Design studios are centered on ‘a’ design project. In practice, however, the project is substantially influenced by multiple dimensions of architectural practice. This studio explores the impact of practices’ vision, values and ideologies on the act and practices of designing. It further explores how the structuring of people in the practice, authorship over design through roles and standardized design processes affects architecture, and the overall culture of architecture itself. Architectural education’s structuring of “projects” and the fraternity’s cultural notions keep the architect at the center stage of design. However in practice design takes shape through multiple people, contingencies, outside forces etc., creating a disparity - an architecture project is larger than the architect. How do architects negotiate with these complex paradoxes and nuances?
To establish context, we read through multiple texts, two of which helped us structure our understanding of architectural practice. These books are - The Story of Practice by Dana Cuff and Architecture Depends by Jeremy Till. Studio discussions based on these readings began shedding light on the students’ idea of practice, their notions and belief systems. The readings further shaped the analytical lenses for interpretations in the next exercise.
To broaden the scope and understand the various models of architectural practice, we conducted surveys and interviews with approximately 20 design practices across the landscape of India. This helped students articulate the contemporary condition and context of practice by devising various analytical frameworks drawing from Dana Cuff’s theories. A concise comparative analysis has been put together to understand the larger narrative of practice models. These interviews further aided the design of the students' own individual practices in the first half of the studio by clarifying their positions, values, design principles and processes.
To test their designed models of practice, the second half of the studio poses three subsequent design exercises. , First, the students participated in a design competition hosted by Switch titled- 'Alps Wellness Retreat'. Teams of 2-3 students were made to simulate a collaboration between two architectural practices. This encouraged the sharpening of individual ideologies and was seen as a process of discussion and negotiation between the two practices. To further simulate a practice’s working condition of multitasking across projects, two more design exercises were introduced. One of these was self initiated solely by the student as an ideal project for the practice, and another hidden design project was revealed at a later stage for all. The three projects together simulated an office environment where systems for time and person hour management had to be tested as well.
This studio provided a platform to critically examine the role of architectural practice on architectural design decisions and the architect themselves. These projects served as a means to arrive at design processes that aid in translating a vision [ideology] into reality [building] that the practice would uphold. The studio was a unique opportunity to purview varied kinds of practices, reflect, brainstorm, and present ideas on how practice affects the architecture producedand the architect themselves.
Percolating into polemical discussions on the theory of practice and confrontations with the contingencies of architectural practice ,the section introduces the students to hermetic closure of the discipline with messy realities of the world via two books: Dana Cuff's - The theory of Practice' and Jeremy Till's 'Architecture depends'
Individual discussions: These were conducted through a series of provocations. Inquiries were
Discussions to clarify dualities and positions pertaining to the design of our practice.
Preparation of a Questionnaire for offices to investigate their practice in detail.
Office Presentations were prepared by gathering information about the practices as available by office websites, webinars, and publications.
Inferences, observations, inconsistencies and unique notions discussed after every interview drawing comparatives across all office interviews.
Graphical representations of the dialectical dualities framed for analyzing different offices after the visits. This led to comparisons and conclusions.
Individual ideologies were explored to pre-empt decisions that would be tested in the design phase. Explorations happened through analysis of similarities and differences with offices interviewed, a culmination of reflections across exercises, design processes, languages, and standardization.
made about the design of one's own practice.
An office visits board serves as a live input of thoughts and repository of arguments during the office visits.
Comparative diagrams were drawn as an analytical framework for office comparisons and also served as method of archiving information
A week of preparation and sharpening led to a debate titled - "A Duel of Thoughts", where design teams were made to question each other's ideology. The one that defended and articulated their ideas clearly along with asking pertinent questions won the round.
Proposing a self initiated project that serves an ideal situation to test their ideologies.
We register as 5 teams in the Alps Wellness Retreat Competition. The groups try to break down a collaborative design process between two offices through the competition
SELF INITIATED PROJECT
Ideological positions are sharpened with relation to design processes that have to be undertaken by the pseudo offices. Some prepare SOP's of working method and design systems, some prepare data sets required for ideologies while some invite friends to join the office as partners and junior architects.
The tutors reveal 3-4 customised design projects with hypothetical clients to challenge students' practice's with an unideal situation.
The competition entries were submitted at the end of the month. The various collaboration processes, design negotiations and entries were analysed.
The learnings from developing processes and the competition team projects were applied to the remaining 2 design projects.
Reflections: A collection of past projects of the students enabling them to reflect on the commonalities, ideologies, positions etc. through varied tools and formats.
The students made SOP's, design stage plans and time management systems to complete the 2 projects in the remaining 4 weeks. Some invited peers to join as partners and employees. Design development and discussions regarding ideologies were done.
DESIGN OF PRACTICE
Each practice starts developing a website to tell the story of their practice and its ideology.
Discussions and debates regarding the relationship of their ideologies and workflows help sharpen their arguments.
At this point in the studio we felt fatigued by the lack of physical interaction and socializing. The lockdown meant our studio had been fully online since the start. A discord server was initiated to increase communication.
4 practitioners were invited to discuss and review the practices developed by the students during the semester.
The practice was presented through a website which served as the mouthpiece of the entire process.
END OF SEMESTER
The 3 design projects served as a way to experiment and find design processes, work flows and architectural language for specific ideologies. Learnings from one were applied to another. The ideologies were demonstrated using the 3 design projects.
12 archival websites were created throughout the studio timeline. This website serves as the archive of the entire studio work and research, while the other 11 serve as hypothetical practice websites made by the students.