Seminar Three: Research and New Areas of Knowledge

This is a presentation — with some subsequent discussion — at an architecture conference. Notable as being the first recorded instance of Brodey explaining his concept of “soft architecture.”

BERNARD P. SPRING, Chairman: I want to welcome you all to Seminar III of this second Boston Architectural Center Conference. I'm Bernard Spring, the Chairman of this session, which will deal with research and new areas of knowledge. All of the individuals in today’s session are deeply involved in the exploration of new areas of knowledge that can in some way lead us to a better environment for people. I'm going to ask each one of them to lead off with a description of his own work and after this to question one another about the implications of their particular endeavors. Finally, we'd like to have questions from the floor that might generate further discussion.

Let me say, to begin, that it looks as though the day for research related to the problems of architecture and building has finally arrived. During the last fifteen years, I've been to countless meetings at which people have made a brilliant case for the need for research to support the process of designing the human environment. I don’t feel it is necessary anymore to convince an audience made up largely of practitioners and educators that there is this need. I hope you've heard it before and are convinced. As practitioners, we know how to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty, but we have strong motivation to reduce the uncertainty. We're finally beginning to see some support in the form of money and interest in research. Now we're faced with the more difficult problem of setting goals and priorities for this work.

In some ways, research related to human needs and activities and to physical facilities which we build to accommodate them is even more complex than research in some well-established areas, such as space and medicine, that have for years been funded in the millions and even the billions of dollars. Yet we have less support than these fields and will have less for many years to come so I’ve asked the panel members to try to answer the question “How shall we set our priorities for the use of the limited resources that we are now beginning to get?” We can't work on everything that needs clarification and better understanding, but what areas of uncertainty are doing people the greatest harm at this time? We have to choose those areas of study which will give the highest return for the investment of time, skill, and intelligence in producing a more humane environment, that will enrich and support the activities and aspirations of man.

First, we must have an operational definition of these activities and aspirations. It's very easy to stand up here and say words like “the aspirations of man” but it takes a great deal of work to say precisely what is meant by this. But the development of operational definitions puts our research work in the political realm. We must also have a better idea of how our society will allocate its resources and how it perhaps will change some of the commonly accepted assumptions about what people are willing to pay for. And this puts our research in the economic and social realm.

My own list of priorities may be clear from what I’ve just said. I believe what might be called “software” research, the programming of needs and resources of people, must be emphasized today. It's not that “hardware” kinds of research should or possibly could be minimized but we do the best job of sharpening our technological resources and tools if we learn to program human activities first. Each time a design decision is made there is an implicit prediction about future human behavior. Just how good our predictions have been in the past I don’t know. I can’t know because there’s been no tradition of feedbacks to tell us what happens to people’s minds and lives in the places we build for them. Our first job is to find a reliable mechanism to complete the feedback cycle so that our predictions can bring us closer to our goals.

But I've said enough, and I want to allow the panelists to tell you about their work. So I'm going to introduce to you the first speaker, John McHale.

JOHN McHALE: We are going to be rather informal so I'm going to break the rules right away. I won't tell you in detail about my own work. In the very informal but lengthy discussion before we started, we felt that the crux of our discussion was the future of architecture. Does it have a future?

If many of our remarks today are provoking and perhaps somewhat abrasive to the architect, I think you ought to forgive us. We're not unfriendly but our abrasiveness comes from a concern, a rather passionate concern, for the role of the architect.

Now, the future of architecture. We may notice that most of the discussion which has gone on so far in the conference has been about the present and past of architecture. We might begin by asking what kinds of lags are there in taking up innovative ideas in architecture either in material or attitudes or in fresh concepts. What is architecture's record of innovation? At the moment, it is not very good, I'm afraid. How long was it before steel was available, for example, and got into concrete to make reinforcing? It was a lag of about 45 or 50 years. Yet reinforced concrete is now one of our major materials and has been for about 50 years. We're largely using it in the same way as we used it around 1898 when we first got into that sort of structural game.

Let me take another example from the New York Times, Monday, May 9, 1966. 'American bathroom rated low in study.' A Cornell University team spent seven years and $100,000.00 to find out that the bathroom is minimal in terms of contemporary knowledge, technology, values, and attitudes. It's unsanitary, uncomfortable, and often dangerous. Does this bode well for the future of a practice which allows one of the major components of the home to remain at this level of development? Forty-two years ago, pretty good and rather scientific bathrooms were designed, well fitted to contemporary need and to the kinds of production facilities then available—yet architecture is still hung up on that kind of problem.

I could go on picking away at how rapidly architects pick up technological knowledge and how fast they apply it. I don’t think that’s the particular problem. I think the person who introduced us pinpointed the question as one of software, new conceptual angles to the whole process of environmental design. My strong feeling is that the architect doesn't have to redefine his trade just to machines, to join the whole redefinition of the entire society. We are, in this conference, really stuck on the question of redefining the entire role of the architect.

Since the Renaissance, what architects have been mainly doing is building monuments or decorative packaging. For the past hundred years, for the past fifty years, and the past twenty-five years particularly, the modern movement has been largely preoccupied with packaging certain important, glamorous, very attractive aspects of contemporary life. Corporate architecture and the house of machines. 

DONALD KENNEDY: What has just been said about architecture is true and applicable to both anthropology and medicine, two professional areas that I know something about from my past 8 or 10 years of experience. If you ask where the innovations in medicine have come from, they have very often come from outside of medicine. Relatively few of the leaders of the medical profession have been alert enough and self-confident enough to bring major changes into the mainstream of the practice of medicine. The same is true for the much smaller and less well-known field of social anthropology which I represent. At the annual meetings of of the anthropology society you find a great concern for description of the past but very little concern for matters of the present and immediate future–matters that in effect revolve around the issue of survival. And it is to this point that I think we need to address some of our remarks this afternoon.

