I’m glad that I saved the current issue of one of my alumni magazines, The Penn Gazette*, from the recycling bin long enough to read Denise Scott Brown’s essay “From Words to Buildings: What good is language to an architect?”
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=chicago+bean&iid=3364983″ src=”d/2/9/7/Snow_Blankets_The_b291.jpg?adImageId=11079764&imageId=3364983″ width=”234″ height=”141″ /] (* I am an alum of Penn’s Graduate School of Education, but they keep sending me the magazine anyway, presumably in the faint hope that I might eventually make enough money to give some of it to the school …)
Scott Brown argues that language plays a critical role in the visual arts:
The client’s brief—a verbal statement—and the building’s social and visual context come first. They may provide merely a schedule of accommodations and relationships, or add qualitative instructions on character, performance, and context. Either way, they raise the problem of creating the physical from the verbal.
I find this especially interesting because this is basically the opposite of most research writing, in which the words come after the research and are an attempt to reconstruct the study for the reader. In architecture, writing appears to be primary: it is the source of the architect’s work, not the report of it.
This again points to the importance of knowing how writing functions in particular professions before trying to teach it to future professionals.