A possible worldview for designers and makers


We have to turn to the designer’s role within a holistic worldview.  For designers generally and for architects in particular the professional focus is on the manipulation of the human environment to provide the various artifacts, from tools to shelter, from food to pharmaceuticals that support the material quality of our lives. Because of this, the consideration of the relationships between the individual, society, technology and the natural order must be central.  Unraveling the complex interrelationships within the sphere of the designed and manufactured accompaniments to life and the social mores and purposes they serve is difficult without adopting an already predetermined belief based explanation system that is locked into the currently prevalent political, sociological and economic mindset.  Here I shall try to break out of these conventions.

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Some thoughts on Aesthetics


At the centre of our notion of design as an art, of art itself and consequently of architectural composition and design quality in manufactured things lies the idea of aesthetics as a generator of value and a branch of philosophy.  The nature of aesthetics and aesthetic sensibility have been the subject of many treatises throughout history.  During the Renaissance the subject was considered in great depth in connection with music, painting, sculpture and architecture.  Analogies passed backwards and forwards between these arts and this proved useful in clarifying concepts and sensibilities. Continue reading Some thoughts on Aesthetics

Some thoughts on Ethics


So I began to think about ethics. It’s a term that I bandy about quite a bit, but rarely challenge or question. When you start to delve into ethics, you come up against definitions which suggest that it is to do with ‘right behaviour’ or ‘morality’. But some of these definitions can be circular. A good definition of ethics seems to be that it is the practice of determining ‘right behaviour’. In this case, until we add meaning to it, ‘right’ is an open ended concept. So until we determine what ‘right behaviour’ is, we don’t really know what ‘right’ is. Continue reading Some thoughts on Ethics

Towards a sustainable worldview




The diagram offers a starting point for organising thoughts about the world of experience, the individuals place in it and perception of it and consequently what activities and actions might ensue. I have been impressed by David Abram’s argument that we should not let the scientific objective view dominate our viewpoint, but should start from a subjective, engaged standpoint. So my diagram starts with the idea of circumstance as the initial global realisation of what we perceive and engage with, or, more simply, where we find ourselves. it is always “provisional”  -not “absolute”.

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Artefacts, technology and nature

Field in Norfolk: This is an artefact that we casually think of as natural.


Thinking of value and significance as qualities deriving from human appreciation, we realize that there is a difference in the way we appreciate natural and man-made things. There is also an intrinsic difference between natural and man made things and an acknowledgement and an understanding of this difference is fundamental to our exploration of design quality.

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Some thoughts on what we need to make and how we should make things

Though quite different questions, the “what” and the “how” of making must be considered at the same time.  What we need to make is a short form of “what we need to make in order to sustain the way we wish to live”.  This should be a considered, holistic and long-term view rather than merely the expedient and improvised management of desires, fads and addictions.

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Geometry is a part of first order experience, being essentially the abstraction of the notion of extension.

No matter what the physicists might tell us, geometry – the measure of the earth – is a matter of direct experience. At some time in prehistory man consciously fixed his sights on a point on the horizon and walked in a straight line towards it. If the land between is relatively flat, there is no more direct route. Such straight lines allowed the plotting of a course and, magically, were confirmed by the shadow projected by a raised stick in sunlight. Each day the sun at its greatest elevation cast its shadow along the same straight line. Here was a measure, a means of orientation, a foothold in the shifting, apparently chaotic, landscape.

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