Prepared by Mohammad al-Asad and Dalia al-Husseini, 2003
In order to explain what a theory does, Ozkan devised a set of semantic categories. He explained that the most primitive and basic form of theory is the image. An image is the icon of architecture. The building once constructed is in itself its own theory, representing a solution that informs people, and that survives from one generation to the other. As an example, Ozkan noted that vernacular architecture represents buildings that contain and express their theory and experiential values. Consequently, the viewer would decipher the building and then adapt it to his own particular social needs and uses. Ozkan explained that he therefore did not dwell on this category of buildings. However, he did make an exception with the work of Mies van der Rohe, who left little written evidence of his architectural thinking, but nonetheless made a significant impact on architecture and informed a whole new series of expression through his designs. Such contributions are iconic in nature.
Ozkan continued that other theoretical contributions could be described as pragmatic. Pragmatic contributions provide practical information on how a building should be assembled, what the values should be, and how it would stand. If an abstract level were added to this level of contribution, one would reach a canonic level of contribution. Here, canons of architecture, certain rules of proportion - or what Vitruvius refers to as delight - all would be considered - in the abstract - to inform architectural design in the form of certain principles that have come to form one of the important aspects of architectural theory.
The fourth category Ozkan tackled is analogic, in which architecture is described as something else. As an example, Ozkan relates Leon Battista Alberti's (1404 - 72) ten books on architecture, De re Aedificatoria, in which he equates the harmony of a building with the harmony of music. This harmony cannot be represented graphically or through simple arithmetic, but represents a more complex form of proportionate relationships. In Ozkan's opinion, analogies have benefited architecture throughout history, and gave as an example the Metabolism movement, which believed that living beings and buildings should bear a resemblance to each other.
The fifth category that Ozkan presented is the utopic. It is one that we cannot realize but are free to think and imagine about. Nothing can stop one from thinking and speculating about an unknown future. Ozkan adds that for an architect or a visionary, if desired conditions are not reached, one is free to imagine that they will be realized in a different time or a different place. Ozkan believes that utopic ideas are amongst the strongest driving forces behind architectural transformation and new forms of expression. He points out that Frank Lloyd Wright (1869 - 1959), Le Corbusier (1887 - 1966), and Peter Cook (b. 1936) were utopist thinkers whose writings had a profound influence on the public.
The sixth category is the descriptive. Here, the situation is described. Ozkan adds that this constitutes the most scientific part of architectural theory, and had reached overwhelming and tedious levels in the 1970s. Ozkan observed that it was very popular for everyone to carry out research on the relevance of one thing to another thing, and this was viewed as being very "scientific." The whole body of information on architecture, especially that developed and conveyed in schools of architecture, was based on these descriptive approaches because there was a strong logic behind it, and it formed a scientific backbone that would inform architectural theory. But all it did was describe what has happened and is happening.
If one takes the process a step further, one reaches an isomorphic or abstract category. Once the elements are described, symbols, and values are assigned to them, which are then manipulated as abstract entities. Ozkan believes that this led to computer-aided design. In fact, many of Ozkan's generation believed that the time would come when computers will be capable of designing anything. Of course, this did not turn out to be the case. Computers are and will remain subservient to architectural designers, merely tools that replace drafting boards, which is what they should be.