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Essential Tension \ Dynamic Balance

May 14, 2018 \ Studio
by Andrew Bateman
Essential Tension \ Dynamic Balance

Architecture is a profession that demands a balance between the seemingly ‘opposing’ fields of art and science. This dynamic balance runs to the very heart of what we do, and how we do it, and for me makes architecture a unique and fascinating profession. The tension between opposing fields of interest and expertise has been evident throughout history, and has marked
our search for meaning and ultimate truth in all spheres of life. Most obviously this has expressed itself in the fields of science and religion – rational and reasoned logic v irrational and undefendable faith. Both have at certain periods in history offered themselves as total accounts of reality and meaning – ‘grand narratives’ – at the rejection or exclusion of the other.

But does one polar opposite necessarily exclude or invalidate the other? One of my tutors at University in Nottingham – Chris Abel – wrote in 1989 about a theory of ‘related constructs’. This theory considers constructs, which to the western mind might appear as separate and opposing, but when viewed with an Eastern philosophical stance, become polar aspects of a shared reality.

‘Without a concept of what is ugly’ Abel recounts ‘there can be no idea of what is beautiful, without losing there can be no winning. The meaning of each is defined relative to its polar opposite and is complimentary to it. Where the westerner sees nothing but hard and fast choices between good and bad, beauty and ugliness, the Easterner recognises that he can never have one without the other and therefore strives for a dynamic balance between the two’

I’m intrigued by this, and believe the application of this theory to be fundamental to our understanding of architecture and how we do it. This principle runs to the very heart of our culture at Page\Park.

Our understanding of the necessity and power of ‘essential tensions’ in what we do has grown. We explore in our everyday project work and thinking, dynamic balances between reason \ intuition, technology \ craft, specification \ story… to name but a few. One could easily argue that where there isn’t a balance between related but opposing constructs, full potential is not being realised. This is where we should focus. Something that has really struck me over the past year as we have listened to the various 40 voice talks is the wide ranging subjects, interests and passions that we all have as a collective within this business. There is such a rich plurality of interest and expertise.

The power of this plurality to me is not in the individual interests, but the emergent dynamic balance that exists between all the subjects put forward. The next step for us is to identify and nuture such dynamic balances to spawn new ideas and innovative ways of working. So for me the excitement in this next phase of our development as a collective is actually the point of interface and meeting… represented in our model as…


Barclay Street Housing for Lorreto Housing Association

April 30, 2018 \ Places to Live
by multiple authors

Team members Marianne Partyka and Anthony Newman review our recently completed project for Lorreto Housing Association.

2871Essential Tension \ Dynamic Balance