I’m also not entirely convinced that the techniques of architecture can ever be anything but architectural. In other words, I don’t think that you could use legal or scientific principles or methods to solve architectural problems, but I think you can use their strategies to guide the deployment of architectural tactics or techniques. This seems far more preferable to me than biomimicry, where you’re dealing with the rhetoric of biology and not actually engaging biology as a discipline. You’re simply making the design a metaphor. It is essential to understand how other disciplines operate, what their values are, so that we can use them to lead us to supersede the conventional ways that we use our own “native” knowledge. In doing so, architecture becomes new again.
Roger Sherman: I’m very dedicated to what may more properly be called the transdisciplinary. More than a matter of merely working collaboratively, the value of the transdisciplinary is in enabling the discipline of architecture to be responsive to changes in the world at large by using design team members from other fields of endeavor to exert a kind of exterior gravitational pull on it, in directions that, on account of its innately conservative nature, architecture tends to resist. Because of the amount of capital and commitment that buildings require, we tend—in practice vs. in theorizing—to follow at the tail end of larger trends, rather than to precipitate them.
Dimensions 26: You opened your lecture on Tuesday by introducing us to the research methodology that drives your practice. How do use your interdisciplinary interests to expose an architectural project?
RS: The foreword that Bob Somol contributed is a really important companion piece to that book. He saw something that I was so close to articulating, but was hidden in plain sight—namely that although the architect operates as an interlocutor, the role of architecture as a discipline is not entirely transparent. That is to say, the architect is not merely a facilitator at a negotiation with no agenda of his/her own. He or she, in effect, is also a stakeholder—even a double agent of sorts—necessarily different things to different people, in order to effectively elicit their desires. But in order for architecture to emerge above the din of compromise to competing demands, the design proposal itself has to be employed as a kind of stalking horse, that is used to draw out these desires, without quite representing them in formal terms. Over the process of eliciting these various responses (“I really need
D26: That sounds like it could be the foreword to L.A. Under the Influence.