Friday, October 11, 2013

Ontology vs Phenomenology

By Michelle Harris
The study of ontology is the study of being. The study of phenomenology is the study of the experience of being. Neither of these are simple as all that. I recently was accused by a professor of sounding ‘hick’. After nineteen years of formal education I am embarrassed but also encouraged. Certain colloquialisms in my personality have me grounded in sounding unscholarly. Perhaps there is an elitism that is undervalued in my opinion. In the occasional conversation with my no-worries-neighbor there have been deeper moments of self-reflection than most scholarly conversations bring about. Recently while studying phenomenological principles the concept of emerging from poetics to living poetry arose. Poetry in phenomenology, as explained by the book, Poetics of Space, is a’ poetic image emerging into the consciousness as a direct product of the heart, soul and being of a man, apprehended in his actuality.’ Similarly, such is designing to experiencing design.
As a designer consideration of space becomes alive as we imagine experiencing the space. Personally, the guide of my imagination in design is not where the ripest experience lies. As a designer it’s in the final built environment. While this might be an arguable point for some, self-enlightenment, personal experience, the colloquial informs my experience of design.
This previous summer I was in a studio designing a winery. We toured Blue Sky Vineyard one afternoon, seeing the object of the facility: here is the bar, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the office, the wine making facilities. I recall taking notes about such features, anticipating some relevance in my design. Even so I wanted more perspective on winery design.
I visited eight wineries in two days in Napa Valley. I noted the bar, the bathrooms and other such essential items for a functioning winery. Yet I didn’t experience the space. I was on a determined path of noting, ‘What would the employees would change about the space?’ versus seeing how they operated in the space. I didn’t fully understand until I experienced a winery that exceeded my expectations.
This winery shook my imagined space requirements. It functioned so well as a winery, my experience was first. I was no longer Nancy-notetaker, instead I was a guest. I toured the winery twice. The first time as a guest and the second time through I was noting key elements in my experience. However even this was not enough for successful design.
The built environment I experienced was successful but it was not my design. The concept of spatial flow could be emulated, but I was doing a unique design. In this design I lost the principles of creating a sense of being a guest with creating an experience of an object. The personhood was lost as was the flow
Having flowing transitions is informed by the personhood. Another personal experience that informs this recollection is from my current position at Blue Sky Vineyard. There is a beautiful bar, a beautiful facility and landscape. However there is a similar principle of lost personhood. Instead, the experience is one of noting missing pieces. As an employee I saw there was another point of view to be explored.

While there are certain design elements that are invaluable to defining architecture the big picture is to create an architecture serving and creating poetics to inform the environment for the client. Needing more inspiration led me to realize that I should ultimately see the person in their environment even to the point of being them. This imagining is what makes the final built environment the fruition of design.

1 comment:

  1. I read this article recently: The deeper meaning correlates with what I wrote about here as well as what I hope to learn from my thesis.