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Topic for Debate
 
The architect is dead: do you agree?
How many of us can describe the expertise of an architect? Is it form-making, is it assembling services to facilitate, is it time management? What is it that we do or are supposed to do?

I believe the time has come for us to accept the demise of the 'architect' and wake up to the herald of a new individual who transcends the superficial and the self hypnotically suggestive. This new avatar is unbashedly dependent on the expertise of engineers and software developers. in fact, he may be one of 'them'.

The architect is not the boss on the site today. It may the project manager or the client himself. For how much more time will we be able to hide behind the garb of the objectively righteous and intelligent.

I am going to graduate as an architect in less than 2 months from the TVB college in Delhi. I do not know how many people see the above as a threat or a paradigm shift or something else. In either case, let me know.

Comments and criticisms are welcome.
Abhishek Mathur
Responses
 
The architect is dead: do you agree?
No. Getting command of the situation is the trick the architect has to learn.
Dushyant Nathwani
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

I would say an architect is dead to the degree to which that architect abdicates responsibility.

The role today of an architect can range from an architect (a) working as a builder, (b) working with a builder, (C) working as an engineer and (d) working with an engineer.

Originally, an architect knew from first hand experience) the materials and the techniques for building. Today the situation is that most architects learn at second hand about materials and building techniques and so tend to rely upon the technical expertise of engineers for all of the building work. This abdication of responsibility for technical work is not helped by the schools of architecture who look down upon engineers as inferior beings.

But much more serious is the current abdication of responsibility into the hands of "Project Managers" who turn architects into (useless) drones.

The only thing I can say about the future is that architects need to band together with the engineers in order to work in today's marketplace.

To show you what I mean:- Take the case of industrial management. There is a continual problem with such management because there are two types of management (a) workforce management and (b) production management and each have a totally different viewpoint; but usually there is only one person in control of a company either tending towards workforce mgmt as a priority or tending towards production mgmt as a priority. Note: production mgmt is getting the work done in the fastest time, whereas workforce mgmt is keeping everyone working all of the time; and these two aims do not match.

Therefore, there is a need for joint architect-engineer management teams because their functions are equal but different, like "husband and wife".
Frank John Snelling
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Thank you Frank and Dushyant.

I think Frank has pointed out an important point pertaining to architectural education. In Dushyant's lingo, the students are not taught to take command of the situation. What they are taught, however, is a utopian viewpoint.

Why must the engineer be looked down upon? As a student it is frustrating to not explore design as engineering, as it is out of our scope. What then is our scope?

Clearly in the real life there is much more to the practice than making good looking sheets and models. That and more is what I would term as architecture plus.

I think there should be a self criticism exercise done on the profession and pedagogy of architecture. My experiences hsve led me to believe that one has to unlearn more from our formal education and learn more from the informal.

I am not here to rebel but only to introspect; introspective comments would be of great value.
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Dear Abhishek,

"Architect," before identifying a person or a concept, is only a word. This word, through the history, has been adopting different meanings, concepts and so persons. "Architect" or Greek "arkhitekton" ment "chief builder". It was not because of being an architect that s/he was the chief builder, but because his/her skills fulfilled society's chief importances of built, s/he was considered chief builder, so was called "architect".

Words and their meanings alter time to time and place to place. I think architects and architecture were great victims of this change, although by their own fault. They just had neglected the "chief importance" the industrial and modern society. It was inevitable to discard them from "chief builders".

For each project we have different "chief importances". For an oil platform, time, money and firmness are primary, so engineers and "time architects" are bosses; while in private houses, commodity is of chief importance. So the architect is not dead, s/he is given another name and duties.
Peiman Amini
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Interesting comments.

'Interdisciplinarity' and 'meanings of the word architect' are the two issues that I would like to comment about in the context of the discussion.

First, the word 'architect'. I agree it carries a certain historical baggage, but my intent here is not to get in circles and get too caught with words. When I say architect, I mean it in terms of the meanings and connotations as understood by a layman. And why not?

After all, architects are accountable to laymen, aren't they? Anyways, the idea is to understand the expertise of an architect and not mystify it for the layman and consequently for ourselves.

'Interdisciplinarity' was the subject of a panel discussion concluded recently in my college and my findings may be of some interest here. In a nutshell, I believe using one or more disciplines outside your prescribed scope is only a tool to achieve a predetermined goal. The underpinning is to have a predetermined goal.


