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Building and/is Building Ourselves

Building and/is Building Ourselves. The complex relationship between architecture and education  

The parallel reflection on architecture for education and education for architecture, bringing together two possible variations of their link, shows the radical affinity between the two activities, which can be summarized in the concept of bildung: a self-training process. Bildung is fundamental in Gadamer hermeneutic thinking and is central in the «semantic constellation» in which, according Renato Rizzi, to build and to educate, bildung and building, arché e téchne are linked. Education and architecture are exercising of critical thinking and share the individual and collective dimension of the social act, recalled by John Hejduk: instructing in the capacity to build one's own knowledge by locating it inside a critical vision, building architecture as an experience and interpretation of the world. School architecture can be an Architecture School, given that it forces us to recall that every authentic experience of architecture is enlivened by the cognitive tension of learning.

If we take the term education in its etymological sense, from e ducere (to bring forth), a formative process that enables us “to become what we are” – Nietzsche’s exhortation borrowed from Pindaro(1), then every work of architecture should be educative, should grant us an authentic life that represents us in all our potentiality.
The reflection on architecture and education presented in this issue, bringing together two possible variations of their link – architecture for education and education for architecture – starts from an investigation of the profound and radical affinity between the two activities.
At one end, architecture for education, the intention is to look beyond the sorry definition of school buildings, which the technical and legislative machinery codifies with the coldness of figures and indices, since, if there is one area of life that deserves architecture, and not just buildings, it is the school.
Over the period between the Call Building and/is Building Ourselves and the publishing of this issue of the Magazine, the world of Italian architecture has been asking itself questions on school architecture, urged by government announcements of new interventions on the existing school building heritage.
In some cases this has meant packaging reviews of quality school buildings, in others a more systematic discourse has been mooted on the complex relationship between architecture and education.
At the other, architectural education, the Call resolved to raise a question: starting from designs for schools, can architecture seize the opportunity to rethink its own educational dimension, its training methods and tools, also in this case beyond the legislative and assessment machinery that dominate the university, including that of architecture?

