Tools for Ideas INTRODUCTION TO ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
Expanded and updated edition
Translation of the new parts of the expanded and updated edition: Julian Reisenberger Translation of the parts of the first edition: Michael Robinson Layout, typography and cover design: nalbach typographik, Silke Nalbach Graphic design of the first edition: Atelier Fischer Editor for the Publisher: Andreas Müller Production: Heike Strempel Paper: 120 g/m² Magno Natural Printing: Beltz Grafische Betriebe GmbH
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9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Contents 8 10
Acknowledgements Introduction to the expanded and updated edition
What does this new edition contribute?
How does one learn to Design?
Who is this book for?
When is this book worth reading?
Which chapters should be read first?
What sources does this book draw on?
What key findings does this book contain?
What’s new in the expanded and updated edition?
How can Tools for Ideas be used in design teaching?
How did this book come about?
Do we need other ways of design teaching?
What can be done?
PART A: FUNDAMENTALS
Design and research
TEACHING ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
RESEARCH IN ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
THE LITERATURE: EXAMPLES, PRINCIPLES, THEORIES
WHAT ONE CAN DESIGN
HOW ONE CAN DESIGN
HOW DESIGN CAN BE ACCOUNTED FOR
Terms and definitions
PLATO, ARISTOTLE, PLOTINUS: IDEA
VITRUVIUS AND ALBERTI: COGITATIONE AND INVENTIONE
VASARI AND ZUCCARI: DISEGNO
OSTENDORF, RITTEL, UHL: DESIGNING, PLANNING
AICHER AND FLUSSER: NEGATION AND TRANSCENDENCE
Ways of designing
PERCEPTION AND THOUGHT
DESIGNING AS A PROCESS
DESIGNING AS AN INDIVIDUAL ACT
THE DESIGN CYCLE
PART B: TOOLS
SYMBOLS OF CREATIVITY
FLUSSER: THE GESTURE OF MAKING
THE AMBIVALENCE OF TOOLS
“DESIGN TOOLS” AS A METAPHOR
VISUAL AND VERBAL TOOLS
NEW RESEARCH WORK
A NEW TAXONOMY
FINDING THE RIGHT TOOLS
EXAMINING THE MEDIA TOOLS
PARCHMENT AND PAPER
TRAINING AND PRACTICE
CREATING METAPHORS, INTERPRETING, ABSTRACTING
GEOMETRY AND ABSTRACTION
DESIGNING OR DRAWING
DIGITALIZATION OF DRAWING
RELATIONSHIP WITH REALITY
THE IMPORTANCE OF MATERIALS
THE DISCOVERY OF THE WORLD
PERSPECTIVE AS AN ATTITUDE Photograph, film, video
FROM RECORD TO RE-PRESENTATION
SIMULATING IMAGES DIGITALLY
FROM CALCULATING MACHINE TO MASS MEDIUM
NETWORKING THE DESIGN TOOLS
Criteria and value systems
FIRMITAS, UTILITAS, VENUSTAS
INNOVATION AND THE ENIGMATIC
STARTING FROM GESTURES
CALCULATION IS INTERPRETATION
A TEACHING TOOL
THEORY AS A BASIS
THEORY AS A TOOL
Otl Aicher: A theory of design
THEORY FROM BELOW
Part C: PRACTICE
A STANDARDIZED PROCEDURE
PROVIDING INFORMATION (BIM)
TECHNOLOGY OR CULTURE?
