As an architect, Lee Calisti is asking himself where creativity and inspiration come from in his blog. He first describes a system that is very similar to the Gestalt theory about the human mind: a system that accumulates images and experiences that are used to solve new problems and face more challenges. It has an ever-growing border. I was very keen on this understanding of the minds in my early years as an architect. Now it seems that this theory is no longer part of my borders, being incorporated in my own Gestalt. What strikes me about this description of the way that humans are developed is that this model has its own purpose: to perform better, to help to solve problems.
Most likely all people have a similar mechanism that makes them creative and inspired, even that some of them have proper exercises and some not. That is why I will reveal my own understanding of my own creativity and inspiration even that it might be not very important for all creativity and inspiration in the world.
The Mind Shape
The schools that I graduated before the Architecture University did not encourage creativity. The models were of the old school where students learned much information. Romanians are still proud of their school system that provides a solid general culture. The graduates are supposed to have good knowledge about Romanian Literature, Grammar, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, History, Anatomy, Biology, two foreign languages. Most of all, Mathematics is studied hardly during all 12 years: Geometry, Algebra, Calculus. Most of the schools are very oriented in Mathematics and Physics.
This kind of study, as I said, did not encourage creativity in any way even that we had exceptional teachers. But the hard study of Mathematics gave me another ability: to solve problems. Mathematics was spinal in this kind of education. It can describe anything, it can imagine universes. The most important part of it was to prepare the students to find where the problem is: what are the equations that have to be solved and what are the abstracts of the problems.
Writing this article made me realize that I read literature almost the same way as mathematics: I always try to understand the texts as problems, some of them asking for new equations to solve, some of them showing solutions of fictional characters.
How do I see the Architecture?
I always had the same feeling as solving mathematical problems back in high school when I designed houses and offices, virtually anything. As a matter of fact, I see the architectural design as a big problem to solve. Let me give an example.
Designing a house as a mathematical problem. Inputs:
- The site
- The urban regulations
- The beneficiary: the family structure, the personality, the cultural background, the aspiration, etc
- The Budget
- The Environment
Most of the time, understanding all of the above as boundaries, the common space of all of them is often small, the future architectural object, the future house. It is very similar to the mathematical Locus, the geometrical place where all the points share common properties. Sometimes, Locus is an empty place. Then the Architecture might seems compromise of some of the initial boundaries. But actually, it generates a no solution problem that asks for a new problem, new equations, the refinement of the initial data. Some of them just need fine-tuning, some other a radical new solution.
I never saw the architecture as a sculpture, as an art. I think this conception can mislead the architect in its own purpose. The result might be amazing, magazine-cover construction, but the initial problem is unsolved.
This way I never find myself in the situation to search for inspiration, but solutions. It is a quest of solving problems. Basically, all the needs for a new building are hidden inside it, for its own purpose. Even the aesthetic qualities are functions that construction meets better or worst.
In Mathematics the solutions to problems are not everything. All mathematicians are in pursuit of the most elegant solution to any problem. The more difficult the problem is, the more possible it is that another solution, more simple and more elegant might be possible. The Sumerians used the Geometry to solve second-grade equations. For almost everybody that face a mathematical problem, the solutions appear to be revealing, sometimes only the Inspiration seems to be at the origin of the most creative solutions.
So for me, the architectural design is sometimes just a quest for a solution alternating with periods when it is just a matter of dimensioning walls, spaces, etc.
What about other architects?
I’ve always wondered how other architects understand the Architecture, where are they looking for mysteries. I saw that usually, they remain with convictions about what is valuable and what is not in architecture. In the past, they were men of styles or the searchers of pushing aesthetics.
Somehow, I see that the greatest names found similar solutions. Le Corbusier named it Function, FL Wright sawed it as an organism, Mies Van Der Rohe searched for the simplicity. Apparently, they are very different, but let’s face it: the function and the organism’s visions are basically the same. The organisms are the most notorious “Form Follows the Function” examples. The organisms have almost no redundant organs: even that we have two kidneys and two lungs, we have just one heart and one brain.
The rest is more or less the prioritization of one or the other of the input data. Sometimes the architect desires to make some shocking statements, to get attention, it is rhetoric.
The Architect’s Disclaimer
Most likely my name won’t remain in the future architecture books of the XXIst Century, and my “mathematical approach” might be as a lack of creativity and inspiration. Maybe I should check more architecture websites and magazines and study more about the work of the world-leading architects, who knows?
The above ideas are not noted down to be a model or anything else. They just describe my way of “solving” architectural design. My six years old daughter is in the first grade of a Waldorf School. There they are keener with creativity, inspiration, and collaborative thinking. What Mathematics teaches me is that I have insufficient data to analyze how this education can shape the vision of the world of someone else.