and then to analyse their impact on the built-environment.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Akhtar, Thank you for the kind analysis and search for deeper understanding of these profound influences of engineering practices as they have, and continue to impact the built environment. My involvement with the arts (i am an artist by profession), engineering, manufacturing, landscape architecture and architectural designers and construction professionals has somewhat mystified myself. Finding any written reference or teaching methods that could adequately explain the underlying theories that drive modern transformation of our world is absent. I have spoken with other collaborators who have extensive educational backgrounds quite different than mine, particularly in both the sciences and engineering. One, from Dr. Sy Hamadi (physics MIT) spoke eloquently to the lack of written sources in engineering on the subject of seeking simplicity in use of materials and reduction of labor. When I asked him his opinion, he started to chuckle. He related a lengthly conversation instigated at the curious observations of his own spouse who questioned the same concept. I have spoken with other collaborators who have extensive educational backgrounds quite different than mine, particularly in both the sciences and engineering. One, from Dr. Sy Hamadi (physics MIT) spoke eloquently to the lack of written sources in engineering on the subject of seeking simplicity in use of materials and reduction of labor. When I asked him his opinion, he started to chuckle. He related a lengthly conversation instigated at the curious observations of his own spouse who questioned the same concept. The complete irony that I see in this well drawn conclusion, is that there is a synchronistic chaos in nature as well observed by scientist, seeking variety and specialization that is packed with what any person - layman or scientist would describe as "beauty". Science does not seek to teach or perpetuate the value of "beauty", even though in many instances is represents the highest level of thriftiness to solve a complex natural problem to a particular environment. It does analyse that endless chaotic variation, seeking to understand its source and define it on its simplist terms. One such truth is the fibannicci number sequence that defines mathematical proportions accepted by both science and layman as beauty. They are ever present in both natural phenomena and serving as a foundation for elegant artificial constructs. Engineering chases general thriftiness, whereas architecture is a specific set of chaotic and synchronistic solutions to local, climate, terrain, culture and a variety of other conditions - similar to a distinct species fitting into an environment and thrive. What often results from this marriage of conditions are a set of ultimately simple elements that create "beauty" paralleling larger natural systems in the environment. The reality of natural chaos and beauty that embraces both the simplicity and thrift of science while creating the allusion of complexity is well recognized in the arts. In architecture and the arts, the need for context and individual or species identity exerting influence over an environment is at apparent conflict with elemental thrift. It allows for specifics that are simple in context and often are easily understood. In a modern world, where people have the ability to travel and exchange information, the endless content and variety can seem to overwhelm. Both thrift and pursuit of beauty are conscious creative processes, as opposed to one best described as an involuntary reflex. At the current moment in history of our species, the involuntary reflex of architects into believing the limitation of new tools and technologies based on engineering/scientific "Thriftiness" limits more adaptable and aesthetic solutions for survival of human culture, diversity and beauty in context. Patterns of beauty are an integral part of science and nature. Engineering has by embracing thrift, and also failed to take chaotic beauty or adaptability into account. They have created a set of tools, that are serviceable, have excellent potential and ultimately allow for beauty and specifics to be also an expression of "Thrift" as part of a whole. Engineering is being relatively successful at creating "thriftiness" of systems applicable in architecture, simultaneously eliminating to a great extent the tendency of architecture to be specific to nature and the environment. If given the opportunity for engineers to be the design professionals of all urban fabric and architecture, most probably they would devise only modular boxes, because those would be the thiftiest solution. The diversity of functional solutions would be limited to an engineered set of hives for residence, industry, commerce and worship. For any species, including humans to thrive, both aspects of a world observed by science in nature must be part of the equation holistically embracing both concepts at odds: chaos/beauty/variety and thrift of energy. Engineers are the masters of thriftiness, and architects are the masters of chaos suitable to allow for endless beautiful solutions to specific environment or place. The potential to master the new engineering technologies profoundly affecting Thriftiness, can if adapted by another profession create the endless variety of specifics guided by heritage and topography to allow civilization to evolve and thrive in a world that does not look like the engineered hive easily identifiable as "modern". I thank Sy Hamadi for his eloquent use of the word "thrift" as a scientific basis for what is essential to engineering drawing on its roots as an "applied" science. Wishing wellness to all,
Eileen Webb
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Eileen,

Thanks for your interesting posting on thriftiness as an engineering theoretical concern. I am sure that the engineers follow scientific methodology to investigate and solve 'structural' or 'systemic' problems. In that they follow their concern for exactness, specificity and behaviour and inter-relationships of parts to whole systems. They apply the science of mathematics to solve the problems and as a result are able to formulate formulae and principles for each aspect of the behaviour of their solutions in a given system or environment. In this way they pursue the quest for truth and express honesty in their solutions or design.

It is this aspect of engineering that attracted the attention of Le Corbusier and others who were inspired by the aesthetics of engineering and in the process provided much inspiration for development of early modernist architecture. Although box may appear to be perfect rational solution to most of our problems of space organisation and most of engineers may recommend the same, there have been creative engineers like Buckminster Fuller, Nervi, Fazlur Khan, Ove Arup, Santiago Calatrava who have designed and constructed the mind-boggling universe of creative engineering. I had hoped that ArchNet members would respond enthusiastically to trace the development of civil engineering through contributing to the topic of
100 engineering projects which transformed the 20th Century built environment. I have not given up hope.
Perhaps your contribution may revive the interest in the topic.

Engineers are true friends of Architects in so many ways, but we tend to think that they are our competitors and enemies, there lies the tragedy of architectural profession. Perhaps this is a result of the way we treat the subject of structure in our education and which many of the students find it difficult to master! Also the way architectural faculty members relate to engineers may not be very inspiring. If we can transform the way we teach structure and engineering in architecture, perhaps, we may be able to develop a better understanding between professions of architecture and engineering, which is one of the prerequisite for evolving our built environment to its next phase of development.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
dear all,...i've been a mute spectator of this discussion for sometime ,and i hope the interest in this topic prevails ...though i wonder what could be the perfect finale to this discussion
Sanjog Shetty
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
dear all,what bout the the theory of endless space by frederick keisler..though i cant elaborate on it at the moment...i would like to know ur response...thanks
Sanjog Shetty
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
Dear Friends,

Eid Mubarak to you all! We had a successful 6th International Conference on Humane Habitat on the theme of "Healing our Habitats: Revitalization, Redesign and Redevelopment of human settlements at the Rizvi College of Architecture. The theoretical issues were discussed and references were made to this thread on the ArchNet!

Endless space theory.. and the theory of timeless building, by Christopher Alexander, could be interesting topics to discuss on this thread.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Twenty theories that transformed the way we think about the built environment
I wonder if this thread has been concluded. Any other thoughts or deep interventions?
Ashraf Salama


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