A FOUNDATION OF MODERNITY
EXAMPLES AND MODELS
NOT SLUMS BUT ARRIVAL CITIES
SELF-BUILDING AND DESIGNING
Postscript to the new edition Appendix
BIBLIOGRAPHY, PART A: FUNDAMENTALS
BIBLIOGRAPHY, PART C: PRACTICE
BIBLIOGRAPHY, PART B: TOOLS
INDEX OF NAMES SUBJECT INDEX
In all the years I have worked on this book, interrupted repeatedly by the necessities of everyday life, and distracted by an eight-year odyssey to North America, East Asia, and back to Europe, I received support and encouragement from many sides. To begin with, I would like to thank Prof. Jörg J. Kühn, who took me on for six years at the Institute of Design at Brandenburg University of Technology in Cottbus and gave me the freedom to embark on this work. Also among the first I would like to thank are the editors of the online architecture magazine Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, and especially its publisher Prof. Dr. Eduard Führ, who provided vital feedback and input for my work. Very special thanks go to the Berlin journalist Holger Wild, who taught me to write comprehensibly, and Prof. Ralph Johannes, who for many years spurred me on with suggestions for relevant literature and asked with untiring patience how I was progressing. At the invitation of Prof. Philipp Oswalt, the University of Kassel enabled me to develop the theses I had presented here into lectures and seminars. Other universities, among them Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University in Suzhou and the University of Hong Kong, also gave me the opportunity to continue teaching and researching about design. Individual pieces of work were also sponsored by the Jade University of Applied Sciences in Oldenburg, the architecture magazine of the Graz University of Technology GAM and the Zurich-based architecture magazine archithese. One of China’s leading architectural theorists, Prof. Guixiang Wang at Tsinghua University in Beijing, wrote the preface for the Chinese edition and reviewed the Chinese translation. Many universities in twelve countries, too numerous to mention here, invited me to conferences, lectures, seminars and guest reviews and I would like to thank them all for the opportunities they gave me. For their inspiring conversations, literature references, constructive criticism and encouragement, I thank all my friends, colleagues and students, especially: Ulrich Ackva, Florian Aicher, Karyn Ball, Raimund Binder, Peter Böke, Nicolau Brandaﬁo, Axel Buether, Jorge Carvalho, Ariane Epars,
Christian Federmair, Matthias Gorenflos, Anton Graf, Tobias Hammel, Dagmar Jäger, Cornelia Jöchner, Christian Keller, Nico Knebel, Gereon Legge, Claudia Moddelmoog, Norbert Palz, Constanze A. Petrow, Jörg Petruschat, Ute Poerschke, Riklef Rambow, Hinrich Sachs, Eran Schaerf, Astrid Schmeing, Andreas Schwarz, Jürgen Schwinning, Melanie Semmer, Álvaro Siza,
Sandra Staub, Peter Testa, Yvonne Wuebben and Ulrike Wulf-Rheidt †. In the context of this new edition I would also like to thank Jane Anderson, Adam Brillhart, Terrence M. Curry, Christopher Dell, Jesko Fezer, Thomas Fischer, Eva Maria Froschauer, Susanne Hofmann, Shayne Jones, Hannes Meyer, Andreas Oevermann, Frits Palmboom, Martin Prominski, Judith Reeh, Alexander Römer and Udo Weilacher. My special thanks go to all those who allowed me to use their illustrations; they are mentioned in the respective captions or in the list of illustrations. As my editor for the publisher, Andreas Müller has assisted not only in the creation and distribution of the book but has also shown great farsightedness and commitment over the years and contributed decisively to its success. Without his ideas and vision and without his concentrated and productive criticism, this book would not have achieved the form and stringency you see now. His patience is to thank that this new edition has come to fruition. For their extraordinarily committed work in the graphic design of this book, I would like to thank Bernd Fischer for the first edition and Silke Nalbach for the new edition, who have done an excellent job of capturing its basic ideas. The lucid and precise translation into English we owe to Michael Robinson for the first edition and Julian Reisenberger for the new edition. Last but not least I would like to thank Maria de la Calle, who accompanied me for almost a decade, and my parents, Martin and Elfriede Gänshirt, who have always supported me and also made the first edition of this book possible. I would also like to thank the readers and the publisher for the opportunity to publish a second German edition in 2011, and now also this new, significantly expanded edition. Finally, I would like to thank all those researchers who have taken up the cause and pursued their own inquiries into the nature of the tools of design with dedication and commitment. Odysseus, the inventive polymechanos himself, would certainly have approved.
