critical making

While I was studying, I developed a particular way of thinking through making. Instead of always starting with a drawing or a discussion, I used the making of test pieces in the workshop to find ideas.  Adopting a spirit of purposeful aimlessness, I was trying to avoid needing an outcome.  Although giving myself permission to experiment, I remained open and receptive to the possibilities that the materials in my hands were offering, ready to convert them into something useful.  Making them, I was wondering how each one might translate to the scale of a building or piece of furniture…

Thomas Heatherwick, Making

Heatherwick’s process can be described as one of critical making.  In critical making, the individual or individuals participating bring together two modes of engagement that, according to Matt Ratto are typically held separate:  the conceptually and theoretically based practice of critical thinking and the goal and material based practice of making.  Recent studies have shown that the brain may be wired to put ‘doing’ before most other commands, even ‘thinking.’  As such, architecture students must be encouraged to occasionally move outside their comfort zone, stop overthinking, and engage in embodied making exercises that offer alternative avenues into the design process.  The use of critical making as a generative tool in the design studio has the potential to not only develop architectural students’ abilities to engage with, critically and creatively work through, and ultimately solve design problems, but also to help instill within these same students a better understanding of the relationship between people and their environment.