CHALLENGING CONCEPTUAL DESIGN IN ARCHITECTURE
” And this time when I looked at the sky I could see it exactly as it was, Without Labeling what I saw. With no words to define, The stars, moon and the sky became One. The stars were not the stars, and the sky was not the sky.”
Most Inspiring Moments Come when you are Alone. Alone meaning not even You are with you! When You have put aside all thoughts and Just Being Aware of the surroundings, You start Listening Instead of Talking, Absorbing Instead of reacting! You start Noticing How The Universe is talking to You. That is the moment when I think All the Information you had taken earlier from the world start processing on its own and transform In to A Knowledge, through an Experience.
For example, About 2 years ago, One Evening I was sitting in a quiet Place in a park. I looked at the sky and I said, “the stars Look wonderful in the Dark sky!”
As soon as I said that, I remembered The Book on zen buddhism that I was Studying during that period of time. That book talked About how words Limit our view of things. So I thought of trying out an experiment. I looked at the sky again, but this time removing From my mind all the words that I said earlier. As if I did not know the words “stars”, “Look”, “wonderful” and “Dark sky”. This time the words that came out were , “white dots in the Black”. And once again I gave It a try, removing all the words,Like A cat who does not know any Language. And this time when I looked at the sky I could see it exactly as it was, Without Labeling what I saw. With no words to define, The stars, moon and the sky became One. “The stars were not the stars, and the sky was not the sky.”
I noticed How there were the Layers of the words Blocking me from Having this view in the First Place. I realised that There is A thick Mass of the Language and False meanings Which keep us From Looking at things exactly the way they are, That our minds Are Literally Imprisoned with the Language that we have created.
Now Language is made of words and sentences which “make sense”, therefore There is a very strict Logic to It. So Naturally Language makes us think critically and in a way that things have to “make sense”. Because If It not senes tahw make uoy duolw kihntk …… Yes!!, You would not be able to create any meaning out of it. Therefore there is a Very rigid Order which Clearly suggests that Everything has to be straight, In one Line only. And it is clearly A very very narrow Perspective! This way of looking at things completely ignores the space from which this single Line has been Created. The best way to understand this is to study how zen is taught. Here are some words from zen masters,
“snow is not white, Raven is not black.” ; “A is A but at the same time A is not A” ; “In the Midst of pouring rain, I am not wet” ; “Listen to the sound of one hand”; “Empty handed I go with the spade in my hands”
It is a kind of “Anti teaching”, which seems to negate everything. But Actually with that negation it is trying to point to a higher Affirmation which Lies beyond Logic and A Straight Line.
It is not so hard to come to a conclusion that A word coming out of someone’s mouth is just a sound, Like the Bark of a dog. A word is nothing but A sound, A vibration, It does not have any meaning. But we have conditioned ourselves to Associate A meaning with that sound. And that false meaning is what is blocking us now From reaching on to the real meaning of it.
As we chose our words to Define something, We miss the Infinity in the Background From which we make the choice. Just Like while Playing piano, we chose certain Keys, but at the same time we are “Not Choosing” the rest of the keys which are Equally important. As Long as we do not chose, everything remains possible.
For an experiment Let us Imagine what it would be Like to break through all words? If we do not have a single word to define Anything, we notice that we can not distinguish between things, Just Like the stars and the sky that has been mentioned earlier. We are not able to Divide or multiply, There is no this and that ,No up-down, here-there or India-Pakistan. There is not even You or me. We are not able to define ourselves with any name. Our Ego is gone! We no more consider ourselves within this body, The Entire Universe Becomes our Body.
we could reach a state of complete Non-duality and Undivided Consciousness which is mentioned in the vedanta philosophy. Just by eliminating Everything that we think we know, we can Imagine How our perspective tends towards infinity. One plus one is not two anymore, In fact there is no number, No answer!
Now Of course, In a creative design process and Also In day to day Life Critical thinking is Required to come to a certain resolution. But the biggest Problem in Society today is this that this thinking mind is overused and also misused. As Everyone knows but Ignores the Fact that the minds are running people instead of people running the minds. And that is the major cause of “All the Chaos” that we see around us today. A lot has already been written about it, but the point is that With this Never stopping Automatic thinking machine we always miss the other part of the experience, which has a Infinite Creative Potential. The Critical Thinking has become more of an obstruction than the tool.
