The Hedgehog and the Fox

Exhibition of Recent Work by David Kohn Architects.

London Metropolitan University ASD Gallery, 27 February - 16 March 2009.

An exhibition of drawings, photographs, books, and models from the office of David Kohn Architects. The material explores a design process where each part and scale of a project is developed in parallel, towards a polysemic architecture of delight. 

Introductory essay by David Kohn from the exhibition catalogue:

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”

In his 1953 essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” the liberal British philosopher Isaiah Berlin proposed that literary endeavour could be divided into two camps. On the one side are hedgehogs, who see all things as related to one central idea. On the other are foxes who pursue many ideas at once without the need for internal consistency.

The field of architecture offers as many opportunities to identify hedgehog and fox-like approaches to design (see Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s classification in Collage City, 1978) with all of the incumbent questions of style and morality.

In contemporary practice there appear to be many champions of singular approaches to design where a dominant idea, often formal and sometimes spatial, operates at all scales, from the urban to the detail, and across all types from the civic to the domestic.

In this context, the current exhibition seeks to promote an approach where each type of project and each scale of design requires a different idea. This might be formulated as knowing the question before providing a response with the implication that the question is always different and specific to the task at hand.

Whilst this suggests an ever expanding field of reference, design in our practice nonetheless appears to fall into discernible areas of investigation: The distance of cities and landscapes; the thresholds of boundaries and facades; and the intimacy of bodies. Often the pressures of realising projects squeeze the range of scales that design might reach with a consequent loss of intimacy or perspective, risking the delight architecture might bring to the situation. The work in the exhibition juggles the distant with the near-to-hand, landscapes and details, with the ambition to reaffirm delight as central to architectural production.

David Kohn, February 2009

"A standing-room-only audience at London Metropolitan University applauded David Kohn’s lecture to open an exhibition of the recent work of his office. Under the rubric of The Hedgehog and the Fox, Kohn developed the themes that animate five projects”, wrote Peter Carl in the Architect's Journal. Read more.

Generously supported by Vitsoe.

Exhibition Guide
Model of Stable Acre