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Von Vilém Flusser’s Gesten ausgehend. Zur Phänomenologie des Entwerfens und seiner Werkzeuge

This essay draws on Vilém Flusser’s phenomenological approach and speculative thinking to envision a theory of architectural design. It focusses particularly on the last book he published during his lifetime, Gesten (Gestures) 1991. Based on a series of lectures held in São Paulo and in the mid-seventies in France, Gesten offers a sequence of 18 essays reflecting upon everyday activities as “movement(s) of the body or of a tool attached with the body, for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation” (3-4). The book culminates in the call for a general theory of gestures. Starting from a close reading of some of these chapters, this essay examines the relation between gestures and thinking, between gestures and the future, with a particularly close look at the gesture of making. Gestures are discussed in terms of primary means of visual expression, which in many ways become starting points for design processes.  Flusser's general theory of gestures facilitates a theory of architectural design based on a phenomenological analysis of its tools and processes. By going back to some of Flusser's writings on tools, machines and apparatuses and their unforeseen repercussions, new design practices and digital design tools can be understood as ways of simulating and anticipating the consequences of design decisions, permitting us to better understand and deal with them.