Being In Alpha

During the early seventies I got involved after taking a course in Berkeley in the application of computer technology to architecture. Working for research groups in San Francisco, I was assisted by a young mathematician to see how to apply their new ideas. Usually the programmes, such as ‘AutoCAD’, were devised to enhance the presentation of a design and afterwards to speed up the making of working drawings.

Our idea was using the given site and space program information to let the computer come up with a variety of preliminary designs. So we translated the clients’ project information like the site and type of activities which were to take place in his future building, into a computer program called ‘Relate’. The key really was turn the information into mathematical modules and have them related through an affinity matrix.

It did work. After an initial analysis of the input, using a site resistance map, activity lists and the matrix ‘Relate’ would provide us with many designs. But then a strange thing happened. Looking at the printouts of the design it seemed to me that I had seen them before.

As the program had a built-in evaluation only the “best” solution were shown. The printouts of the building plans looked familiar somehow; it was then I realised that as a professional familiar with the design process one could not avoid that while analysing the input, intuition would have made a design already. In other words, there was no need for a computer! Our brain was faster. Of course, the input analysis had to be well done, all very logical, otherwise the computer – or our intuition – would not be able to provide an answer.

It turned out to be that the whole process was tied to our use of the brain, be it analytic and using beta waves, or creative, using the left or right side of the brain. All very interesting. However, the problem became that knowing that somewhere there was a design and how to get into ‘alpha’ to be able to produce the plans and the drawings.

Well, after preparing the inputs in ‘beta’, one moves to ‘alpha’. Almost in a trance one gets a compulsion to draw and having paper and pencil, one plan after the other appears. Only after having drawn all the plans one can go back to beta and check whether all the clients requirements have been answered. Practically always they are.

The only question is now how to access our intuition. How to get into alpha. Using meditation techniques there are a number of ways to do this which will be discussed in another article.

Johan van Lengen, 31 Jan 2011

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