Jun '13 - Jul '13
“Now, architecture and design is everywhere because of the Internet. It’s arguable that design is at its peak in terms of relevance. The accessibility of architectural images and contents is ever-present, for young designers and clients alike, making design more popular than ever before. In turn, this has made it even harder to raise the stakes of good design, critical thinking, and discerning judgment” - Nader Tehrani ‘Beaux Arts & Back Again’
Nowadays in a time where information can be accessed online in a matter of seconds, we see calls for competitions in every architecture-related website, and we can find precedents for our own projects by just typing a few words on a search engine, I often tend to ask myself, what makes good architecture?
With these questions I do not intend to point that the previous tools or methods of searching and gathering information are wrong. I do want to question their principles and ultimate results. Since they are intended to be accessible for all public and any user can access them, I now ask myself, if we are we all looking at the same source information, are we all therefore generating similar ideas?
Reading between the lines of Tehrani’s words, I understand that architecture and design are accessible to everyone and with this we are faced with the challenge of creating new innovative and challenging designs. Well it is definitely easier said than done.
In an academic world (and by this I mean in undergraduate school) it is hard to try to break from these boundaries. Since within the architecture education we are always faced with the challenges of accessing information, looking at precedents and staying tuned with the most recent architecture discourse that happening around us, most of us (students) are probably processing the same information and coming up with very similar projects (look at the influence of B.I.G., Alex Hogrefe and Zaha Hadid.)
I’m arguing that this type of bubble or phenomena has always been a part of the architecture education, but that it has increasingly and exponentially become more notorious. Were as before you had to strictly study within the same school or region, to generate similar type of ideas or projects (think of architecture movements of the past.) Nowadays schools in Istanbul or Caracas, cities located within hundreds of miles apart from each other and with very distinct regional architecture, are probably receiving and processing very similar sources of information. Therefore no matter how strong their local influences might be, due to our connection and influence with World Wide Web, we are trapped in this World Wide Architecture.
It is an academic and professional’s desire to share the knowledge they’ve earned or acquired. In our current environment we are demanded to share who we are and what we do at all times, twenty four hours a day, seven days week (see any type of social network today.) And with that we are constantly asked what we like, who influences our work and what we want to be.
That said, I challenge you and everyone that faces these similar questions and doubts to stop for moment. Slow down and ask yourself, is this what I want to do or who I want to be? Or is this what society expects me to do?
The decisive challenge is to challenge your own ideas and ultimately yourself. The change happens within yourself and how you approach every design and project possible. Is not that it doesn’t matter what Zaha Hadid or Snohetta are doing, but it might simply not apply to what you are trying to create and it’s totally okay if it does not. It’s is not my argument to stop sharing what you are doing, but I do believe we have to stop for a moment and ask ourselves what can my architecture truly do?
As it has always been the case, it is hard to intend to understand architectural education, reflect on our profession today and look to visualize what it would be in the next few years. I challenge you and every fellow architect you know to discuss this and observe where you stand in this argument. It is certainly not an easy task but it’s something that goes beyond passing or failing your next studio project.
Thanks for reading!
Photos by Tony Rinaldo
In reflection of the conversation of architecture education, I strongly recommend reading this two articles published in Architecture Boston this past months.
Lian Chikako Chang wrote ‘Defending your life’ - a brief summary of what involves studying in an architecture school.
Marc Neveu had a conversation with Nader Tehrani and David Hacin called ‘Beaux Arts & Back Again’ about the contemporary architecture education.
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