I felt as though I was entering a type of small tribal society. First of all, I had a sense of the tremendous importance of the humanities as the major stream of knowledge and support for architecture. And Yet buildings are quite different from poems or paintings or pieces of sculpture. They are certainly larger and more difficult to move around, or to purchase for that matter. This morning the conversation very often turned to science and engineering, but seldom to the life sciences or the social sciences. Both of these fields of science have a great deal to contribute to architecture, but I agree that a sociologist will contribute little of immediate practical help in designing a new curriculum for a school of architecture. 

Let me explain. In the early days of development in the social sciences, we were caught up with social reform, but later we learned that the situation was more complicated than we had first thought. At that time we began to spend more time on careful, empirical investigation of the way people actually behave rather than how they ought to behave. No matter how crude our concepts, theory, and method may be at this point,I feel that we need to develop more direct working relationships with the practicing professions such as law, medicine, and architecture. The time has come for us to get out of our libraries, our books, and our esoteric linguistic structures and to test wits and knowledge and concepts with the people who are shaping the world around us every minute of the day. John McHale just spoke about how the architect finds himself at the end of a long stream of decision-making behavior, in the process of legislative decision, or in the internal workings of the way buildings get built and cities get renewed. Unless we begin to ask questions and participate in some of the earlier stages where there's a greater degree of 1reedom, we shall have no one but ourselves to blame if we are left out when the truly formative decisions are made. Often all of the important decisions have been made by the time we have an opportunity to speak. 

WARREN BRODEY:I thought I would talk about soft architecture, which is different from hard architecture insofar as it is not an architecture of shells and pellets. It is an architecture of tissues and of time, of processes and relationships. The role of the architect in world society is a potential focus for discussion. "Life in the form" was the phrase used this morning. 

What kind of form are we speaking of? The form of hard architecture is the form of solid blocks of right and left, of north and south, of inches, of long strips of things. This is not the architecture of tissue, or of movement or of time. Neither is it the architecture of life. It is instead an architecture which does not know the theme of obsolescence, the obsolescence that comes to all things as they change in form from moment to moment.

As I was thinking about the problem presented by our Chairman, I wondered how I would design a course of soft architecture for students. I would take up first the problem of extinguishing obsolescent customs. One might say that this process is fortuitous and artistic, but I say there is a science to extinguishing obsolescent customs. We are for example more constrained by former tools than we realize. When one draws a drawing of a building, one is limited to paper, to the X -Y axis, and to the constraints that have been applied by the paper and pencil technology. Within this media one does not have the capacity to talk about the rich flow of living things. What do I mean by the rich flow of living things? ls that just so much more garbage? ls it mystically intuitive? The dialogue between man and his environment cannot be symbolized in paper pencil graphs, or in solid blocks of right and left, of north and south, of inches, of long strips of things. The sociologist, the anthropologist, and all of us here have had the problem of not knowing how to organize that dialogue so that we can think of it in concrete symbols as was discussed this morning. Each new media provides new simple symbols. Can computers help in representing dialogue? What is dialogue?

When I look at you I don't see forms in concrete.I see living creatures who are changing moment to moment. Let me be more explicit. Each of you puts out Bound. Each of you puts out Each of you moves in a particular manner and processes heat. information in a particular way. Each of you has characteristics which are definable but these characteristics are not definable if one is involved with the old model of A causes B,B causes C, and C causes D. If you try to model the human dialogue with his environment in terms of this kind of linear approach, you will get nowhere. It's like adding up people to try and make a group. A group is more than the sum of its people. The dialogue in a group develops a movement, a flow, a richness, which like the mass of people at a ballgame gets excited and its excitement builds excitement. This is a non-linear process—a growth process. And so it is that our human displays, for example the sounds of our moving bodies and our voices, reflected constantly by the walls and back to us, give a kind of dialogue with the walls of the room, with the air in the room, with the heat of the room. This dialogue with the environment is beginning to be definable. Now how do we approach this with students? Through our space explorations, we now have a capacity to develop sensors which can tell us about the information output, the physical qualities of a person or a group of people. We have a telemetry technology, that allows us to measure with minimal interference with people behavior. We have the capacity to make measurements on people that we couldn't make before. We have also the capacity to simulate environments so that we can build environments to surround a person and get his changing reaction as we change the environment. If we try to change environment in the old style using a linear kind of model, we would go from A to B to C without regard to how the person is responding. Now lt becomes possible to change the environment as a function of the way the man changes in response to his environment. Let me give you one simple example. lt is now possible, though still difficult, to map the places where a man is looking at the printed page or the display on a computer. We hope to be able soon to change the way the computer sends its information as a function of the way the man is looking at the display. Real time computation allows the development of new media as æsponsive as tissue to the changing environment. The contrasting limits of ]paper and pencil are evident.

We are capable of changing the environment as a function of man's response to the environment even while he is responding in microsecond time. We are capable of driving that change to see what kind of parameters change as we drive his changing. For example we can change the lighting of a room æ a function of the way the man's pupil reaction occurs while it is occurring. We can radiate heat from the walls of a room in terms of where the person moves in the room and the heat he radiates. We then begin to move into a situation where we can build an environment which changes in response to individual variety, or group variety. We no longer have to build environments which essentially program or automate the people who walk into them by treating each as the embodied average of the many. 

Our task for the future is one of enhancement. Our architecture of the past has been one that preserves the inertia of our tradition as well as its beauty. Our architecture of the future must use individual variety and, more than that, build so as to explore the possibilities for enhancing people. By such enhancement I include the enhancement of our capacity to perceive. When architects brought color into architecture they began to help people learn how to use color. As people who are interested in the definition of an environment which is responsive to the human being, we have an obligation to facilitate the human's own need to evolve in a way that preserves his variety and enlarges his Individual skill.

This is what would teach in a course on salt architecture. With the help of fresh young minds we would spawn new resources.

EZRA EHRENKRANTZ: As a further example of Dr.Brodey's thesis I will now have to change my remarks. If we begin with the needs of people and the way these may be described and start being used as a basis within the building industry and try to organise to meet these needs, I think we find a considerable number of obstacles in terms of the way the building industry tradition works. Mr. Spring asked the panel to talk a bit about priorities for research in terms of the future of architecture. Perhaps one of the major areas for research is in the development of mechanisms so that the needs as expressed by Mr. Brodey could be met within developing technology so that the technological lag does not result In developments becoming obsolete without ever being used. 

