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    Words vs. Visuals? Not really.

    Stephanie Apr 5 '11 1

    I wanted to make a reply to a comment I received regarding my previous post, but apparently I went over the word limit for a comment, so I'm just posting it as a new thread here.

    Mantaray said:

    What is an idea without the representation, illustration, communication of it?

    Without communicating your ideas, you are essentially asking your tutors to read your mind, and then calling them "unimaginative" when what they visualize in their own mind in response to your words is different than what you expected.

    I think it is very important for students to be able to communicate in a variety of ways. I'm not sure why so many people think I am arguing against visual representation altogether--If you look at my program and midterm presentation in an earlier post, they both rely heavily on visuals to make my ideas clear. This is a give-in in architecture.

    I am not asking anyone to read my mind. I am asking them to read my writing. Or at least listen to me explain it, if English isn't their strongest language. Most instructors will out-and-out refuse to read something you've written because it takes time and has no immediate visual reward.

    What I would like to see more in design schools is the encouragement of students to clarify their ideas through writing. I am working closely with 3 other grad students, and a lot of times when we've felt a bit 'lost' in our projects (mostly at the beginning) and are casting about in search of 'inspiration' (code language for 'ideas'), our instructors have suggested the following:

    websites
    art and design shows
    design stores
    walk around certain districts
    check out architecture magazines.

    In other words... 'go look at things.' While this might be helpful for seeing how different materials are used, or looking at different forms, it really doesn't help you think about how your own project could be developed. Unless you are interested in picking out 'pieces' of various projects and melding them together in a different way.

    The closest they have ever come to suggesting 'thinking' about something is to go to a lecture by visiting architect so-and-so.

    I was lucky enough to discover the writings of Christopher Alexander early this year, and one of the methods he suggests is to write stories about how you want your project to be--not specific design ideas--but rather, how you envision people using the space. What are they doing? How is the light? What sounds can you hear? In what way are people anchored to this space? What is the atmosphere?

    It was an approach I had never tried because, well, in architecture school, it's always all about creating visuals. No one has ever suggested writing down my thoughts in a creative way. Or trying to connect ideas through writing.

    Maybe it sounds obvious, but as I have been talking with my other grad students I see that when people do try to write things down, the instructor tends to dismiss it completely as a waste of time, when we could have been doing 'real work' (i.e., drawings).

    I see a lot of evidence in my own work that writing about what I hope to accomplish, and how I envision my project being used in the future helps me to focus on what is *really* important, straight from the beginning.

    So, very simply, I think that we would all have stronger visuals that represent our ideas very clearly if we would take some time to write creatively about our projects. I'm in no way suggesting that words take over architecture, goodness knows there's enough of that. I'm also not saying that I have a turn for strictly theoretical projects.

    I simply think that writing is an excellent way to generate and clarify ideas, while drawing is an excellent tool for developing and visualizing those ideas.

    I hope that makes sense and helps you get where I'm coming from!

     

     
    • 1 Comment

    • Micah McKelveyMicah McKelvey
      Apr 9, 11 12:44 am

      i really like this a lot. and totally agree. i've been lucky enough at kent state to feel constantly encouraged to write...by some professors more than others...but it's one of the things i actually applaud my school for.

      and i'm glad that you seem to really understand this as well...that one's best source of inspiration is their own brain! it's really a scary and confusing place sometimes, but the ideas that come from one's own consciousness are much more rich and textured than a day worth of blog browsing.

      props.

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