Archilibs | Experimental design lab exploring the visual construct in architecture
In my role as an architect, I often come across the point of view that there is a tension between theory and practice. When discussing their time in academia many architects express that in University they learned about abstract theories which they perceive as far removed from the concrete practice of architecture. The implication often is that the theory side of education isn’t much use…I have always thought theory to be the most important thing to me. To my mind, having a theoretical framework for thinking about architecture is as important as having a strong answer to that question every undergraduate student is faced with: why do you want to be an architect? That question invites you to articulate your moral purpose, a theoretical framework is a place to articulate your intellectual resolve. It shapes the thinking you do, the decisions you make, and as a result of the paths you will take. Of course, this framework can change, I would argue that is essential that at least continues to be refined influenced by reading, thinking, and experience.And there is the thing; your theoretical framework influences your practice, but your experience in the classroom also continues to shape your framework; the two are not separate. This unity between theory and practice is called ‘praxis’.Praxis could be summed up as ‘informed action’, it is the process of ‘taking action’ in practice whilst acting within a theoretical framework of thought. In this concept theory and practice are as one; one must not make a distinction between the importance of thinking differently and the importance of making a concrete change in the world. In praxis, abstract theorising is only useful so long as it informs concrete action, but likewise, action must be informed by deep thinking and justification. This is not a case of ‘doing’ and the ‘reflecting’ on it later, rather one of making sure every action has an informed basis, whilst every valuable thought is put into action.An architect involved in bringing theory to practice could consider their actions when planning, and then again when reflecting or evaluating. An architect immersed in praxis would bring their theoretical thoughts to every decision as they make it.Nevertheless, architecture is a complex business of both practical action and intellectual consideration. So often I think we define these two facets as distinct when we would do well to heed Freire’s call to ‘informed action’.
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