Saturday, January 8, 2011

Recently Read: Kathryn Moore - Overlooking the Visual

Moore, K. Overlooking the visual: Demystifying the art of design. (2010). Routledge: New York.
Carleton Library Call #: NK1505 .M66 2010 (Floor 3)

The full title is "Overlooking the Visual: Demystifying the Art of Design".


Some excerpts:

The crux of the problem is that an intractable rationalist paradigm dominates our thinking to such a degree we no longer give it much thought. ... Reinforced by a host of beliefs and suppositions it exiles materiality to a metaphysical wilderness where it languishes, separated from intelligence, safely hidden out of sight, out of mind. (p 6)

The fundamental dichotomy between body and mind enshrined in perceptual theories creates an insuperable quandary that endures within any aesthetic experience. Is the resonance of the experience created by the recognition of something perfect, an unchanging truth out there in the world, or by a frisson with innate, archetypal structures in mind, the subconscious, pre-conscious or some kind of universal knowledge embedded in our genes? (p 53)

"Overlooking the Visual" explains design teaching and practice particularly through landscape architecture, although the content applies to all facets of design. Moore posits that Western thought perpetuates several false dichotomies which limit the way we design: thinking vs seeing, intuitive vs rational, theory vs practice. These dualities are interpreted by society as rules to live by, rather than simply a "philosophical construct". Interesting, no? It wasn't quite clear to me how freeing ourselves of these dualities would improve design, so I was rather excited to read the rest of the text.

(More after the jump)

In the end, I don't think Moore actually intended for her book to ever be read. Or at least that's how it seems. Terribly convoluted and verbose. Does not demystify anything. Apparently she brings up many valuable insights, but I would never know about them because I found it so difficult to read. It is the first book that has ever made me feel like an idiot. First for apparently not understanding design, and second for apparently not understanding English.

Included however, are many excellent examples of landscape architecture projects, outlining how students and practitioners have carried out designs while taking into account the considerations written about in this book. Borrow the book, take a look at the pictures (the captions are often insightful) and turn this 250 page book into a quick, quick, quick read. Basically, Moore has an absolutely captivating argument that I anticipated reading, yet it was presented in the douchiest possible way. Maybe you can give it a try... I would recommend this book for Masters students, who are far better "wordy bullshit" translators.