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The Other Four Questions March 12, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in creativity, possibility, questions, the economy.
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Here’s something you won’t find on Google, in any textbook or school course.

With Passover soon upon us the Four Questions are on the mind (and no, “Why is this recession different from other recessions?” is not one of them.) When it comes to showing the world what’s possible in any situation, for my gelt I can think of no better thinking tool than the other four questions.

And what might those be? To start, the entire known – and undiscovered – universe in these eight simple words

What’s actual?

What’s necessary?

What’s desirable?

What’s possible?

(OK don’t quibble about conjunctions and how there’s really 12 words…) Let’s start with the first three questions.

What’s actual? What’s given? What’s existing? What’s the site and what’s the situation? What are we dealing with here? What was here before we came to the place, problem or prospect? What is? – IS

What’s necessary? What’s critical? What’s a deal breaker? What’s a must? What can’t be lived without? What’s needed here? – NEEDED 

What’s desirable? What’s on the wish list? What would be an advantageous outcome? What do we want here? – WANTED

Let’s pause for a moment. The secret is to this: you really want to exhaust all responses to these questions. For, to the extent that you do this, you create space in your subconscious for the unknown – for the world of possibility to appear and to fill the space with ideas and designs, suggestions and visions that may never otherwise have been conceived or considered.

As for the final question? This is the fun part. Having met needs and desires – who like Daedalus, the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world, flying ever closer to the sun – goes for the gold.

What’s possible? This is the province of the architect. Having thoroughly vetted the existing conditions, bare necessities and desires, the possibilities will come to you. What – CAN BE

Once within budget, having met the level of expected quality, the schedule – program of functional needs, client and stakeholder wants – the architect is free to achieve whatever else she can. Free to make as much out of it as I am capable. This is the moment, what you went into architecture for. You want to stay in this forth question as long as you can.

As a handy formula it might look something like this

Q4 > Q1+Q2+Q3

Where Question 4 – What’s Possible? – must answer all that came before, finding itself at the intersection of what is real/actual/existing + needs + wants plus, what? Perhaps it’s the ineffable, that je ne sais quoi, that something extra, that something more, that only you as an architect can bring to the seemingly intractable, impossible situation, not unlike the one we find ourselves in now. What do you have to lose? Why not give these other four questions a try?