Today is a conversation with Bryan Norwood and we’re discussing phenomenology. You’re first thought is probably, ‘oh, well that sounds like an easy going light conversation!’ But don’t worry, we spend the beginning of the episode trying to break down what exactly that term means as well as some of erroneous preconceptions you might have suffered about phenomenology in the past. And all kidding aside, this was a really informative read and discussion for me and I hope it will be for you as well. Bryan recently guest edited the current issue of the publication Log (#42) and that’s what we’re discussing today.
It’s probably helpful to give a little background as to why we’re discussing phenomenology on ‘Night White Skies’. In many ways, I think this episode has a lot of cross over with the episode with Christopher Schaberg. In that episode (#32) we talk about Donna Haraway’s book ‘Staying with the Trouble’ and her techniques /approaches of tentacles and string figures that look to make new connections between ourselves as well as the environments we live in.
As architects or landscape architects it’s clearly important to give shape to the spaces we occupy. In many ways that’s our primary task as designers. Architects articulate and define spaces for activities to occur. Because after all, decisions must be made about both how a space will look and be organized. But with that being said, there does seem to be an emerging importance for redefining what the objectives ahead are for architects. There are big questions to be addressed about humanities orientation to some rather base line issues like our ecological environments as well as our own bodies. The timing seems right to question many assumptions previously made about each other and our relationships to the contexts we live in.
I’m not saying any answers are provided within this episode but I do believe architecture is in need of a discourse that foregrounds a discussion of reorientation more so than of any singular graphic or formal exercise. I want to be careful here and not give the impression that the shapes and aesthetics of architecture are somehow less important in this approach. But I do believe that there is too much at stake for architects not to be thinking about techniques or strategies that can reorient ourselves to the assumptions that brought us to where we are today and how we might make new connections to the environments and futures ahead.
There might very well be a freedom in architecture ahead. This freedom that comes from disciplinary pursuits of architectural shape that are miultiplicitous because the greater ‘project’ is somewhat latent and less identifiable than a monumental architectural form. Architectural projects that reorient our perspectives, lifestyles and goals so as to tackle pressures ahead is where most is at stake. In doing so, this might require changes to how architects articulate and represent their work.
As you’ll hear in this conversation, Phenomenology offers avenues for continuing to question our starting points and redefine how we reorient ourselves towards our futures.
Bryan Norwood is completing his PhD at Harvard University in the History and Theory of Architecture. He will be joining the University of Michigan Society of Fellows as a 2018-2021 Postdoctoral Scholar and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning as an Assistant Professor of Architecture this September. His research focuses on the intersections of race, religion, and politics in the formation of professional architectural practice in the United States. He was the 2016-2017 Charles E. Peterson Senior Fellow at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and recently guest edited Log 42 (winter/spring 2018) entitled “Disorienting Phenomenology.”
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