Let us say then that the goal is determined by the client and the disciplines are available for him to pick from. Where does the 'architect' enter in this scenario? A 'layman' can just as easily run the show here.

What do we do? Hows and whys will follow later.

By the way Prashant,

I spoke about the death of the the 'architect' and not 'architecture'. A subtle one, but a difference in perception nevertheless. And it's good to hear that you share my emotions at least ;-)
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

Other factors that need to be considered are that (a) many, if not most people are educated and cannot really be called "laymen". Similarly, many people have access (if only visually) to world wide media. So "the good old days" when being an architect meant "knowing much more than the average person" are long gone.

The use of the word laymen to describe anyone not an architect is derogatory and implies that only architects can judge the work of other architects.

Such an attitude creates a self-perpetuating "high priesthood for the secret mysteries of architecture."

Such an attitude creates a barrier between the high priest architect and the assumption of low status laymen.

Such attitudes call into question the role of universities who create the myth of self-sustaining superiority. The form of universities today were created about six hundred years ago at a time when only the wealthy could pay to send their children to be educated. But eventually the university system became self-perpetuating (its own judge, jury and executioner), so that superior knowledge was assumed because a person had progressed through the university system and not because the person had actually learnt anything.

Similarly, the assumption that being able to regurgitate parrot-fashion the words of others (without needing to understand) is the gaining of superior knowledge is a false assumption.

Similarly the discipline of rhetoric taught in universities was a negative agenda used not to further intelligent thought but to enable people to create the superficial appearance of intellectual superiority by attacking and undermining the intelligence of other people.

The modern university disciplines of criticism, such as architectural criticism, are in fact the discipline of rhetoric (used as always negatively to reduce the natural intelligence of people by psychological manipulation).
Frank John Snelling
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Very important observation, Frank.
Its implications are still being registered in my mind. However, in the defence of the perpetuated educational system as it exists today, there is a important inherent issue - authority.

Authority of the high priesthood/superior/architect is an effective way of imparting skill and design principles. The skills and principles may be obsolete but the notion of an authoritative figure seems essential to me in terms of establishing a 'discipline'.

Addressing to your insightful comments about 'rhetorics', I think again it is a skill that may still be necessary for a designer. It is this tact which enables him to help other people see things apart from the obvious and dislocates them from a default setting, thus producing a flux in the imagination of the other person. This to me is an important part of communicating and conversation with people - 'laymen', 'architects' or otherwise.

On a parallel note, 'participatory design' seems to be an offshoot that tries to blur the authority and demystify architectural thought and practice.

I think at least some of us have started to percieve the threat of reality. Coming to terms with it could be a huge accomplishment for the profession and our intellect.

I encourage more and more people to write their comments and criticisms. It helps.
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

The problem with rhetoric or criticism is the deliberately negative and manipulative agenda. Instead of assuming that two different views are "equal but different"; the agenda operates on the premise that one view is superior and the other inferior.

In fact this is a 90 degree shift in reality from the horizontal plane to the vertical. This shift automatically changes the two "equal but different views" into "different and therefore unequal views". This shift in the agenda from horizantal /neutral to biased/vertical then becomes a system to manipulate reality.

This shift from the neutral observer perception of reality to the biased player misperception of reality is the basis of ideology instead of reality.

Your analogy of using rhetoric to jolt a person out of their default setting to see differently assumes their default setting is the inferior one; simply because you know the negative juggernaut of rhetoric and so destruct anothers' view? Such behaviour is an abuse of human intelligence.

Today's system of rhetoric is a seamless combination of criticism and ideology. The problem with the system is that if a person does not know or does not use the ideology integral with the rhetoric then they are automatically an outcast; because ability and intelligence are assumed self-reflexively only to exist within the system.
Frank John Snelling
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Frank,

I see your point. Your view about rhetorics has forced me to think more.

Now, coming back to the other two issues, would you like to comment about 'authority' and 'participatory design' too? It would of great interest to me.

I am listening.
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek, Thank you. You have made me think to answer your posts.

Firstly, "participatory design;" to me, this means when the architect and the end user work together to create. I use the words 'end user' because the client is not always the end user and I would class Self-Build or DIY Design such as my topic "prefabricated housing" as participatory design.

But, I imagine the phrase was created by the avant-garde ideological agenda: "There is no such thing as design, because the perception of design is more important than the creation of design." In other words the designer is a minor part of the "participatory design" process.

