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[Writings in Architectural Education / Research by Design]

EDUCATION GOES QUANTUM [Research by Design and Architectural Education in Quantum Ontology]

key words : quantum cosmology, education, research by design


The provocation posed this year by EAAE regarding research by design its both interesting and entertaining. Questions come to mind : What is the context of its emergence during the 1980s? Why research by design pattern become so wideily spread so quickly? Is there a motive underlying this evolution of design processes to incorporate experiential knowledge? Ansewering these question may help to better understand the knowledge generation process through research by design. But, especially for the people working within education domain one more problem arises : that of the link between research by design, education and contemporary and near future society. So, world being in constant and rapid change, and the concepts of research by design already in everyones mind, where do we go from here?


In a very interesting ph. D. thesis1, arch. Onur Ync study in detail the problem of research by design and its applications to architectural education. His contribution consists of using practical philosophy to try to establish a new theoretical and philosophical frame for the process of knowledge generation through the act of research by design. First, Ync emphasize the difference between knowing-what concerned with knowledge about things and knowing-how knowledge of how to make things and knowledge of how to act. Using Aristotles practical philosophy studied in Gadammers hermeneutics, he associates knowing-what with the concept of techn making something for an end and the idea of knowing-how with the concept of phronsis doing, where the aim is doing well 2. The value of this association consists in the fact that Aristotle defines the concept of phronsis as a form of experiential knowledge of knowing-how with the focus on ideas of constant change / evolution, [through assuming] personal choises and moral practical knowledge.
Phronsis is a unifying concept for constructing a coherent framework for research by design by weaving together the seemingly diverse discussions on the issue. ... The unifying role of phronsis lies in its significance in the development of an epistemological framework for direct experiential processes of knowing-how.3

Ync succeeds in generating a comprehensive philosophical frame for the concept of research by design. But although he applies this knowledge by making an ample critique of the theaching pactices present in contemporary architectural design studios, hes work remains fairly theoretical. If Onur Ync presents us an inside view, using practical philosophy for constructing the extended methodological and epistemological conceptual framework of research by design process, we also need to have an outside view : beginning with cosmology, and ontology through society and education,question arises we will be able to highlight the practical attributes of a new education system and by comparison with research by design to redefine the latter as a framework for education in general and not only for design practices.


[Figure 1]

[The Background Movement]

Between the establish of the classical sciences with Isaac Newton in the 17 th century, and the discovery of the relativity by Albert Einstein in 20 th century, the sciences were dominated by the mechanistic view of the universe which was the basis for the materialistic oriented cosmology and ontology. Although sciences have put aside the mechanistic view, surpassed the short relativistic period and already stated the quantum cosmology, only the inertia of ontological information transfer from sciences to culture determines that only at the beginning of the 21 st century human society truly reaches the end of its mechanistic era. [Figure 2] is a representation of the relation between architectural theory a practice and ontology central to society influenced by the scientific cosmology. The modernism and the Unit dhabitation of Le Corbusier are representative for the mechanistic period a clear, easy to understand, cartesian structure of poles, beams and straight walls. Hertzog & de Meurons Nest is a good example of postmodernism and relativistic period the structure starts to fade into the building. In the last photo the Algorithmic Space created by a team of japanese architects led by Shohei Matsukawa presents a quantum structure a surprisingly very strong structure, its resistence being given by a large number of interconnection of many small simple elements. It is an unrecognizable structure [without any external means we cannot state the exact way in which the structural resistence is obtained].


The process of entering the quantum era is unfolding all around us, and the current economic, political, social, ontological, even educational crises being a direct consequence of that.
Modern physics has had a profound influence on almost all aspects of human society. It has become the basis of natural science, and the combination of natural and technical science has fundamentally changed the conditions of life on our earth, both in beneficial and detrimental ways. Today, there is hardly an industry that does not make use of the results of atomic physics (...). However, the influence of modern physics goes beyond technology. It extends to the realm of thought and culture where it has led to a deep revision in mans conception of the universe and his relation to it. The exploration of the atomic and subatomic world in the twentieth century has revealed an unsuspected limitation of classical ideas, and has necessitated a radical revision of many of our basic concepts.4

