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کتاب معماری - What Designers Know
What Designers Know
The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his
client to plant vines.
Frank Lloyd Wright
The great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was quoted in the New York
Times (4 October, 1953). In the litigious climate of today his comment is
unlikely to gain much sympathy from any disgruntled clients of designers.
But the essence of his aphorism remains as penetratingly perceptive now as it
was then. Designers commit themselves very publicly to ideas that often with
the hindsight gained by the passage of time look poor or even absurd.
Architects in particular have come in for some pretty bad press recently as a
result. At least industrial designers see their products fade away in response to
the market but buildings have a nasty habit of hanging around advertising the
misjudgements of their architects.
Consider then, dear reader, the fate of authors of books about design. Not
only does the book remain on the library shelves but we also have the misfortune
to have our work imprinted with its initial date of publication. This
rather sneakily leaps out of the page at you whenever it is referenced by others
kind enough to have found it of some value in their own studies. To begin with
this seems flattering but as the years go by it becomes a constant reminder of
the inexorable passage of time.
My first book, How Designers Think, was written an alarmingly long time
ago (Lawson, 1980), and if I were starting to write it now I would probably do
so in quite a different way. But it has been in print ever since, and has passed
through several editions as ideas have developed and more research has been
done (Lawson, 1997). This book started life as yet another edition but it gradually
became apparent that there was now much more to say than the original
structure of How Designers Think was capable of accommodating.
So this book might usefully be seen as a companion volume to How Designers
Think. We understand design a great deal better than we did when that book
was first published. People have written about their own experiences of
designing for centuries and a few have tried to generalize, but design theory as
a serious subject on the global stage is perhaps no more than four or five
decades old. There is clearly much yet to learn but we now think we know a
very considerable amount about designing.
The field of knowledge had its origins in what was really known as
design methodology. Those early contributions were much more in the style of
deterministic methods and techniques and they were largely prescriptive. We
have moved on considerably from there to a much deeper investigation and much
more descriptive work. How Designers Think concentrated on the nature of design
problems and the processes of designing. This book is more about the rather
special kind of knowledge upon which designers rely and manipulate when
practising their art. It will not discuss the whole range of issues that might be
currently thought to be relevant to an understanding of the design process and
the two books taken together offer a more complete picture of my position.
The book begins, however, with some material that overlaps with its companion
as we map out the nature of designing in order to explore why design
knowledge is rather unusual and special and then examine ways of investigating
it. Of course design knowledge itself is invisible and so we then proceed to
explore it through its common manifestations. This includes the drawings that
designers make not only as they proceed with individual projects but also as
they acquire and develop the knowledge upon which they rely. It includes the
tricky question of the problems that designers have in relating to the newer
tools of computer-aided design. Perhaps by rubbing up against such tools and
finding them lacking we can learn something of the kinds of knowledge that
designers need in order to work. Design is most often a social activity when
carried out professionally. It involves teams of designers, specialist consultants
and of course clients and other interested parties. This leads us on to examine
the conversations these players have as design progresses as yet another way of
revealing the nature of the knowledge they use. After piecing the argument
together so far we then look at the nature of expertise in design. What is it that
marks out the really successful designers? Do they know something that the
rest of us do not, or maybe do they know the same things in different ways?
Of course all these questions were around back in 1980 when I first wrote
How Designers Think. But then we had little evidence about the actual practice
of design and about how the skills are acquired both academically and professionally.
We had a very limited understanding of the nature of design problems.
We knew design was a simultaneously frustrating and yet intellectually
rewarding occupation, but we had little understanding of why. Today design
still holds many mysteries but we have now gathered a considerable body of
evidence about its nature. In particular we have been fortunate to see investigators
coming at it from many different angles. In this book you will find data
gathered or arguments developed by psychologists, sociologists, philosophers,
linguists, anthropologists, cognitive scientists, computer scientists and of
course by designers themselves. The nature of the knowledge that designers
work with and the ways in which they manipulate it remain fertile grounds of
study not just so we may learn more about design but that we may also learn
to respect all these great traditions of enquiry. Design must be one of the most
interdisciplinary of subjects. It often sits uncomfortably in the old-fashioned
structures that many of our great universities, including my own, use to divide
up knowledge. A study of design above all else perhaps teaches us to challenge
those structures, whether they still help us or perhaps more often hinder our
The nature of design knowledge is both fascinating and complex. Of course
a study of this may help any aspiring designer, but ultimately practising
designers come to understand the nature of this knowledge implicitly and
demonstrate this understanding through their actions. But there are many
others who may not gain that implicit understanding since it is generally
only acquired through the repeated practice of design. They may find that a
study of what designers know may reveal some quite surprising and valuable
insights enabling them to interface far more effectively with designers. Those
who work with and rely upon designers such as clients, those who commission
design, the users of design, legislators who govern design or set standards and
practices within which it must operate. All of these and many others can so
easily damage the delicate process of designing and thus the quality of the end
product without even being aware of their impact. However, it also turns out
that a study of what designers know challenges our more conventional understanding
of what makes good knowledge in ways that might be of interest and
value to those in the information and cognitive sciences.
Many people have been kind enough over the years to tell me how other
books of mine have interested or helped them. Some too have obviously found
them frustrating and even irritating. I hope that this new book too may help a
few readers to develop their own ideas and understandings, but no doubt it
will not be long before I wish for the literary equivalent of Frank Lloyd
Wright’s vines to start growing again.