Among recent contributions to the theme, two pieces of writing by Renato Rizzi tackle the “semantic constellation” that sees a link between bildung and building – education and creation, the formation and the giving of form in architecture, arché and téchne. The first, entitled Bildung-building(2), describes the theoretical presuppositions and working methods of the architectural design courses held at the IUAV in Venice. The second is the book Il Cosmo della bildung(3) written after a project for an ideal classroom developed, on an invitation from the Milan Triennale, for an exhibition entitled Di ogni ordine e grado. L’architettura della Scuola(4). Here, the ideal classroom is situated between the interior and the exterior of the Dome of Florence Cathedral(5), elective topos of the project as an incarnation of an educational programme that can introduce the mysteries of Architecture. The affinity of architecture-education, punctually exemplified through a description of the project and the building of a model of it, emerges clearly in the words with which Claudia Baracchi defines education, that could equally outline a design idea: “The primary sense of education is to lead to form […]. Starting from the nebulous condition of potentiality, it means crossing shade-filled, hazy landscapes, discovering forms and estimating their strength, letting them emerge from their latency so that they can find their way to a manifestation that is active, bright and complete in the world. This is a movement that is both constructive and maieutic. It is constructive, but the form constructed is at the same time a forme trouvée: not arbitrarily imposed, but felt in its urgency and inevitability, aided to free itself and begin to act.”(6)
In the two texts cited, education, whether of the architect or of architecture that can provide form through a classroom project, is indicated by the term bildung.
The German word bildung is derived from mediaeval mysticism and its root bild (image) evokes the aspiration through which Man, who conserves in his soul the image of God according to which he was created, tends to build it within himself, to form himself in virtue of it.
By including architectural education in the educational tradition of bildung, education and architecture converge, since «we must construct an image inside ourselves before we can construct something outside ourselves»(7).
In the Italian language and educational tradition, education and training are predominantly used in the sense of educating and training others. Instead, German distinguishes between bilden (training), in the sense of training ourselves, from erziehen (education), which means educating others. As a result, the German educational tradition has used the term bildung to indicate a self-training process that has assumed a central role in the German neo-humanistic tradition and in hermeneutic thinking. Hans-Georg Gadamer in To Educate Is To Educate Oneself(8) (which we have referred to in the title Building is Building Ourselves) describes two fundamental characteristics of bildung: this differs from culture since it is tension, a potentially infinite process and not an acquired gift, and is given as each man’s responsibility towards himself, not as acting on others.
As in Nietzsche’s motto cited by Rizzi, learning therefore means “bringing forth one’s gifts”.
Even though not referring specifically to the education of the architect, certain passages in Gadamer seem like answers to questions that are periodically debated regarding the training of the architect (specialisms or generalist training, the role of the humanist and technical disciplines, the relationship with the profession, etc.). In Umanesimo oggi?(9) the distinction between human, spiritual and natural sciences is dealt with: the first are linked to the idea of bildung since Man passes beyond the state of nature answering a tension to universality inherent to his spiritual side, gathering phenomena in their unrepeatable concreteness beyond regularity and conformity with laws, which are instead pursued by the experimental sciences. The pressure of economic power, which judges research based on the usefulness of its results to its own power, has induced the human sciences to give up their own identity to submit to the positivistic model of the scientific nature of things. Clearly “the study of bildung can bring no profit to the market” (and this explains the lack of fortune this teaching has had in the assessment systems that dominate the university world). If the idea of the scientific nature of things is dominated by the natural science model and the conception of the world is moulded by technique on the principle of continuous development, Gadamer concludes, then knowledge tends to be reduced to information and educative systems, including the university, or to professionalizing courses.
In Profession as Experience(10) Gadamer warns of the inherent danger in all of this: the excessive rules and regulations and red tape of contemporary society, including the educational systems, provoke a tendency to adaptation: “the capacity for adaptation is rewarded…, atrophying the capacity to question oneself. Losing this faculty means losing freedom. Because only self-knowledge (the exhortation of the Oracle of Delphi: know thyself) allows us to protect freedom, threatened by those who hold the power but even more by subjugation to those forces we believe we dominate […]. The educational systems of school and university must not confuse teaching with the transmitting of information, must not steer towards specialization or the working life without first teaching how to judge, to choose, to have the courage to form one’s own opinion.” Again, in The Idea of the University—Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow(11), he wrote: “The word Bildung is, of course, not very popular any more […]. The scenario is dominated by bureaucratized teaching and learning systems, however it is everyone’s task to find free spaces and learn to move around inside them […]. This is the more noble side in the irreversible position of marginalizing the university in political and social life: the fact that we with the young and the young with us know how to discover some possibilities and with them the opportunities to shape our life […] this small universe constituted by the university is still one of the few gazes ahead towards the great universe of humanity.”
Education and architecture are also linked by this responsibility towards the community.
This is the “social contract” John Hejduk spoke of, thanks to which architecture and teaching have always been linked as by an imprinting dating back to the earliest experiences as a student. He talked of this in a lesson on the subject of education held in 1995 in Barcelona, the summa of his position with respect to the school and a statement on his own never concluded self-training, realized as much through teaching as through architecture(12).
Hejduk stated that he taught “by osmosis”(13) and that he taught what he did not know, concepts that coincided with the principles of the contemporary science of education “of educating to the unknown”(14). In the Barcelona lesson, he described educating as “to train oneself, to bring out, to develop some latent or potential existence […] disengage your substance from a compound and to infer principle.”(15) Here the reference is not so much to the Socratic role of the teacher, but the action everyone carries out on themselves, namely, bildung.
Education and architecture are described as processes of self-knowledge equated by the duty to bear witness to this knowledge. Both an exercising of critical thinking, they share the individual and collective dimension of the social act: instructing in the capacity to build one’s own knowledge by locating it inside a critical vision, building architecture as an experience and interpretation of the world, a search for and expression of meanings, hermeneutics and pedagogy.
John Hejduk had the opportunity to combine the experience of a student, a teacher and a working architect, bringing to fruition a project for his own school of architecture: precisely because it was the one where he trained, the institute he directed and because his project was also a teaching programme for architecture.
The Cooper Union project was almost a concrete realization of “The Nine Square Grid Problem”, to the extent that in Mask of Medusa it is described as “a teaching device, designed on one of the basic problems given in the school. And the students are here, working on the problem within this building that is an example of that problem.”(16) A literal fulfilment of teaching “by osmosis”, through the permeable consistency of the space, students are also educated by a process of transmission from the substance of architecture within which they find their own substance, that which education must free the essence of(17).

