Architecture: A Story of Practice by Dana Cuff #Conversations01
Excerpts from The Reading Room
(Conversations during the end of Chapter 1)
P: What do you think about the aspect - that architecture is imagined a pure result of the architects’ imagination produced on the drawing board in the late hours of midnight. And regulations and external factors are a compromise on this purity?
S1: It’s like a negotiation, like at a vegetable market, we quote higher, we maximize design, it gets negotiated to the final outcome.
Notes from Miro Board. Head over to the board for a detailed reading.
P: Has anyone experienced the difference in espoused and theory in action? As in, how the project (architectural) happened was different but how it was explained in an academic environment was different?
S2: Yes, focus was always on the positive points when the architects presented it and not the way it actually went about when we were designing.
S1: The office I was interviewing, the head architect admitted that there’s a difference in the philosophy we own up to but the ones we practice, because they have to earn bread and butter, and some projects have to be taken for that purpose. (Triggers for thought -Compromise in choice of projects, ideologies are idealistic? Survival versus appearing idealistic to peers in the field? )
P: What do you feel about Pragmatic v/s Poetic ? When talking to junior architects and interns it is pragmatic, but while talking to everyone else it’s poetic (the project or design concepts/ decisions). This especially shows when students come back from internships, this experience is common to most, they would talk about how working at xyz office was thus different from their expectations.
S3: I worked on an artist residency project. We started with a model, the client was someone they knew. We had to be strict on the area since it always had to be presented to all stakeholders. But when the head architect explained it at SPA (School of Planning and Architecture), it became about how it connected to the larger landscape of Udaipur. This was totally different from how we had actually approached it.
P: She (Dana Cuff) says that, the reason architects behave the way they do is because of how the profession works, how it discourages certain aspects versus others, like the studio versus office model. Architects are usually aligning themselves to the fine art model of design. They would love to talk about how they got inspired by the site and how it was molded into a design which was difficult and rewarding after many iterations. The same project will be explained by the intern as modifications, pickups from other projects, material palettes etc. (we started by deciding to use wood/metal). But what the author is trying to say is that these other practices done during design never come into the discourse of practice itself.
No one says they started with a grid on a plan, or being calculative of building area / cost etc. Whatever fits in the mainstream of the fine art narrative i.e. inspiration, struggle, and vigorous iteration, is what is propagated.
In last year's studio, all architects gave a response to the question of espoused theory and theory in action. There were certain shared ethos among architects, which if not shared by some others would lead to their alienation from the larger community.
For example – cost, area, regulations are considered banal and demeaning to the “creative genius process”.
Or when in a lecture well known architects will call the situation of a client demanding low cost as a "challenge" taken up with gusto to make an “architecture of frugality” which means portraying that area and costs are inherently detrimental to design and thus difficult to realize.
S1: Do you think this comes from Architectural education? Like the schools we come from and what is popularly taught?
P: True to an extent, there are schools that are tending towards theory. But never the less, I feel when practitioners come to teach they wear a different hat, often saying they are doing a service, for betterment and repayment to society or a good break from practice. I’ve noticed this even at CEPT. Coming back to education is a reprieve to return from the tyranny of practice. I don’t mean to say this any derogatory manner, it’s just that the practice world is so different. Even the phone not ringing for 3 hours is seen as a reprieve. It goes back to the question - what is it that people do at the office? What do they practice?
Also the ones that end up being people who get projects but don’t get to design in the firm, which is strange because they are also trained to be architects. Some of you have experience in independent practice, you know how difficult networking and building a clientele is. It’s part of practice however. But what we never hear is how this affects the life of the architect.
The beliefs from which architects operate sometimes become obsolete but are rarely challenged. This is also a critique of having ideological beliefs in practice. Do you guys know of any architects whose beliefs or ideologies you think are obsolete?
P: What about this – How often should ideologies change? Should they be shaped according to the context? Take Phillip Johnson for example who shifted from modernism to post modernism?