"Authority," as leader of a discipline, is part of the picture. A leader in fact is one who guides, not one who lays down the law. Undoubtedly, there are many authoritative people who do both and thus mix these two ways.

There are two issues: A discipline is a system, a disciple is one who uses the system. A leader is one who guides the disciples in learning and using the system. But a leader is not automatically the creator of the system. This difference is the same difference in industrial managment; where there are the two conflicting management roles of 'workforce director' and 'production planner'. The workforce director is a tactician who uses and manages within the system; whereas, the production planner is a strategist who creates and manages the system itself.

The reason why there is conflict is because most people tend towards either tactical or strategical forms of behaviour, but not both and having one manager overall usually means a confusing mixture of these roles and this creates irregular managment. As the saying goes "When you are up to your waist in alligators, you forget your original intention was to drain the swamp."
Frank John Snelling
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Frank,

Industrial management seems to be a source for introspection from your comments. Do you find the practice/profession of architecture today similar to industrial management?

I am not trying to oversimplify but merely trying to understand industrial management through architectural 'lens'.

Also, do you think that there is a strong need to revisit 'production planning' in architecture? I spoke about a paradigm shift that needs to happen in the way that we design our buildings and how they get built.

I live in Delhi and increasingly all the buildings are looking the same to me. People are trying to quench their thirst for novelty in absurd manners. There are strong debates about trying to find our architectural 'identity'. These are all issues that force oneself to believe that we should catapult our practice into a new direction. I do feel this not only because I think the present conditions are 'inferior' but also because I believe that far more 'superior' conditions can be achieved.

I came up with the post thinking that the first idea would be to let go of the baggage and ego that architects usually carry and then strive towards a new direction. Thus, new 'production planning' is required.
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
I think that every knowledge should solve problems. Architecture as a knowledge built itself into a complex map, and we can transfer it to the human brain as a "mindset"...

Architecture can serve to guide humans who solve problems/train other humans to be "problem solvers."

So, when we fail to solve problems, we can't blame the knowledge base, but should look at and review our hierarchy of thought and our mindset: how we detect problems, how we describe problems, and how we solve them. It depends on us, it doesn't depend only on architectural knowledge. Architecture is perhaps just a guide.
Indra Zaka Permana
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

congratulations on your graduation, and the best of luck in your professional life ahead of you.

Is the architect dead?

The architect as the "expert," the architect as the "magician with the plans under his/her arm?" Those are all fantasy images that do not agree with the reality of life.

But you can say that just about any other profession.

The architect as a problem solver who has an "architecture tool box under his/her arm" is alive and well.

The interactions between many modern technologies have blurred the distinction between many previously defined lines of competence and responsibility.

We are all problem solvers. We humans distinguish ourselves among all living things for our capacity to solve problems. How interesting that new technologies and ever expanding bodies of knowledge have made us go back to our basic skill - problem solving.
Nando Cruz
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Thank you Inder and Nando for your reflections,

Yes, I tend to agree with the fact that our tendency as a designer or an architect is to solve problems. However, this attitude may get boxed under a functionalist approach.

I would again like to raise the question of what is/ought to be the expertise of an architect? We must define this clearly to recognise the identity of the profession.

Frank, I do not see your posting, did you remove it?
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

I was a marine engineer before changing careers to industrial production control and then changing careers into the field of architecture.

There are parallels in both strategy and tactics. The nearest parallel, is that architecture is similar to research and development in industry; both design prototypes, both need overall design control and within these fields both use engineering technology and project control management techniques.

Today's architect needs to accept that engineering and project management are fields integral with architecture.

Your comment "all the buildings look the same" is similar to my own that "all modern cars look the same". The modern rationale is that the speed of life is now so fast that streamlining, both in the literal and metaphorical senses, is necessary even if it means a complete loss of cultural identity. To those who advocate "globalisation," cultural identity is seen at best as useless baggage and at worst, a nightmare.
Frank John Snelling
The architect is dead: do you agree?
... what is/ought to be the expertise of an architect?

In addition to a problem solver, the architect should be a master of spaces and motion of humans within and outside a building.

What do I mean?

I mean that the architect needs to be a bit of a sociologist, a bit of a behavioral scientist, and a bit of a psychologist. How else can an arhitect understand and interpret the needs of people in terms of real space and motion needs? How many buildings and houses have you not seen that are designed to some fantasy concept of the living needs of its inhabitants?

And an architect should be available to the masses as well as to the rich and powerful.

