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Letters Some of the best thinking is silent

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The Architects' Journal welcomes your letters, which should preferably be typed double-spaced. Please address them to the editor at 151 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4GB, fax them on 0171 505 6701, or e-mail them to Victorian@construct.emap.co.uk to arrive

I entirely agree with Kathryn Moore's call for more intellectual rigour in design (aj 29.7.99), but of course this may simply be because I, and she, presumably are inclined that way - in Myers-Briggs terms we are Thinkers not Feelers.

There is a tendency in our society - and perhaps it is encouraged by linguistic philosophers - to suppose that thinking is always verbal, and that anything that cannot be expressed in words must be emotional rubbish. This is an attitude that seriously impoverishes our culture.

There are genuine non-verbal ways of thinking which are every bit as rigorous as verbal language, if not more so. As Mendelsohn said, the trouble with music is not that its meaning is imprecise, but that it is too precise. The act of performing a piece of music requires a lot of mental effort and concentration, but cannot be described or defined in words.

Visual skills fall into the same category, but in our excessively literary education system, visual skills ('graphicacy') and musical ones ('musicacy') are neglected. The only children who will acquire the skills of seeing and hearing are those whose home background encourages them. The development of the modes of thought needed for design, and in particular architectural design, is completely lacking, so that their acquisition appears as a kind of mysterious trick (ie 'she's artistic/musical, you know') rather than a hard-earned skill.

As architects, we should in any case not think of visual skills, but of spatial ones; we experience space not just with our eyes but also with our ears and with our bodies; and we conceive it in our minds - non-verbally, of course. We should exploit these ways of thinking, not dismiss them.

We should also learn not to confuse intuition with emotion; intuition is an intellectual process whereby our past experience, conscious or otherwise, enables us to shortcut the linear process of thought and jump to an intellectually justifiable conclusion. Emotion comes from some deeper, less conscious level, and is equally part of our existence.

Alan Kennedy, via email

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