The articles making up this issue are very different from one another but are a good representation of the variety of approaches and reflections that the theme proposed by means of the Call inspired.
In his article, Gioconda Cafiero supports architecture’s educational role in giving form and structure to the human world by highlighting, above all, how the relationship between sense and space in venues for education amplifies the potentiality of the specific approach to design in the Architecture of Interiors. Through a description of the link between certain architectural creations in the scholastic field and the philosophical-pedagogical thinking that shaped them, the author observes that the school building’s role as a “third teacher” manifests not only by becoming a tool of the learning processes but also in forming the capacity to recognize the link between the quality of space and the quality of existence, thereby supporting demand for quality architecture.
Instead, Ugo Rossi’s article investigates architecture’s dimension as hermeneutics, knowledge of the world and non-stop self-training, through the opus and life experience of Bernard Rudofsky, with his passion for learning from the way “others” dwell to develop our own inhabiting of the world.
In a certain sense analogous, but laid out in the first person, the process described by Andrea Di Franco, who describes training in architecture by “fragments of an educative discourse”, of necessity an open process.
Gaspare Oliva’s article exemplifies, through the Brazilian case, how architecture can develop construction types and techniques for school premises (building) thinking of them as a fruitful correspondence with a precise parallel educational programme (building oneself) within a systematic programme of interventions arranged by public administration.
An attempt to define the tools and words with which architecture and education can dialogue to co-develop projects is presented in the last article, co-authored by an architect and an educationalist. Sandy Attia and Beate Weyland turn to the metaphor of the body, reflecting on the physical, tactile, intimately sensitive dimension of the school building, and trying to create a bridge between the two disciplines that is far from their respective consolidated lexicons.
Reading the articles this issue contains, we might understand that it could only proceed by fragments, parts of ongoing processes, experiences that are not extraneous to an autobiographical component.
Continuing with the wordplay (playing is an extraordinary means of self-education) we might say that school architecture can be an Architecture School, given that it forces us to recall that every authentic experience of architecture is enlivened by the cognitive tension of learning. School architecture should be the room in which cerebral synapses are sifted – as Hejduk defined an interior by Loos in his lesson – where, by venturing beyond the realism that dominates architectural practice and the contemporary education system, it testifies to the fact that things need not necessarily be as they are, that they are asseverated by all that must be.

(1) Pindaro, Pitica II v. 72, F. Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: Wie man wird, was man ist, 1908.
(2) R. Rizzi, Bildung-building, «Domus» n.1002, may 2016.
(3) R. Rizzi, C. Baracchi, S. Pisciella, Il Cosmo della bildung, Mimesis Edizioni Milano-Udine 2016.
(4) Novocomum, Como, 31.07.15- 09.10.2015.
(5) Il Cosmo della bildung, «Domus» n.995, october 2015
(6) C. Baracchi, in Il Cosmo della bildung, op. cit. p. 23.
(7) R. Rizzi, Bildung-building, op. cit.
(8) H. Gadamer, Education is Self-education, «Journal of Philosophy of Education» Volume 35, Number 4, 1 April 2001, pp. 529-538.
(9) H. Gadamer, Humanismus heute? In Die Wissenschaft und das Gewissen, Klett Druck, Korb 1992.
(10) H. Gadamer, Beruf als Erfahrung, Frankfurt 1988.
(11) H. Gadamer, Die Idee der Universitat, Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg 1988.
(12 B. Goldhoorn (edited by), Schools of Architecture, Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam 1996.
(13) D. Shapiro, John Hejduk or the Architect who drew angels, in «Architecture and Urbanism», n. 244, January 1991, p. 59.
(14) D. Perkins, Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching can Transform Education, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco 2009.
(15) Schools of Architecture, Op. Cit. p. 8
(16) Hejduk, Mask of Medusa: works 1947-1983, Rizzoli, New York 1985.
(17) Cfr. G. Scavuzzo, John Hejduk or the passion to learn, in L. Amistadi, I. Clemente (edited by), John Hejduk, Aión, Firenze 2016.

Giuseppina Scavuzzo, PhD in Architectural Composition at the Iuav University of Venice, was a research fellow of the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris; Assistent professor in Architectural and urban design at Umiversity of Trieste, Department of Engineering and Architecture. Last publication: John Hejduk or the passion to learn, in John Hejduk, edited by L. Amistadi and I. Clemente (Aión, Firenze 2016).
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