What do I mean by that?

Crudely speaking, it means price! Fair price for his/her services and a serious consideration for the construction costs of his/her creations. Otherwise we will continue having mansions for the rich and famous and slums (call it what you may...) poorly designed boxes where we suff people and tell them it is great and is worth the price they cannot afford. I mean it. Have you calculated the actual cost of a house on a mortgage loan?
Nando Cruz
The architect is dead: do you agree?
'Nando, The problem with categorising the abilities of an architect as "a bit of (a) a sociologist, (b) a behavioural scientist and (c) a psychologist." is that these 'socıal engineering' disciplines cause many if not most of the problems today.

The reason I say this is because these "social sciences" are based upon statistical data or 'approximations of reality'. The famous statistic of "2.4 children per family" shows just how unreal the social sciences are.

When an architect sees and uses the reality to design and build he or she is an architect. When an "architect" reads and uses unreality in the form of statistics to design and build then he or she is a social engineer.
Frank John Snelling
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Frank,

Oh, I totally agree with your comments. Thanks for pointing it out.

I must reiterate that my categorizations were meant to define "an observer and student of the reality at hand" using the tools provided by these disciplines. NOT use the statistics to define reality.

Point well taken. 2.4 children per family, as in, one family with 5 children and another none, or one with two loaves of bread and the other with none...I have seen those statistics...
Nando Cruz
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Nando and Frank,

Thank you for your postings and apologies for joining late.

Nando, your definition of an expertise of an architect sounds cliched at least. Frank has summarized that notion quite well.

Let us then start picking 'expert' services that an architect offers. Nando, you mentioned fair price. I read it as a social obligation of the architect but not really as an expertise. I am inclined to think of 'time-management' as one of the key services offered by any expert today, even architects.

What others can we think of .. ? Innovative and novel forms, ecological and psychological comfort, sustainable habitats, to throw a few.

Comments?
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

why is it "cliche'd?"
Nando Cruz
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Nando,

The reason I labelled your explanation as cliched was because your comments ('...the architect needs to be ..bit of a sociologist..bit of a behavioral scientist..bit of a psychologist..') came close to the notion of an architect being a 'jack of all trades and (consequently) master of none'. Prima facie, it did so.

The role of the architect as master of spaces and motion of humans within and outside of the building also hints towards already established practices of designing architecture which I am arguing have become decadent though they may still be necessary.

My agenda for the posting is, and I repeat, 'to find out first what is it that an architect does/ought to do and not how'. The hows can come much later.

The idea is not to debate upon who can be an architect but rather what is 'it' that he/she is supposed to do. The former query pertains to a later stage of discussion.
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
What is an architect? A work-related functional adjective, a training in abstract doodling on paper and in toy houses in the modern kindergartens for the yet not grown children, an ideological identity acquired with the investment of time and money?

We all have played "pretend," living like grownups when we were children, building houses and homes with the available materials, making the interior arrangements to suit our notions of comfort and all the rest of it. But as children we did not have the notion of comparison. We had helped each other in building, but without the idea of monopolizing. Notably absent in our plays was the concept of profiteering and its token, money.

The school of architecture as the kindergarten playhouse for the now adult children starts with the notion of profiting in money, to obtain which there must be the comparison that requires competition and the better than thou attitude. Students still build houses on paper and a few toy replicas of buildings for the yet unmanifest patron with the pockets laden with money. Absent in the awareness of the student is what is not in the awareness of the teacher, who, like the nursery school teacher, minds the class and imposes his/her likes and dislikes about the play forms of the children. An architecture student has to respect what the teacher likes in order to stand out in the class. In this schooling, both the student and the teacher are far removed from the real world where they actually go to, to merely rest and recuperate. Their conscious time is spent in creating the conceptual world of houses. Absent in this ideological environment are the real people who actually live. Thus trained the architecture students who have somehow pleased the professor and acquired the status, then try to concentrate on the remaining aspect of the reason for going to school, the pursuit of the man with money. The first one is hard to get. Then the first patron himself becomes the part of publicity. This is how the student of architecture acquires an image, becomes the architect, much the same as any other image is acquired, including that of a patron. Both the professional and the patron being the ideological entities, function best in isolation, away from people except for their usage.

So the top of the class become architects. But the schools all over the world are producing thousands of graduates, who, too, had doodled and built toy houses sitting beside the comparative best in the eyes of the teacher. These unsuccessful graduates, too, have had the same training in every other field of knowledge, in music, in sculpting, painting, dancing, furniture making and clothing. Are they dead?

