letter from editors: let’s talk.

GENTLEY SMITH (M. Arch ’18) and MISHA SEMENOV (M. Arch/M.E.M. ’19)

Let’s Talk.

The verb Discourse, Latin in origin, can have two slightly different meanings:

  1. speak or write authoritatively about a topic.
  2. engage in conversation.

As Yale students, we are expected to learn from those who are good at the first kind of discourse; we are being trained to one day speak, write, and design as authorities on Architecture. But by this narrow definition, who is really qualified to engage in discourse here, now? And how often are these authoritative “discourses” stuck in an echo chamber?

How often do we ourselves, as students, really engage in the second definition of discourse? In light of the increasing polarization of political thought, only fueled by what is perhaps today’s most universal and problematic venue for discourse, social media, it is worth asking what it takes to respectfully disagree and to learn from friction and difference. What makes for a productive discourse? Where does it occur? In classrooms, at our studio desks, in online forums, at dinner tables? Are we impeded by a need to conform, to be politically correct? Are we afraid of disagreement? Of being wrong? Is YSoA a safe space for discourse?

This issue aimed to generate conversations about conversation, in as many formats and venues as possible. Isabelle Song and Dylan Weiser email back and forth about representation as discourse; Pierre Thach, Daniel Fetcho, and Kevin Huang discuss whether architects should be loud or quiet; and Nicolas Kemper ‘16 returns to the pages of Paprika! to explore its potential as a unique medium for productive discussion.

Besides the email chains, facebook comment threads, and conversation transcripts interspersed with traditional essay-format pieces that you will find in the paper issue, you will find much more content exclusively online, where we invite you, the readers, to engage with the pieces by commenting, conversing, and debating. Online you’ll find Deborah Berke explaining the value of interdisciplinary discourse and telling us to have more dinners together, as well as Jack Lipson and Julie Turgeon’s discussion of doing just that with Table Talks, a dinner discussion forum they curated over the summer.

In the weeks leading up to this issue, we tried to foster discussion at the school by handing out notebooks with provocative prompts on the cover. We found that people answered the questions, but did not use the pages to argue with each other. Even the pieces we have curated into this issue’s discourse may agree more than they disagree. As you read the pieces here and online, we invite you to discover points of contention and disagreement, and to speak up.

We can’t wait to talk…

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