Robin Evans in his famous essay Translations from Drawing to Building wonderfully illustrates how drawing is different from building and there is a series of translation that takes place between the act of drawing and act of building.

But there is a step that remains a little unexplained and that is translating thoughts into drawings. At this step, if we were to think about this act of translation from thought to drawing from the perspective of Object of Oriented Ontology,  then we can iterate and add a mini-essay in the Evan’s oeuvre with perhaps a title like this one: translations from Sensual Object [thought / experience] to Real Object [drawing].

Here the Sensual Object refers to the idea, thought, emotion, feeling that is purely located in mind and does not yet have a corporeal presence. it is akin to all the “day-dreaming” thoughts, the life goals one has, the desire / love that one feels for a thing or a person. What differentiates an architectural sensual object? Simply put architectural sensual objects are those ‘intentional’ objects that are about a particular architectural object that one ‘intends’ to design. [In that sense, one can agree the super-subtle architects like Kersten Geers, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Baukuh, etc. when they argue that what matters the most in an architectural project is the intention of the project; Or in case of 51n4e the idea of shared intentions; or lists in the case of Ido Avisar].

But is the architectural thought purely sensual object? Does it only have sensual qualities? Would it not have Real Qualities? If I have understood the basic model of OOO then, the immediate answer to such questions would be that a ‘Sensual Object’ would have both sensual and real qualities. Sensual qualities because I can perceive certain qualities of the idea, sometime several ideas. A particular texture, sense of proportion, scale etc. At the same time architectural thoughts should also have some real qualities that makes them particularly difficult to directly grasp / get access to.

But are architectural thoughts or ideas always one? What about when we speak of the experience of “I have so many ideas for this project”? Of course, there is no easy way to answer this -or to claim that one can exactly know how thoughts appear in mind. However, one way to think about this situation (a.k.a not explain it away like formula) is to consider the way fiction writers project imaginary qualities onto a sensual object. To take Graham’s favorite example, imagine a dragon in your headspace. This dragon could either immediately appear in the form of one your favorite kind of dragon from all the imageries that you are familiar with or it you could struggle to provide a vivid picture for a bit until you more or less settle on certain qualities of the dragon that you may like in your head. Some may end up imagining a subliminal form of a dragon -tremendously larger than human scale, some of you may end up thinking of a cartoon of dragon, some others as funny, angry, sad, silent, throwing flames, spooky, smooth, ragged, etc. In any case, you are adding several qualities or adumbration to that dragon in your head.

One can think of the same process for designing a building as well: there can be several qualities that you want to add to the form. This way, the architectural idea or thought, need not always be one idea but an emergent object to which we are adding and even removing several qualities all the time before we arrive at a decision -usually left best to the faculties of taste and senses.

Is this sensual object aesthetic? It must be -even though it is in my head at the moment- it has a tremendous impact on my body, several of my senses and even my actions. I draw the idea, intention, projection, or make a model, write it, write a computer code and so on. In a way, I am enchanted and engrossed by the thought or the idea. The stronger or let us say dearer the idea, the more engaged we are. In the terminology of OOO we may even call this as forming a symbiosis or attachment with the idea. Together with the idea we become a new and perhaps temporal compound object.

But quite a lot of it sounds like there is an otherworldly ness to the process of design or imagination -that ideas fall from the sky or something. On the contrary, my guess is that we project our imaginations onto several objects. As in the case of a child projecting the qualities of a friend onto a doll or a toy. Or, in a case when people draw mustache, wings, eyeballs, on an image of a person, animal or a building. Objects have an interesting capacity to trigger imaginations in humans and perhaps in all life forms. Or, in cases where we read city, social, economic shifts, climate threats or philosophical models we tend to nudge our decisions, intentions or design-ation. As mentioned earlier we form a symbiosis with other objects (including event-objects).  

A similar and a more technical aspect can be imagined in the process of designing architecture. Noting down a sketch of the imagination of the building, developing rough models of that imagination, projecting more thoughts and qualities on the sketch and model and so on. In other words, translating the sensual thought or experience into various real objects.

Someone can argue that perhaps this is not a universal process of design (say for example in the process of computation design) which is more and more moving in the direction of automated, autonomous processes of design. Be that as it may, the process is simply replaced by the act of writing codes and commands and still involves quite a bit choosing some product based on some idea of taste or aesthetics.

Simply put, it would mean that every sketch, every model, every code, every simulation is a translation of thoughts / experience and obtain their independent and autonomous object-hood by the act of making -even if they have undergone a process where several external factors played an intrinsic role in shaping their existence.

[22-10-2020]
At this point it would be important to note the non-given-ness of translations -particularly those involving translations of thoughts into real form. What I mean by that is, translations are labor intensive -some more than others. In case of translating the architectural thought into a sketch, model or drawing requires tremendous patience, will, rigor and labor. In some cases, this labor may be carried out by several people, as it may be carried by an individual. However, in each case it is important to keep in mind that whether it is an individual or a person in the ‘group’ each one is perceiving the idea in her own terms and hence adding their perspective to the process of translation.

This also means, as much as information is lost in the act of translation, there is a high chance in the process of design that perhaps the translated object also gains so much more. It may or may not be the same sensual object -because it does not matter if we get a true insight of sensual object- but the architectural drawing is a real object which also has gained so much in the act of translation -with a capacity to offer so much more in its life-time.

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