Whenever a new something is invented, it displaces some thing old. With it goes the old identity. What do those architecture students who failed to stand out in the class, do? What dies in them is identity. Van Gogh created more than 10,000 works, and yet remained unrecognized as an artist. It led him to commit suicide. What was he after, if not the identity of himself as an artist in the eyes of the rich? Now his works fetch millions of dollars. What are these patrons buying, if not the name?

What is a person and his/her pursuit? Is it all the socio-economic sense of insecurity that becomes the culturing agent in the perceptive senses of the yet tender and innocent students, and drives them to develop skills that are ultimately destructive to everyone?

Think of those bright brains, like that of Dr. Oppenheimer, who helped create the atom bomb? Had these bright brains not been trained in isolation, they would not have created any thing destructive. This brings out the need for a different kind of education in which there is no role playing, and there fore no dying at the end of the work.
Shailesh Dave
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

More than a little, it seems to me that you raised this topic out of a sense of uncertainty as to what your place would be when you step out of an institution.

My friend, there's only one way to find out. Or rather to do it, because there is no place, you need make it yourself. In doing this, passion for a certain aspect of, well, making architecture, I suppose, would be essential. The point is that each has their own and therefore it becomes almost impossible to even reach the semblence of a conclusion to such a debate.

I've been working in and around Bangalore for little over two years now, and with what I hope are very clear objectives. Though the timespan has been to short as yet to yield definite results, I see some sign that I'm doing it right in my chosen direction.

"Participatory planning", "eco-friendly", etc. don't seem very alien ideas anymore, and definitely not cliches. And it's not easy to make them work, to say the least.


Likewise, some choose making money as an objective ;-) A treastise on building, the Mayamata, defines (and this is loose, I don't remember it verbatim)...the architect as a perfectly balanced (to the extent of symmetrical body and equanimous mind!) individual.

This has initiated a perpetual area of learning for me. How can one design when you scarcely understand your own architecture?

Instincts and intuition come easy to some, and some must work hard to hone them, but logical approaches to existential questions can only be circuitous if not tedious as well.

Prioritize your aspirations, never forget what you're working for or who, humility helps, then have a little faith in yourself and get out there!

Oh, and I couldn't resist pulling the last plug and sending this message into the realm of chaos: never stop learning or resist changing, afford yourself the convenience to living like water does :-)
Lots of luck on your quest.

PS: I sincerely hope I did not answer your question!
Snehal Gada
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

An architect is assumed to be a master of his/her profession. But what is a "master"? A master is one who knows all or most of the aspects and so is a "jack of all trades".

In my several and varied management roles in industry, it is not enough to plan and order something to be done. If necessary, you do it yourself; because I found that too many people see jobs as having finite limits even when these limits do not match either reality or the need to work together to achieve the overall purpose.

Therefore the role of the architect is manifold: The architect (a) attracts a client, (b) designs and does drawings, (c) deals with surveyors and local planning authorities to approve design and use of the site, (d) plans and arranges for construction, (e) coordinates and oversees construction, (f) arranges connections with power, water and waste services, (g) deals with inspection by local authorities, etc.

In the course of time most architects learn how to establish good working relationships with other people. So the usual route for a "newly hatched" architect fresh from university is to work for an established architect who has already developed both 'people skills' and the necessary network of local contacts.

Far too many architectural students believe their role is to simply design and the boring donkey-work of everyday issues is the work of other people. But, these boring issues which decide whether or not a design is built. Today, the architect is progressively being marginalised because the donkey-work is done by project managers, etc.

Shailesh, you assume only "the top of the class" become architects. In fact, of those who do graduate, many become competent and successful architects even if their work is never put in any 'leading edge' magazine.

Similarly, of those who graduate, they do find gainful employment in the many other fields related to architecture.

In fact, the destruction of dreams is not primarily through failing to become an architect, but through the current system of negative criticism in schools of architecture which actively destroys far too many people.
Frank John Snelling
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

I think there have been sufficient comments to my question on cliches. If these roles are well established, then there must be a reason.

If the architect wants to be a master he/she has to be a bit of a master of all trades. Or else he/she will become what? A CAD jock? A CAD slave as someone has labeled before?

But I would like to get back to the issue of price.

