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Donatella Mazzoleni » 9.Exercises for the imagination

Introduction to the second part of the course

In the introduction to this course we said that the phrase “pedagogy of creativity” was an oxymoron (i.e. that the two components of the phrase are opposites and therefore cannot go together)

We also stated that:

The creative process cannot be taught.

What can be taught is the way to create the personal and environmental conditions which are most likely to encourage creative events. Some of the stages along the way cannot be programmed or guaranteed. Accepting the risk of failure is one of the necessary conditions for setting in motion an authentic process which has some likelihood of success.

We used the following terminology to define the different stages of the process (using italics for those that are not guaranteed):
Preparation – Nomadic research – Serendipity – Accumulation – Attempts at design – Analogies – Distraction, rest – Epiphany – Evaluation.

Nomadic journey and first collection of images

Our study of theory and iconography in the early lessons set us off on our journey and covered the first three-four stages: i.e. we did the necessary groundwork, with nomadic research, focusing on architectural images from every period in history and from every culture, enabling us to put together a wealth of images of buildings – already built or planned – which are extremely varied and diverse.

We also realised that architecture was currently undergoing a radical transformation.
(It is probable that during this part of the journey, one or two moments of serendipity also occurred.

Our observation and interpretation of this wealth of architectural images (buildings, cities, landscapes) during this part of our learning journey led us to add other images to our collection  (for example, drawings explaining the theory behind design or interpretative works). Put together, these two groups of  images form a large and heterogeneous collection. In this way we have our own thesaurus of physical spaces, associated with drawings explaining direction, sacred figures, representations of myths, of the human body, measurement systems, diagrams of conceptual structures etc…

Reading aids

In order to read or interpret our images, we often drew on non-verbal languages: body language (gestures, cosmetics, tattoos, clothing, claiming territory), spatio-visual languages (graphics, painting) spatial-territorial languages (interior design, architecture, landscape, cosmology).

To decodify these languages, we drew on other subjects mainly in the field of humanities: Ethology, Anthropology, Philosophy.

We tried to see where rhetorical devices had been used, either intentionally (educated) or spontaneously, to represent certain concepts in an indirect but often much clearer way than if they had been expressed directly.

Developments in this lesson

The next stages of our agogic journey that we are going to cover in this second part of the course are:

(Preparation – Nomadic research – Serendipity – Accumulation) – Attempts at designAnalogies.

During this part of our journey, we will also ensure there are some moments of Distraction and rest, quietly waiting to see if the possible (but not guaranteed) Epiphanies happen.

… getting ready to end our learning experience with an evaluation of the results.

In this second, experimental part of the course, we will use non-verbal languages even more. While always being aware of body language, we will use spatio-visual languages (graphics, painting) to aim for a more conscious use of the spatial-territorial languages (interior design, architecture, landscape, cosmology).

We will again draw on other subjects to help us, especially from the fields of psychology of perception and philosophy of aesthetics.

We will continue to see how certain rhetorical devices have been used, either intentionally (educated) or spontaneously, as these provide useful training for the expression of thought through images.

Practical stage

We will then continue our journey through the fifth and sixth stages (Attempts at design – Analogies).

There will be a series of practical lessons where we will focus on specific ideas emerging from our theoretical reflections on the meaning of architecture and try to physically exercise our imagination on these topics.

We are thus starting our work on attempts at design.
And working out the best way for each one of us to maximise the development of analogic thought.

The practical lessons obviously cannot be contained on these web-pages since they involve physical experiences, the result of which is quite simply what happens. And this “happening” is an end in itself but is (and must remain so), untranslatable into words.

Exercise 1

Exercise 1
(subjective introspection)

Research into spatial images of “protection”


Research into spatial images of “elevation”


Exercise 2

Exercise 2
(visual perception – synaesthetic perception)

Perception and representation of “mass elements”


Perception and representation of “space elements”


Second collection of images

Through the above practical exercises, which will be done part in the classroom and part outside, lots and lots of images will be generated but this time they form part of the work of the individual course participant (representations of existing spaces, the beginnings of, or ideas for, designs for buildings, cities or landscapes).

The accumulation of these images is interesting. Although produced randomly, (the people on the course only have their interest in the chosen subject in common), if we look more carefully it is easy to see how they spontaneously (unintentionally) tend to fall into groups around certain nuclei of meaning.

(There will probably be moments of serendipity during this second part of the course too).

A second collection of images like this starts to constitute a kind of heritage we can draw on; the product of the collective imagination of our study group (a very real and powerful collective subjectivity) which we have managed to put together by coming to the course.

Accumulation and analogy

The overall collection of images produced so far, including those from the first collection (works of architecture and drawings interpreting these) as well as those from the second (attempts at design) is the fruit of our learning and constitutes a source/resource we can draw on for our future designs.

This material looks like an accumulation – intentionally put together to a certain extent, but partly random and partly tending towards spontaneous self-organisation too – and essentially plural and heterogeneous in nature.

We can, in fact, perceive various possible criteria that could be applied at different moments to explain a natural ordering of the various elements: criteria based on affinity or diversity, opposition or convergence, similarity or difference, continuity or discontinuity, closeness or distance, aspiration or derivation.

Understanding of the dynamics behind self-generated ordering is of vital importance for the development of a real awareness of the contemporary era.

The key to the perception, application and control of criteria for natural ordering is analogic thought.
In the last part of the course, you will be given useful aids for reinforcing analogic thought, as this kind of thinking is deemed a prerequisite for the development of creativity in architecture.

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Progetto "Campus Virtuale" dell'Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, realizzato con il cofinanziamento dell'Unione europea. Asse V - Società dell'informazione - Obiettivo Operativo 5.1 e-Government ed e-Inclusion

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