The simple requirements of competitive bidding are an obstacle to Innovation. A single architect working on a single building might solicit the aid of a manufacturer to develop new products, but he will find that any innovation based on research and development on the part of that manufacturer must be available from at least two other firms if he is to have a valid bid. This manufacturer must then give up rights to the development which in turn reduces his interest in doing the research to come up with new products. In the same way, a general contractor, faced with new products to be installed in a building for the first time has a learning curve which requires the addition of a certain amount of dollars to be charged up to contingencies thus making it more difficult to bring in new products at a reasonable price. I think there are many such obstacles, related to codes, Jurisdictional disputes, ways in which sub-contractors shop manufacturers, and to the entire process within the industry. 

But a lag does not exist because people want a lag to exist. It is there because our processes do not allow us to reduce the lag as we should like. Therefore, I believe this is one of the major places In which we have priorities for research in architecture. In our own work in California, on both the school construction project wherein the buildings are now under construction and on a new program relating to college dormitories, we are trying to work on this process. It might be well to give a short outline of the procedures that we are using. There were others to choose from and we are by no means sure that the ones selected for our own experiments were right or that they are the only ones that might work. 

We started to create a grooup of school districts as a large client body. Thirteen districts were grouped together, permitting 22 schools to be built with non-existent products to be designed to non-existent performance specifications. The performance specifications were written after work involving the curriculum people within the school districts. After stating the educational requirements we developed technical performance specifications so that manufacturers could develop new products on a performance basis rather than an a materials basis and wherein they could bid and each company would have the right to its own development and not have to compromise these rights in a bidding process. Then the successful bidders proceeded with development work. The first schools are now under construction. Our work was to try to develop certain optimums within a process relating to the development of means or a keyboard for design. As a contrast, in the aircraft industry optimization takes place for end products rather than for a keyboard. I think the principles of optimization are basic and people will proceed along these lines irrespective of any particular group's self interest. But the development of procedures can be so oriented that the optimisation of a keyboard, of a palette, is just as feasible as optimization in terms of end p products. It is interesting to note that the development of the CSA as a cargo plane by Lockheed was the first example in terms of military procurement where procedures for optimization were developed. in this case the market was $2 billion and the manufacturer spent as much as $40 million in order to be able to bid. Over the same period of time the number of schooIs to be built in this country is $10 billion. $2 bilIion per year for five years. So that we may be faced at some point in the near future wherein the two procedures for optimization conflict, that of a keyboard and that of an end product. Thank you. 

BERNARD P. SPRING: Your response was directly in line with the questions I asked. I'd like to pose this question to you. If I were representative of a foundation and I had a million dollars available for research that would do something to improve the physical environment of human beings and said I'd like to give it to you, what would you do with it Mr. McHale?


JOHN McHALE: I just happen to have the program. We have in effect a ten year world student program (World Design Science Decade 1965—197S) which is concerned precisely with most of these problems. That is, with reorienting the education of the architect and planner in the direction of these problems. We say that architects will no longer be concerned simply with the end product of the building or even with a series of services around that building. Architectural problems. like all problems in our society, assume the architect's relationship to all the disciplines. All problems are, in a sense, world problems. All I would do is take your million dollars and plug it into our program. 

BERNARD P. SPRING: Would you like to try to answer the same question, Mr.Kennedy? 

DONALD KENNEDY. With a million dollars to invest I would make an attempt to understand how the entire construction system works. I put that very carefully because we have some wonderful examples in the earlier comments. If the architect is being constrained inappropriately by building codes, then he should work on changing the codes. If standards refer to materials rather than performance, they should be changed. If dominant attitudes of the architectural profession cause it to become peripheral! to the major volume of construction in the society, then it is necessary to change the education and deviance-control systems of the profession to be sure architecture can make a major contribution to the entire man-made environment. 

A few references have already been made to tremendous developments in the military and space programs. When some of these new technical developments begin to emerge from behind the cloak of m military security, they will have a tremendous impact on the way we do things in the civilian sector. Let us assume that an increasing fraction of our current expenditures for military defense will be channeled into the domestic economy. We can further assume that much of the industrial research and development associated with the aerospace industry will be redirected to solve the problems of our schools, hospitals, and cities. We must be attuned to these major developments if architecture is to have a significant role in influencing the design of man's environment. 

WARREN BRODEY. If I had a million dollars I would find a group of really astute politicians. people who cared about the future, and perhaps through the A.I.A. or this institution here, I would try to set up a powerful group which would become involved with the problem of building codes, To my mind, the architect has a noose around his neck whenever he thinks of innovation because of building codes, and such a powerful political group from amongst the architects would be very effective. Two, I would then collect another million dollars, or two, or three, or four, mostly from government since they have so much of our money, for the education of the architect. Now, when I had three or four million dollars, I would then set about changing the education of architects so that architects had an additional technology which would be the technology of rea1Iy comprehending the environment and man's dialogue with it, in specifics. I would, for example, want to spend some money mapping the kinds of information output and input from the environment. But first of all I would like my group of political people who would also be money raisers. 

EZRA EHRENKRANTZ: Well, I was thinking of initially using the one million to develop a proposal for two hundred million. The nature of the problem, when one begins to talk about building codes, requires that and much more. The complexity in the building Industry is difficult to imagine until you start to work with each of the groups involved in a process representing change. In civics, we all learn that the strength of the United States is based on the fact that we have three major portions of government, each making sure that no one else gets too much power. In the building industry we have a hundred and one different sources of power, each with the right of veto, so we end up with anarchy. In order to unravel this, to make it work, and to develop the appropriate mechanisms upon which we can build and utilize research development in an orderly manner, involves an extraordinary effort.

BERNARD P. SPRING: You can see the keen minds we have on the platform: every one suggests that we use the money to get some more. I limited my offer to such a small amount, and a million dollars is a very small amount to do any kind of research in the park these days, because that's the order of magnitude of money that is becoming available, and not the two hundred million that we do need for the job.