Introduction to the expanded and updated edition
Thirteen years have passed since Tools for Ideas was first published in 2007 in German and English. In 2011, a second German edition and a Chinese translation followed. At that time Tools for Ideas was the first publication on tools for designing. The book has achieved its first goal: “design tools” as a term and as a subject are now an established part of architectural discourse in research and teaching. Since the book was first published, a broad field of research has rapidly developed, giving rise to numerous research projects, dissertations, conferences and exhibitions as well as two junior professorships (at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and the RWTH Aachen). In the meantime, more than 25 books dedicated to individual or certain kinds of design tools have been published.
(see pp. 119 ff.)
The second, more important aim of the book is to offer fundamental suggestions for improving design teaching. For many students, learning to design is a long, often confusing and sometimes painful process. It can be made easier if, alongside the usual design assignments, students are also given a theoretical and historical grounding in this challenging activity. Students develop a better grasp of the many different methods and possibilities of design when they receive a good systematic introduction to the tools of design and how they work. Tools for Ideas has since been used in international teaching at universities in more than 15 countries. But there is still a way to go before we can say that design teaching has fundamentally improved. Some of the underlying reasons for this are discussed below. WHAT DOES THIS NEW EDITION CONTRIBUTE? When it was first
published, this book encouraged the reader to look at design from a new perspective. Embarking from the metaphor of “tools of design”, it concentrated not on the methods or the results but on the act or activity of designing and the media and cultural techniques that inform it. This was its horizon of inquiry. The new, significantly expanded edition picks up the cultural discourse and reflects on the most important new research findings. It also draws on the experience that I and many of my colleagues have
had in teaching this subject around the world. Both have helped me make this book even more useful and effective as an aid to teaching. The most significant addition to the book is a third part that looks at current practice. It covers forward-looking approaches such as digital, research-based, and social design, all of which contribute to more sustainable architecture.
The metaphor of “tools of design” that served as the starting point of this book remains a divisive term in current research: there is no agreed definition of the term, or even whether it can be understood as a metaphor. Some see it as relating exclusively to mental processes others relate it directly to the objects
used for designing. Newer research even classifies complex activities such as collecting as a tool of design.
To do justice to all these views
and provide a comprehensive overview, I have proposed a new, extended taxonomy in this new edition of the book. It consists of an open matrix that links the media of design with the possible forms of its use. The matrix shows the range of possible kinds of design action that actually exist and defines a structure within which to locate them.
(see pp. 134–135)
Architectural design differs from artistic, scientific, technical, economic or political design in that it takes all these perspectives into account and strives to do justice to them all. The aim is to find a balance that seems beneficial from all perspectives relevant to the task in question. The most direct way to describe design is through the individual activities carried out during the design process. However, this approach bears the risk of proposing recipe-like instructions that do not adequately reflect the fundamentally free nature of designing. Looking at the design process from the perspective of the “tools of design” and their various uses makes it easier to maintain the necessary distance from personal working methods. The term “design tool” used here refers to a medium that can be used for designing along with its associated ways of thinking, perspectives and cultural techniques, and the respective possible actions that this constellation enables. These are considered and described in the context of designing. The focus lies not on the perspective of an architect wishing to justify a particular design approach, or on presenting particular design methods, but on the interactions between the person designing, the tools at their disposal and the “materials” with which they work, i.e. the architectural conceptions, ideas and designs that the respective media convey.
