a walking architecture unschool

e. Matter: Learning


 To think. 

-The most important resource for an architect is its own mind. After that, the ear and the hands. Legs and arms. A blind man can be an architect, somebody who doesn’t listen cannot.

-Architects are world famous for saying one thing and doing the other, when what’s interesting about our job is precisely the contrary. To do and say things for real. To talk about these things is a little embarrassing, because on the XXIst century, professional ethic and self-criticism should be taken for granted. This is not an ethical statement, but a way of making things work better.

-The architect is not important. What he does is not too important either. What’s important is what it provokes.


 To think and to make. To see and to understand.

-All our body parts are important in order to think and to make.

-We need to train to see with our own eyes. It’s not about looking, but about seeing. To observe so we understand the working principles of our environment and its agents. To be more focused everyday. To react fast. To strengthen our concentration and resilience. 

- We work from the synergy of practice, research and production means, because in fact they are the same.






 To learn.

-As important as thinking and making, of understanding and knowing, is the ability to learn. As architect's tasks are a constant search, they need constant learning. 

-We start learning architecture inside our mother's womb. How to learn to make architecture is an unresolved question yet. How architect's job is taught and learnt in architecture schools is, at best, just a small part of the picture, and in most cases a waste of the best creative and energetic years of all learners. There is a false dichotomy between defenders of learning-by-thinking and learning-by-doing, between discipline and self-discovery, between mind and soul.  We could start from a synchrony of these talents in order to help younger people to achieve all their astounding potentialities. Architecture schools need to revolve or they will definitely become dead and useless institutions.

 To unlearn.

-The false expectations of what an architect does are not just a responsibility of university, but also of high schools, elementary schools,  and architects themselves. Most of the young architecture students start university with their minds already confused and stressed. As John Dewey said: 'Indeed, he is lucky who does not find that in order to make progress, in order to go ahead intellectually, he does not have to unlearn much of what he learned in school'. So unfortunately university at best becomes a place for unlearning.

-In just a few years, we'll be facing a challenging dilema as a species: when we have universal access to our genomic information, will we decide that only those born with a builder's genetic design will be allowed to continue their training as such?





 To feel

-The fact that we are technicians doesn't mean that we are machines. As humans, we feel all the time. As architects, we must train and nourish our capacity of feeling a place. Why do we feel good or bad in a specific place and/or moment?

-How do we learn? On walking. Coming soon...


-What do we learn? On architects and architecture. Coming soon...


-Where and when do we learn? On unschooling. Coming soon...


LITTLE PATHS (Case studies):

  • The Wrights at Fäviken (case study #4 part 3). To think and to make. Post-development logics for contemporary living, learning and building.

EXCURSIONS (Short exercises for young builders while on a journey):

  • Map the working conditions, tools and means of production available and necessary for this project.


  • Deschooling society. Ivan Illich.

  • Montessori Method. Maria Montessori.

  • Experience and education. John Dewey.

  • Fäviken. Magnus Nilsson. Phaidon.

  • Instead of education. John Holt. Fragment:

    . The Myth of “Learning” Some may wonder why I speak of “doing,” or “doing things better,” instead of “learning.” For one thing, the word “learning” implies (as most people now seem to believe) that learning is separate from the rest of life, that we only do it or do it best when we are not doing anything else, and best of all in a place where nothing else is done. Almost everyone who goes through S-chools comes out believing (1) if I want to learn anything important, I have to go to a place called a school and get someone called a teacher to teach it to me; (2) the process will be boring and painful; and (3) I probably won’t learn it.

    The idea that everything important must be learned in school is very new. Until quite recently, most people understood very well that while some things might be learned best in school t others could be learned as well or better out of school, and many could not be learned in school at all. They would have laughed at the idea that all knowledge and wisdom could be found or put in classrooms and books. Even now, most of the people who think everything must be learned in school did not themselves learn there most of what they know.

