And

On the subject of interdisciplinarity, this is the prologue from my MArch thesis a few years ago:

an architecture-and essay: conjunction of generalities. Here, architecture-and-archaeology.

The presumption of the innocuous ‘and’, with its two little hyphens (present as above, or implied) is interchangability. -and- is the joint of a modular system in which an endless series of substitutions could be made: architecture-and-text; architecture-and-politics; architecture-and-film; architecture-and-literature. To articulate a discussion jointed in this way would already be to assume the distinctiveness of the two terms: that architecture is a something; that archaeology is a different something; and that some conjunction can reasonably be expected. The agenda for an architecture-and-archaeology essay would apparently be to briefly outline some common ground, and to conclude with propositions for how architecture might profit from this exchange. Architecture-and-archaeology would be a foray into a foreign territory, followed by an about-face, and a return home bearing exotic goods. This thesis will, among other things, demonstrate why this conjunction cannot simply be performed. The disciplines of architecture and archaeology will be challenged as to their integrity; the extent to which they are distinct enterprises; and the validity of the generality implied by naming them as terms of an equation. As the distinctiveness of the terms breaks down, the problem will become one of description.

In particular, the -and- is often used to invoke interdisciplinarity: lines of communication are established between departments and disciplines, in order to bring under examination the various spaces which have, for one reason or another, slipped between departments. In this case the hyphens would mark the path of the interdisciplinary writer pacing back and forth between departmental libraries. This essay is not interdisciplinary (although this statement might be taken as one of the best pieces of evidence that it is in fact so). This essay will attempt to question, from the very cut of the spade, the divisibility of archaeology and architecture. Interdisciplinarity breaks down when there is no longer an interstitial space to occupy, and when it is precisely disciplinary distinctiveness that is under close examination. Standing on a bridge is difficult place to argue against the integrity of riverbanks.

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9 thoughts on “And

  1. What of the other route, the portmanteau? Perhaps this is just linguistic play, but it would seem to suggest a more border-less approach to these kinds of cross-pollinations.

    Many of the 3rd/4th year theory lectures at Vic are semi-seriously given under the banner of ‘architectology.’ Perhaps you know the lecturer I’m referring to?

  2. portmanteau is definitely a more fluid approach than the idea of interdisciplinarity, but hybridity is still dealing with the offspring of two self-sufficient entities. i don’t think the postcolonial idea of hybridity, for example, is a very liberating concept.

    i think i may know the person you’re talking about.

  3. Very interesting considering my comment in the preceding post… Thanks for sharing.

    Why don’t you think of the post-colonial hybrid as liberating? Does it relate to the inter-disciplinary vs multi-diciplinary frame. Wherein multi-is the preffered approach. If only because it implies more than the bridging act of the and? A hybrid is almost a non-real category a new or created condition?

  4. Don’t get me wrong, I think post-colonial thinking has been an essential part of deconstructing the prejudices of European modernity; and the concept of hybridity has its uses. But for me, the concept of the hybrid always entails concepts of unity and consistency, and sometimes has an unpleasant survival-of-the-fittest tang to it (the traits of the weaker partner eventually being bred out).

    Multi-disciplinarity, like you referred to previously, does sound a little more hopeful, because it suggests something more like a network of linkages than a border-conflict. I want to go further, though, and ditch disciplinarity. Is an architect being interdisciplinary when she designs a piece of furniture? Or writes a narrative of urban life? Or plans a landscape? Or does the production design for a stage performance? Or details the interior of a restaurant? Some might say these are all territories of different disciplines: product design, literature, landscaping, performance, interiors. Certainly you could go to a university and study each of these as separate disciplines, and some of them have professional organisations that you could become a member of. But it’s ridiculous in my mind, to say that an architect has no business designing a landscape or an interior (or any vice-versa arrangement).

    What is needed in these cases is not a different discipline, but different expertise, or if expertise sounds too bossy, capacities or traits. I know very little about plants, for example, but I don’t believe this, in itself, disqualifies me from designing a landscape. I could get the necessary expertise by learning it myself, or by collaborating with someone who does have that expertise. This is not new – in fact it’s normal: none of us know everything, even within what has traditionally been seen as our discipline. The old idea of education was that you get the standard body of knowledge and cram it into students. But there’s simply too much to know. What I have in mind is a world of fluid expertise: techniques, tools, implicit and explicit knowledge; rather than a world of defending your patch — a kind of micro-disciplarity which is to disciplines as micro-politics is to politics.

  5. I wonder what an evolutionary scientist would say about hybrids. I suspect (but I don’t know) that evolutionary science has little use for the term.

  6. Also, i think re: multi-disciplinarity that it can be singular. As in done by one person (within their practice) or a group.

  7. Probably true because the hybrid evolves out the other and becomes the norm..

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  9. I’m sure a kind of multidisciplinarity is possible by a single person, since to single person is the locus for an entire disciplinary knowledge. Each person is a collection of micro-disciplines: techniques, skills, knowledge, practices; not a casting from a disciplinary mold.

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