HOW DOES ONE LEARN TO DESIGN? A key aim of this book is to offer
students guidance and support in learning architectural design. It takes an exploratory and inquiring approach because design encompasses so many overlapping areas of knowledge that it is hard to state any aspects with certainty. What skills and knowledge does one need to design? And how,
where and when can these best be acquired? First and foremost, designing requires creative and critical thinking and action, which are hard to impart through reading or lectures alone. These skills can only be learned through one’s own, often lengthy and frustrating practice. To use these skills in a directed way, however, requires the underlying knowledge also needed for designing. From a didactic point of view, it is therefore crucial to guide and support design exercises by conveying specific knowledge – about the task at hand, about comparable or exemplary solutions, but also about the processes, methods, tools and assessment criteria of design itself. The aim should not be to prescribe a particular methodology, stylistic attitude or design approach. Instead, the starting point for each design process should be the ideas, visions and aims of the students themselves, which should be discussed individually and supported wherever possible. Objects for “creating works” are fundamental to all human work, and this is the basis for our approach of investigating design through its tools The sculpture Balancing Tools, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein, 1984. Photograph 2007
and media. The first part of the book provides an overview of contemporary knowledge and literature and discusses the process of designing. Is it a creative act, a creative process or a cycle of recurring actions? The second part then introduces the basic tools of design – their historical origins and specific characteristics, their mode of operation and current
significance as design tools – and concludes with a critical consideration of their use and future development, especially in the context of the ongoing digitalization and networking of all design tools. The intention is to make clear the many diverse levels of meaning that architectural decisions and actions can have. At the same time, the chapters on the different design tools can only serve as an introduction to each: many have since become the subject of entire, expansive books that provide a deeper understanding of the respective tool. The most useful publications are listed briefly at the end of each chapter, with further references in the appendix. WHO IS THIS BOOK FOR? Tools for Ideas aims to expand the existing know
ledge on design, to give it a sense of comprehensible order and to make it accessible in a straightforward way. Written in the first instance for students, it is also for young teachers and researchers in all disciplines that involve architectural design and creation as a core competence. Alongside architecture and interior design, this also includes urban and regional planning, landscape architecture, industrial and graphic design, scenography and also engineering, although here there is often a different focus. WHEN IS THIS BOOK WORTH READING? Learning to design is a long
process to which a more or less random assortment of teachers may contribute, most of whom have different design approaches and architectural opinions, and usually know little about each other. All over the world, five years of study plus two years of professional practice are regarded as the minimum required to qualify as an architect or urban planner, and similar study durations apply for other design disciplines. The aim of this learning process is to train perception, thinking, design, expression and judgement skills in such a way that, over time, a design sensibility develops that makes qualified design possible in the first place. One difficulty when learning how to design is that certain aspects are not easy to grasp or master in the early stages. For example, when spatial
perception or critical thinking are not sufficiently developed, all other skills that build on them suffer as well. It can be hard to gain an overview or at least a sense of orientation in this long learning process. This book attempts to offer a mental framework that addresses the essential themes of this long-term learning process and relates them to each other. Those with little
or no experience in designing may feel overwhelmed by some of the topics at first but should find them easier to grasp as their training progresses. WHICH CHAPTERS SHOULD BE READ FIRST? For those in a hurry, this
book can be used like an encyclopaedia to directly look up the topic of current interest. The didactic principle of starting with the simple and progressing to the more complex only applies in the second part of the book (design tools). The first part discusses the scientific foundations – the search for a conception of science appropriate to designing, (Design and research, p. 23) a literature survey, (Examples, principles, theories, pp. 38 ff.) and a discussion of the
Terms and definitions fundamental to designing.
(pp. 54 ff.)
Students in earlier
semesters may skip this part for the time being and start immediately with Ways of designing.
Likewise, the theoretical background to the
term “design tool” may also be skipped in favour of starting with the overview of Visual and verbal tools.
