Does Archiseek fill a real need?

Does Archiseek fill a real need?

Postby garethace » Wed Aug 27, 2003 3:46 pm

I mean, after all the drawing is done, all the papers are signed and all of the part-threes are got?

The argument of architects not being able to deal with all the issues now, in my view has distracted people from an important fact. Architects are experts in what they do rightly enough. Dealing with an extremely confused, messy, tangled bird’s nest of problems each and everyday of their lifes.

But sometimes, like going to a church or a mosque to pray, a part of us wants to leave all that outside for a while. A part of us needs to remember once every so often, something which is intangible, but nonetheless real and also very straightforward.

Getting back to first principles of Architecture.

The Trinity spatial analysis projects done in colleges are a classic example. You rarely hear terms like motion, dynamism, walking, time – those words are lost to the architects vocabulary and have been adopted by urbanists.

It is because urbanists use this terms, that architects aren’t allowed to use them? In some odd kind of turf-war over vocabulary.

When in college I was told to make ‘a sequence’ of pencil drawings. Notice the feebleness of the terms used. In ten years experience of attending architectural college, there was never any mention of what the ‘sequence’ of pencil drawings were meant to capture – the notion of the human body experiencing motion through time and space, through the behaviour of walking.

What is this obsession with ‘drawing’ all about – what are we drawing? What is the real subject matter, that the act of drawing by the architect has to deal with? I am very familiar, with many discussions, about how wonderful an experience drawing is... and all of that lark.

No we are not landscape artists – what we are drawing cannot be communicated on paper and pencil – it is fluid, dynamic and perceptual – not anecdotal, not representational - but it is the movment of the body through both space and time.

To understand the impossibility of conveying this experience on paper is central to what an architect does. He/she must accept, and embrace the futility of 'act' of drawing, in order to draw anything.

To describe a place like UCD College campus, requires one to accept the physical negotiation of an environment designed around pedestrians. With this architectural college emphasis upon the act of drawing, rather than the act of walking – we have perhaps understand the sandwich, but neglected to put in the meat.

Architects should ask the question, why do the urbanists talk about pedestrians, cyclists and movement of people nowadays. Yet we talk about building construction, building contractors, building sites and building information models (BIM)?

The supposition that the architectural workforce has become specialised or fragmented into urbanists and architects – is that okay? If losing a keystone of what architecture should be all about, if losing a part of the vocabulary and the impoverishment of the language of architecture is better?

In a housing project for instance, an architect should have a basic understanding of notions about density of people living. The full spectrum of things referred to as density, includes urban sprawl, new urbanism, smart growth and so on. for instance being a good source of material for such as discussion - you will not hear about it, or even be encouraged to investigate things like that in colleges.

This issues need to be discussed openly in public by professors and students. Urbanism needs to be included in the debate, as opposed to being excluded. Otherwise we are fumbling around in the darkness.

That subject in architectural school called ‘Urbanism’ could become a very useful subject, if it was revitalised, freshened-up and focussed properly. To allow young undergraduates to consider the tenets of new urbanism, smarth growth and a thousand other ‘urbanist’ references.

But it isn’t – it is just a big long boring tripe about surveys of populations. Its intended purposefully to give an impression that urbanism is just too long winded, too boring and irrelevant.

Urbanists are presented as complete losers in the great game of life. To reduce urbanism to this level of boredom is just tragic really.

Especially considering so much easily to digest knowledge wealth exists all over the place, even in sites like Archiseek, Cyburbia or Planetizen – which give a proper exciting view of urbanism.

All you really have to do with young people is present it in the correct fashion – their brains generally do the remainder. Archiseek fills a gap in the training of young architects i believe.

The argument that young architects cannot grasp the language of urbanism and pedestrians, as well as the language of architects and building construction, doesn’t wash.

Bear in mind, that most of these young people have undergone a tough syllabus in secondary school – one that is in fact so wide, that nothing in architecture could possibly be any wider. So this idea of narrowing in the focus of the syllabus in third level architectural schools simply doesn’t make any sense.

Short of saying that the profession of architecture is engaged in an all-out turf war with its neighbours – the planners, the conservationists and the environmentalists. A war that it is not gaining either side a thing.

