"Charles Seeger, philosopher of 'musics', believed that art, music and architecture cannot be explined in writing, baceuse words are linear and hide the essence of arts that are nonverbal and nonlinear. Stravinsky, too, when asked the meaning of a composition just played it again. But then what were Seeger and Stravinsky doing, and what am I doing writing words?
Bob [Robert Venturi] and I write mainly to clarify our ideas. As makers and doers, we have evolved a troika between looking/learning, writing/theorising and designing/building. We jump between these in no particular order and require al three to produce our work. We feel that new architecture needs words to help it along (the photo essay is our preferred method). And setting down an idea helps us to understand and use it, and eventually to go on to the next one. But architectural writing also serves to describe, direct and explain projects, to express criticism and conduct polemics.
How do you learn and teach architectural writing? I learned it in primary and secondary school, then on my own with help from friends like Charles Seeger; and, although I would not dare teach the personal and poetic, I am accustomed to helping interns learn to write everyday prose. A few arrive with this ability but most seem not to have learned it in either their liberal arts or professional education. I gather that some professional schools (engineering, for example) run in-house courses in expository writing, having discovered that the last place they will find this teaching is in university English departments. I tell young architects that building an argument is like building a building. You cannot just throw thoughts at a subject; there must be a logic and pattern to the development of ideas. This then gets translated into structures and substructures, with the alteration of none part requiring the restabilisation of the whole. Student architects are sometimes told, if you can write, you can draw. I reverse the argument: if you can draw, you can write (not poetry, but good working prose).
Then forget words. Creative cycles call for reading, thinking, impassioning, then sleeping and opening a new book. There need be no preconceptions. The world can start again on a white page. As Lou Kahn said, the process passes from the unmeasurable, through the measurable, to the unmeasurable again. On the way there is room for scientific rigour and for penetration, consciously and unconsciously, of all we have ever seen or read. As the design evolves, the words return in altered form."
Scott Brown, Denise (2009) Having Words. Architectural Association, London.