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The upper arc is devoted to "the art", represented by the sister-arts, painting, sculpture and decoration on the "A" side and by the art and science of symmetries on the "M" side. On the significance and importance of the two arcs more will be said in the following. Here it matters only to realize, that there is a full list of domains which all play their role in the Nexus A-M, and to all of them one must pay attention. To this list one must add furthermore the equally fully list of the histories of these domains, such as the history of the arts, the history of mathematics, etc.
Add to this, that most of the traditional histories of the "A" as well as of the "M" fields deal almost exclusively with Western A and M, with which we are all more or less familiar. But NEXUS went, already from the start, global, and rightfully so, by adding Indian, Chinese and Mexican architecture to the working fields. But these new fields, since they are much less accessible, demand from many participants much greater efforts, which can sometimes be considerable.
Thus while it is impossible to be a specialist in all these fields, one should, indeed, be one in at least one of them, either on the "A" or on the "M" side, and a "connoisseur" of at least one field and its history on the complementary side.
From this follows already that contributions should be followed by extensive discussions making possible interesting dialogues during and interesting conversations after the sessions.
These are highly demanding postulates, but I do not see how they can be avoided, they are indispensable. The most important condition for success is that there exist a general atmosphere of intellectual curiosity of each participant towards the 11 domains, listed or unlisted above. Even if this may seem amateurish, it is still the best we can do.
Perhaps we should concentrate on one or only a few fields in one conference.
The only way out of this dilemma that I can see is round table discussion, where various speakers present their views and ideas. Such discussions are, of course, an interesting Nexus topic in themselves.
Thus the most useful thing I can do here is to concentrate on the methods of how best to present one's insights and discoveries to a mixed audience and how go communicate one's ideas.
The experience of Nexus conferences seems to show that it is best to explain one's ideas through concrete examples, which are always interesting in themselves to begin with and also stimulating for further discussion. One always learns from examples, and they make discussions easier.
There should be contributions and discussions especially where quite different domains on both arcs are involved and confronted. As an example I propose the study the construction of Gothic churches and especially their towers (for over 400 years the highest in the whole world!) from the point of view of modern skyscraper design and engineering. Such an investigation by a professional would, I am sure, lead us to new and perhaps more congenial insights into the enormous ambition of those who built the towers and especially into the daring of the architects and engineers than those given by art historians. It is certainly not an accident that the first inquiries into the mechanics of elasticity emerged, as noted by Clifford A. Truesdell, at the time of these buildings. Form such confrontations, the domains on the lower, and even more so on the upper arc, would greatly benefit.
We live in an age of highly specialized knowledge, which is indeed indispensable today. Yet, for a deeper understanding of the questions, where the arts, science, and technology, even history and philosophy, not only of the West but of the whole world meet, this does not suffice.
In this sense, NEXUS rightfully claims to do pioneering work, at least as concerns the upper arc! And for this reason it is not possible that the results of a piece of work is always "correct". Even in the domain of the sciences pioneer work inevitably falls prey to errors; and when a new domain starts, methods and proofs necessarily lack rigour.
So one should not be ashamed if this happens in NEXUS contributions:
it is inevitable. And, of course, one might do worse; for instance
one could be uninteresting or even outright boring. While experiences
teaches that in a 45- or 60-minute conference presentation concrete
subjects are always the ones that are the most easily grasped
and understood, abstract, philosophical contributions should
not be banned. They are sometimes even indispensable. However,
they too should be well backed up by concrete examples and references
to our visual intuition. This holds especially if one attempts
to speak on what is perhaps the most fascinating NEXUS question,
namely, What does Mathematics contribute to the beauty of Architecture?
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Copyright ©2005 Kim Williams Books