Architectural notation and computer aided design

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 58 (3):273-289 (2000)
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In his Languages of Art, Nelson Goodman proposes a theory of artistic notation that includes foundational requirements for any system of symbols we might use to specify and communicate the features of an artwork, in architecture or any other art form. Goodmans' theory usefully explains how notation can reveal linguistic-like phenomena of various art forms. But not all art forms can enjoy benefits of a full-blown notational system, in Goodman's view, and he suggests that architecture's symbol systems fall short in this regard. It is a shortcoming of architecture, he believes, that its notation cannot communicate the sum of a given work's essential features. Against this view it may be argued that artworks are generally and inimically historical in character, such that an inability to capture this dimension may result in a failure to pick out the identity of a work. As a consequence, the suggestion of that inability looks like a shortcoming of the general notational theory rather than of the art form or its notation per se. I defend Goodman's background formalism against the criticism that an ahistoricist notation cannot possibly be adequate. But I reject his view that no actual architectural notation can satisfy the formal criteria of his theory. In particular, I propose that the foundational theory for Computer Aided Design (CAD) described by the architect William Mitchell satisfies Goodman's criteria and so yields a notation that enables communication of an architectural work's essential features. If, as I suggest, such a notation is feasible, then we have an additional result that Goodman foresees: a means of abstracting future architectural works from their historical contexts. This in turn yields a consequence at which Goodman only hints-that such architectural works can be intellectually grasped and physically constructed along purely formalist lines. One practical result here is that we introduce economical solutions to architectural design. On a theoretical level, we also expose the inessential character of historical properties to creating or understanding architecture, at least with respect to future possible works.



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Saul Fisher
Mercy College

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Philosophy of Architecture.Saul Fisher - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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