In Which You Could Call This a Manifesto If You Want, But It’s Probably Not

I was thinking today about the problems and weaknesses I have in my study of architecture; they basically all come down to the trouble I have getting my ideas out in a drawing. I can write about what I want to do with a building, and I go through versions in my head, but professors want to see stuff on paper. And I struggle with that quite a bit.  I realize I am only a fairly inexperienced student and my professors know so much more than I do, but at times I have this misplaced and unearned confidence that makes me tell myself, “Look, I know how I work best, just let me do it that way and things will turn out fine.” But then the end of the project comes and while I am usually fairly happy with the results, my professors are sometimes not.  So you would think I’d realize that maybe my way of working doesn’t…well, doesn’t work. But like I said, misplaced and unearned confidence.

But, at the same time, I don’t know if that’s all of it. There is a part of me, probably the largest part of me, that is not concerned so much with the aesthetics of a building or if I have everything detailed so that it’s obvious I know how a building works. I imagine I will learn that stuff in great detail as I go through my internship. What I am most concerned with while I am in school is getting the ideas right. Because I see myself as needing that base before I even begin to really make architecture. I feel like the larger idea behind a building is so much more important, and every building must have a larger idea. There must be a reason for every choice I make, whether it’s a large reason or a small one. But there must be a reason. Architects are one of the few people who can affect a person’s mood (this is why I’m always amused by the question, “Is architecture art?” Of course it is, just like painting, music, photography, etc! Although it’s inhabitableness makes it more than just art.), and I think we have a huge responsibility to be serious about that. So I feel like I must be able to understand how to do that before I can think about the technical and aesthetic aspects of architecture.

But that gets me into trouble, I think. Because professors want to see that I know the technical and aesthetic parts of it, and they want to see the versions I go through in my head. They want to see my concepts in a visual way when I don’t understand how to make an idea visible. And I’m learning those parts; I think I’m developing my own aesthetic sense, and I’ve learned what components have to go into a building to make it work. But that’s not really what comes out in my studio work, and I think that’s why I’m not getting the grades I want. I’m not saying this is my teachers’ fault at all, I know I need to “grow up” in my work enough to be able to deal with the technical and aesthetic aspects as well as the philosophical ones. But I can’t seem to shake the feeling that the technical and aesthetic aspects just don’t matter to me nearly as much. For me, right now, it’s all about the idea.

(I know a few architects read this blog. I’d desperately love some feedback.)

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4 thoughts on “In Which You Could Call This a Manifesto If You Want, But It’s Probably Not

  1. Marshall L. says:

    I find myself more often than not in a very similar position. Rather than put pen to paper and actually produce something, I’m much more interested in talking about my ideas and writing and thinking. I also find myself talking to other people about their ideas and projects quite a bit too. The dialogue that design provokes is far more interesting to me than the product itself.

    But at some point we have to stop being philosophers and start being practitioners. Although, perhaps that’s what they mean when they say, “those who can’t do, teach,” and I am destined for higher education.

  2. Josh says:

    Yeah, I’m definitely like that about the dialogue and conversation. I think teaching is probably something I’m destined for too, but part of me would definitely like to practice someday too. I like teachers who have real-world experience as architects.

  3. rex says:

    Good grave, you had no idea how many times I tried to say the same thing, “architectural academia is suppose to be an exploration of idea”, but not to count how many folds an aluminum flashing should have or where to place a weep hole. Those are all practical experience in the PRATICAL world, not in the kingdom of dreams and endless possibilities.
    Sure, things have to be practical, and it is healthy to think about edifice that can actually be built; but if we don’t have an energetic mind to push the boundary in the first place, we will all just run in circle.
    And yes, of course we can do both, creative design and a 2000-sheet CD, in architecture, but I believed those places call a “firm” not a solo humble teenager who is trying to get his feet wet in design concepts.
    I never think I am a good designer; as a matter of fact I am terrible at design. Most of my concept would be the biggest liabilities in the human race. One thing I learn, and getting decent at, is packaging. I package the hell out of whatever I dream of in dreams or on trace paper; I choose to express my ideas on graphite rendering, spiting out graphics via I/Os, sniffing up styrene dust while the rest of the world fighting for Colombian white powder. These are the media I choose to express my architectural idiotize.
    There is nothing wrong to design through text, Josh (at least I don’t think so…) it is just another medium, which I am horrible at, but if one can, and motivated to, write, it is just effective as a sketch model.
    This is great, I am deciding to explore the possibility of paper-architecture and design-representation as my sub-theme for my thesis, and I am glad to see someone is on the same page with me.

  4. Josh says:

    i’m so glad to find other students who think the same way. sometimes i feel like the only one at school who doesn’t get why details are so important in a school project.

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