S4: I think it depends on experiences and context. At the firm I worked at every year things the head architect was influenced by were different, hence their different interactions with their social friends circle of artists influenced their design choices across projects.
P: I understand what you are saying but my question is different, from outspoken modernist, someone like Phillip Johnson became a post-modernist. What are your views about that?
S5: It's natural for ideas to change with time.
S3: Going back to how a professional is someone who serves the society and not just the client, then ideologies should change because societies change.
S6: I think by the time he (Phillip) realized that architecture he's producing is modernist architecture he may have seen postmodernism as the next alternative, a better and relevant switch.
S1: I hadn’t imagined Johnson doing postmodern buildings, because my picture of him is modernist, I had to seek images to make this connection.
P: The bias in the ones saying that is also clear because most people describe Johnson through his modernism.
P: Profession is not a coherent entity yet it is maintained by all.
Some people argue it’s not fair to call some professions others not, whereas some say there’s a difference in the degree of professionalism.
Important: The government recognizing the profession, collective rules and ethic and create a law to validate who gets to practice as a professional. For example for Architecture it’s not government but COA.
A doctor or lawyer may argue the value of their professional expertise is a question of life death. How do you as an architect argue with a non-architects about what value you add?
S1: The idea of design is very intangible that way.
P: Minimum wage? Business vs Office dilemma, low value for profit created minimum wage - If we learn by doing, why learn, why do a degree? Apprenticeship is still ongoing.
P: Architectural education also has flaws in terms of fees management. We study for 4-4.5 years but pay for 5. If that was not the case, the COA could always ask you for a 4 year degree + 1 year working certificate. But since that hasn’t happened, the education fraternity also takes advantage of this.
S1: So then what do we do about it?
S2: We have no choice
S1: We must make a new way so we have choices then
P: The problem is starting from all ends. Architects don’t know what they do professionally and so how do we concisely know how to shape the education? There needs to a radical step to change the curriculum or realize this flaw to work towards it.
S1: Our communities are so tight knit and exclusive (language, membership etc.)
P: Dana talks of this – there's more focus on what our community peers think of us rather than the clients as we see them being unaware of the value we bring and the process we go through. There is an inherent inequality because of knowledge - between the non-professional and the professional.
For example when the Hall of nations was being demolished, only architects protested, or Pragati Maidan, or even the Fisheries building shaped like a fish, people love that building, how do we deal with that as professionals? What position do we take?
S1: We live in a generation where people like absurd random things more.
S3: Some people appreciate the generic mountain river house drawings, whereas some like Picasso. Similarly in the buildings, maybe that fisheries building may have some nice things, maybe the way services are hidden and form takes charge, but that doesn’t mean that building is appropriate? Always about what is appropriate, but liking is subjective, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We cant force everyone to love Kahn and Corbusier.
P: Yes its subjective, but what about IIM v/s Fisheries, people loving fisheries more means its okay to demolish IIM, it also ties to the conservation about heritage then.
S4: You're taking about awareness, that we have to generate. We have to generate awareness about why that space is better.
S5: Is it about demolishing? What if fisheries was designed by Louis Kahn, what would we demolish?
S4: But what about usability and services?
S1: Then we can bring in Zaha Hadid, all her buildings are beautiful in forms but not all parts are usable.
P: In terms of services the fisheries building is better than the Secretariat. Of course the time frame when it's built matters. But still the usability is better.
S1: But still I think we need to have a commonality to compare, like if IIM was also fisheries there could be a comparison. Just because people like Taj Mahal more doesn’t mean we demolish all other buildings.
Example : Jal Bhavan – water droplet of 9 stories next to RBI headquarters by Sanjay Mohe, we were told that RBI is what we should do, and the water droplet what we shouldn’t. But that’s taught and that’s because the entire fraternity believes that. But non-professional doesn't think that way, them liking water droplet more may not be wrong.
