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What are architects immediately critical of when entering a building?

Feb 12 '13 80 Last Comment
vanexel711
Feb 12, 13 10:58 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm currently writing a film where an architect has a central role, and I've been doing my best to learn about the profession. It's been quite interesting, and I've really enjoyed it. 

I hope you don't mind me on this forum. I wanted to make this character as "true" as I possibly could without being an architect myself. So I hoped I could occasionally ask a general question about the profession here on this forum, when needed. 

With that out of the way, here's my question!

One of the personality traits of the character is his constant "pointing out" of possible faults in any building he enters. He'll always tap his spouse or friend, and point out what's wrong with a building they're currently in. 

The character's philosophy is very "function over fashion", so I'm trying to make him critical of buildings that lean too heavily on aesthetics (especially in places of business or buildings with specific purposes like hospitals). 

In general, what do you think this character would be hyper-critical of when entering a building? 

Any answers are appreciated. Thanks again. 

- Van

 

John McWatersJohn McWaters
Feb 12, 13 11:06 pm

Build quality

dia
Feb 12, 13 11:26 pm

entry-mat detailing....

boy in a well
Feb 12, 13 11:28 pm

yeah, all those function over aesthetics types are whiny little bitches.

citizen
Feb 13, 13 12:02 am

I myself have bitched about hard-to-find entrances, slow revolving doors, very tight/small entry areas, and ugly floor finishes, to name just a few.

Can I be in your movie?

;-]

observant
Feb 13, 13 12:24 am

Actually, the building's massing and solid/void relationships seen in the exterior is what I'm most critical of.

Inside:

- dark colors (determined by current trends) and/or poorly illuminated spaces

- weird bright colors like red, blue, and green, which are prominent and are too loud

- lack of enough windows and natural light

- oddly irregular and "pointy" spaces, and that includes "pointy" soffits / coves

- more metallic industrial feel than a warm feel provided by woods, natural materials, and fabrics

hys316
Feb 13, 13 12:40 am

It all comes down to egos. Every architect feels they are better than the other and can do better.Also it makes them look smart infront of friends, spous, clients, future clients.

vanexel711
Feb 13, 13 12:40 am

Wow, you guys are awesome. Thank you very much for such quick and thoughtful feedback. 

I'm going to start looking at these responses. May have some follow-up questions later. 

And to answer your question citizen: Yes :-). 

 

- Van

citizen
Feb 13, 13 1:00 am

Great, Van.

Now I'll need a large dressing room with private jacuzzi AND sauna, not too close to the set.  And, please, no eye contact.

Good luck on the project...

vanexel711
Feb 13, 13 1:16 am

Hi guys,

Okay, I'm a bit fuzzy on some of the terms described above. Tried Googling, but got even more confused. If you have the time, could you please explain:

1. Entry-mat detailing

2. What exactly is a solid/void relationship in regards to massing? 

 

Thanks again.

 

citizen: Those terms sound fair. I'll also throw in a driver so you don't get lost on the way to set. Can't have you late for hair and make-up :-). My producer would kill me. 

dia
Feb 13, 13 2:34 am

Entry matt detailing - its actually a small recess in the floor to allow for a flush matt to sit in so that when you go through the doorway, it dries one shoes without traipsing wet footprints through the rest of the building. Typically, this is in commercial/public buildings.

If it was a residential building, poor lighting is always a bug bear, as is door hard ware (handles) and glass blocks in residential applications (even though they are sort of coming back)...

Anyway, I have already been in a movie about a mad architect. And I am reasonably handsome, so....

sadiyakhan
Feb 13, 13 5:20 am

Critical design examines the connection between vital apply in design and fine arts criticism. inserting design in Associate in Nursing knowledge domain context, the book explores fine arts criticism with respect to modes of criticism in alternative disciplines - specifically art criticism - and considers however vital apply in design operates through variety of various modes: buildings, drawings and texts.

s=r*(theta)
Feb 13, 13 10:12 am

Agreed w/ citizen, a building w/ a crapy entrance is like a webpage w/ confusing user flow, I'd rather just turn around and walk out!

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 13, 13 10:58 am

The problem you are having is trying to understand architectural language. It might be more effective for you to consider this language as bullshit, which it is a large extent, and stop being concerned about whether or not the audience will understand it. For many it will pass right over their heads, for the rest it will be either gospel or hilarious.