WARREN BRODEY: There have been attempts to rewrite building codes, in some cases with a blank slate open to the writers of the codes. Given that opportunity, what would you use as your format? A people-use based code is not yet possible; we don't know how to examine performance of people in buildings or in the environment. We don't know the first thing about it in a rigorous way. The profession spends a great deal of time observing people, whether he's aware of it or not and he bases what he does on that observation. Yet even those of us with rich experience cannot observe enough performance to come to any firm conclusions about what kind of performance we will elicit next time we do something. It's a very complicated issue. If we have limited resources for research that's where I would put them.

DONALD KENNEDY. It is difficult to acquire the broad empirical data needed to draw up building codes which protect against such unlikely events as fire, explosion, or earthquake. The disaster studies conducted in recent years have depended on a research team that was on call and was flown to the scene of a disaster as rapidly as possible.

Take, for example, the process of escape and the panic behavior of a crowd in public buildings. After the Coconut Grove disaster we made some rules about emergency lighting in case of power failure and about the way doors should open with panic bars or other devices. Then we went along for a while until another disaster occurred somewhere. After each disaster one or two more specific directives are added to various building codes.

It seems to me that we have a real need for understanding the special form of interaction between people and the containers in which they may be trapped. In recent crashes of commercial aircraft, passengers were burned alive who might have been saved if we had designed for escape the way European railroad trains are designed, where everyone has a door beside his seat and the crowd doesn't have to surge to the end door. Perhaps the way to escape from a city building is not down, but either laterally to the next building across the gulf created by the street, or up by helicopter pickup. Perhaps all new buildings should have landing ports for helicopters. We need to think of escape behavior on a collective basis in order to generate solid empirical evidence to support the revision of building codes.

WARREN BRODEY: Can I generalize from that a little bit? Gordon Pask, who lives in England, is a leading cyberneticist and a very fine man. Gordon has written a pamphlet called, “My Prediction for the Year 2000," and he points out that in the past we have built, let's say dams, so that the dam would at all times be able to handle a maximum flood: Now, given our new control capacities, it should be possible to build a dam with special control behavior which predicts and is intelligently responsive to the behavior of the dam's environment. In the past we have thought of our buildings as hard buildings unrelated to time and particular events in time. Time was something that was for all time. A great building was timelessly living massiveness of dinosaur vintage is traded off for control skill, a truth for all time. Objectivity was for all time. Now it becomes possible with control skills that we have with computers, new thinking about control, to change the design of our buildings and our environment so that it becomes responsive to the shifts which might threaten that particular environment. Talking about disasters is exciting. We love it. If there's a fire on Beacon Hill, we all go to it. But when it comes to enhancement, making our individual lives more exciting from day-to-day, nobody has interest or money. We have to design our environment so that it will be responsive in terms of enhancement. This is particularly important in our development of schools to enhance learning, rather than schools that receive bodies and turn out well-disciplined drones. Remember, man cannot compete with his machines in their capacity to follow recipes. Man's specialty is invention.

EZRA EHRENKRANTZ: Your comments of change in time bring to mind the analogies of the Victorian house with very little sophistication in terms of control and factors of environment but with an abundance of space which permitted a family to change its mode of life, have another child, a new hobby or perhaps an extra car within the family. Today we tend to design very much down to the limits. We have increased the controls. We have increased the environmental potential. We have taken away space. So that a new child, or car, or hobby drives people out of one house and into another. We cannot evolve within the environment that we build for ourselves, and so secondhand houses come on the market continually. There's no such market for secondhand schools or hospitals.

JOHN McHALE: We seem to be trapped on the platform purely in terms of the past. We are assuming that someone else has the initiative, someone else has the information. We refer to a lot of information coming from space as classified and so on. It's not classified. There's an enormous pot of that information ready for anybody to pick up. All that's lacking is the initiative. Where is the initiative? The politician? Not really. At the moment, in the world, all we are doing is reacting to situations and trends that have been building up for half a century, and in our general environment, we are doing exactly the same thing. To refer to this report on the decision-making process. By and large, the gist of it is that we can't make any decisions. We do not have any experts to make the decisions for us, so we keep assuming that the other character is the expert. That the man over there has the initiative, he can go ahead and use it. Let's go back to the architect! Here we have a discipline which fuses the sciences and the humanities. Here is the opportunity for one of the most integratable disciplines to pick up that initiative, to ask what are the major problems in the environment and to lay out plans for their solution. No one else, I can assure you, is doing it. Don't mention too much and too strongly the defense industry. The record shows it is not such an innovation to transfer their kind of technology and their kind of thinking to civilian problems. The Job Corps is an excellent example of where they've got into the act, and they're doing much better than the universities who do a very polarized job. Each of those people, each area of the civilian sector, is just as effectively trapped in the past as we are. We have got to fight our way out of the school paper bag of the past, as you might say, and you can start right in this very room. Start writing a program for the next 10 years, or the next 100 years, whatever you want to do. We have the energy, the skill and the monies. You don't need the money to start with. You need a computer. And you have got it: between your ears. (APPLAUSE.)

WARREN BRODEY: You know, you get trapped behind that thing there, you get trapped behind this desk, space is trapping us all the time. Architects are experts at space, you can help with this.

Now let me say a new thing further on how we are all trapped. We are trapped in certain traditions. For example, I wrote an article which appeared in the A.I.A. Journal on Sound and Space. You and I are trapped in this room by sounds. Listen for a minute to that steady beat from the air-conditioning. How many architects are really involved with designing in terms of sound? Most architects design entirely in terms of visual sense. It is fantastic that architecture is considered one of the visual arts. What's visual about it? It's visual for the architect who can hire a good photographer to get pictures of a house for an exhibit, good pictures which may not resemble the house at all. I say that a man has many senses, which interplay with each other, and it's time we got involved with all of them, including this business of being able to move around in spaces. We DO need somehow to develop a technology that allows us to really sense all of our senses. In the past we have become captured. I myself have sometimes felt in a modern building like a butterfly or a bird that is thrashing against the walls. It's about time that we somehow conceptualized man differently. You have been trapped by science which has intimidated you and all practitioners into thinking there should be a simplicity which denies complexity. My friends, there is no such simplicity. It does not exist. The computer that you have between your ears demands respect, but it doesn't and didn't get it in the science of the early part of this century. At the present time, science has transferred its interest to complexity. NOW is our heyday.