P: Goes back to what Dana said, only the fraternity gets to evaluate what is good and bad. The first step is to figure out things within the fraternity and then second to do some kind of public outreach and awareness. Some people say it needs more representation in primary education. Because that part of education teaches how to live in society. The kind of things we learn right now in school doesn’t do that, hence it needs a full complete over haul. Should the architecture community force its aesthetic sensibility on everyone else? Is it the task of the professional to educate the society or cater to the space of society.
P: NASA, Reuben's award, are given to the most esoteric projects that will make less than 10% of the country’s architecture, and so when you go to practice you have to make an extension to a house. In school it’s about high moral grounds but in professional practice it’s a lot more pragmatic. This is difficult to adjust to as fresh graduates. I’m not saying such projects should not be taken up at all, I’m saying they can’t be the entire education, its about balancing and creating sanity between values, mysterious aspects, politics etc. but we have to do it in a context. Usually architects see two options, one give up all the values they had in education or hold on to them and not have enough projects or a full scale practice.
P: Many CEPT graduates don’t want to come back and give lectures here, because they aren’t practicing with the values CEPT imbibed and they feel embarrassed, this is common to all universities.
Its okay to have bread and butter projects but they always present an atypical project and not the bread and butter projects. All architects deal with this dilemma, of the value and ethos they hold on one side and the projects they do.
This is also the fault of architecture education, as we have a disjuncture from reality. At the same time we cannot completely pander to society. We also believe that teaching this way would create better cities and experiences.
But then again, when people vacation why do they steer towards European cities, irrespective of what type of architecture it has or its era, but why someone would pick Detroit or Michigan in USA, or in India they would prefer Jodhpur, Jaipur etc. That means there is an aesthetic quality that is read as good by all and read as joyful. No one says lets go to Nagpur right?
Dana also says, Schools highlight pure design, but professional practice says it’s never individual enterprise and the economic relations instead. Hence education is devoid of the key aspects of professional practice.
P: Size of firms – interrelated to clients, bureaucracy, design quality
P: Large offices tend to be bureaucratic, although it’s not causality
S1: Mid sized offices might disappear but in the context the book is written in.
P: What concerns you when you think of architecture and hence about the final product, the building? Is stylistic component the thing, material, its contribution and so on.
Some practices are clear in their position about this. Like architects like Sanjay Puri whose building you can identify. For some its an environmental concern. Or Anand Sonecha, the social mission is predetermined and not the stylistic concern.
You might hear in our discussions that they made a conscious decision to stick to a size of an office/ whereas some will say the size doesn’t matter and they are okay continuing to grow.
Like in many offices there may be teams that organized based on availability or design stage specific, like concept team, design development and design execution team.
Architectural education doesn’t train us to work like that where we hand over the projects between stages. Nothing about design education teaches us to follow someone. The most common thing in practice, is that there is one lead designer, rest are de facto draftsperson, maybe they might give a sketch and ask you to take it forward, they might occasionally ask you to fill in the gaps and develop the sketch. Even so the control is with them, the intern or associate momentarily feels like they are in charge of design. But by and large the rest are glorified drafts people. You are given the bit of the design like a door or window that too based on a previous template in the office. Hence you don’t get to be happy that you are in charge of designing in your own way.
Have you guys had an experience when it was collaborative design?
S1: Jenga blocks example at green tree architects, which were modified together.
S6: four person team- large scale- systematic- people get options- everyone learns from each other-negotiations happen- ego happens- but that didn’t take over the design.
Even at an office- tiling design extravagant – client gave freedom- two people worked and asked the tiling contractors, etc, in the end out of two one got picked.
P: why did the head arch give it up?
S6: we were excited, we could flex our design muscles, and the head is busy with larger things
P: Usually interns get to do doors, windows, tiles etc. It shows what the principle architects believe qualifies as “architecture”? It is part of theory in use. No architect will admit that tiling doesn’t matter, they will say they are involved in the larger design and so smaller tasks are given to the young ones in the offices.
But coming back to this, what would you think of a collaborative design project?