Examples abound. If you are really serious about this you can start reading architectural philosophy, but I'd highly recommend against it. Treat this like the unexplained technology that is taken for granted in every science fiction movie.

Bullshit, the Architecture Student's Language

Landscape Urbanism Bullshit Generator

DO-IT-YOURSELF ARCHITECTURAL DIALOGUE

there is no there
Feb 13, 13 11:08 am

When entering a building? Lighting, smells, door hardware, floors, ceilings, signage.

toasteroven
Feb 13, 13 11:08 am

2. What exactly is a solid/void relationship in regards to massing?

 

it's complete pretentious bullshit.  what successful architect goes on about this?  this is kid stuff or some prof who couldn't figure out how to build a successful practice.  can you imagine someone going on about "solid/void" relationship when they're at a rest stop on the side of the highway?

 

for your character - there's criticism of execution (which is partly the contractor, the client, and the person doing construction admin) and then there's design intent - which includes things like entry sequence, finishes, etc... most of us tend to approach it more like "well - if they had done X it would make Y a little better"  or  "I wonder why they did this here?"  or "this is nice - but it's a shame that they had to put in a security gate."

 

IMO - constant extreme criticism about everything is a red flag and usually indicates someone who is really struggling in this profession.  If this is a character trait - I'd also have them complaining about not getting good clients (because they don't understand that architecture isn't so much about the building itself, but more about helping clients solve problems - and that if you're a pain to work with, no one will want to hire you).

 

the people who do well in this profession are more curious about why things are a certain way than they are critical of everything.  and the longer you've been working, you're far more interested in technical execution and novel materials than "solid/void" relationship nonsense.

 

anyway - there are things that bug me  - like unfurnishable living spaces (meaning, there's no wall space to put furniture) and like everyone else, bad/weird entry sequence, poor relationship to the street, etc...  but I also know that if you're talking about finishes you can usually tell when someone had to substitute something cheaper - or something ended up being left off because of cost - or it was a quality control issue where the sub-contractor did a lousy job installing something.

 

not all architects are miserable assholes.

curtkram
Feb 13, 13 11:16 am

not all architects are miserable assholes.

i'm pretty sure we all took an oath similar to the hippocratic oath promising to be miserable assholes....

Quondam
Feb 13, 13 11:22 am

Is all the above proof that the typical and the sterotypical can at times indeed be the same thing?

 

I find that buildings are typically critcal of me well before I'm critical of them.

 

jla-x
Feb 13, 13 11:33 am

I find that buildings are typically critcal of me well before I'm critical of them.

That's a great point!

FRaC
Feb 13, 13 11:34 am

ADA violations

*lawsuit*

handrail extensions, thresholds over 1/2", protruding objects, signage not located correctly and/or lack of braille, clearance at latch side of doors, ramps too steep and improper landings, and don't even get me started about bathrooms!  exciting stuff!

curtkram
Feb 13, 13 12:07 pm

coat hooks.  people always miss that one.  probably because noone would hire an architect to screw a coat hook to the wall, and an accessible coat hook is more or less useless to the vast majority of the potential users of said coat hook.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 13, 13 1:00 pm

not all architects are miserable assholes

Being miserable doesn't mean you're an asshole. However, being an asshole undoubtedly means you are miserable.

FRaC
Feb 13, 13 1:08 pm

look, there are three types of people in this world ..

JsBach
Feb 13, 13 1:26 pm

 Most of my pet peeves are functionality issues, this mostly applies to public and commercial buildings.  The most annoying thing to me is a hard to find entrance. Also, confusing layouts that making finding where you need to go difficult. There are building types where discovery and mystery are appropriate, but not in a store or office building. I don't like tight spaces that form human traffic jams, but I guess that is changing with building security issues, so I guess I have to give up on that one.

Arch Prof Scott
Feb 13, 13 2:04 pm

Van - Since its a film you're working on, go with something the audience will understand and you can include without over-complicating the scene: POOR LIGHTING.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Feb 13, 13 3:01 pm

Toasteroven's long response above is a good one.

Think about the way you critique a film when you watch it, then try to draw parallels between that facet of filmmaking and architecture. You could critique everything from the overall narrative arc of the film (parallel to a building's structure and "parti" - look that word up, it relates to the solid/void relationship mentioned above) to set design details (parallel to the architect's material decisions - why is the stair handrail a typical pine stock profile from Home Depot when the stair itself is made of custom terrazzo?!).