DONALD KENNEDY: I'd like to comment on that point in two ways: First of all, going back to your statement that there are senses other than visual, I think architects have carefully trained themselves and their students in a highly specialized visual sense, a certain form of X-ray vision, if you will. I have begun to acquire a little bit of this visual sensitivity by associating with architects and it opens up a new perceptual dimension.

The second point concerns the importance of the sense of hearing. In working with an architect
and several others on the design of a children's hospital, I have been hit every time I entered the hospital by the great number of crying children. This loud sound was unnerving to me but was not particularly disturbing to either the architect or the pediatrician. I believe that sound control and modulation are part of the design of a children's hospital. Can't we think of a hospital as a place where, no matter how carefully and tenderly nurses handle sick children, they are going to cry?

I can't help but believe that an alarming sound provides a fatigue factor for all the people in that hospital. Furthermore, there is contagion of anxiety as cries sweep through the wards. In addition, the senses of touch and smell are often forgotten in the design of buildings.

The architect is in a truly unique position because of his long-standing tradition of synthesizing and integrating knowledge. In the present era, we have an elaborate division of labor, and it is only through specialization that people are rewarded in their occupational careers. We are getting ourselves into a bad trap because certain activities in this world require integration, coordination, and synthesis. This is a central problem for the profession of medicine as the process of specialization continues unabated.


BERNARD P. SPRING: I hope that some of the stirrings I detected in the audience earlier were because you had burning questions. Or speeches. We want to make the remainder of this session an open forum. I'll start now by asking anyone of the floor if they have any questions that they want to state directly to the panel.

QUESTION: Do you think we are overlooking basic research because we are too much involved with more research in areas of the concrete?

WARREN BRODEY: What I have been talking about is really research in the concrete. I have been talking about the communication between something that is concrete and a human creature. This is what the architect is expert at, and at the same time our language doesn't encompass most of this which we call intuition and beauty, so that you have no way of telling someone else what you're doing; when it comes to the educational process all you can do is carry on by apprenticeship. The only problem with apprenticeship is that with large numbers of people it's not efficient. In a way, the problem of the architect and his education, and of research in architecture is precisely, as the gentleman said, how to specify this concrete symbolic skill. We can't do it by turning it into words. We can do it by synthesizing some of these environments so that we have the man and the concrete symbol together and essentially make measurements of their interaction rather than talk about whether a building is beautiful or not in specifics. The intuitive will always exist, we need to specify when we can. Beauty and such words mean different things in different contexts. We need to build the rules that allow you to take a complex system and make it simple without killing it. I would like to do an experiment with this audience to make what I've said more explicit. I tried with doctors and they had the damnedest time finding their own pulse. Maybe architects are better at it.

The experiment goes this way: Put one finger on your pulse so you feel it. Now start tapping your foot in time with your pulse. And tap it fairly loud. Keep it going. (The assembled group beat and try to fight off synchronizing). Now, is there any question in your mind but that you are building up a regular pulse? How many people thought there was a regular pulse that developed in the group? How many thought there wasn't? Well, we can't really test this and all I am saying is that a complex social group like this does have a pulse and that pulse of a complex phenomenon has a certain kind of simplicity to it. The phrasing of a dialogue in time is not random. There are definite constraints within which complex interdependent systems operate and the science we are talking about is not the science of words, but the science of these pulses, of discovering those simplicities which can illuminate the complex systems placed within our control by our new tools. You cannot get that kind of simplicity by trying to add the old simple systems into more and more complexity. You have to go right to the complex and unravel it and that's what you folks are expert at.

DONALD KENNEDY: I'd like to comment on the concrete symbol process, because I have had several opportunities to watch it in action. When I first started working with an architect, Delbert Highlands, we had the implicit assumption that the process of design should start with programming. At that time, I didn't know what programming meant. I thought it was what you did before a computer could be put to work. I soon learned that it concerned the initial communication between the architect and client to determine what the client really needed and what kind of activities were to be housed. The programming of a pediatric teaching hospital proved to be a very complicated process. The time clock was running on the research project and the designer was eager to begin, so he started designing. He had never studied a hospital before, but he started designing just the same. We exposed ourselves constantly to the hospital. We walked all over it. We talked to people in every area. We went on tours with different specialists who pointed out what was of interest to them. It was fascinating to see what happened as this experience was brought back to the drafting room. Sketches, not words, became the means for understanding complex relationships. Here was a whole medium of analysis and synthesis that poured forth on thousands of sheets of paper.

Let me jump to another example of the concrete symbol. I was privileged to join a sculptor, two design architects, and a landscape architect in a design competition. Here was a contrast in symbolic modes because the architects were used to working with paper and pencil and the sculptor was not. The sculptor immediately went to his studio and proceeded to create the design setting in miniature. He had the parts all fastened down so they could be removed and modified. A fascinating conflict and problem of communication between cultures developed as architect and sculptor began to wrestle with the approach and to see that it made a great deal of difference whether or not you worked with tangible physical materials. Once, discussing lines of energy and perception, they climbed on stools and placed long sticks of wood on the model. All of this action related to a tangible model assisted the team members in resolving their differences in symbolic custom.

