The Role of Art in Science

Jong, Taeke M. de
The study of architectural, urban and related technical design struggles with its context sensitivity hampering a contextless and categorybound scientific generalization. Many concepts describing design issuesare different from the categories and variables of empirical science.Incomparable categories such as ‘strong’, ‘useful’ and ‘beautiful’ haveto be combined in design. These combinations cannot be expressed in a‘statement-based’ scientific discourse. Design annoyingly jumps throughits sentences and statements that unroll primarily in time. Images areindispensible in communicating the spatial diversity observed or intended.Materializing spaces allows contradictions, but it is not irrational. Itonly transcends the categories of verbal language and classical logic. Ituses the sources of imagination in a rational, but not always in a logical,and certainly not in a predictable way. Art shifts the boundaries ofimagination. And imagination is the foundation of both science and design.Art transcends categories into new imaginations. New imaginations arerequired to find new categories as components of a composition. Designrestricts itself to realizable imaginations. Its boundary is ‘possibility’,whereas science restricts itself to ‘probability’.Science is a human design, and design is an art. So, even science is anart, a human creation. After all, probability supposes possibility and thatsupposes imagination. Imaginations and designed instruments often havepreceded scientific progress. Design is not a part of science, but scienceis a part of design. It is in particular a part of the realization of a design.That shows the advantage of a scientific education for designers. It makesthem less vulnerable in the company of specialists. A design concept willweigh up and integrate advice from the specialists. And these advices areoften contradictory. Diverging specializations result in an archipelago ofsciences, no longer criticizing each other. That is why science falls in thepublic’s esteem. But, here is still a demand for imagination. That is the roleof art and design.The public imagination fails in solving actual problems. It fails by global homogenization of culture, its everywhere generalized solutions. It fails by a decreasing awareness of real bio-diversity. It fails by a lack of awareness of the combinatory explosion of possibilities imagination can produce. Design should explore the improbable possibilities. It should shift incomparable categories just as our senses combine different sensory impressions. That is the foundation of concept formation. It integrates the experience of moving your body into object constancies while the boundaries are shifting. These new objects may become the different components and details of a design composition. And every level of scale has its own composition causing an interesting tension if it does not break down into chaotic incoherence. The legend of a drawing is the key of the composition, its vocabulary. It designates the components of the composition and its characteristic, crucial, connecting and marking details. To explore our possibilities, to extend our freedom of choice, we have to break down the limitations of our imagination, increasingly bounded in cliché’s by the mass media. We have to study the hidden suppositions of our imagination to find improbable possibilities. Since science is broken up into specialisms, hiding themselves in subcultures, paradigms and jargon, art and design now have a task in science.


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Citation Formats
T. M. d. Jong, “The Role of Art in Science,” ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi Dergisi, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 23–44, 2010, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: