Sliding scales

3 October, 2006


During our open minded discussion on 2 October, a number of parameters emerged that could be used to define ‘alternative’ architectural practice. On reflection this appeared to have become an area we overlooked during the early stages of the project. It was interesting to begin to ask questions about where the past and current live projects that we have collated could sit on sliding scales that could be used to connect the extremities of architectural practice. The possibility of mapping certain projects on these different scales raised the possibility of actually creating some kind of two or three dimensional representation. Paul refered to this in his comment on Architectural practice is… as a potential globe of parameters.


In order to define alternative practice, we paired some key definitions with their imagined opposites. All these pairings are purely suggestive and open to comments (click at the bottom of the article). If you feel some are inappropriate, edit this article and highlight them.

Do not be put off by their traditional linear pairing: these could easily be explored more easily through a series of three dimensional chords.

Competitive < – > Co-operative

Theoretical / Practical < – > Theory / Practice

Teacher / Student < – > Changeable roles

Hierachical < – > Flat

Structured < – > Flexible

Degree orientated < – > Process orientated

Knowledge < – > Judgement

Fixed (thinking) < – > Flexible (thinking)

Product < – > Process

Tutor centered < – > Student centered

Conservative < – > Speculative

Design / style < – > Design / research

Male < – > Inclusive

Individual < – > Group

Genius < – > Self critical

Traditional < – > Radical

Closed < – > Open

Internal < – > Sharing

Enclosed < – > Cross-disciplinary

Personal < – > Participatory

Profit < – > Non-profit

Regulatory < – > Freedom

Temporary < – > Permanence

Exclusive < – > Interactive

Dictated < – > Discussion

Infamiliar < – > Familiar

Distanced < – > Close

Telling / preaching < – > Understanding

Easy < – > Difficult

Blind < – > Aware

Problem Solving < – > Problem Making

Answers < – > Questions

Negotiable < – > Non-negotiable

2 Responses to “Sliding scales”

  1. James Says:

    My own favourite is…

    Problem Solving Problem Making

    …all too often we hear of architects who extol their problem solving skills. But problems often land us with better design opportunities, because they make us step back from the process we had envisiged and reconsider how we work. I strongly believe that it is easier to design a building when it is surrounded by other existing structures than in an empty green field site, because any number of possible solutions are suggested by the surroundings.

    So perhaps one strategy for alternative practice is to create problems rather than solve them, and to develop the issues presented by the client into difficult quandries.

    This is, of course, dependent on a good relationship between the project stakeholders. A traditional architect-client relationship may not always be suitable.


  2. zfishz Says:

    Fixed (thinking) Flexible (thinking)

    taking a very important part in the world. An alternative practice should allow us freedom of thinking to create new outcomes. No matter it is successful or not, at least we have experienced.

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