The first indications of the current changes in human society came, surprisingly, not from physics but from a sociologist [Pitirim Sorokin] and a historian [Arnold J. Toynbee]. During the middle of the 20th century both men of science analized in their works 5, from many points of view, the different human civilisations and independent of one another concluded that the western society was about to change dramatically. I felt the need to make note of these studies for two reasons. First, because it is interesting to see that studies from humanities also have theorized the near future changes. And second, because Sorokin gives us the first clue as to how the future would be : based on the observation that civilisations oscillate between sensate value systems, namely materialistic, and idealistic value systems, namely spiritual, in the middle being a transition idealistic phase, [which is harmonious combination of the other two] he stated that :
the present status of Western culture and society gives a tragic spectrum of the beginning of the disintegration of their Sensate super-system.Therefore, their near future, measured by years and even a few decades, will pass under the sign of dies irae, dies illo of transition to a new Ideational or Idealistic phase, with all the satellites of such a process6.


[Figure 2]

[The Relationship]

The contemporary understanding of society as an interrelated system asserts the interdependence between the educational system and the cosmological and ontological views central to the human race [Figure 2]. The historical example shows that classical education system was, and for the better part still is, a reflection of the mechanistic view and its characteristic human/universe dichotomy: studies were/are divided into separated objects and learning was/is a linear process, from year to year, etc. But educational practices pass through the same period of transformations, changing at the same time with society. If practices of classical education are a reflection of mechanistic scientific cosmology, it is possible to infer that near future educational practices will reflect the quantum cosmology. Following the same pattern as in mechanistic period, the traits of scientific quantum understanding of the universe will become the basis of our ontological knowledge and will be reflected in our mentality, value systems, necessities, needs and aspirations; existential patterns and practices including education. By pointing out these specific traits we can understand and state the basic attributes of the future educational system. In this context the idea of research by design can be depicted as not being limited to creative disciplines. As we will see, the extended view of research by design, translated into knowing / experimenting / developing by doing, will become the core of the educational processes in the near future.

[Figure 3]

[Establishment of New Ontological Paradigms]

The changes undergoing in our civilisation started with a deeper understanding of the universe based on particle and quantum physics, validated by new researches, discoveries and practices of any other scientific domain. Moreover, by the development of transdisciplinary sciences as systems theory or chaos theory that have restructured all knowledge areas. Together, these revealed new scientific views of micro and macro cosmos and showed new meanings and ways of perceiving our existential environment. The mechanistic cosmology influenced the 18th and 19th centuries and changed previous knowledge and beliefs regarding our existential universe from faith to experiment, from religion to science and ideas of materiality, corpuscle, object, or immutable laws of mechanical interaction. In contemporary times, it becomes clear that quantum paradigms will transfigure the mechanistic ontology, the culture and society, by establishing a new different set of paradigms and through technical and technological applications based on quantum phenomena [it is sufficient to say that already a third of our economy is composed of products based on quantum mechanics7 to understand how important this knowledge is and how rapidly has influenced society, considering that the basic theory of quantum physics were stated less than 90 years ago, in 1925] Quantum cosmology is not yet a single and coherent vision. It is composed of different interpretations of scientific knowledge. But all interpretations have the same foundation

in a few principles or attributes describing the structure and function of the universe that have been extensively demonstrated through experiments. [Figure 3] depicts a comparison between basic traits specific to mechanisctic and quantum cosmologies. It is almost as if quantum physics reverse the mechanistic universe with 180 degrees. In reality, the new scientific views offer a deeper understanding of the structure and function of the universe, mechanistic universe being only a particular manifestation of the more fundamental quantum universe. My own doctoral dissertation8 is concentrated on the link between quantum cosmology and architecture, mainly because I knew that the most important trait of the quantum universe is unity and because I felt, during architectural design studio hours and also practice, the necessity of developing a comprehensive framework for the evolution of contemporary architecture. By studying the basic traits of quantum cosmology I found that evolution of our civilisation from mechanistic to relativistic and quantum knowledge is responsible for the identity crisis of contemporary architecture and also that quantum cosmology offers a basis for understanding the present state and the future directions of evolution in architecture. Again, following the historical example of materialistic era into a simple inductive logic process based on the relationship between scientific cosmology and society, it is clear that these attributes will form the basis of the new ontology central to human civilisation and rewrite the paradigms central to society.


