Let us start by saying that pulp-theory in architecture isn’t a problem caused by philosophers. The constant misuse and misinterpretation of philosophical positions adapted as architectural generative devices has to be fully owned by architects. The problem is, architects don’t seem to be able to address the issue. There is a persistent design culture at the core of architecture which seems consistently opposed to both predictive and repeatable effects (i.e. research applied in relevant ways) as well as accepting core responsibilities of the discipline (ethics, fiduciary social responsibility, occupational appropriateness, beauty). Rather, what is valued is originality, uniqueness, novelty, inspiration, and social status through representation (this could be ultimately linked back to Hegel, though). Asking about how philosophy engages architecture in today’s context is like asking what philosophy can do for the fashion industry. That is to say, the foundation of “high culture” in the architectural discipline is founded on unstable territory, linked to the fine arts through what can only be described as status envy which makes the process of the application of philosophy, and then theory, naturally irrelevant through this applicational bias.
When architects do look to philosophy, it is not to value the core knowledge which can be accessed between the two disciplines but to usurp philosophy’s language in order to raise its own cultural value and fend of critique by statements of knowledge-appearance. There are several needs that should be addressed within architecture. For starters, remove philosophy from its close association with theory. These two terms are often used interchangeability within architecture, and neither are understood by practitioners. Theory, freed from this association, can extend into disciplines which are presently ‘second-rate’ in design status – sociology, anthropology, environmental psychology, to name a few. Instead, philosophy needs to be accessed for what it does. Knowing which questions should be addressed to philosophers is the core of the issue. So rather than finding a new system to generate a style, epistemological or ethical questions should be explored as well as questions of value and questions of judgement. Of course, the issue will be when architects don’t get a clear-cut answer (Truth), they will need to learn, instead, to look for one which is relevant and significant in its context.
Harvard Citation Guide: Plowright, P. (2010) How Does Philosophy Engage Architecture on Its Own Terms (with its Own Body of Knowledge)?, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 23 May 2010, Available at: http://isparchitecture.wordpress.com. [Accessed: 01 June 2012].