On Reductionism

(Art by Rory Harper)

“Assume a cow is a sphere” was a common joke from when I was a Computer Science major. It refers to the exhausting reductionism present in most sciences and engineering: breaking up a system in order to study its independent components, or deconstructing it for analysis. Still, reductionism can be a gracious way to show essential information.

The drawing above was made by my husband Rory, architect by trade and artist by heart. For someone who might end up buried in superfluous detail – for example, spending days trying to please a client with different thickness and color of tile –  a little bit of reductionism can be refreshing.

Below is the accompanying caption, by Rory:

Deconstruction of a typical american construction method. Focused more of the structural and skin components rather than include all components of a house (wall insulation, ceiling insulation, floor finishes, gypsum board, paint, trim, window components, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, tile, grout, gutters, downspouts, grounding rods, electrical outlets, and more are missing) – maybe that’s the next step. In the drawing are the following building components: the wood framing, ceiling joists, roof rafters, roof underlayment, floor joists, sub floor, shingles, top plate, bottom plates, CMU foundation, poured concrete footers with wood framing, electrical panel, sewer line, plumbing riser, boiler/furnace stack, exterior ply wood sheeting, water barrier, wood siding, brick plinth.


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