THE MEASURABLE AND THE UNMEASURABLE by Dean Hawkes
Emeritus professor of architectural design
Welsh School of Architecture
I take my title from Louis Kahn’s observation that, “the measurable is only the servant of the unmeasurable”. One of the most important achievements of applied science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been to quantify and codify human requirements in buildings. This has been particularly successful in the field of lighting design, where standards of illumination, design tools and rules-of-thumb make a significant contribution to practical design. But there is much more to successful daylighting design than the quantitative. As, once again, Louis Kahn observed, “Architecture comes from the making of a room. A room is not a room without natural light.” Natural light thus becomes the key to the definition of architecture itself. The question that arises is how may we capture and communicate the unmeasurable element of daylight in buildings? In my research in recent years I have attempted to address this by developing a mode of architectural analysis that connects the quantitative and the qualitative – technics and poetics, as they may be witnessed in works of architecture constructed over the past four centuries (1). The present paper presents examples from these studies.
Dean Hawkes is an architect and teacher. He is emeritus professor of architectural design at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University and emeritus fellow of Darwin College, University of Cambridge. His books include The Environmental Imagination (2008) and Architecture and Climate (to be published in 2011). His buildings have won four RIBA Architecture Awards. In 2011, he received the RIBA’s international biennial Annie Spink Award for excellence in architectural education.