S6: we made a master plan between 12 people last semester.
P: Was it a combination of 12 parts?
P: No, how would you do a bungalow or something together? Not esoteric but straightforward.
S1 & S2: We did – two floors, one each for a 2 storey, was difficult, plus no physical meetings, over video calls.
S3: It would be more complex to do one plan
S2: in the end it’s the same
S1: you need common structure
S6: No, on base level is easier, it gets clashy with details
P: Can design have collective ownership?
S1: It can
S4: Can but it is difficult
S3: On my old project with a senior. The senior gave responsibility to me to make initial plans. Then after discussions it gets to a stage where we divide the work, we did it alternatively, at a time working on it, one brain at at time but tasks were alternatively done. That was a kind of collaboration, what is ownership in this? Because even the head architect will end up having a say. Now that I'm gone, the project has changed. It seems as if my ownership is gone, but it has some ownership of mine in it still.
P: Somewhere in offices we believe its not our design, it’s the offices design, of course there is attachment as well.
S1: I had a diff experience, I used to directly work with the head architect, we did many like that, but ego clashes and fights happened, yet overall the experience was positive
P: coming back to – How do we take full ownership of the design? Not saying that you don’t have any attachment, you will miss it when you see it on insta etc, but the question is, you still left the project, the project went on without you. But in academics if you walk out, the project doesn’t exist.
S3: I am still in touch with the project I left, I just don’t have say in it
P: imagine you work on a project and leave it, someone else takes but you get the marks. Would you be okay with it?
S3: leaving 2 months into the project, versus later in the end, there's a difference. I am still the 90% designer
P: But what if this situation is academic. You work on It for 5 weeks, you leave in the end of 5 weeks, you get marks, but the end moment work and jury is someone else's
S3: I wouldn’t prefer it. If I have put the effort
P: that’s the thing, this changes in an office. Only happens in education. The project can exist without you in an office, even if you were whole and soul, eventually the project belongs to the office.
In an office the design is an externality, it’s an inanimate object. In academics, you speak objectively – I did this and did that thus this, in an office you might agree to passively change something.
Just leaving this question: In an academic environment can you still do a project fully collaboratively?
In an office in the end the project belongs to all but actually to none, it belongs to an abstract notion of the office name.
Take Zaha Hadid Architects, they are functioning and earning but there's a crisis, because people still associated it to Zaha even if Patrick did all the work in recent years. Usually practices like these die out. Take Corbusier, Bawa, Kahn, when the proprietor dies, the firm has to shut down (SOM is faceless that way). Unless there are children who take over. The brand is bigger than the office.
How Zaha gives the presentation but the work is done by a lot of people. Vastu Shilp too, but the directors are slowly becoming the face of the firm.
In academics, the way you take criticism, versus how you deal with it as an owner of a firm are different.
P: In my experience, no one I have interacted says they are comfortable with the money, they are usually stating recession, or struggle, trouble making ends meet.
What about y'all? Do you know any that have comfortable profitability?
S1 & S3: Nope , or they don’t reveal
P: There's a difference between what they say and do, many have some have Audis and big houses which would mean they are well off.
S6: yes exactly
S2: If that’s the case, they will never disclose, their Audis are secrets between them and the accounts dept. Although we can tell.
S4: X has a big office, car, etc., people know he takes commissions from builders etc., we understand that too but its not explicit.
P: For them, they aren’t legally required to disclose either
But the question is about the business v/s profession
The notion that if you're a professional you shouldn’t be obscenely rich. There should be some humility etc.,
S1 & S6: is this a notion or an assumption?
P: For example what is indicative of having made it? A car, a bungalow? That differs from city to city, of course Mumbai it would be a house or bungalow, in Surat it’s not too big a deal, is it luxury brands etc., or foreign travel? Another problem we face, we don’t know what is the measure to judge what is rich or successful, especially in our field.
Coming back then how many architects will say they are doing monetarily well (the question is not about architecturally well). Last time’s standard with offices interviewed, most of the heads were driving luxury cars. In Indian context, that is rich.
