MIT (Arjun)



Sep '06 - May '08

  • anchor


    By Arjun Bhat
    Mar 9, '07 6:27 PM EST

    So I've been pondering this a lot lately. Perhaps its because of my studio TA-ship, and wondering what it is I should be telling students. Maybe its just a bout of personal reflection. Maybe I'm homesick for the wild and crazy times that was my undergraduate education. Whatever it is, the question is this:

    "What was the single most important thing I've learned till now?"

    I can think of a couple of phrases and exercises posed by my professors in my B.Arch days that could qualify, but filtering out a hierarchy isn't always so clear cut. of note:

    -the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
    -the 12 line diagram (draw your entire concept/building/project/idea/motivation using 12 lines, then do it again, using less)
    -your ultimate goal: totality
    -I am ultimately responsible for my own education
    -a dab of super glue + a dab of tacky glue = the best way to glue together a model

    the list can go on and on, but I'm ending it here.

    Archinecters, I'm curious -- how would you answer the question above???


    • Becker

      architecture is about life, not architecture. my response would be more about a way of thinking about the world, as opposed to architecture itself.

      Mar 10, 07 3:29 am  · 
      Arjun Bhat

      and what would that way of thinking about the world be?

      Mar 10, 07 11:34 am  · 

      I've learned to be responsible and respectful, but not necessarily in the way one might think. I say that this responsibility and respectfulness isn't so apparent because when I tell people (as a fellow studio TA) that these two things are most important, I'm met with confusion and lifetimes of cultural conditioning. I'm also met with confrontation and disdain as a student when I explain my actions in these terms. Allow me to explain with regards to studio:

      If you are responsible and respectful of the tasks at hand and the program for a studio, then you pay some homage to the creator of the program and the faculty at large.

      If you are responsible and respectful of the work you do, taking great care in presentation and craft, then you are saying (without words) to the students and your immediate professor that we're all in this together, and we can learn something from one another.

      HOWEVER, sometimes the most responsible and respectful thing to do is to take a certain position on a design problem and develop it to the fullest. This might be in direct conflict with a given program or the immediate intention with which said program was laid out. You can do this in architectural terms or otherwise, and it's never a waste of time when you pay your due diligence.

      Arjun, totality is extremely important, I agree that I am most responsible for my own education, but I don't know if simplicity is too high on the list as a goal. Complexity of thought and design can lead to unexpected and fascinating results.

      Mar 10, 07 1:53 pm  · 
      Arjun Bhat

      i don't think the K.I.S.S principle is meant to limit complexity, but rather, as a strategy to understand and create complexity that addresses a totality. think of it this way -- if complexity stems from a layering of meaning, interpretation, and improvisation, than the ideation of these layers as systems in and of themselves should be relatively simple, given their eventual juxtaposition -- as a method:

      1. start with a simple framework, but an adaptable one
      2. add more and more related (or, given the project, unrelated) layers onto the idea
      3. complexity emerges from the creation and layering of these relatively simple questions.

      its a reduction of the process, i know - but just to translate the fact that there is a difference between "simple" (ie a refined, clear idea) and simplistic (ie. shallow). I argue for finding the complexity thats possible given very simple origins/questions.

      Mar 10, 07 2:20 pm  · 
      Arjun Bhat

      edit, in the above statement - "a strategy to understand, discover, and create complexity ..."

      Mar 10, 07 2:22 pm  · 

      That's fair, even if it might be a bit of a blanket statement. After any number of reduction steps, I suppose you can simplify anything. So it is reasonable to say that, at a certain base point, you can identify layers (or sublayers) that, while simple, eventually add up to something complex.

      I guess my argument against K.I.S.S. was backlash from studio this semester. I was told about other critiques of other students, and the jist of it is: if you have dumb boxes with your fire stairs you'll do better in the class that if you perform otherwise. I suppose this statement from the critics is meant to motivate students to implement elements of program, just not as an afterthought, although they could just as easily have said, "don't leave firestairs as an afterthought. " It would have been just as powerful, and I may be giving the critics too much credit.

      Sorry, I am rambling now...midterms reviews just ended. I had my firestairs, though.

      Mar 10, 07 3:52 pm  · 
      Kiran Kumar R

      the single most important idea i believe is that there is a thin blur
      line between 'sensibility' and ' arrogance' . it depends which side you are in...

      Mar 11, 07 3:12 am  · 

      I second mhollenstein, that architecture is about life.

      I might add, take nothing for granted. Life is changing all the time, evolving, creating, destructing matter. How can we build containers for such a nebulous thing, if the containers themselves are not also part of the fray? I suppose that's an argument for complexity.

      Mar 15, 07 6:40 pm  · 

      Arjun, what class are you TA'ing?

      Mar 16, 07 12:59 pm  · 
      Arjun Bhat

      i would think that "housing" the "nebulous" forces that would characterize life (and if architecture is about life and not architecture) wouldn't the best canvas or container be one that allows the forces and the activity within and around it to speak, rather than a literal translation of the complexity the architecture serves? I'm not saying their not a part of the system you speak of, but rather, must be sufficiently adaptive and fundamental to be robust enough to fulfill this function you mention.

      an easy example of this is the simple city grid (think:barcelona, Manhattan), this is an example of a simple, elegant system that contains and promotes incredibly complex forms of activity.

      complex architecture and the complexity of life don't necessarily equate.

      I'm TA'ing level one graduate studio.

      Mar 16, 07 1:55 pm  · 

      I think your comment is right on, Arjun. They don't equate, and complexity for its own sake can be detrimental. It serves only a dialogue within itself.

      And simplicity for simplicity's sake? Boring!

      There is a fuzzy line of balance between the poles of letting architecture be the background, or canvas for life to act upon, and architecture foregrounded and shaping the nature of life within. I strive to put my designs right in the middle there. It's the hardest damn thing to do. But when it happens, it's usually because of what you said up there--k.i.s.s.

      I feel it's good to embrace complexity, to not be afraid of what spins out of a process that questions everything. (most of the time it's thrown away, but then again, even throw-away ideas influence the ones that keep). I guess I'm just sick of status-quo architecture, even on the higher plane of design. That's why I say 'take nothing for granted' because it's all going to change, right from under our feet.

      Mar 16, 07 6:20 pm  · 

      Block this user

      Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?


      This is your first comment on Archinect. Your comment will be visible once approved.

    • Back to Entry List...
  • ×Search in:

Affiliated with:

Authored by:

  • Arjun Bhat

Other blogs affiliated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):

Recent Entries