Jeffrey D. Blankenship, Ph.D., ASLA, Assist. Prof. of Architectural Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Narrative is present in all works of architecture, whether the architect/student has articulated it or not. In practice, the meanings of built works are socially constructed in a milieu of site/context, social structures, cultural practices (including the aesthetic and intellectual norms in architecture at any time or place), and economic realities. These meanings may be mundane or profound and will change over time and with (diverse) human use(s). In academia, narrative as an intentional device for framing a project can be an important lesson for students in the potential for projects to be generated from conceptually rich ideas. More importantly, academic problems that explore narrative help students to consider how their intentions will be interpreted and transformed in the world. A focus on narrative only becomes a problem if students come to believe that they have ultimate authorial control over the meaning of their work, and do not recognize the influence of the milieu I describe.