Whatever you do, the words "Frank Lloyd Wright" must not pass this character's lips.

vado retro
Feb 13, 13 3:39 pm

this thread artistically considered...

form swallows function.

Kevin W.Kevin W.
Feb 13, 13 3:47 pm

Todays Architect will make for a terribly boring movie.

 

observant
Feb 13, 13 4:11 pm

Being miserable doesn't mean you're an asshole. However, being an asshole undoubtedly means you are miserable.

Touche'. I'd give you an extra scoop of ice cream for this one!

observant
Feb 13, 13 4:23 pm

2. What exactly is a solid/void relationship in regards to massing?

it's complete pretentious bullshit.  what successful architect goes on about this?  this is kid stuff or some prof who couldn't figure out how to build a successful practice.  can you imagine someone going on about "solid/void" relationship when they're at a rest stop on the side of the highway?

This is a site for archi-geeks, for the most part. I've had these conversations in school and in an office setting.  The term "fenestration pattern" is also used in offices as you're working, and this is in offices that aren't jockeying for magazine coverage. Does that offend you, too?  As we were working on a project and putting up prelim elevations, another architect (an employee, not an owner, God forbid) said "Yep, it masses up nicely."  The client wouldn't understand that.  As for your original observation,  you would tell the client "We're working on the facades to try to balance out how much is wall and how much is windows so it looks better and more proportionate."  You might even throw in "we're coming up with a window scheme that looks good and don't cost you too much money." Don't assume because someone is articulate that they can't "dumb it down." How I wrote an arch. history paper and how I speak, either in school or at work, late at night are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  But the next time I'm voiding myself of some solid matter, I will fondly think of you.  Translation:  when I'm taking a dump.

Quondam
Feb 13, 13 4:31 pm

Donna, did you just confuse the word parti with the word poche?

Also, do you really critique a film while watching it? I wait till I've watched the whole thing through. Same goes for buildings. Several 'veiwing' even, for the critique to actually amount to something.

It's the notion of immediate critique that I find banal.

 

Quondam
Feb 13, 13 4:55 pm

What architect coined the phrases

less walls is more windows and order is . . . OK ?

 

hint:
true or false question:
Which do you prefer. true or false?

or

Einstein und Einstein sind zwei Stein.
Zwei Stein und zwei Stein sind Neuschwanstein.
Neuschwanstein und Neuschwanstein sind Vierzehn Heiligen.

 

For a real unforgettable character, I suggest an architect with a true sense of humor. Granted they're rare, indeed very rare, hence all the more unforgettable.

 

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Feb 13, 13 5:14 pm

Quondam, I think people who make movies can't watch a movie without critiquing it, just as an architect can't see a building without critiquing it. Same goes for authors reading books, artists looking at art, etc. I was trying to give the OP an access point to a form of criticism that would feel natural to him/her. *I* relax and enjoy movies without critique, which I imagine is how the OP enjoys architecture.

And no, I meant parti. I did not mean poche.

hys316
Feb 13, 13 6:19 pm

I have a question... It seems that all architect critique a building. If an architect couldn't care less about other buildings does that mean he has no passion in architecture? Even though he practiced for many years as an architect?

observant
Feb 13, 13 6:50 pm

^

This is a GREAT question.  I have a friend who pulled a B.Arch. from a "design oriented" school.  She is licensed.  She never talks about design.  Never.  I have never seen anything she has designed, nor her school portfolio.  Her aesthetic sensibilities, about a car, about a skyline, about a landscape, are not in evidence.  She has this perennial job captain mentality.  We are friends, but not being able to converse on this level is aggravating, especially with someone who has that training and has been doing it for  20 years +/-.

I applied to her alma mater for their M.Arch. 3 program.  I was turned down.  They were nasty - gosh, what a story.  The funny thing is that I love to talk about building design with architects, and non-architects who are willing to talk about it with me.  Sometimes, it's just me pointing something out to my non-architect friends and them noticing it as well.

