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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 41.1 (2007) 74-89

Reflective Subjects in Kant and Architectural Design Education
Peg Rawes


In architectural design education, students develop drawing, conceptual, and critical skills that are informed by their ability to reflect upon the production of ideas in design processes and in the urban, environmental, social, historical, and cultural contexts that define architecture and the built environment. Students' ability to critically engage in the discipline is partly generated by their powers of reflective thinking—for example, when they learn to actively reflect upon processes of design and, in turn, to transform these aesthetic judgments into embodied "knowledges" in the production of the built environment.

Reflective actions and thinking, therefore, are inherent in the education of the architectural designer and in the individual student's experience of inhabiting the built environment. This article explores these reflective modes of production in order to challenge the determinism in spatial thinking that persists in formalist approaches to architectural theory and design. First, it argues that reflective thinking informs the activities that generate the design process in its various stages of development, beginning from the production of the "authored" drawing, model, render, film, or proto-type, to the spaces of explanation and reflection that structure the design tutorial, review, or "crit." In addition, these pedagogical experiences preview the experience of reflective judgment in the professional context of architectural design; for example, the indeterminism that may exist between the expectations of the architect and those of the client, developer, or construction company. (Of course, any indeterminism is often in conflict with the legal and economic frameworks that determine built projects, but it is especially likely to [End Page 74] be present in the various aesthetic judgments held by the different professionals involved in the process.) Architectural design is therefore not merely a predictive or deterministic manufacture of formal space but a process in which reflection operates at all stages of production.

Second, the article suggests that Kant's theory of aesthetic judgment may disrupt the determinism that can underpin formalist architecture. In these design methods, the emphasis on the production of formal ideas leads to architectural spaces that elide the user's sense-based experience.1 In addition, theories that oppose formalist architecture may often be resolved through discussions about time, which in turn exclude concepts of space. Formal architectural space is therefore a problematic theoretical and practical issue in contemporary design education. In addition, these arguments appear to be endorsed by Kant's discussions about forms of space in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1789). In contrast, this article suggests that if Kant's enquiry into space is examined through the later Critique of Judgment (1790), it becomes constructed out of indeterminate yet embodied a priori judgments in the individual subject, and it is therefore reinstated with a legitimate power in relation to modernist architecture. Consequently, the article questions the link between Kant's theories of space and deterministic spatial thinking in architectural design (whilst also recognizing that Kant does not consider aesthetic thinking or judgment to be equal to conceptual understanding) to suggest that reflective judgment is a key attribute in the production of embodied spatial judgments in architectural design. Therefore, underlying the discussion are two propositions; first, Kant's theory of the reflective subject also produces an indeterminate, yet embodied, a priori form of space; second, the reflective subject and its embodied spatial thinking enable re-readings of space and modernism in architectural design education.

The article begins with an examination of the reflectivesubject in the Critique of Judgment and develops into a discussion about reflective thinking in relation to specific examples of technical and aesthetic relationships in architectural design education. I argue that Kant's reflective subject enables discussions about aesthetic and technical thinking, especially with respect to the role of geometry in architectural and spatial design.

Part I examines how Kant's theory of reflection is valuable for a discipline that requires both geometric and spatial reasoning in its design processes. I argue that the...


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