101 Things I Learned in Architecture School. Out of the original 101 points, I’ve selected any point that I want to look at in more detail or comment on. There is a lot of theory or abstraction that is relevant far beyond the field of architecture.
(1) How to draw a line
Architects use different lines for different purposes, but the line type most specific to architecture is drawn with an emphasis at the beginning and at the end. This practice anchors a line to the page and gives a drawing conviction and punch. If your lines trail off at the ends, your drawings will tend to look wimpy and vague. To train yourself to make strong lines, practice making a small blob or kickback at the beginning and end of every stroke.
Overlap lines slightly where they meet. This will keep corners from looking inappropriately rounded.
When sketching, don’t “feather and fuzz” your way across the page–that is, don’t make a vague-looking line out of many short, overlapping segments. Instead, move your pencil from start to end in a controlled, fluid motion. You might find it helpful to draw a light guide line before drawing your final line. Don’t erase your guide lines when the drawing is complete–they will lend it character and life.
This was a great way to start the book. I was hooked from the very beginning. Why? Because I’m a terrible drawer, and I do all of the things you aren’t supposed to do. My drawings look like the bottom picture, the NO picture. Since reading this I’ve made a concerted effort to improve my drawing, and these little tips make a big difference.
(14) Architecture begins with an idea.
Good design solutions are not merely physically interesting but are driven by underlying ideas. An idea is a specific mental structure by which we organize, understand, and give meaning to external experiences and information. Without underlying ideas informing their building, architects are merely space planners. Space planning with decoration applied to “dress it up” is not architecture; architecture resides in the DNA of a building, in an embedded sensibility that infuses its whole.
I couldn’t agree more with point 14. I think this point easily transcends architecture to all design domains beyond architecture. I even think the point can even be abstracted so far out to propose being mindful in all of your general interactions and decision making. Ideally, everything we do should be driven by some underlying idea. Its the difference between living a mindful life instead of a reactionary life. As with life, in design, I try to create designs and interactions from non-arbitrary design decisions.
(15) A parti is the central idea or concept of a building.
A parti [par-TEE] can be expressed several ways but is most often expressed by a design depicting the general floor plan organization of a building and, by implication, its experiential and aesthetic sensibility. A parti diagram can describe massing, entrance, spatial hierarchy, site relationship, core location, interior circulation, public/private zoning, solidity/transparency, and many other concerns. The proportion of attention given to each factor varies from project to project.
The partis shown here are from previously conceived projects; it is unlikely, if not impossible, to successfully carry a parti from an old project to a new project. The design process is the struggle to create a uniquely appropriate parti for a project.
Some will argue that an ideal parti is wholly inclusive–that it informs every aspect of a building from its overall configuration and structural system to the shape of the doorknobs. Others believe that a perfect parti is neither attainable nor desirable.
Similarly to the previous point, every decision should be based on an idea or concept. However, this point takes it once step further in saying that these ideas or concepts should be able to be boiled down to a very simple, gestural expression.
(17) The more specific a design idea is, the greater its appeal is likely to be.
Being nonspecific in an effort to appeal to everyone usually results in reaching no one. But drawing upon a specific observation, poignant statement, ironic point, witty reflection, intellectual connections, political argument, or idiosyncratic belief in a creative work can help you create environments others will identify with in their own way.
Design a flight of stairs for the day a nervous bride descends them. Shape a window to frame a view of a specific tree on a perfect day in autumn. Make a balcony for the worst dictator in the world to dress down his subjects. Create a seating area for a group of surly teenagers to complain about their parents and teachers.
Designing in idea-specific ways will not limit the ways in which people use and understand your buildings; it will give them license to bring their own interpretations and idiosyncrasies to them.
I see this concept manifest all the time when dealing with clients who haven’t thoroughly thought out their target audience. They say, “we want our product to be desirable and used by everyone.” This sort of approach just isn’t realistic or appropriate. This point also suggests another tenet I’ve found to be true. More people will come up with more creative solutions when they are given more constraints. Most people don’t do well in circumstances where they have complete freedom. People like constraints, and constraints help focus activities and force creative solutions.
(18) Any design decision should be justified in a least two ways.
A stair’s primary purpose is to permit passage from floor to floor, but if well designed it can also serve as a congregation space, a sculptural element, and an orienting device in the building interior. A window can frame a view, bathe a wall with light, orient a building user to the exterior landscape, express the thickness of the wall, describe the structural system of the building, and acknowledge an axial relationship with another architectural element. A row of columns can provide structural support, define a circulation pathway, act as a “wayfinding” device, and serve as a rhythmic counterpoint to more irregularly placed architectural elements.
Opportunities for multiple design justifications can be found in almost every element of a building. The more justifications you can find or create for any element, the better.
When I first read this point, I was in complete and utter disagreement. However, when I went back and read through the book a second time and reflected more deeply on several of the points, I found that I indeed agreed with this point vehemently, but hadn’t realized it. There are two ways to look at the point of dual justification. First, designs can be created with an intended dual purpose, much like the bookshelf staircase. On the other hand, every object has inherent capabilities that people will take advantage of. Its a manifestation of the unintended consequences of design, which is also captured in the book thoughtless acts. As designers its not only our job to create objects, interfaces, interactions, or experiences with dual uses, but also to explore all of the ways that people could potentially use the things we create.
