Eunoia, a literary approach within architectural practice
‘Eunoia’ is the shortest word in English to contain all five vowels, and the word quite literally means ‘beautiful thinking’. The perfect title for a poetical book that is directly inspired by the exploits of Oulipo (l’Ouvier de Littérature Potentielle) –the avant-garde coterie renowned for its literary experimentation with extreme formalistic constraints. This works shows that even under extreme improbable conditions of duress, every chapter contains only one vowel, language can still express an uncanny, if not sublime, thought.
Christian Bök, Eunoia, Canongate Books ltd, Edinbrough, 2001
The title of this article introduces us to the beautiful thoughts of Christian Bök, a Canadian poet. To write “Eunoia”, he restricted himself by the use of only one vowel for each chapter. Nevertheless, each chapter transcends a character of its own; chapter ‘a’ the arab world of spices and herbs, chapter ‘e’ the adulterous woman of French nobility, and chapter ‘u’ the violence of a Mongolian warrior. The work of Christian Bök shows that the meaning of a text is not based on the single interpretation of words, but can be derived out of interpreting the text or chapter as a whole. Bök’s poetic work exemplifies the concept of literature and theory in contemporary culture. A culture in which the ever increasing speed of media, the fragmentation of information and a dominant need for visual metaphors are influencing literature and the architectural practice.
When theorising a literature based approach one faces a challenge: the compatibility with the kind of knowledge as traditionally understood by the discourse of a technical university. This approach argues against the favouritism towards an unambiguous theory and opens up creative possibilities that in turn can be theorized. It sheds a light on the creative process of the architect and on the concept of knowledge production. When using literature within architectural design, one should consider the freedom of interpretation, a subjective approach that can strengthen the attitude of architects.