P: In a capitalistic economy, the head will look for the cheapest labor for the same quality of that job. By giving it to the more expensive one you are reducing profitability. Thus we are always trying to subdivide jobs and reduce overall costs. This means specializations lead to de-qualifications. General surgeon- super specialist order in a surgery, even though the specialist can also do it. This is where capitalism has failed to ask- where is the joy in work?
The most satisfying parts are higher up and low satisfying is lower in chain. We justify it as a right of passage, this is the order we have to follow. We are heading in to an era of super specialization from specialization. Which also leads to less time duration engagement.
P: When you start making specializations in a profession we inherently create hierarchies and inequality, this also creates and internal strife which hinders us from putting a united front to society at large. (Elaborating Cuff's point)
Most employees/professional want to be self employed, you don’t want to work for someone. Unless there's an opportunity of being a partner (Share in profits and not just salary)
You must have experienced this too – where some people in the office are more enthusiastic about design, whereas for some its just a job, doesn’t mean they aren’t doing well, they do the work well but it’s a job none the less.
Moonlighting – ethics- loops- disservice to profession but inevitable and also the fault of the offices. They also charge less because they are a moonlighter plus low experience.
In education we start from home to city scale, then thrown back to a toilet detail, sometimes just editing the previous interns works. From changing the world to switching that scale, is extremely disheartening. When a faculty allows someone to graduate, we guarantee you can make buildings. But the office will say you are not even qualified to go beyond toilets. This jump from educational practice is inherently disheartening process. Hence at the point moonlighting is enough to sustain, you will quit. That’s the usual order student—employment—own office. Even in India, that’s prevalent, to start your own office as soon as possible, because its more rewarding.
S1: What is the inspiration to take up this field? And is the remuneration satisfactory?
P: so why did you guys join architecture?
S1: During my time, after 12th I didn’t know architecture existed, I found out from a friend about NATA, then my family saw an astrologer, it went well, then aptitude tests, then went for the NATA exam, then got a college near home and so I did it.
P: How many of you did it by fluke? Without planning?
(About 4-5 raise hands)
P: What about the ones who who didn’t end up in fluke?
S7: inspired form seniors drawing and studying hands on without books, plus inclined to arts.
S6: exposed through engineering drawing plus my father is an electrical consultant, I would sit with him and slowly developed interest and realized I'll be better of in architecture than engineering.
P: That’s also related to our primary education not training us to understand which type of learning will be good for us and our contribution.
That’s slowly changing and there's more awareness about the professions. It is still fairly random and standardized though.
P: Hence I find the arch apprenticeship course very interesting because it's preparing them to be employees. It prepares them to not think but to follow orders and make drawings. Their licensing exam discussion- how 50% don’t become architects hence end up working for them. Plus moonlighting persists because of gap in educational system that guarantees it and what firms give you as your caliber of work (e.g. toilet)
S6: where is the threshold between who to make associate and who partner?
P: Typically, when you can’t pay any higher you make someone associate from senior architect. When the head realizes they cant let them go but cant pay more salary. If they pay higher the risk is higher. So they offer a share of profit.
Another reason, when an office is growing, and you want to get more and more projects, the only people who actively search for projects are people who take cut in profit- proprietor, partner, associate. If the feel they aren’t making much difference, not bringing any projects, or doing as good. So they have to be sure, design ideals match, they are working and by making them associate you ensure more projects. SO if you want to make associate you need to be sure you can bring more projects and contacts. Otherwise there is no profit.
When you rent, hire, pay for software machines etc., you enter the space where you ask - iska paisa kahan se ayega? (where will the money for this come from?)
That’s why you need profit. It's risky business to start your own practice, because you don’t get projects, you wont be able to pay for anyone or anything. If you're the proprietor then you have to use your own money in times of crisis.
