ALVARO PUERTAS VILLAVICENCIO / Lima, Perú

Giant Steps
Why (education in) architecture should embrace emotional creativity if it is to survive

An act of creation is also an act of self-cultivation
Tu Weiming

Every time we put our minds to work on something original, –let it be this essay, a song or an architectural design–, we desire for it to reflect our creativity and sense of innovation, but most importantly, we want to show our uniqueness. In the process, emotions drive our decisions and actions and, thus, our creations. Therefore, we must conclude, architecture, in any of its embodiments, is a product of emotions.

However, that does not appear to be the case. The reality is that architecture, in any of its embodiments, should be a product of emotions. Unsurprisingly, architecture is, nowadays, unrecognizable. At least, that’s the situation here in Perú. There is almost nothing that helps differentiate one piece of architecture from another. Architecture is like a bad jazz cover played by an amateur band, never improvising, copying everything without hesitation. Architecture is mindless repetition, lame engineering, an edifice without a soul. Perhaps, after all, architects have no soul just like their creations.

Architecture should be like free-form jazz. Take, for example, a John Coltrane song or one of his solos. “Trane” played the saxophone as if his life depended on it, creating near the abyss. He never played the same way twice, and always went forward, following Bukowski’s maxim: if you are going to try, go all the way, otherwise do not even start. We, architects are nothing like “Trane”. We are drowned in conformism and self-reliance, slaves of trends and obsolete paradigms.

If architecture was a free jazz song, it would never be about playing it safe. Instead, architecture would be constantly evolving and adapting, full of emotions and meaning, immerse in creativity from head to toes. I argue that we should use creativity –the way “Trane” did in his recordings, reinventing himself in every take– to shake our own foundations and bring architecture back to life. Nevertheless, we should not rely on creativity which focus on mere novelty but rather on emotional creativity, and this I will explain.

Emotional creativity, as explained by eastern cultures, goes beyond novelty and provides a ground for innovation that starts with self-knowledge and self-transformation. Authenticity is required and so it is value.

The first implies the reflection of our moral and beliefs, and the second, the judgment of whether our creations are useful or not. Emotional creativity is, therefore, a product of our inner monsters and angels, and somehow, we can take “Trane”’s music as a proof of an spiritual and emotional evolution that started with his self.

Indeed, emotional creativity privileges an improved management of our emotions in order to get the best of ourselves during the act of creation. It shows us that emotions are subject to refinement and transformation and, therefore, should be taken into account if we are to progress. Many would argue that we are dealing with subjective aspects that are only accessible to our personal selves, and thus we are going backwards. In spite of such statement, we must remember that sometimes we need to step back in order to jump further ahead.

To forge future citizens and professionals towards emotional creativity is, perhaps, the hardest task ever; so it is appropriate to ask: who is going to take up the responsibility? Our current educational system is by no means prepared, and we do not want such system to act upon our future. Most problems we are facing are nasty consequences of an obsolete paradigm –created in 1893, as the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” recalls–, driven by grades and conditioned by the restrictive master-apprentice relationship.

We need an educational system, which privileges a healthy dialogue between teacher and student. To make it happen, we, teachers, must open every possible channel for students to express their emotions and thoughts without fear. I can think of two ways: 1) the creation of consensual rules, in the spirit of direct democracy, and 2) the conflation of myriad disciplines, following transdisciplinarity. Anyhow, the methodology must favor the student, making him comfortable and confident through his learning experience. Going back to jazz, we could argue that “Trane” could have never transcended if he had not expressed his emotions or collaborated with fellow musicians in the way that he did.

Emotions are at the core of our life and thus we should start with them if we want to improve the educational system and the foundations of architecture. However, emotions have not been discussed much in their relation to education in architecture. Luckily, FSA has started the debate by opening its doors to educators and architects alike. This is a rare opportunity and I will absolutely go for it, making giant steps.

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