Testing ethical acuity

Ethical sensitivity is best cultivated through examples. To test this proposition I ran a class in which ethical matters were addressed through a series of contemporary case studies. There were 50 masters students in the class. Before the students broke into their groups to discuss the case studies I asked them all some simple binary questions,…More

Interactive architecture

How interactive is architecture? These days, networked computer systems, tablets and smartphones seem to exemplify interactivity amongst people, and between human beings and objects. Perhaps architecture participates in this interactive milieu in so far as it embraces concepts such as “virtual reality (VR) and 3D worlds, game design (including 3D games, platform games, and arcade games), mobile computing,…More

Design hermeneutics revisited

What’s the difference between an artwork and a design? The worst insult you can give to a work of art is to ignore it. The worse thing you can do to a design is to treat it as a work of art — i.e. not to use it. This is an argument advanced by philosopher Nicholas…More

The big book of hermeneutics

“[U]nderstanding is always a standing somewhere, and it is this standing somewhere that underlies understanding itself” (355).That’s a clever statement by philosopher Jeff Malpas describing the circumstances of interpretation. We always interpret a book, painting, play or a building from some position or other — within a horizon; and so Malpas links hermeneutics (the study of interpretation) to…More

Humanities in the wild

The Scottish Forestry Commission has produced a series of reports outlining why it’s good to get out into forests and green space: “There is a strengthening body of evidence to support the view that greenspace and woodlands provide the ideal setting to promote health and physical activity.” In many respects it’s an easy message to…More

What I really meant to say

The lyrics of Crossfade’s song Cold (2004) declare “What I really meant to say, Is I’m sorry for the way I am.” Annoyingly, the song keeps cropping up when I do a web search on idioms ascribing meanings to writers. But it kind of fits. Do we really know what we mean to say? Does the…More

Internet as evidence

“The Internet is a petri dish for the growth and spread of misinformation” warns Anne Mintz. People search the Internet for health advice, to refute what they get told at school, to find out what’s “trending,” and to seek out support for their particular point of view. In other words people will use the Internet…More

Accentuate the negative

Protesters are demonstrating against plans to build on Gezi Park in Istanbul (Financial Times). Commentators say the park issue is just a trigger for the expression of widespread discontent. But people do have passionate views about open outdoor space. A recent article on the BBC Science website says, “Being physically active can bolster good mental health…More

Interpretation by design

As for all the arts, it’s easy enough to indicate how important interpretation is in architecture. Designers interpret the clients’ and users’ requirements, the brief, the regulations, and the site. They also interpret buildings and texts about architecture, not to mention drawings, instructions, illustrations, and photographs. In keeping with the conceits of this proud art…More

Lego logics

There’s been a lot on reddit lately about Lego bricks: How many Legos, stacked one on top of the other, would it take to destroy the bottom brick? There’s lots to learn from toy construction sets, not least how creativity happens … or doesn’t. In the first flush of enthusiasm for artificial intelligence and automated…More