Columbia Graduate School of Architecture (Greg)



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    Specificity and ambiguity

    By gbugel
    Sep 28, '08 4:45 PM EST

    Between these parameters, however wide, is where I am.

    My latest studio project is all about trying to personally resolve this issue.

    A week ago, someone wanted to clarify the difference between drawing and mapping. This was distilled into data vs. perception, then how to connect the two.

    Eventually, this turned into the notion of specificity and ambiguity.

    To fill you in, the project is to design a space for a climatologist to spend 12 hours observing weather conditions. It must be comfortable, efficient, urban, and based on my own personal dimensions.

    Yes, specificity and ambiguity can exist in the same time and place.

    The problem is, I cannot seem to get past the fact that I have been given almost no concrete detail (not saying that’s a bad thing). Or maybe that’s not even it. There is some unexplainable barrier I cannot seem to pass, or even adequately describe.

    It’s like I am right there, right on the edge of figuring it out, but just can’t get everything together working at once.

    It is frustrating on one hand. I try to define the details I am lacking, believing that I need them to progress, but then I step back and look and it just all seems like I am moving off on the wrong path.

    Our projects, our discussions, assignments, lectures and designs all embody this on-again-off-again meeting of ambiguity and specificity. In an earlier post I unknowingly touched on this when I said one thought leads to another until I lose track of the original idea.

    The whole mess of the process and analyzation is like a big soup where different elements bob to the surface every now and then, each taking a prominent place for a specific bite.

    At the end of the day, I am usually just left thinking that I lack a certain critical ability that so many other people around here seem to never turn off.

    Then I remind myself that this is why I went back to school. I wasn’t looking to keep coasting along the same path, I wanted to shake things up and struggle.


    • santa monica

      I think that you don't always need to understand the entire soup, but instead should grab one of those chunks that bobs to the surface and run with it. Understand it, develop it, make it your chunk. Okay, I got lost in the metaphor, but hopefully you get my point.

      Sep 28, 08 6:50 pm

      you need WJT Mitchell's chapter on Metapictures from "picture theory," and Richard Sennett's chapter in "The Craftsman" with the same title as your post. Jaquline Lichtenstein's essay on duc-rabbits might help too.

      Sep 29, 08 8:45 am

      Thanks for the advice from both of you- I am gonna grab a chunk and run.

      I am looking into those books, we have them in the library here.

      Sep 29, 08 5:00 pm

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