Posts Tagged ‘Richard Sennett’

CWR Workshop – day 01

Today was the first day of a critical reflection workshop at Aarhus School of Architecture, introducing the written aspects of our Masters Programme.

Each studio had selected relevant texts for us to read and perform a variety of excercises with over the coming three days. My studio – Studio Building Design – was to read parts of american sociologist Richard Sennett’s book “The Craftsman” from 2008.

The first task was to create a short summary – or précis – of the text.


Richard Sennett, American Sociologist famous for his work with urbanism.

Writes in his book from 2008 “The Craftsman”

Sennett writes about how the role and esteem of the craftsman has been diminished and how this has become a problem for the development of society. Starting from ancient times where the craftsman was highly regarded and there was a strong community around the idea of craft and “making things better”. Craftmanship slowly became degraded in the collective consiousness of the cultural elite, and therefore society. The making of society became seperated from the thinking behind society. This separation of thinking and doing, Sennett claims, is harmful to human development.


Another degredation also took place, between mens crafts and womens crafts. Only traditional men’s crafts done outside the home are even today considered “crafts”. He compares parenting and plumbing as an example. Sennett, in connection with this, mentions Plato, who said that seperating people into different boxes made them unavare that they were working for the same greater good.

He then goes on to talk about open-source against closed corporate stuctures – how the sense of community and the openness between the workers improves a product much faster than internal competition in a corporate structure.

In a political sense he concludes that, neither ‘doing it for the greater good’ (marxism) or individual competition (capitalism) provide as much incentive to make something better than the concept of corporation simply for the sake of the work itself. Not for the recognition or mother Russia.


The second task was to extract Sennett’s architectural positions from the text and make a list of them



Architecture gets better when there is close colloboration between architects, craftsmen and other relevant groups – together on the site preferably. (p.33.)

  • Flat structure (no or little hierarchy)
  • Idea and craft have to work together in experimentation to develop.
    • In that sense craftsmanship and architecture are the same thing.
  • Shared commitment to the task and to the company (p.31.)

Quality of craftsmanship is higher, when craftsmen are empowered by their work and allowed to make descisions about it – as well as question their leadership. (p.31.)

  • Allowed to use skills and knowledge to affect the architecture.
  • Passion and pride motivates good work better than working for money.
    • Loyalty to company -> accumulation of knowledge -> quality
      • If a building has not been crafted with respect, the inhabitants will feel it – and treat with disrespect, creating socially troubled areas (grafitti, trash in the streets, etc.) (p.29.)

Experience in every craft is passed down through generations and built upon. This development happens faster if people are encouraged to collaborate rather than compete against each other.

Good architecture demands good craftsmanship, which depends on willingness to invest time in quality rather than economy. (p.45)

  • Knowing a craft allows you to work freely with it and develop ideas better. Unskilled people can only work towards a fixed goal.
  • This quality also comes from knowing the relationship between different crafts and knowing how to make them benefit from each other.
  • Regulations (what’s “correct” in a general sense) vs. craftsman knowledge (what the craftsman, from experience, instinctively knows to be right in the given situation)

Industrial production can now with modern technology be used to improve architecture, but only if it’s used based on knowledge of the craft and the materials it is replacing/aiding.

More to follow tomorrow!