There are many struggles that I’ve encountered in architecture that are similar to those that I have found in chemistry and biology. Taking chances is paramount in both fields of study. Medicine is no stranger to failure and it may be its best ally. To discover new antibodies, methods of treatment and find potentially harmful environments, medicine is constantly proposing hypotheses that turn out incorrect in hopes of learning something new. Architecture may not be as straightforward as medicine in its methodology but its progress lies in the concept: learning from its failures.
Often in architecture studio I feel tempted to do the same, because I know it would get me a good review. Postmodernist dance choreographer Twyla Tharp explains this inner struggle whether to stick with the old or take a chance with the new. “You tried possibly the same old thing. Guess what, it still works. If it stands that you took a chance and it didn’t pan out this time. Your intellect tells you to change something.” But unlike medicine, what works in architecture may not be as clear as whether a vaccine prevents a particular viral infection. For example, in architecture we can measure discrete things such as light, sound, forces at work, and potential energy usage, as well as indiscrete things like flexibility and productivity. But even with this data it is hard to distill how it will influence one’s experience of the space.
It is in this obscurity of what works in architecture that I find intriguing. There are many different answers to one problem. This is due to the fact that those decisions which influence our design stem from data based on empirical results; some quantitative, some qualitative and others theoretical.
Searl Lamaster Howe Architects, Chicago, IL, US, Intern
Dow Howell Gilmore Associates Inc, Midland, MI, US, Intern
Marketing and schematic design work.
THE DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY, Midland, MI, US, Intern
Worked in the Sustainability Department and aided the administration.
Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis, MO, US, MArch, Architecture
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, US, BArch, Architecture
Thesis to be published, 1st Place