That’s why so many people want Limited liability partnership, LLP, so that you don’t make a loss, but company only goes in loss and shuts down without affecting your personal assets. That's why you need buffer money / investment. But to work as a professional, you need not have risk, if you work on your own. For example Glen Murcutt, his work is low risk. He works alone and hires people for working drawings, contractor etc. If you have a good laptop you can work from anywhere.
That’s why there is a lot of risk and pressure on head architect that way, for a big size firm, needing 50 lakh for just salary, you need a 30 crore project at any given time. This is also why a lot of people prefer small- medium practices because the pressure is less for management and money.
P: One notion of education is that there are only some things that can be done in an academic environment and remaining learning can happen in the real world. Studio v/s exposure.
S8: It is also mentioned how without internships and practical training you can’t avail a license, it’s just a 2-3 year architecture program.
P: To what extent should architectural education mimic the real world when it comes to how an architect should perform in practice? What are your views?
S1: The first thing that happens when we enter in professional practice, is the realization that you are not the center of the design, that needs to come through in academics too.
S8: there should be a balance in mimicking practice
S1: I think it should be 50-50 percent of practical and creative freedom.
P: Lets try to discuss with the framework of dialectical dualities. 50-50 is the most non controversial way to approach this
Can we argue and see advantages and disadvantages of both, real world scenario and pure academics.
S8: with real world, beyond a point there would be too many limitations
S9: May not be a lot of limits, but there will be compromise
S3: lot of students know how to hold onto their creativity in academics too but begin to lose it in practice. I think there should be training during academics, but it shouldn’t be taken advantage of. Because often interns are just used as labor and not a learning curve.
P: So for a moment lets forget architecture, if we take learning, should we learn it in bits and pieces in sheltered environments or exactly how it will be executed in the real world ?
S3: It depends on the subject matter
S1: What would be the advantage to mimic real world? You would be ready to practice
Disadvantage: it is repeating the same cycle of what is in the market. Which hinders the experimentation and creativity.
S10: In practice, architects come up with realm of solutions that are not always architectural. In academia, when we focus on architectural solutions we don’t take in other contingencies. That is also a gap in academia.
T: So they are super spatial, whereas in practice they are diverse
S9: We need more constraints in academics to prepare us better
P: Yes there will always be different schools of thought, I want to understand the more non-architectural perspective. When we drive, cook, play the guitar, what is the learning process then. What is the best way to learn to swim?
S9: Throwing someone into deep end of the pool, that’s how I learnt with my father. He says you sweat and pee so you don’t bleed in war. The approach is similar since this is how they learnt in their graduation.
P: Coming back to the swimming, I want to how it happened then, how did it progress form being thrown.
S9: day 1 I just prodded around, then they would help me with a stick and I would practice after being thrown into the deep end
P: the other way would be to have theoretical classes on styles, postures, breathing etc, then end of week I go to shallow end of the pool and start. Another way is on day 1, you start with shallow end and learn splashing and moving, and every day you learn something new from floating to splash and then you go to deeper end.
The question is there are different ways of thought and different ways of learning. In a way you learn on the job. Of course there is someone ensuring you don’t drown, but you learn in the deep end only.
Even with driving, how they teach in a driving school v/s your friend teaching you is different. Empty plot v/s on a road.
What difference does it make on how we learn things? Any thoughts?
S8: Doctors learn about the human body and then practice, it could be that way
P: are you comparing how they are broken into discreet bits of information? Just as I can give theory lessons on swimming I can teach people how a Rem Koolhas designs etc. So I can give you a technical knowledge or what are the steps of design, but when it comes to the syntactic part of knowledge, that’s where we are locating this question.
If I want to learn to become a painter, how do I learn the creative component of painting, so more towards art education, how does it happen?
T: Even my art education which happened around high school, we were taught very standard methods of drawing and painting. Any other way was not appreciated or graded well. We were taught to copy a "style" and not taught how to create.
