Professional Practice
Theoreticians and practitioners
Why are theoreticians rarely good at practice while practitioners can theorize? Apart from exceptional examples like Le Corbusier, it seems to me that the likes of Jencks are not as good designers as they claim to be, but it works the other way around when practioners theorize. Or is just that architects post-rationalize?
Karim Elgendy
Theoreticians and practitioners
Actually practicioners theories are tested, so post-rationalisation in architecture should have more weight.
Dushyant Nathwani
Theoreticians and practitioners
Karim, I fully agree with your basic assumption about practitioners and theoriticians. Charles Jencks is inndeed a very ordinary designer but he insists on including his projects in his own books.

About post-rationalization, I think that's the case with most well-known architects, including the 'basic, initial' sketches of the building which show that the initial concept was just scribbled on a piece of paper and the final building was built exactly according to that initial charcoal sketch!

Adding a 'basic concept' and 'real inspiration' AFTER the building has been constructed does not sound too difficult to do. Does it? Theorising your design just needs a bit of talent and practice. Daniel Libeskind is apparently an expert at it.
Hammad Husain
Theoreticians and practitioners
Dear Karim,

There is a big gap between theory and practice that is occupied by social, economic and political space. In most cases these factors effect the utilisation of a theory into practice. e.g. Modernism had to struggle hard to be accepted as general standard in the West. Gropius and Mies had to flee to the US to escape from the Nazis. It took a sustained and a great individual and collective effort to get the modernist architecture firmly rooted in practice. Even then, immediately there set in a debasement of the same in the form of International Style. Post-modernism wave spread like wild fire, since it could be easily copied and successfuly marketed commercially.

You may find that it is very rare that more radical theories like De-constructivism are adopted by the practicing architects whole heartedly but there may be some indulging, a corner here or there, a some cheap imitation in the form of a gesture etc.

There are many more success stories of integrated practice with great theories. Such as Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Liebskind, Hasan Fathy, Geoffrey Bawa, Laurie Baker, Kisho Kurokawa, Fumihiko Maki, Aldo van Eyck, Joan Utzon etc. Now you may find that some of these theories are not so well known independently. e.g. Laurie Baker and Appropriate Architecture, Rifat Jaderji and Regionalist Architecture. While architects are prone to their own tricks of the profession while marketing their architecture, there is a continuous engagement with the issues.
If it is creative, intelligent and consistent it comes our clearly in their works, otherwise it is falls apart no matter how much effort one puts in to post-rationalise it!
Akhtar Chauhan
Theoreticians and practitioners
Hi all,
When you say some one is a poor or ordinary architect and some one is great, what criteria would you use? Does not your evaluation base itself on some theory which may or may not be explicit. After all criteria and norms for evaluation has to be based on some overt or covert positioning and design values. What else does a theory do? A particular theory may sound preposterous and the values and design evolving out of it may seem even of bad taste first and would even be considered rediculous if it goes against the current over riding design values and beliefs. Let us also not confuse between explanation of a design and the underlying theory.

Sometimes design and the concept evolve together. One may not be very much clear about the concept behind the design to begin with. It may be too vague. It becomes clearer when design develops fully. This cannot be construed as post rationalisation. And no amount of post rationalisation would suffice to support a design if it does not reflect that rationalisation- post or pre.
B. Shashi Bhooshan
Theoreticians and practitioners
There is a good article that relates to this discussion in Archnet digital library by Emel Akozer (2002): Cultivating Theorizing Artists or Deliberating Professionals.

Ashraf Salama


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