The Perception of Creativity

My Creativity: Just to be clear, not everyone thinks this way.

I was reading the article by Steven J. Tepper and George D. Kuhteach, Let’s Get Serious About Cultivating Creativity, and it made me think about my education in architecture.

While Virginia Tech has a professional program, B.ARCH, others schools do in fact have a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. Why is this important? While architecture, and becoming an architect is a profession, the fundamental nature of teaching architecture is an art. It is the art of teaching applied art.

When we as designers begin a project, the prompt is all we have to go on, (If we disregard previous experience and knowledge, and these inform creativity) but for sake of hyperbole lets go with that. So here is an example of a prompt:

Design a folly for a carpenter.

That’s it. You now have to use your knowledge and synthesize a construct, a design. Your accumulated experience and perception or space and the syntax of sentences and words will guide you.

So I will tell a little about my design process, not how I would do the drawings and such, but how I would identify the problem that would be addressed. Very simplified and over-generalized, architecture is problem-creating/solving not solution seeking. it is a cyclic nature of identifying qualities of space and then evaluating the design’s potential through critiques and review.

Let’s look at it word for word first.

Design: process, purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object.

a: an article suggesting only one of, an object of space

folly: a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, esp. a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.

for: used to indicate the person or thing that something is sent or given to

carpenter: a person whose job is to make or fix wooden objects or wooden parts of buildings

That is the beginning of design: identify the problem or prompt and why and how this prompt will be handled. So, from this quick analysis we get:

At the site you, the designer need to devise a strategy for how a carpenter, a worker of wood and form, should inhabit and interact with their livelyhood. This folly or object in the landscape should reflect you chosen set of themes of a carpenter. A proposal for a process of thinking should be established in an effort to design space. What is your architecture?

This is only the tip of dissecting such a prompt. Now comes deciding how to interact and resolve the issues posed by the analysis (we have not even gotten to drawing).

The beginning questions are: who, what, when, where, why, how. Some of them have been answered for us in the prompt and the analysis, others you determine as the designer.

who: the carpenter

what: a folly (this is oversimplified but go with it for now)

when: this is designer determined. I would suggest year-round.

where: if no site is given, pick a site that reinforces your view on design and architecture as well as the themes for the project (whatever they are).

The last two are the most ambiguous and thought consuming.

why: this is a thesis question that could take a lifetime to evaluate if you needed to. A really scary one is: Why design, or why design a folly, couldn’t it be….” For now go with: because the client asked for a folly.

how: this is design. If you make it past “why” which is the thought behind the project in general, how is the drawing, the models, the applied thinking and synthesis of you experience to the prompt and theoretical potential of the project. “how” is the representation of the idea to others. Designers spend their entire careers cultivating skills to convey ideas to others.

I will stop there because creativity, like design is an open-ended question that will never be fully answered or perhaps even defined.

[thanks for listening]




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2 Responses to The Perception of Creativity

  1. christink says:

    Interesting. It is kind of hard to teach creativity. Either you are or you are not. I was always artsy but when it came to drawing, I never knew what to draw. And teacher tried to “teach” me to be creative and think of something. But I still just looked around the room and took parts and pieces of my classmates drawings and reproduced those. To this day I don’t know what to doodle in boring classes.

    • kenblack2013 says:

      I agree with you. Creativity is something that is quite difficult to teach. That is why, at least with the architecture school here, the method is to guide the students through the development of their own creativity. In other schools of thought the student picks a professor in order to copy or emulate that specific type of design (almost like an apprenticeship).

      I don’t know whether or not I can agree with the statement that “either you are or you are not” in regards to creativity. I do not know your own personal context, but I believe that creativity is something that everyone has at least some ability in (talent is also helpful). Creativity just needs practice and everyone has their own type. It is a spectrum of abilities and styles. Creativity is just when you think something up that would be fun or enjoyable and then you do it. Drawing and design is not the only way to be creative.


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