Why did I study Architecture? Well if you don’t know by now. . .
Many people’s disillusionment with the architecture degree, seems to stem from just that. A shattering of the illusions they have about the degree in the first place. Architecture is about design, rather than construction. While studying I often found myself frustrated with the miniscule amount of technical training we received with regard to building construction. I felt at times like I would be entering the professional environment with little more than the ability to argue my point of view in a presentation.
But I remember the day I finally understood what my degree had been about. I was commenting on a proposal to build a village in a west African country. The landowner wanted the model based on a small successful new-town in the west of Ireland.
My response was- obviously, that west Africa was not the west of Ireland. I asked him to consider instead of building just mixed use retail units, to allow for an equal amount- if not more, smaller market stalls into the city centre; buildings that can be equally exposed to the elements as covered, spaces for communal cooking in the parks. Consider and take advantage of the tight social networks and relaxed approach to regulation to allow the citizens to thrive on the things that make them unique, instead of fitting them to a foreign mould you deem to be successful. Imagine having a public barbecue pit in the UK! It would never happen. And even if it did, strangers would not want to cook together.
Building the new roads almost around the cycle lanes that not only accommodate the large population that already risk their lives cycling, but allow them to avoid the problems that London is now facing with trying to implement an integrated transport network, this would allow them to jump to the forefront of modern sustainable transport networks. All of these things rolled off my tongue as a list of obvious considerations. It was then I realised that these things were obvious to me because this way of thinking had been drilled into me through the casual conversations, gentle reminders and suggestions made to me throughout the duration of my study.
We take for granted what we have learned during our education, we have been taught to think about all the things that are not being considered by everyone else, not just the return on investment by the developer, or the structural integrity of the engineer, or the place to live by the occupier. We are not taught about rules and restrictions so as not to discourage us from thinking big, and second guessing great ideas with “this cant be done”. Rules create security, but they also create the fear of breaking them.
The reason we didn’t get taught construction is because we didn’t study construction, we studied architecture. We are trained to design spaces that will change and improve peoples lives, to consider social implications, development opportunities, create work that will inspire change. To observe what works and what doesn’t, and propose alternatives. Then we work with engineers to make these naive, idealistic, irrational proposals an exciting new reality.
It’s our job to think big, search for solutions and new opportunities. We have been trained to be visionaries, and to be brave. Let the structural engineer tell you if it will stand up.
image use courtesy of the creative commons license. flickr user hammersmith&fulham