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Thread: Having trouble understanding our texts! Help!

  1. #1

    Having trouble understanding our texts! Help!

    Right now in school I have a class called Theories of Architecture (Or Theories in Architecture, forgot which)... We have to read a lot and provide notes for the reading (Typically one sentence per paragraph).

    However, I'm having trouble reading these things. Not only am I not motivated much to read them, but also, I have just general trouble being able to read and understand more philosophical readings... I've asked what I should do, and the only answer I get is to read it again... Yet I still don't understand them...

    What should I do?

    Just as a note, here are some of our readings i've had trouble with:
    Hancock & Widdowson, Colloquium, University of Cincinnati 1992
    Bernard Leupen, Design and Analysis, Design and Use
    Bernard Leupen, Design and Analysis, Design and Structure
    Bernard Leupen, Design and Analysis, Order and Composition
    Frascari, Tell the Tale Detail (from Nesbitt's Theorizing a New Agenda)

    Also included in this is an exerpt from our teacher's manuscript about "theorizing" and "theorems"...

    Again, what should I do? How can I better read these and understand them?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Feb 1998
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Change schools.

  3. #3
    Jul 2008
    Columbus, OH
    is it the vocabulary you're having trouble with? if so, keep a dictionary with you while you read it.

    if you're having trouble with the sentence structure, i'd say just slow down and for each sentence try to figure out the subject and action.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
    May 2002
    Between here and there
    Maybe you can find a student who is actually studying architeture to help you with the text?
    What do you mean I can't plan? My SimCity has 350,000 people with a 99% happiness rating!

  5. #5
    See that is the thing though, I am studying architecture, and am in my second year... I just don't think philosophically.

    I come from a hick town on the edge of a metropolitan area, we typically do not think philosophically, and I'm in a state that is typically more down to earth on many levels...

    I just have trouble reading it, vocabulary and the content itself (because of it's philosophical nature)...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
    Apr 2004
    Tri-Cities, Washington
    Blog entries
    Sounds like it is time to buck-up and read them in a different mindset. I doubt you'll find anyone here to give you Cliffs notes on the texts.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone

  7. #7
    Talked to my teacher and she admitted a few are tough to read... She is just trying to get us prepared for when we have to read modern and post-modern. However she said she likes some other architects because they are more down-to-earth or more for the average person than just for other architects.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    I would suggest that if you are having trouble grasping the content of complicated texts, you're probably not alone. Believe me, I read plenty of material in graduate school that were real head scratchers no matter how many times I went back over them. Sure, sometimes it was the vocabulary, but even knowing all the words did not always help because, well, some writers are just more impenetrable than others (Henri LeFebvre anyone?)

    Like this:

    "As Hegel showed, time is a necessary alienation, being the medium [the Black & Red edition uses the word environment here] in which the subject realizes himself while losing himself, becomes other in order to become truly himself. The opposite obtains in the case of the alienation that now holds sway -- the alienation suffered by the producers of an estranged present. This is a spatial alienation, whereby a society that radically severs the subject from the activity that it steals from him [also] separates him in the first place from his own time. Social alienation, though in principle insurmountable, is nevertheless the alienation that has forbidden and petrified the possibilities and risks of a living alienation within time."
    Yeah, I can understand what it means if I really concentrate and rub my temples, but its not the simplest task in the world. And this is a fairly sensical quote from LeFebvre... Great stuff, but complex concepts that in this case also require that you have some familiarity with yet other philosophical texts (Hegel and Marx in this case). If not, you are largely sunk and its a real ego-buster for an eager student.

    This is, unfortunately, a not uncommon aspect of higher education. I think the lesson in part is to wrestle with challenging texts and extract what you can, even if it is not complete. There is nothing wrong with being able to say about a particular section "I really just did not understand what the author was trying to say here."

    Ultimately, though, I think that it would be a good idea to try and get together with some other students to discuss it. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that others are also struggling, but no one is willing to admit so in class.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  9. #9
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Oct 2003
    A Dog in a Hat
    The problem is, Architects are completely incapable of writing coherent prose. Its one of the things that makes people qualified to be architects. (Just like "oh, your handwriting is bad...you should be a doctor" well, "oh you can't write...you should be an architect).

    All that to say, books on architecture are incredible difficult to read because they are often incredibly poorly written. I don't have any experience with the books that you referenced, but here are a few hallmarks of architecture literature:
    • No thought organization...writting is stream-of-conscience which, for an architect is a quite terrifying thing.
    • Complete lack of sentence structure, including, but not limited to, the lack of a noun or verb (or both)
    • Over-embelished writing aimed at making the author sound hip and intelligent.

    Sorry...I am feeling ornery today

  10. #10
    Dec 2006
    I partly agree with that. Many architect books (theory, history, even design) are written by non-architects. Some of them are horribly written. Although there are TONS of "planning" books out there that are just overpriced garbage as well.

    Heartland, I think your biggest challenge is to listen and focus. You are very determined, no one will doubt that. However, on many posts you cast aside any alternative points of view even if they might have some merit. Unfortunately, I think that manifests itself when you try to study.

  11. #11
    See, the thing is, I went into reading this with my mind set that even if I didn't agree with it, I would consider it and look at the good aspects of it.

    I've come to realize there is no right/wrong or black/white in architecture. Everyone can do their own architecture and have advantages and disadvantages to it. I would like to make my own architecture be focused primarily on the vernacular and classical (in the sense of traditional), however I also try now to look at even contemporary styles and see what is good about them, and what is bad.

    Such as:
    Classical Architecture can be praised for it's longevity and geometry.
    Renaissance and Baroque for it's beauty, complexity & expression.
    Modern/Contemporary for it's simplicity and functionality.

    There is good architecture and bad architecture EVERY style and time period. Even the geniuses can produce bad architecture.

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