WHAT SOURCES DOES THIS BOOK DRAW ON? This book pursues a line
of inquiry that draws on the philosophical method of phenomenology first developed by Edmund Husserl and subsequently applied to creative work by Vilém Flusser. This approach owes much to the latter’s texts on gestures, on design and on the philosophy of photography. A second key work is Otl Aicher’s writings on design theory, summarized in books such as die
welt als entwurf (“the world as design”) and analog und digital (“analogous and digital”), and a third is the design work of the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, which I was able to observe at close quarters over the course of several years. Taking the questions these posed as a basis, I consulted the literature on the theory and history of design and also relied on my own observations and findings from current research. A phenomenological inquiry of this kind would not be complete without a consideration of chronological and taxonomic questions, and these too are addressed here. As ethical and aesthetic
issues are also central to design, this approach is not purely descriptive, as is usually the case with phenomenology. By the same token, and like almost all applied research, the book makes no claims to being unbiased in its views. Its central motivation is directed towards finding better ways and possibilities of designing. Last but not least, the author’s extensive experi-
ence of twenty-five years of teaching, research and practice provides an additional but mostly implicit background to this book. WHAT KEY FINDINGS DOES THIS BOOK CONTAIN? Designers have a
much wider range of tools and instruments at their disposal than is generally assumed. In addition to the without doubt core set of visual tools, such as sketches, drawings and models, and the most frequently used verbal tools of description, discussion and criticism, designers have access to a far greater number of tools that address a range of possible applications and uses. This book aims to make clear the variety of tools available to designers and conveys how they can be employed productively. The book also proposes two approaches to ordering these in a taxonomy: a field of terms that was already in the first edition of this book
and a new matrix
that reflects the wider use of the key term in research published since then. One of the results of this research is a reappraisal of verbal design tools. It draws on the insight that each design tool, including drawings or models, has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and that it is only through the intelligent combination of different tools that these can be compensated for. The importance of spoken or written verbalization in design is greater than generally assumed. Formulating hypotheses, concepts, descriptions, initiating discussions and voicing criticism is not just “fine words” nor is it just an accompanying extra to the “actual” design work of sketching, drawing or model making; these are design tools in themselves that must be used consciously and intentionally. To understand them better and use them in a more qualified way, they too require considered, scholarly reflection. The concept of architecture as a rational, theoretically founded discipline originated in antiquity but has only fully developed since the beginning of the modern era. Although design and building both have a long history, most of the professions whose core competence is architectural design only emerged during or after the Italian Renaissance. In a historically short period of time, they have become constituent factors of the modern way of life.
A well-ordered toolbox: drafting tools made by Clemens Riefler, Munich, before 1900. Photograph: Rama, 2016
The fact that we now spend most of our time in environments largely designed and created by humans means that design has become a determining factor for the quality of our living environments. At the same time, with the ever-advancing digital revolution, we are currently in the process of contantly redefining design through the continuous fundamental transfor
mation of its most important tools. WHAT’S NEW IN THE EXPANDED AND UPDATED EDITION? In addition
to incorporating findings from new research into design tools published since the first edition and a series of improved illustrations, the book has been expanded through the addition of a third part dedicated to the topic of design practice. It focuses on three areas that have gained increasing import ance in recent years and have the potential to become seminal influences on 21st century architecture: digital, research-based and social design. Each of these design practices differs markedly from the conventional concept of architectural design practice, but in very different ways. All three are essential to achieving more ecologically, economically and socially sustain able architecture. HOW CAN TOOLS FOR IDEAS BE USED IN DESIGN TEACHING? The con-
tents of this book can serve as the basis for a didactic concept, but not without a degree of translation. Ideally, this would take the form of a lecture series accompanied by exercises on the individual tools as well as seminars in which students can discuss and reflect on their own design experiences. At present, however, most modern design curricula lack the time for such an extensive course. Merely recommending that students read this book as part of a design project has little discernible effect, as they are generally too busy with their own design work and meeting deadlines. Better results have been achieved through seminars with more experienced students who are able to discuss their own design experiences with regard to the basic processes and tools. The seminars were more effective if they were accompanied by a series of lectures that conveyed the contents of this book, enriched with further examples. Didactically, the most effective method, however, has been to embed individual lectures and seminar sessions across the entire curriculum to meet the respective level of knowledge and learning needs at that moment: for example, a lecture introducing the subject of
design at the beginning of the course, followed a little later by introductory lectures combined with design exercises on the basic design tools such as gesture, sketch or language. Other examples are an impulse lecture on the subject of critique as a tool before the first major interim presentation, or an introduction to the broad field of Theory as a tool of design as part of a
lecture series on architectural theory. Other chapters, such as Design and
research or Terms and definitions, are more relevant later, for example at the beginning of a master’s or doctoral programme.
