Panayiota loanni Pyla
Department of Architecture on May 6, 1994
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Initiated by the Greek architect Doxiades in the early fifties, the term “Ekistics” designated
“the science for human settlements” which promoted a scientific method for architectural
design and planning. It had an immense impact on many fields of architecture and planning
worldwide, especially during the sixties. With the theoretical shifts in subsequent decades,
Ekistics was displaced as obsolete and its aspirations remained unexplored, while scientific
methods in architecture are often dismissed in their entirety. This thesis explores the
epistemological premises of Ekistics through a critical overview of its origins and features.
It discusses the limitations of the method that Ekistics promoted (which sometimes
searched for formulaic solutions and a stable field of conclusions) while exposing the
complexities of its inquiry–which resist the rejection of the method’s premises in their
entirety. This thesis discusses in particular, the influence of Ekistics in the Middle East, and
the method’s contributions to architectural thinking in the region. The juxtaposition
between the contributions of Ekistics on the one hand, and later architectural positions in
the Middle East which entirely rejected scientific thought on the other, offers a basis to
reflect on the positive contributions of scientific epistemology in general.
This thesis neither reformulates yet another scientific method nor does it attempt to displace
scientific epistemology with a revisionist critique. Rather, it argues that while radical
criticisms of Doxiades’s method (whether these criticisms are based on social critique, or
whether they come from the domain of the philosophy of science, or operate within the
disciplinary terrain of architecture) have irreversibly changed our perception of it (as well as
of other scientific methods of the fifties and sixties) they cannot subsume scientific
epistemology, and they should not warrant its abandonment. This thesis examines
scientific epistemology as an active critical attitude and reevaluates its usefulness as an
orientation in architectural thought.

Thesis Supervisor: Sibel Bozdogan
Title: Assistant Professor of Architecture

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