(19) Draw Hierarchically.
When drawing in any medium, never work at a “100% level of detail” from one end of the sheet toward the other, blank end of the sheet. Instead, start with the most general elements of the composition and work gradually toward the more specific aspects of it. Begin by laying out the entire sheet. Use light guide lines, geometric alignments, visual gut-checks, and other methods to cross-check the proportions, relationships, and placement of the elements you are drawing. When you achieve some success at this schematic level, move to the next level of detail. If you find yourself focusing on details in a specific area of the drawing, indulge briefly, then move to other areas of the drawing. Evaluate your success continually, making local adjustments in the context of the entire sheet.
This one is great. It seems relatively obvious. If you replace the word “drawing” in the above passage with information architecture, interaction design, or design research and the author could be speaking about what I do everyday.
One of the strategies that I’ve found that has works very well is to start in the middle of something and move outwards at a mid-level of fidelity. Try to flesh everything out first and then work into more details.
(23) Reality may be engaged subjectively, by which one presumes a oneness with the object of his concern, or objectively, by which a detachment is presumed.
Objectivity is the province of the scientist, technician, mechanic, logician, and mathematician. Subjectivity is the milieu of the artist, musician, mystic, and free spirit. Citizens of modern cultures are inclined to value the objective view–and hence it may tend to be your world view–but both modes of engagement are crucial to understanding and creating architecture.
This one hit straight to the core of a belief of mine that has been fundamental for as long as I can remember. It been very important in my life to view things from both an objective and subjective perspective simultaneously. In design research and ethnographic research this manifests itself by looking at both the emic and etic perspectives, or relying on both analysis and synthesis of data. Or also constantly balancing using deductive, inductive and abductive logic. Its vitally important that design research both “inspire imagination” and “inform intuition.”
Analysis without synthesis can often lead to narrowly focused solutions that don’t solve the real problem. On the other hand, synthesis without analysis can often lead to ideas or solutions that are not grounded in reality.
(26) Good designers are fast on their feet.
As the design process advances, complications inevitably arise-structural problems, fluctuating client requests, difficulties in resolving fire egress, pieces of the program forgotten and rediscovered, new understandings of old information, and much more. Your parti–once a wondrous prodigy–will suddenly face failure.
A poor designer will attempt to hold onto a failed parti and patch local fixes onto the problem areas, thus losing the integrity of the whole. Other may feel defeated and abandon the pursuit of an integrated whole. But a good designer understands the erosion of a parti as a helpful indication of where a project needs to go next.
When complications in the design process ruin your scheme, change–or if necessary, abandon–your parti. But don’t abandon having a parti, and don’t dig in tenaciously in defense of a scheme that no longer works. Create another parti that holistically incorporates all that you now know about the building.
I see this all the time. Designers trying to hold onto an idea that worked at one level of granularity, but not at another. There is a time and a place to hold onto ideas, and a time to let go of them. As a designer, I always try to create an information architecture that creates a systematic solution for the specific design problem at hand.
(27) Soft ideas, soft lines; hard ideas, hard lines
Fat markers, charcoal, pastels, crayons, paint, soft pencils, and other loose or soft implements are valuable tools for exploring conceptual ideas early in the design process, as by their nature they tend to encourage broad thinking and deny fine-grained decisions. Fine-point markers and sharp pencils become more useful as the design process moves closer to a more highly resolved plan. Value drawings can help express nuances and subtleties.
Hard-line drawings–drawings drafted to scale with a straightedge or computer program–are best for conveying information that is decisive, specific, and quantitative, such as final floor plans or detailed wall sections. They can be occasionally useful in schematic design, such as when you need to test out the dimensional workability of a design concept. When overused as a design tool, however, computer drafting programs can encourage the endless generation of options rather than foster a deepening understanding of the design problem you wish to solve.
Ah, an oldie, but a goodie: the medium is the message. The tools we use have a very strong influence on how we think about what we are doing and creating.
(28) A good designer isn’t afraid to throw away a good idea.
Just because an interesting idea occurs to you doesn’t mean it belogns in the building you are designing. Subject every idea, brainstorm, random musing, and helpful suggestion to careful, critical consideration. Your goal as a designer should be to create an integrated whole, not to incorporate all the best features in your building whether or not they work together.
Think of a parti as an author employs a thesis, or as a composer employs a musical theme: not every idea a creator conjures up belongs in the work at hand! Save your good but ill-fitting ideas for another time and project–and with the knowledge that they might not work then, either.
I was watching Project Runway the other day, and noticed another manifestation of this same idea. One of the designers was criticized from not “editing her ideas.” As designers, we have to know when enough is enough, and when a great idea is appropriate for the project at hand.
What’s your take on these five concepts? Do they resonate with you too, or do you disagree with them? Let me know what you think.
Referensi: Erik Dahl