EZRA EHRENKRANTZ: We had some rather interesting programming problems when we began to work on the school project. Working initially with separate groups of educators, as most of our team were architecturally inclined, we found that the educators considered themselves experts on everything to do with physical space, but they didn't know very much about the educational planning that would take place. We then had the opportunity to meet with all the architects who would be designing the individual buildings and discovered that they had great ideas on the educational process, but didn't think that there was any architectural problem whatsoever. They were afraid to work together because each was stepping on the other’s toes and saying their own problems were relatively non-existent and so it was rather interesting to work with the educators and their architects until they could see what the basic problems might be. We noticed that the educators continually thought in terms of how the last school had been designed and what revisions might be made. They did not know about or consider any possible innovations which would change the entire basis of decision-making as far as they were concerned. The same was true with the architects with respect to education. In this impasse, we discovered that there were really three schools to be designed within a single campus: The actual school that would be used, the school to be used if the teachers that the superintendent wanted had been trained by the teachers' colleges and the school that they would like to use if they could, in fact develop new programs for teachers being trained by teachers' colleges. So, going back to Dr. Brodey's concept of a space-time relationship, of designing buildings which could evolve in time The statement did come out of the program that what we wanted for the school districts was a school which would be a laboratory for its own evolution.

WARREN BRODEY: May I ask a question of the architects? Is there any really active central body that acts to advise on research proposals? Do you have a political action group representing architects and their interests in architectural research? A central body where any particular university or group could get advice on money available, on framing a research proposal, and so on.

FROM THE FLOOR: (Not recorded.)

JOHN McHALE. I assist one of the English magazines in environment control research. They wanted a special issue to examine where we are in environment control and where we are going to be in the year 2000, 35 years from now when students and younger architects will be in full working practice. Surveying the scene, I found that no environment control research of any value is being done in architecture. It’s being done in space. It's being done in undersea research, the work of Cousteau and the undersea labs of the U.S. Navy. The work in ancillary transportation, or the kinds of nets that will serve these new environment controls, such as the Russians are beginning to employ in Siberia and we are beginning to introduce in Africa, is not being done in architectural research laboratories—not for lack of money, but lack of adequate concepts. A moment ago I mentioned concrete symbolism. Concrete has little to do with it when the bulk of our technology, ninety-nine percent of it, is beyond the visible frequencies. Unfortunately, architecture seems completely hung up on the visible. And consistently the panel stays with the present, describing what we are doing now. I wonder if at the end, there will be anything which even refers to the future. I would suggest seriously to you, gentlemen, unless you watch out, architecture doesn't have a future in terms of environment control on this very small earth we now have. We are speaking in terms of a very small closed ecology. All the mechanisms of that closed ecology are presently being designed; they are not in your hands at all. You’ll be asked to come in to decide on the trim of the table, the sort of plastic you might put around the edge. If you want to have that kind of function, to be decorators and cosmeticians, O.K. Go on as you are, and laugh about architectural research in concrete terms. If you don't want it, start talking about the future.

I'd like to address myself to that very point. In fact, I thought the panel got off in a rather discouraging way when they began to give attention to the building codes that we are living with. It's not unlike Lady Bird's attack on the urban problem, beautification. And to me, it's really unfortunate in the sense that it pays attention to symptomatic aspects of what is a major chronic problem that is yet to be defined by the architect for planning professions. It is unfortunate that the architect's continual misuse of terms such as networks, such as systems is so contrary to a science approach to the same term “systems.” One wonders whether systems really apply to the Vierendiel process you see upstairs. Is this really systems in terms of urban solution? I submit to you it isn't. We are not directing our attention to the urban environments in which we live and we do not have collective drive among ourselves to direct our attention to them. We haven't made these definitions. There is a great deal of emphasis on the definition of architecture, but again it is another beautification of the city movement. Perhaps the term “architecture” is archaic in a sense. We can involve ourselves at the level that most of us would hope or, as you say, ultimately become interior decorators or plastic designers for microphone heads, etc.

BERNARD P. SPRING: One of the questions we are trying to answer in the research sponsored by the American Institute of Architects in architectural education is what specifically should an architect be able to do if he senses this broader problem, if he senses his role as peripheral. What does he then do? What can he do Monday morning when he goes back to the office to effect the change that we have been saying is necessary.

DONALD KENNEDY: I’d like to suggest that when you go back to the office, you seriously consider the possibility that architects do not understand our present use of the word “research.”Anybody who works in the humanities is concerned with history, so if you are an architect, you read books and you visit buildings. You take pictures of them, sketch them, and walk around them as they are knocked down in preparation for urban renewal. This form of study has been operative for generations in the humanistic disciplines. It is not research, however, as we know it in nuclear physics, in molecular biology, or in the social sciences. Architects interview clients but they use no systematic research methodology to collect information and to control for error and bias. I seriously propose to you that architects need to become more realistic and accurate in their understanding of empirical research as it is practiced in the life sciences and social sciences. 

WARREN BRODEY: Let me add a word to that: I was at a meeting of psych|atrists last week and the same issue came up. They are in the same position and their research is in about the same state. I told them that most people of my age have grown up in a tradition of research which was appropriate to somewhere round the 1890s. There was no capacity to symbolize the things that are important. When psychiatrists talked to psychologists, or anthropologists, or sociologists who knew about research, the "research specialists" would take the clinicians' words literally and forget the context. They would forget the complexity and then do asinine things. There is no sense in being accurate when you aren't in the right ball park. If you're not in the right ball park, I hen you might as well be sloppy about accuracy and think very hard about how to avoid the inconsequential until you get a new idea worth exploring. The problem is to get in the right ball park, and we didn't have the tools in the old days to get in the right ball park. We couldn't measure going action as it occurs, what I call ’‘the growth edge of change.” In the past, we always had to be referring back to something thatt we'd stopped still. What we need to be abIe to do and what we can do in this new age of measurement is to measure things as they happen.I say that the architect will have a place when he is able to master some of these new techniques of science.

CARL KOCH FROM THE FLOOR: I would like to ask Mr. McHale where he would go and to whom he would apply, other than Bucky, if he were a young man interested in the 400 million people who need to be housed. Where would he go assuming he wouldn't go to any architectural school?

JOHN McHALE: That's pretty tough, you see, because people have assumed that architecture was looking after this problem. There's no one else looking after it, and suddenly there is a gap much the same way as there is a gap in the problem of congestion in cities and in pollution. There's a gap in all of these urban ills, but we thought that someone was looking after them. This does not exist and this is what I keep trying to suggest to you. If it doesn't exist, create it. You have a very large, very prestigious professional organization, the American Institute of Architects. Does it have any solution to urban congestion? Has it laid out the plans for the next 10 years? Or the next 35? I haven't noticed them.