    Not only did I not learn in school most of what I know, but I did not learn it in what people call “learning situations,” that is, from experiences that I went into in order to learn something. I do not do any of the things I do “in order to learn something.” I have learned much about music and music-making by going to rehearsals and concerts. But I do not go to them to “learn about” music, but because I love what I see and hear there. In my short visits to other countries, or other parts of my own country, I have learned many things about those places. But I did not go there “to learn,” but to see people and do things. In the last year or two I have done some work with other citizens in my home town of Boston to defeat or at least delay a bad and crooked so-called urban-development scheme. From this I have learned much about the law, politics, and economics of the city, and about the workings of the state and city governments. But I did not go into the work to learn all this, but to try to prevent my city from being robbed and ruined. I read many magazines and books, not to “learn” what is in them, but because I think they may be interesting, or helpful, or exciting. I may now and then read to find out something, but whether I learn, i.e., remember it, depends on whether it helps me to do my work and live and enjoy my life.

    (...) The trouble with talk about “learning experiences” is that it implies that all experiences can be divided into two kinds, those from which we learn something, and those from which we learn nothing. But there are no experiences from which we learn nothing. We learn something from everything we do, and everything that happens to us or is done to us. What we learn may make us more informed or more ignorant, wiser or stupider, stronger or weaker, but we always learn something. What it is depends on the experience, and above all, on how we feel about it. We are very unlikely to learn anything good from experiences which do not seem to us closely connected with what is interesting and important in the rest of our lives. Curiosity is never idle; it grows out of real concerns and real needs. Even more important, we are even less likely to learn anything good from coerced experiences, things that others have bribed, threatened, bullied, wheedled, or tricked us into doing.

    (...) It is the quality of our experiences, the satisfaction, excitement, or joy that we get or fail to get from them, that will determine how those experiences change us—in short, what we learn.

    (...) Another common and mistaken idea hidden in the word “learning” is that learning and doing are different kinds of acts. Thus, not many years ago I began to play the cello. I love the instrument, spend many hours a day playing it, work hard at it, and mean someday to play it well. Most people would say that what I am doing is “learning to play the cello.” Our language gives us no other words to say it. But these words carry into our minds the strange idea that there exist two very different processes: (i) learning to play the cello; and (2) playing the cello. They imply that I will do the first until I have completed it, at which point I will stop the first process and begin the second; in short, that I will go on “learning to play” until I “have learned to play,” and that then I will begin “to play.” Of course, this is nonsense. There are not two processes, but one. We learn to do something by doing something. There is no other way. When we first do something, we probably will not do it well. But if we keep on doing it, have good models to follow and helpful advice if and when we feel we need it, and always do it as well as we can, we will do it better. In rime, we may do it very well. This process never ends.

BARSAMIAN: Let’s talk about propaganda and indoctrination. As a teacher, how do you get people to think for themselves? Can you impart tools that will enable that?

CHOMSKY: I think you learn by doing—I’m a Deweyite from way back. You learn by doing, and you figure out how to do things by watching other people do them. That’s the way you learn to be a good carpenter, for example, and the way you learn to be a good physicist. Nobody can train you on how to do physics. You don’t teach methodology courses in the natural sciences. You may in the social sciences. In any field that has significant intellectual content, you don’t teach methodology. You just watch people doing it and participate with them in doing it. So a typical, say, graduate seminar in a science course would be people working together, not all that different from an artisan picking up a craft and working with someone who’s supposedly good at it. I don’t try to persuade people, at least not consciously. The way you do it is by trying to do it yourself, and in particular trying to show, although it’s not all that difficult, the chasm that separates standard versions of what goes on in the world from what the evidence and people’s inquiries will show them. A common response that I get, even on things like chat networks, is, I can’t believe anything you’re saying. It’s totally in conflict with what I’ve learned and always believed and I don’t have time to look up all those footnotes. How do I know what you’re saying is true? That’s a plausible reaction. I tell people it’s the right reaction. You shouldn’t believe what I say is true. Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself.

Liberating the mind from Orthodoxies. An interview with Noam Chomsky - By David Barsamian.