Looking at the current design process, the design Concept is very much emphasized. Design Concept is one abstracted Idea out of the whole Inspiring Experience. But to me, the conceptual stage is where all the Misconceptions actually happen. Capturing an “inspiration” and trying to Convert it into words in itself Distorts the the true Inspiration. For example I am inspired by the scene of water-Flow. Now the Moment I try to explain it to someone, there is a Fixed Image of it in my mind, which has very less to do with actual Scene of water flow. And even worse, the person who is listening has a different Image than mine. So the original Idea is Already Lost at the conceptual Stage! And No wonder why most of the students forget their original Idea By the end of the term. Only an Expert writer or a speaker could probably Paint a similar experience in someone’s mind by writing or talking. Looking in this Light even the Images are as Limiting as the words. Because Images do not convey sound, movement and other tactile perceptions.
Then the Idea of Designing without words is the Attempt to bypass this whole stage of Conceptualizing and Defining an Inspiring Experience which will become the Base of the Design. It is an Idea that one Could Experience something with this Infinite Perspective and Then Transfer It In to our Design without the essence of It getting Distorted. How Could one do that?
To answer that question, we have to first understand The nature of an experience. The Experience is not an image, not a bunch of words but rather Like a movie. Where nothing is Static.While capturing an experience in images and words we always Forget this Aspect of it which is Time. And yet If you notice You can always Experience something In the Present. there is no Past or Future while having an experience. Now Past and Future being Illusion of thought, it is clear that the experience is terminated with the beginning of a thought. So an experience is a series of Present Moment. It is never Fixed, It can not be Fixed. It is Always changing. Another interesting thing about an experience is that It is Related to body and senses more than a mind. Mind is at the Back-ground. All the thoughts and the Language that you know is not forgotten but only at the Back. For example you could Imagine that You are in deep thoughts while crossing the road and suddenly you see a Truck Heading Fast towards you, At that moment it is not your mind but your body that decides to Run! All the thoughts at that moment back off in a Flash, and the survival instinct of the Body comes in Front to save you. It is an Excellent example Of the Intelligence over the Intellect.
So designing without the words is to think of a Design as an Experience. Where There is more Use of the Body in the Visualization rather than the mind. And the main Concept or Idea of the Design is not Defined or Fixed by words and Remains only as an experience in the memory, In the Background. It is Like a movie which can be Replayed and edited whenever required. That way The Concept of the building is not Limited to one word but rather one can add or remove as many past experiences as Required to Create a new Kind of an experience. It is Almost Like what Sherlock holmes would call ‘Mind Palace’. It is A technique to store the Memory in the Infinite space of the subconscious mind and recall it whenever needed. The same Idea we can Use here For Creating something. And of course then the thinking mind can do what it does the best. Judging the design and creating necessary Modifications, checking if the things are in order and so on the process goes back and Forth.
This Process of designing Almost Eliminates the words or puts it to the Minimum, So that they don’t become a Roadblock to the various possibilities. On the other hand it emphasizes the Body As a tool to design. Now, Looking at the fact that how much we use language in our daily Lives, and how Less present we are in the Moment, This way of Designing does not seem to work well in the current way of Living.
This way of Designing offers a lot more Possibilities than the current one but at the same Time It demands us to Change our current way of Living. In fact most of us are not even Living Currently. Caught up in thoughts and Anxiety most walk the streets Like Zombies. It is just existing and not Living! This new way Forces us to observe A lot more. To listen more than to speak. It demands the Habit of Living in the ‘Here and Now’ and give up the past and the Future which does not exist. It Emphasizes living with the body instead of mind and to be Hyper-perceptive and Mindful. Which enriches the Quality of any experience. It is interesting to Notice how the way of Living and Creating are Closely Linked.
Unfortunately The Life without Language is Long Forgotten. We can not even Imagine what it would be Like. Breaking through words in this life seems an Impossible task to most of us. We can not go back to that day, but It is important to Notice that Language is only a symbol to point at something. It is not the thing itself. From what I observe everyday and especially in so called “Intellectual Conversations” words are emphasized more than what they want to convey. And when they get in to an argument it is exactly like dogs barking at each-other! Certainly there is a need for a new way of teaching which does not take words so seriously, which emphasizes on experience rather than Describing that experience!
To conclude, Have you ever noticed how heavy your head feels? May be not. Because You have forgotten how light it can be.. Imagine that you are so heavily worrying about something, Anxious and stressful about something. Then suddenly it starts raining outside! If it ever happens in your Life, and it will, Do not miss that rain. Do not Let it pass. Get right into it. Because When I did that I could feel those cool, very cool raindrops falling on my head, and I could notice them literally melting all the thoughts. Each drop as it fell, it cooled down the Fire which was going on! After some time I felt that Lightness of the head, it felt Like there was no head! The senses were heightened and that was the Most present I ever felt in Life! I think that is how A mind without words would Feel Like!