HOW DID THIS BOOK COME ABOUT? This book arose out of a desire
to give greater clarity to the scientific basis of design teaching and theory. To begin with, it was also a reaction to the difficulties I had encountered in my own experience of learning to design, and to the considerable discrepancy I perceived between the content and methods of my training and
my first years of professional experience. In fact, many of my teachers were indeed highly respected and successful architects, urban planners and landscape architects. While they set us design tasks, gave lectures and criticized our proposed solutions (some too hesitantly, others too savagely), the process of designing itself – the knowledge of procedures, processes and methods, and the ability to use tools and strategies, media and evaluation criteria at the right moment and in a solution-focussed way – was tacitly assumed. It was not discussed, and no literature was recommended to us, although relevant textbooks were already available. (for an overview see e.g. Hassenewert 2006)
The university would have been a good place to think about the activity of design. The academic teachers came from a broad range of architectural backgrounds but, unfortunately, they were more concerned with outlining and defending their respective positions than with addressing more fundamental questions. Some were even of the opinion that design ability was a question of being suitably “gifted” and there was no point in trying to teach it: the “bad” students wouldn’t understand it anyway, and the “good” were already capable so didn’t need any further instruction.
Sketches, drawings, drafting tables, models, prototypes, photographs, texts, publications and videos in the exhibition Piece by Piece: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Power Station of Art, Shanghai 2015
This derives perhaps from a popular misconception that skills that cannot be taught directly and only acquired through personal practice and learning are not something that teaching can address. The opposite is the case. The journalist Geoff Colvin evaluated a range of research papers and was able to demonstrate how “talent is overrated” and that it takes years of focussed
practice, guided by qualified professionals, to excel in a field.
music or sports, this is taken for granted; why should it be any different in architecture? DO WE NEED OTHER WAYS OF DESIGN TEACHING? This attitude is
particularly unfair to those students who do not come from parents with an affinity for architecture or design. It fails to acknowledge people’s central learning abilities and their learning needs and contributes significantly to the much lamented and increasingly worsening lack of transparency and equal opportunities in higher education, and in turn in society as a whole. This attitude is as misguided as it is regrettable, and it also reveals the social mechanisms often described by sociologists such as Pierre Bourdieu and Didier Eribon that turn universities into institutions that actively promote social disparity and social privilege by failing to adequately support students from less privileged social backgrounds.
(cf. Eribon 2013, pp. 182 ff.)
The prejudice that all previous knowledge only hinders creativity also falls under this category. Teaching, like learning to design, is still presented as a purely practical activity based solely on personal experience. The foreword to a recently published book on design teaching, for example, says:
“Teaching is not theory, but practice. [...] because it depends on the practice, the experience of the teacher.” (Eberle, Aicher 2018, p. 10) But the way in which this experience is then actually passed on has little in common with the concrete practice of design. The majority of the actual design teaching is provided (at least at German-speaking universities) by so-called “assistants”, while the professors, whose experience is potentially most enlightening, restrict themselves predominantly to giving lectures and architecture criticism of the students’ work. WHAT CAN BE DONE? Many universities still restrict themselves to the
method of learning-by-doing, which often leads to students imitating well-known role models without a deeper understanding of the actual core
activity of designing or of the factors that contribute to a design. In many cases, a design method is taught (without reflecting on it), but not how to design. To learn how to design in a truly independent and innovative way requires a more enlightened approach to teaching. Students need both personal practice and the theory that underpins it. They need theoretically
sound knowledge of the prerequisites, processes, tools, media, methods and theories of design and the various avenues they can pursue when designing. They need not only the knowledge and skills to work successfully with the most important design tools, but also the necessary overview to choose a suitable tool at any given time and to use it inventively and appropriately. In digital design, they should also acquire the skills to develop their own design tools.