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Dualities, thinking architecture / feeling architecture

Part 1 Dissertation 1998
Terrence Chan
National University of Singapore | Singapore
The intention is to investigate how the rational thinking of architecture contrasts with the actual 'lived' world. The aspects of perceiving, conceiving and producing space will be examined in the hope of critically analysing how place is made.

In a sense, the means end logic of a scientific world points to the will of the human mind to organise into neat conceptualised ideals. Is this practice relevant to the production of urban space today? The concept-city begins to crystallise architecture into ideology thereby excluding the notion of narratives, myths and poetry in everyday living.

There is thus a need to explore what is left out from 'proper' architectural discourse. What is deferred.


Henri Lefebvre, 'Writing on Cities', Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas (trans and ed), Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publishers,1996

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 'The Primacy of Perception', James M Edie (ed), USA Northwestern University Press, 1982

Michel de Certeau, 'The Practice of Everyday Life', Steven Rendall (trans), Berkley, University of California Press, 1990

Richard Sennett, 'The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities, New York, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1990.

Terrence Chan

The student used the experiences of a hike in Nepal to start an investigation in the form of a narrative discourse into the difference between rational thought, particularly as related to processes of producing architecture, and the actual experience of the environment. The notion of dualities was used to create a dialectical structure. Experiences during the hike in Nepal as well as memories of other places including Singapore create the fabric of a narrative overlaid on this dialectical structure.

The narrative model was inspired by W.J. Mitchell's City of Bits and this also introduced a metaphor of fragments of experience as well as influenced the final the final observations. However, the structure and narrative show a creative and sensitive response to a perplexing problem inherent in the profession of architecture. It is perhaps because the rational processes of producing architecture are so dominant in the profession that they are taken as given and serve primarily as the reference points to the narrative of 'feeling structure'. While it imbalances the dialectical structure, if emphasises the aspect of duality which is most problematic for the architect.

The bibliography is diverse and quite extensive. Thus at first glance it may not seem focused, but most of the sources deal with perception of and meaning in the experienced environment. The composition flows well, weaving diary excerpts and quotations together with sensitive observations or reflections on the range of experiences and theories.

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