[Figure 4]

[Education and Research by Design]

As this process will unfold, the basic attributes of the universe [as understood by the quantum cosmology and extensively demonstrated through scientific experimentation], will increasingly be refleted into general mentality and life practices of human society throught out all its components, including education. [Figure 4] shows a scheme of the basic traits of our universe which, after becoming the basis of our ontology, will reflect in educational practices. It is easy to see that some of this characteristics are already applicated in one incipient form or another: choice [choise of courses / the possibility of students to direct their own education]; interdependence and interrelation of knowledge and action, duality of knowlege and action [the prevalence of individual study and 1 to 1 teaching process]; action [dynamic processes of learning rather static courses, experiential learning, practical knowledge]; universality of information [along with the process of globalisation / unity, results of research and general knowledge will become universal]. Counting this reasoning and the following arguments, it is clear that the other traits will be soon incorporated into general educational practices. Lets start with implication of subjective, non-parametric elements, depending of the student / researcher / designer. An example of this kind of obtaining knowledge, already used in practice, comes from the work of Han Feng and has a direct application in architectural design [figure 5].


[Figure 5]

The relationship [between designer and design outcome] can however be set up as an interactive process, for which the designer not only programs the design algorithm, but also actively communicates with design algorithm to bring in a set of non-parametrizable design factors, such as intuition, aesthetics judgement and associational [not causal] reasoning, which are essential to any design activity.9

This highlights the importance of personal choices of the designer / researcher, the importance his implication and his responsability. The importance of the consciousness stated by the quantum physics as an integrated inherent part of the structure of the universe is found here in the choices of the designer / researcher. Second, the lack of predetermined processes of design [or research by design] is a must in contemporary design processes as the basis for generating concepts, individualization, specificity and adaptation to context. Also, it is a consequence of a general reflective practice model and of adding subjective, non-parametric elements to the design process.
As opposed to Technical Rationality that has a specialized, firmly bounded, scientific, and standardized knowledge base, reflective practice is devised for dealing with real life situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness, and value conflict.10

This excerpt is very interesting because relates directly with quantum attributes of the universe described in figure 2: duality [uncertainty]; dynamics [instability]; subjective, non-parametric elements [uniqueness]; choice, moral action [value conflict], The last element to be incorporated is the moral dimension. Sensate materialistic society has put the moral dilemmas in the hands of standardized laws but it is equally

safe to advocate that a ideational or idealistic society will revalorize this trait of human consciousness. Morality is a problem of consciously [responsibly] acting on the awareness of the unity inherent to the universe, of the connections and interrelation between self and universe [existential environment], of the consequences of our actions. During the 20th century the structure of the universe has changed dramatically from space to space/time continuum to space-time/matter/consciousness continuum. Recent research linking in physics, neurosciences and psychology has generated a new theory of reality which describes a holistic universe. This theory:
suggest that in a comprehensive theory of physics regarding the universe, spate-time, matter and consciousness will become equal partners in a single supra-reality in a multidimensional hyperspace.11 A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the resta kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.12

The unity of the universe and its corollary, the unity of body and mind, of man and nature, of society and its environment, have been also theorized by systemic science and the awareness of this is clearly becoming a part of our ontology, reflected in contemporary ecological concern and sustainability movements. Today, moral dilemma can be found in formulation like [you can help the Earth] or [every action matter]. The responsability [of personal decisions and actions] is important for the new educational practices in the context of unity, ecology or systemic approach. It is equally important for the individual and for its environment. And it is even more important for design in general and architectural design in particular, because this areas of creative disciplines have a direct influence on humman life. Knowledge generation through research by design is usually studied in relation with history of design, scientific or humanities knowledge, but less in relation with the general education practices which are a direct consequence of scientific and ontological knowledge. Theory of research by design as a way of knowing what through design actions emerged relatively recent, during the 1980s, in the midst of an ontological change taking place at the core foundations of human civilisation. The moment of its emergence is not random : it is a concequence of epistemological and methodological transformations in education theory and practices, that were triggered by the action of a

