After my previous blog Design on Display, I received a few questions asking me about the relationship between architecture, design and science. One person went so far as to suggest this was not science at all.
I began the blog asking science teachers what might comprise a minimum curriculum about architecture. I consider one of the primary roles of the teacher is to help students learn how to think. It is important to present to students a variety of problem-solving strategies and assist them in understanding when to apply each of these strategies. This is how we teach metacognition: thinking about thinking. While some of the sciences like physics and chemistry rely on controlling variables, making hypotheses and analyzing data, these strategies are less useful for topics like structure and design. For these disciplines, a more relevant thinking skill is what we call technological problem solving.
In a technological problem, students are given a specific requirement, for example, to build a bridge or a tower. From these specifications, students develop alternatives in the plan and design. These plans are tested and there may be troubleshooting in the form of changing one variable at a time to achieve the requirement. The design must be evaluated.
We don't know much about the earliest architects, their names lost to antiquity. The honour of earliest known scientist by name has been associated with Imhotep, the polymath and architect who served the Egyptian pharaoh Djoser designing the early Egyptian step pyramids (even though some of this type of pyramid predates him by more than a thousand years). I am not going to create a list of early architects and their contribution here. My current adventure is leading me toward the new V&A Dundee museum of design.
After leaving London (see Design on Display Part I) I stopped over in Glasgow. It is easy to find sites of scientific interest there. I spent one day at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Even though it was a rainy fall day, I could still enjoy their extensive greenhouse system with a wide-ranging display of flowering plants. The gardens were founded in 1817. Of significance to Canadians, David Douglas was employed as a botanist by the gardens in 1820. Beginning in 1823 he began doing expeditions to Canada. He is considered to be North America's first mountaineer after his documented climb of what he named Mount Brown on the BC/Alberta border. More significantly though, Douglas is associated with one of North America's most commercially important trees, the Douglas Fir.
Also during my time in Glasgow, I visited the Kelvingrove Museum. This museum has one wing dedicated to the natural sciences and the other to art and design. It was easy to spend the better part of a day in this museum. I took the opportunity of participating in one of the free volunteer guided tours to acquaint visitors to the highlights on display and learn about Scottish design.
In Scotland, one name strongly associated with architecture and design is Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 - 1928). He was part of a group known for Art Nouveau. Tragically, one of his famous creations, the Glasgow School of Art was extensively damaged in a fire June 15, 2018. All I was able to see across the safety barriers were the large cranes being used to salvage what they can.
I was excited to move on to Dundee, as visiting the new V&A Dundee, Scotland's first museum of design, was the the initial focus of my trip. The impressive building was designed by Kengo Kuma. He was inspired by the eastern cliff edges of Scotland in his design. The University of Dundee was responsible for setting the scene to bring a design museum to Dundee. As the museum develops, it will be both a place for visitors and academics to study the applied and digital arts. The displays are very interesting; however, there is only one significant interactive display for young people - building sample bridges. Of course, I built the bridges too.
I returned from my adventure seeking the science of design in Britain to the opening of the New Central Library in Calgary. Edmonton unveiled the new Roger's Place in 2016. Our students do not need to travel far to find significant architecture in buildings and bridges in our own province. Science teachers are tasked with presenting "science in meaningful context - providing opportunities for students to explore the process of science, its applications and implications, and to examine related technological problems and issues
." Helping students consider architecture and design is one way of doing so.
Links of Interest:
Design on Display Part I
Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum