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By definition, architecture is the discipline that provides solutions, not that asks questions. Our mission is to come up with solutions to the problems our clients bring us. This is what we learn to do, to find solutions in each design and consider various ways that the building can be built. In our design work, we don’t investigate in the same way we would in research that aims or should aim to increase or broaden knowledge.

Architect’s doctrine: “All I know is I know it all”

The School of Athens.1509. By Raffaello.

“Intelligence is not […] the ability to solve problems but rather […] the ability to pose problems.” Jose A. Marina

Plato, through a famous dialogue in his work Theaetetus, puts forward his theory of knowledge. Interestingly, in order to explain it, he begins by reflecting on just the opposite: lack of knowledge.  In the dissertation he clarifies that ignorance consists of believing that one knows what one does not. Socrates, one of the characters, pronounces his famous “I only know I know nothing”, highlighting the key to Plato’s theory: knowledge begins through acknowledgement that one knew nothing and only had opinions. Breaking with ignorance comes the instant that a question is put forward in such a way as to force investigation, comparison, refuting, proving and checking the hypothesis in search of an answer. Therefore, formulating question involves invalidating the opinion or belief that prevented it from being pronounced. This is something we architects find hard to do.

The fact that more theses are being done on architecture now than in the past owes to two basic explanations. One is the economic crisis and the other is the change in the university system in Spain. What I personally find most surprising is that there is criticism about the increase in theses.  Can we conceive of a discipline that criticises the quest for knowledge?  Well, that is what we do. The production of theses in architecture has been strikingly low compared to others over the last century. Now that it is reaching proportions similar to other areas of university study, we are in a fright. Should we not be happy that there is finally research on architecture?Might it not be that the problem is not the number of theses, but that we think we are so wonderful we don’t need to ask ourselves any questions? The sad truth is that there are not more theses being done as a first step towards overcoming ignorance, along Plato’s lines, but rather driven by bureaucracy. It is more a question of going through the motions than of increasing our knowledge of architecture. In our discipline there is a great disdain for research, as if it had no light to shed on anything. We have made Plato’s definition of ignorance stand as our doctrine. We don’t ask questions because we think we have all of the answers. In some quarters it is even sustained that a thesis should be a compendium of architectural designs the author has done. This is one of the examples that best proves we are trapped in our indoctrination in ignorance, that we think we have all of the answers.

I don’t think we should criticise that more doctoral theses have been done in the last few years, because asking questions is what sparks knowledge. Rather we should reproach ourselves. As a country, others look towards in architecture. How is it that we haven’t even asked ourselves what a thesis in our discipline should consist of?


Text translated by Beth Gelb
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By definition, architecture is the discipline that provides solutions, not that asks questions. Our mission is to come up with solutions to the problems our clients bring us. This is what we learn to do, to find solutions in each design and consider various ways that the building can be built. In our design work, we don’t investigate in the same way we would in research that aims or should aim to increase or broaden knowledge.

Autor:
Blanca Espigares Rooney (Granada, 1976) es arquitecta por la ETSA de Sevilla y como tal ha trabajado en concursos y obras, aunque más en particular en restauración, ciudad, patrimonio y paisaje. En este campo, desde 2009 se encuentra desarrollando su tesis que verá culminada proximamente. Bloguera y amante de las tecnologías y las redes sociales, está implicada en el desarrollo de nuevas prácticas pedagógicas a partir de ellas.

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