Clear communication is important between people because it guides them. To a viewer, a building can set up an experience and convey messages through its visual elements. It’s important that an architect communicates clearly so their audience knows how to ‘read’ a building. Although the methods of communication are different, spoken or written vs. visual, clear communication is important in both cases because it guides someone to understanding.
Language and Architecture
Architecture functions differently than spoken or written language because it acts visually on viewers. The viewer takes everything in all at once instead of in sequenced steps. In this way, there’s a degree of simultaneity to architecture that language doesn’t possess. We can only say one thing at a time, so we should be careful to be thoughtful and transparent about how we’re connecting and ordering information.
Symbolic Interaction Theory
The designed physical environment is always intertwined with the self and contains cues that communicate messages to people about their expected roles and behaviors. Clear communication in architecture is important because it tells the viewer how to experience a building, as well as what the building and space expect from them.
Looking at Eero Saarinen’s now-defunct TWA Terminal, he communicates his idea of space and suggests flight and progressiveness through elements like vaults, columns, and a shell structure to emphasize curvature and height, which create a soaring interior. A viewer learns through the architecture both what to expect and what is expected of them. When communication is clear, the viewer is effectively guided through their experience.
Clear Communication and Tutoring
When tutoring, it’s important to communicate clearly because without doing so, the writer may be unsure about their path forward. We should strive to get our ideas across in ways that the writer can understand, and we should be confident and clear in our advice. If the writer is confused, we should try slowing down and thoroughly address one thing at a time. Spoken language doesn’t have the capability to be simultaneous like architecture. We have to be intentional and careful in how we sequence information we present.
Goldberger, Paul. Why Architecture Matters. Yale University Press, 2009.
Merwood-Salisbury, Joanna. The Skyscraper and the Modern City. University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Seligmann, Klaus. “Architecture and Language: Notes on a Metaphor.” JAE, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 23-27, 1977.
Smith, Ronald W. and Valerie Bugni. “Symbolic Interaction Theory and Architecture.” Symbolic Interaction, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 123-155, 2006.