Question concerning methods of going at this research by architects. Are any sources being missed?

BERNARD P. SPRING: Everything worthwhile that's done in the area of architectural research is fully reported in the professional magazines that you read. That's all there is.

It would seem lame that a great many of the specialists in architecture could be computerized. Just as feedback systems and computers have possibly made politics obsolete at this point, possibly they will soon make other specialized areas obsolete and give us as human beings the opportunity to go off and solve the real problems which are those of bringing things together. Why couldn't a whole hospital be done on a computer at this point if given the proper feedback systems?

DONALD KENNEDY: It seems to me that before a computer can do anything, we have to feed it information and be able to tell it what to do. And with no unified theoretical framework and little empirical data, how shall we know what to tell the computer? 

You have the feedback instruments available now.

JOHN McHALE: We have to have some kind of theory or model to test out the computer.

DONALD KENNEDY: Let me speak about the usefulness of a file computer. Let's not theorize about what a computer might be able to do. Rather, let's put it to work on what it can do right now for any large architectural office. Fantastic volumes of documents, specification manuals, and diagrams are available. New material is arriving every day. Although this information is tremendously useful in exploring design possibilities and in writing specifications, it is very difficult with present methods of storage and retrieval to bring this data quickly to bear on the problem at hand. The modern file computer can be of considerable assistance here if architects will invest time and money in the conversion process.

JOHN McHALE: People generally want to recover information to improve filing systems extending into computer filing of information. The stumbling block has always been the nature of the decision-making process used by architects. We have not yet been able to clarify that and that's a key to any retrieval system. We have various ad hoc retrieval systems. In England they have SFB which is very sophisticated, yet I've just been reading a series of articles which explains all of the drawbacks and pitfalls of even that system. The difficulty lies in what I call software—that is, an understanding of the decision-making process itself and the reasons that you need information in the first place.

WARREN BRODEY: I work at NASA part of the time on man-machine systems in a computer laboratory, and we have some knowledge of what's going on in the computer field. What one can do with computers is fantastic. The only problem is having the imagination to really use them. Now, for example, there is something called multiprocessing. You take a complex body of information, you don't have to simplify it the way you did in the past, and you work with the complexity all at once and try and find out the characteristics of the whole system. In the traffic business, we've made a fair amount of progress. The problem at the moment is that you have to type in specific commands, and people are used to talking. Some people have ideas in their fingers, many have ideas in their mouths and in their bodies. The variety is important. What we are trying to do for the space environment is to enable the astronaut to have contact with the computer by more modalities than just his fingers. We are working on the problem of being able to give spoken commands to the computer and have it act in response. We are also working on the problem of having the computer speak back. Some people think that these devices can only follow recipes. As the computer is given more recipes including those telling how to rearrange these into new recipes, it is able to learn and can come up with conceptions and surprises that you would never have anticipated. You have a body of knowledge; you have rules and these rules can be specified. You need a place to put a hypothesis which is a complicated hypothesis. You haven't got it specified, you are guessing, you are not sure you're right. You put the hypothesis into the system and essentially it activates a test situation to see what will happen. In a simulated environment we can put a man in a room and then send him signals via his ears as if there were windows in the room. We are beginning to be able to see the effect of the windows while the whole system is reactive to the small initial effect, the interdependence of timing, context, and form is well known to the artist. We can work with this kind of artistic building the environment by simulation while we and the machine search for concepts which explain. This is synthesis, and this is testing out things so that we don't have to go back to analyzing them into the simplest pieces, because the total of the component pieces does not represent the whole.

I'd like to ask Kennedy, who said that the architect has no concept of what research really is, does the problem not fall back on the architect and the way schools are then set up?

DONALD KENNEDY: I think the problem also relates to a transformation that has been taking place in our society for approximately 400 years. According to Everett Mendelson and others who have written on this subject, there is a certain kind of gradual increment in the way science has permeated many aspects of our life experience. We are not really aware of the changes until we hear something like “the majority of the drugs now dispensed by physicians did not exist 10 years ago.” This kind of factual statement brings you up short. The way science penetrated into the major universities of this country and Europe teaches an important lesson because science didn't start in the universities and the universities resisted it for a long time. The same kind of resistance exists in certain graduate departments in the universities today, notably in schools of law, education, divinity, and architecture. But, it seems to me that departments of architecture in this country, as well as practicing architects, are operating close to the margin. You lack any real resources to develop a more scientific stance and that's why the conversation keeps coming back to research funds. The money is available, but it takes skill and trained professionals to write proposals and to conduct successful research projects. I would advise architects to spend more time associating with accomplished researchers in other departments of the university.

Can the architect collect information?

JOHN McHALE: The amount of information available in this country staggers the imagination and most of it is at the end of a telephone. Few architects use the Defense Documentation Center, or have even heard of it. A FREE information service that has access to the most advanced, scientific information in the country. And that would be, of course, in the world, because the U.S. is pretty far advanced. You have an idea, you call a number, and you get back a full Xeroxed copy. Now this might be for such a thing as a handbook of bioastronautics. It provides the most complete compendium about all that's known about the human organism. If you’re working at a university which has military contracts it costs two minutes to write down the number, and that's the total price. The architect has no way of getting this information because he is so mis-educated, in relation to information generally. He doesn't have the scientific attitude or the relation to the environment that we automatically assume nowadays.

You might say that the end product of a good architectural education is a good building, and I don't think architects ever agree on what is a good building. I sense that this architectural vocabulary of a good building has almost no place to plug in the kinds of discussion that went on this afternoon. I suspect there are two different vocabularies of working. I wish someone could add a little more insight as to how the well-educated architect or student of the future might get this. At present as things exist, I don't think they have it at all.