new set of thinking patterns [new mentalities] rooted in the revolutionary view of the universe stated by the new scienctific quantum cosmology. Research by design is a new universal method of knowledge generation based on interdependence and interrelation of knowledge and action, deals with choice, moral practical wisdom, subjective, non-parametric elements, and cannot be defined because of the lack of a common predetermined design process exactly the traits of a quantum process [here in a particular form limited to design and creative disciplines]. The overlap between attributes of new educational processes and research by design were already represented in [figure 4]. Seen in this context, the research by design paradigm can be described as a result, a reflection of quantum cosmology influencing design educational practices it is the first coherent process of quantum based education. Although research by design emerged as a part of creative disciplines, considering the previously stated overlap of traits, becomes clear that a wider less specific description will become the central of the new education practices. Given the status of current society and technological development, with the emphasis on computing and virtual reality, architects have sensed the potential for personal experience to become a knowledge generation tool, not only for designers but for everyone. For example, Torsten Frhlich notes:
Mixed reality enables people to explore spaces of knowledge actively, play an active role in a simulation, try things out, experience the consequences and finally gain a deeper understanding of complex systems.13



Thus appear the need for enlarging the epistemological framework of research by design as a basis for new general educational practices. By rethinking the research by design concept as a general education process and applying the attributes of quantum cosmology, a few interesting consequences emerge: First, applying the concept of research by design to the larger context of educational practices means to rethink its outcome as experiential knowledge generated from a process of research [knowing] by doing [acting]. This way becomes clear why, as the EAAE poster states, despite the many discussions, no one has been able truly to define what research by design is. Acording to the New Explanatory Dictionary of Romanian, to define means to determine in a precise formula, indicating the specific characteristics14. But education through experience by doing has no precise system or methodology. There are no limitations of what to do and how to experience. Every action is different from the previous one and every experience is unique. So it is impossible to give a definition or a methodology. Only a poetical description: the process of knowing by doing is a personal voyage, dealing with objective [parametrizable] and subjective [non-parametrizable] informations and guided by moral decisions. It is simultaneously a knowledge generation process and a voyage of selfdiscovery and self-creation. It can be described more as a life pattern, but not in terms of any methodological educational system. The above observations means that the knowing by doing pattern can be applied to the entire ensemble of architectural education and not only to the design studios. Moreover, education and research by design will appropriate the understanding of universal unity. Living in an interconected and interrelated universe means that every knowlegde and every experience integrated to human consciousness and mind becomes a teacher, a knowledge generation tool. By transferring this in architectural education [and practice] where we already know that anything can become a project-generating idea, this has an important consequence. As architectural projects becomes more conceptual and architecture more etherical15 [non-local, as the quantum cosmology but also architects states] architectural education will discover that participating at/in a cultural event, a leisure trip to the mountains or attending a personal development psychological programme [or any other type of actions for that matter] are in the same way important for becoming an original creator as a classical course of architectural history.


This integration of experiences and knowledge depends on interrelation of informations and events. Romanian psychologist Adrian Nu wrote a book called Inter conections / Quantum physics told by a psychotherapist, in which he emphasize the importance of non-linear processes, based on associative knowledge, relational principles and interrelated information. We still need to accentuate the moral choise, the mentality of unity and intedependence. Moral wisdom needs to become a crucial part of education in general and design and architectural education in particular. And that because it concerns with consequences of taking actions in an interrelated universe. Chapter 5.2 [Education and Holistic Knowledge] of Adrian Nus book argues that, with the development of quantum understanding of our universe it is clear that is impossible to have a comprehensive representation of an inter-connected universe using a fragmented and reductionist knowledge16. Discussing the practical aspects of the near future education, Adrian Nu states:
the 21st century begins to mandatory require a different education. ... The modern society requires flexibility, learning by doing, adaptive resources, open mental structures able to constantly incorporate new knowledge. [page 211]; the future belongs to dynamic learning and holistic knowledge[page 212]; the need to focus on our own personal experiential knowledge the beautiful lifes belongs to those constantly reinventig themselves, self creating an re-creating in interactions with the world around [page 214]

