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Do, and then theorize

Architecture school has a way of indoctrinating you with an appreciation for the past. One of the ways that is done is through architecture history and theory classes.

In my case, I was taught to appreciate the work of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Adolf Loos, and many other influential architects from the 20th century.

It was okay to disagree with their ideas, but you at least had to learn about all of the important stuff that they had done and/or thought about. It’s a standing on the shoulders of giants kind of thing.

But as Witold Rybczynski argues in this recent post, it’s important to keep in mind that history and theories are written after the fact:

“Some buildings are, in a sense, experiments, and when something works, and is taken up by others, it eventually becomes a rule of thumb, perhaps even a theory.”

For me, this is yet another reminder that the world moves forward as a result of doing, creating, and making new things happen.

Sometimes you’ll get it wrong and do the wrong things. But sometimes you’ll do something wonderful that nobody else has thought of before.

And when then happens, the world will have moved forward such that it’s then possible to look back at what happened and make sense of it all.

As Witold puts it, “first you build a flying machine, and later you discover the aerodynamic theory that supports flight.”

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