WARREN BRODEY: If you could take a building up into space, you could see if you could stay alive in it. It's a lot simpler for the space agencies and the defense agencies because there are stringent requirements which are well defined. You die if you don't have the environment set up correctly.

I'd like to ask Dr. Kennedy and any other panelists to respond to the following question based on the reaction of a friend of mine. He is a man who has addressed architects nationally and perhaps internationally for some time. He gets very perplexed as to what the architects are receiving from his information when he shows them birds sitting on a telephone wire and people queued up for a bus. Just what is being received by the architects? He wonders whether they see more than an interesting photographic composition. How successful are you in communicating your areas of information to architects in the associations that you have had?

DONALD KENNEDY: That's a nice question. I can think of one example, having spent three years working full-time with an architectural designer by the name of Delbert Highlands who is now at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. About a year ago we were writing a final report for a research project. We each wrote several chapters, read each other's manuscripts in draft form and made suggestions about anything that might have been omitted or ambiguously expressed. Usually, we experienced little difficulty in communication. At times we had to take care not to write about each other's specialization. However, our highly developed visual sensitivities and the attention to detail that we cultivated in our professional training helped us overcome the challenges of interdisciplinary communication. CertainIy in this instance there was a fair amount of understanding and easy communication, yet at times difficulty arose because of the technical vocabulary of the different disciplines. To an anthropologist “orientation” refers psychological attitudes, not to the placement of a building in relation to the sun. lt takes a little time to discover these differences in language. 

In the last analysis, the architect is always more interested in the physical structure and the aesthetic visual form of a building; and I am more interested in people and how they feel about a structure and how they use it for entirely different things after the architect and builders have gone away. For some reason, architects seldom do any follow-ups. Just as physicians never know what happens to their patients and schools never know what happens to their pupils, architects seldom know what happens to their buildings. Somewhere along the line there needs to be a more continued expression of concern over occupancy and the interpIay between human beings and shelters that we have been talking about. These two worlds are hard to bridge because most of the social science disciplines have paid little attention to man's relationship to his man-made environment. 

I go back so far that I graduated from Harvard at the time they had a School of Architecture and so called it. I went to work for the Corps of Engineers at the beginning of the war. When they wanted a site for 33,000 men and 10 days to find it, dispose of sewage, find the fresh water, and so forth, the architect was the one selected. He had to find a 10,000 bed hospital for a bunch of men coming back from Africa within 6 weeks, handle the ammunition and all the things. The book was that thick and it was the architecturaI training. I didn't know these things, bu! I knew how to get in touch with the best sewage disposal handler, water men, anything that you can think of and it was in this book and it was covered. Now that was an architect's training? No. Secondly the computer and the specifications. Now you do one simple thing for the Army, just build a one story platform and you have to refer to every specification from the government. So you need the computer. But that is the government taking over, and that is your New Society. Not knowing what goes on. 

How do anthropologists know whether people are happy about buildings?

DONALD KENNEDY: If I understand your question correctly, you are asking how to obtain valid information from people who have been occupying and using a structure for a period of time. In general, there are reliable methods of questioning people so as to obtain this response, but I would put it in one proviso from my experience in rambling about the pediatric hospital. Most people's relationship to a structure and their response to it lie outside of their conscious awareness. From a question-and-answer game, you can't be too sure of getting the kind of information you really want. It could be that observation of actual behavior or movement, or of some of the things Dr. Brodey talked about earlier, would give a better indication of how they were responding to this structure as compared to one previously occupied. It is a difficult area to tap because many questions that are obvious to you are not readily understood by the people who use a building. This is a sad commentary on the gulf between the "makers of buildings" and the "users of buildings." The great majority of the present-day population go worrying through life without knowing how to identify or consciously communicate their emotional states. This is the reason why psychiatrists have difficulty in explaining what they are driving at. I would like Dr. Brodey’s reaction to this thought.

WARREN BRODEY: Again, the problem is a problem of movement. A building evolves its purpose and as it evolves it changes its people, because they are changed by the building. Will we scientifically study this dialogue? The building becomes a different building to them as they live in it, and one has to define essentially (1) what is stat response? Right now, what do they think of it? How do they move in it? (2) What is the effectiveness of the building? Now the stat effectiveness of the building isn’t the same as the evolutionary effectiveness of the building. You put people in a building which they hate because they are not used to it and when a year rolls by they are functionally more skillful and more able to get things done than they ever did before, and maybe by that time they like the building. This is like good art; it changes from moment to moment. We do have a difficult time evaluating such evolving relationships, but it can be done. Not by taking some simple standard, but by using some of the many different avenues of information available and then using the computer to help deal with this. At the same time, we have to set standards of evaluation not only for stat but also in terms of the evolutionary and teaching potentials of the building and then in terms of people's function and also efficiency as defined by the purpose of the building. I think the architect's problem is a very real one and it’s not just a matter of what you haven't done or haven’t read. There haven’t been the tools for really explicit evaluation in the past but these tools are coming.

EZRA EHRENKRANTZ: I think the problem is complex and I see it in terms of an office that practices in some respects traditional architecture and in other respects becomes involved in developments. Here, when we try to pose a problem as to the type of user requirements for a project such as a resident hall, and send surveys out or interview people, we frequently get answers based on how they react to the building they are in. The ability to pose problems or questions so that you can get valid answers becomes exceedingly difficult whether you are trying to work with students or with people you may be polling. We have a great deal of difficulty in the resident halls getting any kind of valid information as to why Students move out of the buildings. When we can finally get the data we found students moved because of the parietal rules that the institution put on the building. The building itself worked much better than one might anticipate. The way in which a building is used or run may determine whether or not the people in it like it. In the work with the school districts, we found that the average middle-aged teacher with poor circulation tended to turn the thermostat up because of air stratification due to the way we normally specify temperature control at the breathing level. The temperature was frequently so high that the children were drowsy. By setting requirements with respect to a six inch level as well as the breathing level, we were able to compensate for this requirement. There are many aspects of the problems relating to buildings on a physiological level where data can be developed for ready analysis and those people in the appropriate disciplines who are competent to do the work can in fact do it very well.