Describing man-made structures: Aesthetically Qualified Physical Environment and New Planning Techniques

Christian Burman, Simo Säätelä

Research output: Book/ReportReport


Describing Man-Made Structures consists of four philosophical essays. The point of departure for the first essay (On UnderstandingArehitectural Drawings) could be described as praxcological: understanding arehitectural drawings entails understanding the uses of arehitectural drawings in the practices to which they belong. The question of correct understanding cannot be separated from the question of what there is to understand; we reject the view that arehitectural drawings could in some sense be characterized by a "veridicality". Such a view would, namely, express an epistemology of architectural drawings that puts a wrong emphasis on modelling and formalisation. We reject the view that the arehitectural drawing is a structure of meaningful elements which refer to something empirical. We also reject the idea that the drawing is an expression of the arehitect's inner vision. Finally we consider the use of arehitectural drawings in different contexts of communication, concluding that the role of arehitectural drawings is characterised by an indispensable openness. The Quality of Housing - the Grammar of a Concept: A discussion pertaining to the quality of housing, and thus to the "quality of living", will naturally involve matters such as structural, material and functional qualities, but it will also reach behind these reasonably well-defined domains, and into the "fuzzy" areas of aesthetics and morality. This has not always been seen clearly; a narrow conception of rationality has led us to believe that the quality of housing is the direct result of the technical solutions and only of the technical solutions. The present essay is an attempt to present an alternative view We wish to bring out the connections in which our talk about the quality of housing belongs (judging is connected with our attitudes rather than with our opinions), and show that there is no need to sacrifice rationality even though we may have to move in vague and indeterminate areas. Implementation and Operation - An Essay on Tools and Understanding: This essay deals with philosophical questions pertaining to tools and the use of tools, and the relevance of these questions to the design of computer implements. Its point of departure is the "praxeological" writings of the Norwegian philosopher Jakob Melee, who argues that to gain a correct understanding of something we must understand and describe it in its proper context. To gain an understanding of this proper context we must consider what "describing an action" entails. A non-practical operation (e.g., designing a house) cannot be fully described by referring only to what is observed. Such an operation is essentially open, i.e., the activity is not defined by any single operation or sequence of operations. The "basic philosophy" of designing computer implements that suggests itself is the tool approach since here the point of departure is in the agent's (tool-user's) own understanding of what he is doing. The Computer as Tool - a Redirection of Computer-A ided Arehitectural Design: The aim of this paper is to trace out the implications and philosophical ramifications of a tool perspective to the design of computer aided arehitectural design (CAAD). The tool perspective is contrasted with the traditional approach of systems design and information processing theory. The point of departure for the tool perspective is not in the abstract theories of information processing and systems analysis, but rather in understanding the practices and uses into which the computer implementation is put. In order to achieve an understanding of the implications of this perspective the concept of tool is considered in some detail. It is suggested, that the tool perspective is best understood as offering an example of metaphorical design; is., the CAAD tools can function as reminders and metaphors of traditional tools in working practices. Thus the user does not have to transfer his knowledge and skills to a domain fundamentally different from those established through his professional practices. In a field like arehitectural design, this is a way to overcome some crucial issues in the formalizability of the arehitects' knowledge and skills, form the tool perspective the aim is not to model or formalize the knowledge of the competent user, but rather to model the tools he traditionally works with.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages94
ISBN (Print)951-38-3871-4
Publication statusPublished - 1991
MoE publication typeNot Eligible

Publication series

SeriesValtion teknillinen tutkimuskeskus. Tiedotteita


  • CAD
  • tools
  • knowledge representation
  • skill
  • practice
  • perspective
  • human-computer interface
  • model
  • metaphor
  • computer supported work
  • systematic domain


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