Okinawa House by John Pawson
National Vegetarian Week

Between theory and practice there's flexibility

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

Yogi Berra


You've probably heard somebody talk about a point where theory hasn't exactly meshed with practice.

Perhaps it was some building regulations they hadn't taken into consideration when designing a building.

Maybe the logo they designed wasn't meant to be used in 3D, and that's what the client now wants.

It could be that their plan to teach kids something interesting and creative hit a wall of bureaucracy and statistics.

This is where being flexible can come in.


Flexibility - in its many forms


It doesn't mean giving in or even compromising.

It means that you see things from many angles.

It shows that you've put a great deal of thought into what you do, and you're bloody good at it.

It certainly doesn't mean you're weak.

Having a flexible approach means that you're ready when things don't exactly go as you planned them to.

Can't have an underground garage? No problem - the design didn't hinge on that anyway, and there are other places to put a car that are equally appealing and effective.

The client suddenly wants a logo in 3D? Simple - the design can be used in colour, black and white, 2d or 3D. Even though the client didn't think of these things, you did, because you know what you're doing.

Bureaucrats think your curriculum is too airy-fairy and want to know how you're going to measure its success? You've got it covered - you'd already thought about assessment criteria as part of the overall plan.

So you see, sometimes we get too caught up in the definitions of what "theory" and "practice" should be about. That's why we hear things like "well, it sounds good in theory..."

And if it's a good theory, it'll work in practice. Because it was flexible all along.