Complexity and discord in architecture: motivation for thinking and meaning



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


A common topic in the field of architecture is the value of meaning in architecture. There are certain situations that need to precede the creation of an object with meaning or the observer sensing meaning in an object. Before the user can appreciate an object or the designer can produce a work with meaning, the two separate acts have to involve an experience. This means the artist and the user have to directly engage or experience something.' Active involvement is required for an experience to take place which precedes appreciation or the creation of an object with meaning. Berlyne, through his research in experimental aesthetics, finds a connection between an individual experiencing an object and the need for directed thinking. The act of directed thinking does not occur when things follow a smooth, harmonious and accustomed path." Yet, in traditional architectural design with a Classical base, harmony balanced with a little variety was considered the essence of good design. In today's world, would a "little" variety cause directed thinking or simply mirror a socially and politically disjointed, multilayered society?

Christian Norberg-Schulz states that architecture in the past decades since World War I I , " . . . seems to have exploded, and the resulting multitude of scattered parts is usually described as visual chaos. When order is encountered, it consists mostly of a monotonous repetition of unarticulated elements." He identifies the world of architecture as two extremes—either in discord or in monotony. The obvious question is: Can a built environment have meaning for today's society and designers and at the same time bridge the gap between "visual chaos" and boring concordance? More specifically, the issue under investigation is the boundary challenging potential for architecture to encourage directed thinking and thus have meaning through the use of such variables as novelty, contradiction, conflict, uncertainty, and discordance while maintaining a certain degree of aesthetic and functional order.



Architecture, Architects and patrons