01 Architecture Essays

Why Architectural Thinking is like Philosophy

It’s an existential quest

Photo courtesy Evan Karageorgos from Unsplash

I love my profession and the work I do as an architect, especially in enterprise architecture. I also happen to be deeply interested in philosophy, to the extent I’ve developed one and written a book on it. I believe this is not a coincidence as every experienced architect has an unknowing or knowing philosophical bent.

Over time, I’ve come to believe that architectural thinking shares many of the motivations and methods of philosophy at its core. To illustrate this, I’ve expressed the essential concerns of philosophical thinking in one-liners below, with the corresponding architectural ones alongside. You may see the symmetry apparent to me.

Being and Existence

  • Philosophy — What exists? From where did it come?
  • Architecture — What is the enterprise? What are its origins and motivations?

Reality

  • Philosophy — What is appearance, and what is reality?
  • Architecture — What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the enterprise?

Knowledge

  • Philosophy — What do we know about reality? How do we know?
  • Architecture — What is the current state of the enterprise’s architecture? How do we discover and document it?

Language and Logic

  • Philosophy — How do we represent objects, relations and ideas in language? How can we logically express problems and their inductive or deductive solutions?
  • Architecture — How can we model systems? What are the architectural problems and decisions?

Morality and Ethics

  • Philosophy — What is good and right? What is justice? How should we behave with others?
  • Architecture — What are the principles, policies, and guidelines for the enterprise’s architecture?

Happiness

  • Philosophy — Is the happy life stoic, ascetic, materialist, epicurean, hedonist, cynic, nihilist, theist, atheist, agnostic,…?
  • Architecture — How can the architecture deliver user satisfaction and a good Return on Investment for the enterprise?

Politics and Government

  • Philosophy — What should be governed for society? What is the best form of government? Who should govern?
  • Architecture — What should be governed in solutions and operations? What should be the architecture governance framework?

Aesthetics

  • Philosophy — What is the purpose of art? What is beauty?
  • Architecture — How can the architect artfully negotiate, convince, explain, and inspire everyone towards a beautifully balanced solution?

Philosophy is about the big picture, and so is architecture. As long as sentient life forms exist, there’ll be philosophy, and there’ll be architectural thinking.

If you’re an architect, study philosophy. Whether you imbibe a little or a lot, it’ll surely make you better in your work and far beyond it.


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Shashi on LinkedIn

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