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Dear friends, some days ago I could luckily meet at Parsons in New York Susan Yelavich. We discussed about Design, History of design and so on. Afterwards she wrote to me a letter and I quote here one phrase: “…about teaching history. I feel there is a need for both chronological and modal/thematic approaches. Though at the graduate school stage, I think modal is more appropriate.”
I agree: maybe we need both cronological and modal/thematic approach today. And we should go on debating about that. Anyway that two historical approaches are typical one of Europe and the other of the States: analytical vs continental tradition of philosophy.
But we discussed also about teaching Design History under a general point of view. I think there are other problems:
- is it true there is an increasing loss of importance of Teaching History in the Design Schools?
- can we agree and why about the importance of contesting this trend?
- In 1994 in a conference at Politecnico in Milano (“Design: History and Historiography”) in my introduction I put he question why Teaching History was practically absent in Bauhaus and in Iulm. I related that absence to the influence of Vienna Circle (der Wiener Kreis) and afterwards of Neopositivism (Logical Positivism): and I underlined how Neopositivism positions against History were changed during his decline. I quoted Gustav Hempel who declared that changement took over from the studies of Thomas Kuhn and his “changement of paradigm” that reintroduced the idea of History in Scientific Studies.
But all this refers to the history of Teaching Design and of relations between Design and History of Design.
- Some time ago Victor Margolin wrote (Design in History, 2008):
“… there are forces that militate against learning from history. One that Hobsbawm identifies is the “a-historical,engineering, problem-solving approach by means of mechanical models and devices.”
- Actually, mostly referring to many present positions inside Politecnico- Milano, I think that a problem is an idea of strategic design that gives up with projecting material or immaterial artifacts. This idea is based on theories of organization and of management with an “operationist” point of view that implies a reduction of projecting to the list of the operations to be developped for getting the fixed goal.
Presently I think that the problem is the domination of an absolutized technical thinking, both under the engeneering and the managerial points of wiew. I think it’s a general problem in present thinking. Just for referring to authors very interested in architecture and design I remember tthe critics to that positions of Frederic Jameson (1984) and Hal Foster (2002).
I think these are problems worths of debating in the present situation. I have in mind to suggest it to the AIS/Design (Italian Society of Design Historians) we founded three years go, and in the meanwhile I send these remarks to Susan Yelovitch and to some other friends.