Do you think that a car manufacturer that makes anything cheaper than a Mercedes or a Bentley is doing so out of a sense of social obligation? What about the "fake jewelry" makers? Or out of a keen sense of business opportunity?

I defend it is the latter. I defend that architects are missing out on 98% of the market opportunities by catering to the rich and powerful. If we accept the common notion that the rich form the top 2% of the world population...

By doing so, architects are being displaced by the common people and the builders, who, even without architecture degrees, are designing and building their own houses without calling for the expensive services of an architect. And by doing so, they are confirming to the title of your topic - the architect is dead, do you agree?

Price is a market opportunity and a business savvy consideration, not just social responsibility. A skill, I would venture. Why should it not be?
Nando Cruz
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Thank you all for your generous responses, here is what I think:

Snehal gave individualistic advice and opinions from his experience that focuses on architects to be more 'hands on' about what they do. And I agree. Yet, I still think there is more than enough scope for us to take this discussion forward and try to discover together a common pattern. It has slowly started to emerge thanks to active participation. However, Snehal has sort of mystified our expertise by making it sound as if 'you won't know what's it all about unless you do it yourself (in your own way!)' This is something I have been trying to target for some time.

Moving on, Shailesh really got me thinking. He mentions a plethora of issues that I am taking the liberty of abstracting. From what it looks like, 'identity' seems to be intimately linked with 'expertise', and novelty as a means to achieve this identity/expertise has been attributed as a destructive practice. Shailesh, you can correct me in my interpretation if you wish. I have some difficulties with statements like '..Whenever a new something is invented, it displaces some thing old. With it goes the old identity..' but I do think notions of 'profit' and 'a different kind of education' are well worth introspection.

Frank mentions 'people-skills' which I am adding to the list of skills that an architect should possess. Speaking about skills, Nando, I could not agree more on your perception of architecture as skill on offer. I think that has been the highlight of this discussion so far.

Identity and expertise...so much to think about. Let me know what others are thinking ;-)
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
There's no mystery, direct experience is the only way to really know what its all about. In fact, I'd go to the extent of saying that I found most of institutional education a complete waste of time and efforts. Seeking out an architect whose work, or mode of working, is inspiring and learning there seems a better option.

Given that I still opted for the security of a degree, starting small and doing everything myself seems a good option. This not out of a need to do it my way, I tried that and almost went nuts, but more to learn.

I couldn't agree more with Frank on the various roles required to be played by the architect. Unfortunately, most of us leave an institute thinking of ourselves exclusively as designers, at the least, if not gods. This especially in the case of urban planners.

Personally, I might have chosen a hands-on-local solution approach, but honestly, isn't this how we should be working, no matter the scale of the project? Taking into consideration climate, local materials, and whether you like them or not, neighbours?

Without her permission, I'm going to quote here a friend's response to my question regarding doubts about whether the work I was doing even qualified for what is taught as design in most places these days: to my mind a "what's new" approach. Here goes:

"On a basic level buildings with professional input from an architect must have enough light, air, comfortable spaces, material and functioning that is sustainable (more importantly, in any given context, pushing the envelope towards least wasteful solutions) and being sensitive to their immediate context. It should be the lowest common denominator, all buildings we make should have that much, no?

Traditionally, before people went asking for opinions from other people with minimum five year degree qualifications, common wisdom ensured that these criteria were met. So when we come into the pic[ture] it's just heartening to see all of that plus something intangible. That little extra something which you know as soon as you see. But it is so damn rare. The sad bit is most of us fall woefully short of getting the basics in place, to be fair it is a very tall task to get that much right.

But I do think these groupings of a 'such work' and 'such and such work' are dangerous because they by definition end up reducing the scope and become an excuse for some kind of righteous complacency.

I have seen people give seminars very justifiably proudly about arguably very energy efficient buildings, only they look ugly as hell. And then there are those whose buildings are probably very photo friendly and 'designer,' but in most cases pretentious, overly cautious and in their making and building and functioning so wasteful they are downright irresponsible."

Take what you will, I promise to excercise a word limit next time :-)
Snehal Gada
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Snehal,

You spoke about your opinion of institutional learning as a waste of time and effort. Also mentioned was your emphasis on direct experience. The latter I could not agree with more, but it is the former that I would criticise.

An educational institution teaches history. It provides simulations for a real project. It is supposed to equip the students to face the outside world. The idea of an institution for education is the very basis for learning anything. Perhaps, what we must really review are the techniques of imparting education and not the idea.

