A Call to Integrative Thinking

June 5th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

I’ve blogged in the past about integrative thinking as applied to architecture. In summary, we are trained to consider multiple parameters as we bring them together into cohesive design. This stands in contrast to reductive thinking, in which parameters are consciously limited to test an outcome or in which an overall hypothetical model is applied to a complex problem, making it easier to solve.

In today’s complicated world, we have found integrative processes more successful than reductive processes. An example might be the “tabula rasa” approach to urban renewal in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Demolition of old buildings and reconstruction from a “clean slate” was a preferred approach, which I would call reductionist. Take a big problem and solve it according a simple concept: cheaper to start over. But was it? Not if costs not considered by the “rules” are incorporated, such as homelessness, landfill waste, destruction of historic fabric, political wake zones, and energy waste. A better integrative approach is on display at the Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal: Green Energy Benny Farm.

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