Writing forces us to set out our intentions in a more abstract form than design. The written idea can then be compared to the design idea, and the outcome assessed both in light of the architect’s intentions and independently.
Writing forces us to go outside architectural communication. We step beyond the exclusivity of our own drawings and symbols and schemas, intelligible only to the initiated capable of interpreting them and – if we manage to eschew obliquely architectural language – can communicate to everyone. We are talking to ourselves as we were before we learned to study architecture. Writing gives us a new way of breaking down and challenging our ideas. Whether or not we choose to use it, this is worth recognising. Of course, talking does all these too. But writing can be kept, and revised, and reviewed. As part of the design process, as part of understanding, I find it invaluable.
In Encounters, Juhani Pallasmaa disagrees: he says,
‘Initially, in writing about architecture, I thought of theoretical investigations as a precondition for design. For quite some time, however, I have regarded writing about architecture, and making architecture, as two relatively independent ways of working.’
The argument that writing and designing belong to different disciplines is a powerful one and an idea I recognise; the division between theoretical and creative exploration goes a long way towards describing my own relative strengths and weaknesses in the field of architecture. I am not, however, ready to accept the view that theoretical exploration need always and only take place in the written discipline, and creative in the design discipline.