I do confess that your methods do echo in my personal opinion as well but it is nevertheless still an individualistic approach.

I do not mind the word limit by the way :-)
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
The architect is not dead. First you must define what an arachitect or what architecture is.

In my opinion, for the most part, architecture is about designing space.
It's about creating something aesthetically pleasing to the eye in a special setting. It's about form vs. function. It's what people rely on for their homes, work, education, etc. The architect is therefore the last part of all these things to unify and "create the whole." The architect designs to create an enjoyable space, whether it be enclosed or open to all its surroundings.

I may merely be a student of architecture, thus far, but I do believe that without architects and architecture the world would be a boring place and that art would not be expressed to its maximum.

Architecture is not lost with engineering. Engineering is merely an aid; a support. It's for those architects who have trouble figuring out the structure of something. It's like the phrase, "when there's a will, there's a way." The architect has the will, and the engineer has the way.
Ronit Malekan
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Ronit,

Interesting point: "the world would be a boring place without architecture". Yes, I agree. But what is 'lost in the wash' is the meaning of the word architecture itself.

Architecture is design in context; the main contexts are culture, climate and environment. The motive and meaning of architecture is to be "design within context". When that meaning is blurred and changed to "social-engineering of the built environment" then it is no longer in context because "social-engineering" is based upon ideals and abstracts which have no context.

To me, anything built without context is boring. Today "social-enginering" has displaced the true meaning of architecture, aesthetics and design to the point where if a building is considered to be "an ideal socially-engineered design", the design is automatically seen as aesthetic.

The implications of such a radical shift in the meaning of architecture and aesthetics mean that they become useless and meaningless baubles used to make buildings "Kitchy Pretty".

I believe Adolf Loos said "Ornament is crime." This is pure social engineer thought designed not only to ignore context, but to delete any context. Think about it as "context is crime." Thus "culture is crime; climate is crime; and environment is crime." Boring? Yes!
Frank John Snelling
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Ronit,

Considering you're a student you will understand this: I'd give you a ATKT on your architect/architecture definition :) Give it some more thought, the very basis of this discussion depends on it.

Abhishek, an individualised, personalised approach may be our only chance. In the way it works for local microplanning versus blanket masterplans, designing your own mode of functioning that allows you your own standards of honesty as opposed to "this is what an architect should be". If I recude my practice for a while to make a quality of bricks that I just cannot find in the market, do I become half an architect? Or twice one? :)
Snehal Gada
The architect is dead: do you agree?
You would become 2x one. Because you're still designing and making something that can be used by future generations. We're always designing for tomorrow.

So, if you create a new kind of brick, you don't lose yourself as an architect, you only make it stronger.
Ronit Malekan
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Thanks Ronit for joining the discussion,

I think you need to sort out a few issues for yourself. Understanding architecture as form 'vs' function may not be the best way. And an engineer cannot be treated as just as an aid to the architect. Talk to one and you will know more.

In spite of this, you have given this discussion another point of view which I appreciate greatly. Keep posting.

Snehal, I am more and more intrigued by your comments. Your suggestions are very compelling and logical. You have forced me to make this discussion open ended. I mean, I started out with a question..and expected an answer..clear and precise.

But more than ever, Frank and yourself have made me realise that perhaps, there is no one 'answer', maybe we shouldn't fall in the trap of oversimplifying through pattern recognition. Anyways.

Even so, let us be dogged in our objective and see if more viewpoints can serve us better.

Cheers,
Abhishek
Abhishek Mathur
The architect is dead: do you agree?
Abhishek,

Snehal makes a point about blanket type "one size fits all" macrosystems as opposed to the more variable nature of microsystems.

The answer is that any national macro-system must not only allow but must encourage the complexity, variability and flexibility of microsystem operations.

In terms of architecture, this means the macrosystem paperwork + processes must be geared to microsystem work and not the other way round as at present.

The problem with macrosystems is that these tend to become fossilised and means architects expend more time on conforming to increasingly unreal "one size fits all" regulations than in designing and creating architecture.

The whole motive and reason for macrosystems is the need for trust between people within a country, even though they may never meet or if they do meet the meeting is very brief.

The devolution and decentralisation of national macrosystems goes some way to redress the balance in favour of micro-systems. For example, what works as architecture in the foothills of the Himalayas does not work along the southern seashores of India. Similarly, there are wide cultural differences within the many diverse areas in the Indian-subcontinent.
Frank John Snelling
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