Nus conclusion, which support and also contributes to our own, is that education shoud be a non-linear precess, based on associative knowledge, relational principles, interrelated information. By comparing with universal traits found in quantum cosmology, the future education will be an associative, non-linear process of learning/developing, based on a process of knowing by doing, interrelated information, and moral wisdom. Architectural education needs to extend the actual limits of research by design to all its components. In education practices this process is already in motion due to the pressure of society, but only when it will be complete we will have a comprehensive picture of how profound the changes are. Only then education will truly enter the quantum era.
The rithm in which current knowledge and society evolves requires a different mental technology, meaning the alingment of our own minds to the new quantum principles. In other words, if our minds will not become more flowing, more flexible, more dynamic, more undulatory, their survival will be a chore, a painful and tragic struggle.17


Figure 1 - Foto 1 - Foto 2 - Foto 3 - COLLECTIVE, 2008, VERB Natures (Actars Boogazine, nr. 2), Ingoprint, page 21 Figure 2 - Drawing by author Figure 3 - Drawing by author Figure 4 - Drawing by author Figure 5 - OOSTERHUIS, Kas; XIA, Xin (edit.), 2011, iA#4 Quantum Architecture, Jap Sam Books, page 13


YNC, Onur, 2008, Research by Design in Architectural Design Education ph.D. thesis submitted to The Graduate School of Natural and Applied Sciences of Middle East Technical University by ONUR YNC in September 2008, [source:] 2 Idem 1, page 181 3 Idem 1, page 185 4 CAPRA, Fritjof, 1975, The Tao of the Physics, Boulder, Shambhala Publications, Inc., page. 17 [source:] 5 SOROKIN, Pitirim, 19371941 (4 volumes), Social and Cultural Dynamics: A Study of Change in Major Systems of Art, Truth, Ethics, Law and Social Relationships, New York, American Book Company TOYNBEE, Arnold J., 19341961 (12 volumes), A study of history, London, Oxford University Press

SOROKIN, Pitirim, 19371941, Social and Cultural Dynamics: A Study of Change in Major Systems

of Art, Truth, Ethics, Law and Social Relationships, New York, American Book Company, volume 4, page 775.

ROSENBLUM, Bruce; KUTTNER, Bruce, 2011, Enigma cuantic, Bucharest, Prestige, page 116 MOLEAVIN, Adrian, 2011, Quantum Architecture, ph.D thesis, unpublished noted here because it

examples offered by authors include laser technology, the transistor and the MRI device.

contains an elaborate study of quantum paradigms entering the ontological knowledge, whose conclusions are depicted in part 4 of this paper.

FENG, Han, Quantum Architecture An Indeterminisctic and Interactive Computational Design

System, article in OOSTERHUIS, Kas; XIA, Xin (edit.), 2011, iA#4 Quantum Architecture, Heijningen, Jap Sam Books, page 13
10 11

Idem 1, page 183 SMYTHIES, John R., 2003, Space, time, consciousness, article in Journal of Consciousness Studies,

no. 3, page 4756


EINSTEIN, Albert, 1950, letter quted in The New York Times (29 March 1972) and The New York Post

(28 November 1972)



FRHLICH, Torsten; KRUSE, Rolf, Cybernarium A Mixed-reality Edutainment Center, article in

FLACHBART, Georg (edit.) / WEIBEL, Peter (edit.), 2005, Disappearing Architecture: From Real to Virtual to Quantum, Birkhauser, page 138
14 15

New Explanatory Dictionary of Romanian [source :] FLACHBART, Georg (edit.) / WEIBEL, Peter (edit.), 2005, Disappearing Architecture: From Real to NU, Adrian, 2008, Inter conections / Quantum physics told by a psychotherapist, Bucharest,

Virtual to Quantum, Birkhauser


SPER, page 210


Idem 16, page 212