P: learn tools and skills first, learn to copy first, one school of thought is the persona is yours, and the school gives you mastery over the technical aspects. Common to India and the west. But in architecture, beyond foundation, we have design studio and constructions you are expected to design without technical knowhow. So it’s already engaged in syntactic mode. Of course at a junior studio, the design problems are restricted, or hypothetical, less complex, certain material or limit is set. Certain things are not expected and some systems are given to you.
So inherently the design process at junior level it is incredibly sanitized and gets more complex as you go ahead. And then the real world becomes a part of it in the final years. My critique is that the most difficult aspect is to retain the artistic (if I may call it) with all these buffeted agencies – clients, consultants etc., there are so many forces that play that are trying to impinch on what we call the purity of design. And even in the real world work in internship we don’t know what we even learn, because we end up doing kind of work that no one would want to do.
P: Resistances – freedom- maintaining balance – how do we talk about designing the balance of the forces of business and to be brought into the academic environment. A pertinent question I have since y'all are doing masters: are you expecting to indulge into more conceptual, utopian aspects of designing or are you learning how to act more towards reality? What is your primary expectation?
For example of all the L4 studios, some of the others are pushing more in the other directions, intentionally are programs that allow you to have more space to be creative, to avoid business and banal angles of design.
T: it might be both of those things too.
P: furthering the point on how its not about the design of practice as much as understanding your position as architects.
S3: it should go from utopia to real
T: We once did a collaborative project in our 5th year, the entire batch researched and designed together, we were left on our own. About 30-40 of us. The real met the academics there. We held stakeholders exercises and meetings continuously to stay in touch with contingencies.
P: Design hangs in the balance, and there are countless voices, a waterdown of design through stakeholders is the belief.
P: If instructor has all the agency in a design studio, I will out rightly say that is not how it should be, because then students will say and design what the instructor wants to hear and see, and that subjugates their voice and ideas.
So again I'm expecting that first you will react to this and then a solution for such a circumstance. How do we mimic countless voices.
One way to deal with countless voices is what T explained which is to role play, but we have to bring in agency to those voices. That is important.
At the end of the day, we want the grade in the academic environment. How do we deal with that too?
S1: is there a way around it? Where we prioritize design and not grades?
P: I suppose a model where aspects like other things can be given grades too like financing, stakeholders, contractor etc.
You guys should come up with a creative ways for this.
My point is you already know to design after 10 semesters, so how do you bring agency to the voices?
S10: Reviewers coming at different stages and introducing countless voices at many stages, does that seem like a solution
P: they are still assessing your work, versus someone suggesting changes in design, That’s what Dana says in her book, client will just say we don’t have budget, but in academics a teacher might say it is against the schools name to design this way.
What I'm saying is that reviewers don’t change your design, they just assess and review. Somehow it has to be a voice which will start pushing and pulling your design.
S10: maybe then the workshop model at certain stages would benefit
S3: If we keep meeting clients at intermediate stages
P: yes, what I'm pushing for is you realize its not just your project. That becomes beyond your baby in an academic environment. We need not come up with a solution in the session.
Are we one of the voices? Or is it as Orwell puts, all animals are equal, but humans are more equal, like architects have more agency.
The reason why architects talk of certain pet projects, is because that was their idea of unadulterated pure design expression. (they state themselves) whereas others were diluted by externalities.
(next part begins with a Vitruvian definition of an architect “quote” burden of expertise (chapter 3)
S10: Even in AIA there is no rule that this is how our education should be. So do we overlook this ambiguity in expertise or is it a necessity?
P: What is your opinion?
S10: I think its important that we have the expertise to communicate with all, but in academics I don’t know. Definitely in practice its needed.
P: Let's discuss all points and come back
S10: in authority, the architect has to assume all responsibilities, how to conduct meetings, the agenda, managing time with clients and office etc. they have to take a strong pose and do it all.
In a small office the responsibilities can be shifted which often leads to inconsistencies. So the architect has to choose how to divide the responsibilities. In an example one architect has a alliance with someone who isn’t just a middle person but also supports and back them in front of clients.
