Friday, December 19, 2014

ArchiCULTURE...a movie and some comments

25 minutes to explain what architecture students spend 4-7 years of their lives doing...and then have to deal with (in some manner) for the rest of their careers in the field...or GETTING into the field and becoming licensed.  I can't speak beyond that time (yet)...

In case anyone ever wanted an explanation of architecture school...with some video...and from another perspective (or 5)...I present to you:

I'd like to know how many of the 26,000 students who start (per their facts at the beginning) drop out or change career paths either during or after their arch education.

I appreciate that they show the dichotomy of ideas related to time management: the 1 week of up-all-night vs. the 12 hour push that results in something that is probably quite similar to that week-long production.

I appreciate how they explained the camaraderie of architecture school...these are still some of my very best could they NOT be?  Spending so much quality time together, learning together, understanding our work ethics and work processes...these are really intimate things when you think about it.  Most people in other career paths are either working directly with others (theatrical art, choir, band, scientific research in teams) or in solitude (instrument, voice, paper-writing, research).  This is a strange combination where we are asked to work alone, but inevitably must work together.  We create something individually that is not ours alone in any sense...

The portion about the critique fascinates me.  You're asked to do this create defend it by explaining your thoughts and process.  Then people who may or may not know anything about the project until moments before your explanation begins are asked to process whatever words and visual cues they are given in order to tell you what they have only had a few moments to consider.  This can either go a direction which allows discussion that is helpful and productive for the future of the project at hand, or it can become a conflict of egos that diverts the topic to another realm of thinking which has nothing to do with the "idea" or the "project" and everything to do with some minutia of the presentation.

I once had a terrible critique wearing a cute an completely appropriate-for-a-presentation yellow sundress.  The critics wouldn't let me complete my explanations before asking "why this?  why that?"  Did I inspire thought in them?  Perhaps?  It was unclear because it seemed like I hadn't had enough words to inspire them yet.  Or perhaps it was the visuals that inspired them to speak before completion...But how they processed their thoughts in order to inspire me?  Was not only uninspiring, but was taken, even by fellow students, as a criticism of something that they did not take the time to understand before attacking it.  My fellow 6'-5" studio-mate followed my presentation wearing rolled up jeans, a t-shirt and a cigarette pack rolled in his sleeve.  The critics didn't speak until he was done presenting, and then, they were able to give positive feedback about what they liked, and ideas for how it could be improved.  This, most of us consider a good critique - a positive view of your creation, with ideas that inspire it to become even better...  At the end of the day, my older studio-mate came up to me and said: "We just learned something important here more yellow sundresses."  The things you learn at a critique oftentimes have nothing to do with your project.

I like the Columbia University professor and critic, Kenneth Frampton's, idea of having critques solely of the visuals. The reason I support this is because this is what happens, in many ways, in real life.  You create something and are not even given a chance for a lengthy explanation...BUT THEN some arenas you ARE given the are given the same situation that you have between a student and the critic/teacher (we also call our studio teacher our "critic," so I'll call them the professor or teacher just to distinguish between outside critics and the permanent, personal-interaction-for-an-extended-length-of-time-throughout-the-duration-of-the-project critic).  In real life, you are the designer (or part of a team of designers - see:student) and you work with the client (see: teacher) to discuss site, project, scope, problems, solutions, likes and dislikes..because ULTIMATELY your client is the one who matters (and your teacher is the one, in the same way, that sees the project from the beginning and inherently owns some stake in your final project because of how it progresses based on conversation and critique).  Similarly, we often need to utilize verbal and written skills to be convincing, and as such, the "sales pitch" jury (read "crit" or "critique") is equally as "real-world" an experience as the "visuals-only" option.  Maybe we should push for both of these in our architecture education...I, personally, succeed better in a situation where I am allowed to use words to express my ideas;  I am a much stronger idea-person than I am a producer of images to represent my idea.  Perhaps more visual-only techniques would have pushed me to develop more intriguing visual skills.  Or perhaps not.

I love all of the explanations of what makes a good architect.  I think that this follows the recent NYTimes article about architects needing to reconnect to the world around them...Sometimes, or maybe even oftentimes, that got lost in studio (luckily...I was not there as often as most...).

One thing I found myself saying often was how arrogant designers are...I never wanted to be one of them.  I wanted to be able to see the world and know about it for myself instead of telling people that I was designing for that I was right and have no personal experience to back it up.  We design for others...we are not above them.  We need to design FOR them, and all of their needs...and they know their needs better than we do.  So we need to design for their needs in a way that inspires the work, play, or other activity that they do in the spaces we create.  In some ways, we become the "critic"; we take something we know a little about, and we try to breathe ideas and life to direct it to become something better than what it is at the point where we encountered it.

OMG...what a fascinating contrast between the studio space and the office space.  I never noticed what a stark contrast it was until seeing this video.  You can almost see the creativity and excitement and interaction being robbed from one to the next step in the architecture career.  Why do we all have to become suits to be successful at what we can do, and do comfortably, in jeans and t-shirts?  This is a topic for another day, I'm sure.

I think the professors have an interesting perspective regarding their students and how they are (un)prepared for the "real world."  I think actually building things that were not able to be held in my hands (ie: things that are real spaces at human scale) would have been incredibly beneficial to my education.  There were few opportunities that I found to allow me to get the hands-on part of architecture and building.  I think it would benefit architects to build, with their own hands, the things that we often draw as a 2D line and then forget about.

I've never heard architecture students described as optimistic...but I guess I'm a testament to that statement, so I'm gonna' roll with it for now!

THANK YOU FOR ACCEPTING THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO TRAIN STARCHITECTS!  I think that there were some of us that had wonderful, practical, build-able ideas that were not nearly as exciting as other projects but that would actual have stood up structurally, and been economically feasible, and would have created social interaction within spaces that did not solely revolve around staring at the sculptural architecture piece that was the building meant for some other, greater purpose!  Admittedly, those other really cool-looking projects were ALWAYS fun to stare at, though.

YES, Boston University leader: Thank you for seeing what I have always seen in architecture: the ability to use our knowledge of design and building to solve problems...REAL problems that are not focused on "which light fixture looks better," but instead on things like "how do we house these people who have nothing?" or "How do we generate as much positive atmospheric and environmental output as we remove when we destroy in order to build?" and "How can we create cities that are more like real jungles instead of concrete jungles?"

Andddd...then it ended with 2 minutes of architectural images and a few summaries and it was over.  I appreciate the effort to encompass years of this experience from so many viewpoints (of professors and students and a variety of other professionals) in such a short timespan.  I think, having gone through this experience, that nothing I see will ever do it justice.  I'll always look for MY exact experience in what I'm seeing...and those experiences are plentiful and so diverse that they could be covered in no way but to have filmed the whole thing in its entirety while I was in the belly of the beast.  I can relate to the tom-foolery in studio and recall my own, but I will never be able to explain to you how that FEELS.  So...if you REALLY want to know that badly...sign up for architecture school.  Let me know how it goes!

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