Communicative Discovery: Thoughts and opinions
Every individual interprets differently. Whether it is interpreting a building site, drawings or plans, text in a book, critique of a design or history of a building, the understanding or reference of the individual will never be identical to that of another. To interpret literally means “the action of explaining the meaning of something” (oxforddictionaries.com) but to what extent do we make sense or “understand” something, rather than have a biased opinion or thought? How can we interpret in a non-biased way and how can we come to terms with a non-prejudice understanding? Is it feasible to interpret architecture and architectural intent?
How do we interpret one another? In this technological based society, we now use social networking as a way to connect, communicate and discover information. Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook become online evaluations, describ- ing interests, occupations and personal information of individuals. (Coyne, 2012). With having so many friends or followers on these networks, it provides a reference of your personality, allowing people to interpret character and interest, leaving the perception of the viewer. If someone doesn’t have Facebook, would some interpret you to being anti-social?
Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) was a German philosopher, distinguished for his theories in language. He describes the process of interpretation, or hermeneu- tics, as a movement that “has no goal which brings it to an end, rather it renews
itself in constant repetition.” (Gadamer, 1975, pg. 104). The essential outcome of interpreting is meaning and reference. Analysis is objective, yet interpretation must remain subjective. Gadamer points out that authentic interpretation is without prejudice. The ‘part and whole’ theory describes the vicious cycle of Hermeneutics: ‘how do you understand the parts without the whole? How does the whole make sense without an appreciation of the parts?’ Can we legitimately approach without preconceptions and anticipation? (Figure below) How can we be non-prejudice?
Common assumptions of interpretation tell us that when interpreting a text, piece of art or architecture, the objective is to give subject to the original intentions of the author, artist or architect. To interpret a site, for example, is to ascertain its essential character. How can we interpret architecture authentically? The Cartesian Interpretive Framework informs us that to be disenthralled from prejudice, we have to begin with a blank slate; casting ourselves aside from tradition, analyzing the interpreted into parts and then synthesizing it back into its entirety.
Although the Cartesian Interpretive Framework suggests a key resolution to preju- dice, how can we possibly approach a piece of architecture without preconceptions? In historical architecture, for example, we approach with our knowledge in the history to date. We may have found this information in texts or elsewhere, yet these are just the author’s interpretations of the architecture. Following our readings, we have prejudice views and begin to formulate our own history for the building. What do we know? What don’t we know? Immediately, prejudice views manifest again.
Is there truly a way to begin with a blank slate? How can we authentically interpret something? We are never really guaranteed revelation from interpretation, yet the only way to have a logical outcome is to have a logical procedure.
Definition of interpretation, Available from: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/interpretation?q=interpretation, [13/10/12].
Gadamer, H.G. 1975, Truth and method, Sheed Ward, London.
Snodgrass, A. and Coyne, R. 2006, “Architectural hermeneutics”, interpretation in architecture: design as a way of thinking, Routledge, London.
Coyne, R. 2012, Interpretive communitites, Available from: http://richardcoyne.com/2012/09/29/interpretive-communities/, [13/10/12].
Coyne, R. 2012, The reception of architecture, Available from: http://richardcoyne.com/2012/01/21/the-reception-of-architecture/, [14/10/12].