Procedures: We don’t have a clear methodical way of practicing, if procedures are left unclear, the impact of each phase in subsequent result is unclear to track. This is problematic. Some offices develop a method after completion of a few projects. But most offices don’t.
P: (on ambiguity with architecture – expert of all) She acknowledges that there is uncertainty in all fields for example what does it mean to be an expert in human behavior? What constitutes it, but she says it becomes more ambiguous with architecture.
Like in a meeting, who has the final call?
On allegiances- these are fragile, and temporary, they are topic specific, but wherever they can be formed they have to formed. Everyone tries to this to get their point across, this is more to do with soft skills like negotiations, I feel like the architects who can negotiate better are happier, not saying their work is better or design better, but they are at peace. Where as the ones who cant, are always stressed because they feel no one is on their side or seeing their point. And thus the design process is stressful.
Procedures: none for fees or type or method.
S10: the client is also ambiguous, they pay, they give program and periodically review and change design, they also partake in hiring other players like contractors etc. there's also checklists and feedbacks. The AIA also acknowledges the complexity of the design process. They lay out some rules but still trust that the client and architect will also establish a trusting relationship and that the client will also understand the complexity. The academia does a selective focus, but by nature practice goes through constant change.
P: in practice, it is assumed that architect can deal with all unexpected changes, like in Ahmedabad fire regulations have been changing a lot and its assumed that architect will figure out, but In academia that is not the case. Sometimes a lot of requirements aren’t revealed for a while, there are also deliverable dates and a level of design detailing expected that affect it.
On perpetual discovery:
The first idea could be the best. And then in academics there's the whole faculty edits it and in the jury they say the first sketch was best.
Take example of a faculty of design and architecture building built 30 years apart, no one can say one is better because of added experience etc. I'm saying there is no direct correlation between time, experience skill etc., architecture is not so straightforward, that is the beauty of it. So shouldn’t you just design the first one and finish it?
S1: never thought of it like that, would be cool
P: so does that also mean, the design never stops? Coming back to our older discussions, it only stops when the jury date or client deadline comes in play.
P: unlike other creative and design fields, architecture doesn’t produce in real time, we freeze designs in computer graphics and visuals, but the real work comes to live when its to late to change, whereas a painter, fashion, product graphic designer, can edit as they go since its real and physically made while they design or create. Which is why we are skeptical to say this is okay, this is final.
P: About time sheets
Should we keep track of time or not
Should it be done by employer or recorded automatically by computer (kind of surveillance)
-helpful for record, to take back drawings during internship (when they don’t care so much for it and it’s a personal exercise0
-Helps in appraisals and HR
The very question of recording it:
Keep track of the work you do, but you can’t track the intangible things in the office, also a mode of questioning and micro managing based on work that is tangible,
But, it depends on the intention, if the intention is productive then it’s okay
- If there could be a balance between privacy and efficiency.
The actual activities that happen in an office are far more complex and diverse than a time sheet can capture like what about meeting or impromptu discussion in between making drawings and working. The office may say that’s a natural part of design. But say this happens 1 hour every day, so on, for HR it’s over 2 months of salary as per the hours in an office. Hence the way a timesheet is made, if it captures grey areas and if it should capture grey areas at all and if yes then how far.
So if everyone was calling everyone for 30 minutes, how do you draw the line with respect to time?
And if one day you had no work and you were just sitting around, is it acceptable or no?
The question of taking breaks or the record of time also depends on how an office is designed, where would you take this break or place yourself vis a vis the other employees.
You could project the time spent on a project through the record, or to make new hirings depending on time spent across projects
You may also use it for firing people.
Hence the advantage is design efficiency.
But you also can’t apply the time spent on one with another, one may start with a brilliant idea and progress a certain way while the other may be slower, hence comparison is okay for a working drawing but not the entire design process
The website drawing /image has to impress clients, whereas the working drawing has to convey the design. The work done to impress, to do or to impress peers are three different aspects of practice.