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Architecture, fiction and thought experiments

Architecture, fiction and thought experiments

Ramachandran Ram, Rahesh ORCID: 0000-0001-9238-5021 (2021) Architecture, fiction and thought experiments. In: EAEA15: Envisioning Architectural Narratives. Monograph of the 15th Biennial International Conference of the European Architectural Envisioning Association Huddersfield, United Kingdom, September 1-3, 2021. University of Huddersfield, Department of Architecture and 3D Design, School of Art, Design and Architecture, The University of Huddersfield, UKHuddersfield, pp. 235-245. ISBN 978-1862181892 ; 978-1862181885 (doi:

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The use of fictional narratives as a conduit for experimentation and speculation in architecture has been widely practised by paper architects and students alike; but what are the qualities of fiction that give it credibility as a tool for such investigations?
What is the nature of fiction that can enable an architectural discourse? Is it a form of a thought experiment? Can it be seen as an instrument for experimentation that can reveal new insights, understanding or even new knowledge? This essay will seek to answer these questions, especially the idea of architectural fiction as a thought experiment. After defining these notions, it will look at how the structure and makeup of fiction can enable it to be thought of as an experimental instrument. It will look at the differences and similarities between literary fiction and architectural fiction before looking into the creation of possible worlds as a starting point for fictional scenarios. The question arises what role does possible world and modal statements that sometimes accompany it play in the experiment? Modal statements are important as architectural fiction can be used for a source of bibliomancy; or a way to investigate political, social, cultural or environmental tensions through the conduit of architecture. Fiction, as a thought experiment, has been debated. Philosophers have long held that literary fictions are thought experiments all be it a particular kind (Egan.2016. p.139). Can this be said of architectural fiction? The dichotomy when considering fiction as a thought experiment is that fictions are a nonfactual poiesis; yet, it said to reveal some truth in the form of knowledge. There has been debate about the epistemic value of thought experiments in fiction (Egan.2016. p.139). They, like real experiments, "seek to raise, make salient, or answer question or set of questions, by exploring the relationship between two or more variables"(Egan.2016. p.140). Real experiments, however, are done in the lab under controlled conditions and thought experiments are done, in the "Laboratory of the Mind"(Brown. 2011 quoted in Egan.2016. p.140). Fictional thought experiments are set up as allegories (Frey (1957) cited in Egan.2016. p.141, Frey 1957.p.80); it uses meaning constructed through the tools of language including signs, signifiers, symbolism and metaphors to enable more abstract thinking and imaginative cognitive engagement. Margherita Arcangeli states that "Once imagination is seen as the key to the ' cognitive black box' of the thought experiment, we will move a step closer to a simulative imagining-based account of thought experimentation' (Arcangeli, 2010.p.571).
It is the mining of imagination and possible epistemic value that lies within it that make thought experiments a possible instrument for gaining knowledge. The use of language in literary fiction provides an aesthetic value to narratives, as does visual representation play a similar role in fictional architectural discourse. The aesthetic value has been said to be irrelevant to the thought experiments; however, when discussing literary fiction Egan states that it enables the investigation to be more vivid and therefore plays a role in the arguments (Egan.2016. p.146). What role does the media and aesthetics used in architectural fiction play in the experiment? Through the analysis and critique of a number of fictional architectural projects; this essay seeks to understand the use of fiction as an experimental, speculative instrument in architecture.

Item Type: Conference Proceedings
Title of Proceedings: EAEA15: Envisioning Architectural Narratives. Monograph of the 15th Biennial International Conference of the European Architectural Envisioning Association Huddersfield, United Kingdom, September 1-3, 2021.
Uncontrolled Keywords: fiction; narrative; architecture; speculation; experimentation; drawings
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Design (DES)
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2022 12:39

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