I've worked with a few people like that.  It's either that they are construction jocks (male and female) or that they are uncomfortable using archi-speak, either because they never let it into their vocabulary or are afraid they will be judged for using it.  I think they should have majored in CM and gone to work for a construction company.

el jeffe
Feb 13, 13 6:54 pm

here's the other side of the OP's question.

i was in the hospital ER a couple of months ago due to some wicked migraines brought on by some hernia surgery. while there i had to use the restroom, which was a single-occupant facility.

in my highly compromised mental state, i was still pleased to notice that the tile installers managed to align the floor and (all 4) wall tile grout joints.

vado retro
Feb 13, 13 6:56 pm

Jeffe!!!

Quondam
Feb 13, 13 7:21 pm

I say banal.

You say b anal.

Quondam
Feb 13, 13 7:38 pm

2004.02.13:

Bryn Athyn is indeed a true Gothic (constructed) Cathedral in that all the stones are held together with gravity alone, perhaps the only true Gothic Cathedral built entirely in the 20th century. Although still large, it is nonetheless somewhat diminutive in that its scale is something like 2/3rds or 3/5ths the average Gothic Cathedral. The overriding symbolism of this Church goes un-noticed by most--nothing in the design is straight, level or exact; column spacing is always slightly off, all walls slightly bow, there is a slight curve to everything, especially to whatever looks straight. Only God is perfect.

hys316
Feb 13, 13 8:20 pm

Observant, Thanks for letting us know that these people do exist. It is very rare for a female architect who practice for 20 years and not have the passion to critique buildings, I assume she don't have many conversations wtih you in admiring buildings either.

I think they should have majored in CM and gone to work for a construction company.

^ maybe they have bigger plans?

Sarah Hamilton
Feb 13, 13 8:46 pm

I always think of Handicap rules being broken, and then notice when things almost line up, but don't, and they would be so much better if they did.

And ceilings. I always look at ceilings.

As for your character, and his quirk, it may be better if the camera just focused on the thing he's critical of. I know for me, I don't typically say things out loud, it's an internal dialogue. I look at the things not lining up, and then shake my head. Or if something is amazing, I touch it, and linger a bit. Sometimes I pet walls, but I don't tell people.

Sarah Hamilton
Feb 13, 13 8:46 pm

I always think of Handicap rules being broken, and then notice when things almost line up, but don't, and they would be so much better if they did.

And ceilings. I always look at ceilings.

As for your character, and his quirk, it may be better if the camera just focused on the thing he's critical of. I know for me, I don't typically say things out loud, it's an internal dialogue. I look at the things not lining up, and then shake my head. Or if something is amazing, I touch it, and linger a bit. Sometimes I pet walls, but I don't tell people.

hys316
Feb 13, 13 8:53 pm

Oh that's what I do all the time, people around me like my spouse thinks I just want to get my hands dirty by touching everything I find interesting. Like materials used as cladding etc.

observant
Feb 13, 13 9:20 pm

Observant, Thanks for letting us know that these people do exist. It is very rare for a female architect who practice for 20 years and not have the passion to critique buildings, I assume she don't have many conversations wtih you in admiring buildings either.

The above post is a little cryptic.  I try to push these kinds of conversations with her.  She is married to a non-architect who DEFINITELY would not go there with her.  She also has some architect friends who are a lot like her, so they do exist.  We are about a month apart, in terms of age, and I was introduced to her by a mutual friend who is in marketing and I have remained friends with her.  I don't understand it.  I would think the attraction to architecture, especially if young, is based on design prior to building construction.  When I was a kid, I used to ask my parents take me to movie theaters I liked, either because I liked their exteriors or they had a lot of levels, such as a balcony and a loge, or some other interesting "layering." 

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 13, 13 11:22 pm

form swallows function

++ vado.

el jeffe
Feb 14, 13 5:24 pm

VADO!!!

vado retro
Feb 14, 13 5:50 pm

never be critical of the Frontier!

el jeffe
Feb 14, 13 5:54 pm

ha.

just in case you're jonesing....

vanexel711
Feb 14, 13 11:17 pm

WOW. There's so much gold in this thread, I could probably write 2 movies. Sorry for not responding sooner. Was travelling for the majority of yesterday. 

It's going to take me some time to scan through all this awesome stuff, but in the meantime, thank you all once again. You've been an amazing help, and provided some fantastic links/opinions/ideas for my character. 

 

I'll keep you posted as to how things are going!

 

Thanks again,

Van

hys316
Feb 15, 13 2:16 am

Good luck hope it turn out great, I hope the whole movie isn't just about some architect walking into some building and starts to rip the the building to shreds with big fancy words.

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