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The Tuesday Topic: “…arts are composed of two things, the actual work and the theory of it.” ~Vitr

Over the years, Synthesis has been approached with a plethora of design opportunities. Whether creating a monumental wayfinding tool, higher education facility or a senior living home, we have a diverse portfolio of design options. Yet, we challenge ourselves to stay relevant and innovative with every new project. We question ideas constantly by asking, “where do our designs come from and how do we use it?” This is not just a Google search to find inspiration but a deeper examination into how a concept is related to how we make decisions. For centuries, architect’s and philosophers would ask why we have designed the way we have. Why is the site oriented a certain way? What style of architecture would be most appropriate or what looks / feels right from past projects? But, as Richard Rorty in Philosophy and Social Hope describes it, “…we are getting a lot of political and social philosophy which takes its starting point not from historical narrative but rather from philosophy of language, or from psychoanalysis, or from discussion of such traditional philosophical topoi as ‘identity’ and ‘difference’, ‘self’ and ‘subject’, ‘truth’ and ‘reason’.” [1] I find myself now asking what is the culture that has molded the location? What brings people to this place and what do I want them to experience? These new questions open a designer to contemplate not only what the end goal should look like, but how it is embraced by its community.

And much like Socrates’ quote about death, “for the fear of death is indeed the pretense of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretense of knowing the unknown.” [2], we must push through the obvious to explore the unknown, the unrecognized and the unembraced to provide a better, innovative approach to design solutions, whether through self or subject, not limited by the realities of the 21st century. Vitruvius describes theory as, “…the ability to demonstrate and explain productions of dexterity on the principles of proportion.” [3], meaning that we rely on a substantial understanding of who we’re effecting to provide the quality of work needed to better inspire the client, their patrons and even the community in which it resides. Design can be simple, logical and rational, but can’t it also be impactful, inspirational and moving? We have the ability to create beautiful works of art, but we also can be responsible for the social impact of how, where and why a building is designed appropriately and necessarily. This responsibility can be daunting to contemplate at times, but as Vitruvius continues later about symmetry, “Symmetry is a proper agreement between the members of the work itself, and relation between the different parts and the whole general scheme…” Sources:

Rorty, R. (1999). “Philosophy and Social Hope”. Penguin Books

Mitrovic, B. (2011) “Philosophy for Architects”. Princeton Architectural Press

Morgan, M. (1914). “Vitruvius – The Ten Books of Architecture”. Harvard University Press


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