An worse, simply protecting young graduate architects from anything to do with urbanism, new urbanism, smart growth. Making things completely unavailable, off limits to younger undergraduate architects, and even graduates for the better part of their young lives?

I give up, if this profession wants their youth to grow up all stunted, full of prejudice and hatred for neighbouring professionals, despite being perfectly ‘courteous’ amongst themselves, in some kind of ‘golden isolation’ then I give up. A bit like Hitler's retreat back into Germany in the 1940s. Using the Hitler youth to man the battle stations.

All i am trying to say really, is that Archiseek is concerned alot with issues to do with the immediate environment, it can help anyone alot to learn more, become alot more aware of what is going on all around you now.

This act of exploration, through a combination of reading message boards about the city of Dublin, and actively exploring the city on foot, bicycle or car, fills a real need, that the mere sacred act of the architect using his/her pencil on a piece of paper doesn't fill.

Planning and urbanism 'types' tend not to have this problem nearly as much - since their whole day revolves around speaking/discussing/gather experience with issues pertaining to real life, in real-life situations out in the real world. What does the average young graduate architect have to look forward to for the next 10 years?

I pile of information/papers on his/her desk which never gets cleared - and the only possible release from this, is a boozy couple of hours spent each Friday evening getting plastered down at the local. Or a trip over to see Mum and Dad, squeezed in between shopping and the cinema or some such other activity.

Forums like this one, tend to remind us all as architectural professionals, how we are concerned with a real environment and real people. Which are just a little bit more than lines on a page.

If you really want to know something about the mess of information that architects gotten themselves into, by placing themselves right at the vortex of all this s****, read a few paragraphs here.

My advice to younger architects, is do not waste any more time, becoming information managers for architects, since you will probably get as much show of thanks for it, as i got from trying to untangle the mess, in writing up alot of that thread.

If indeed, as Doozer has pointed out, that the work force has become divided and specialised moreso. Why hasn’t the architectural institute any recognition for architects who have invested so much time in the information technology side of things. Why has this training and learning in IT, to be done ‘after-hours’. When young architects, could in fact be reading more Archiseek threads, and becoming familiar with the broader environment.

If the profession really wanted to remain faithful to its younger people, why doesn’t it allow someone who has spent 3 years in architecture – to branch into the IT side of dealing with information etc. Instead of merely saying – “Oh the technicians deal with the IT side of it, but architects don’t?” Why are Architects familiar with IT, deemed unsavoury, unemployable losers – a liability as opposed to an asset? These are questions the profession still has not recognised fully, never mind dealt with.

If you are into Planning, I have heard similar arguments from planners on the brink of learning GIS software, like ARCView and so on.

Just another one of my crazy, misguided suggestions. . .

Brian O'Hanlon.
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Postby J. Seerski » Wed Aug 27, 2003 3:51 pm

I'm confused....
J. Seerski
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Postby garethace » Wed Aug 27, 2003 3:56 pm

Could you be more specific and i might be able to help?
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Postby sw101 » Wed Aug 27, 2003 7:57 pm

why should we be so concerned about the function of the urbanist? architects are clever, but are apt to outsource to relevant third parties when specialisation is needed. its like saying we should be able to do engineering. we get what engineering is, but we get an engineer to do it. we can relate to them and their work, but dont spend all our time on sewerage systems. i know about urban form and stuff, but its not my job to obsess about it.

your arguement isnt holding much water. an architect isnt defined as (s)he who knows all and can do all and can be all. an architect is someone who can choreograph great works, with an understanding of where to go to get the right players at the right time.
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Postby garethace » Thu Aug 28, 2003 2:46 pm

Originally posted by sw101
your arguement isnt holding much water. an architect isnt defined as (s)he who knows all and can do all and can be all. an architect is someone who can choreograph great works, with an understanding of where to go to get the right players at the right time. [/B]

I have read over some of the feedback in the Information and Architecture thread last night. I found the points you are making about orchestration etc, do make alot of sense to me now - reading them again. I am just beginning to get the picture of what yourself and the other posters were in fact talking about.

Now, for my next query.

The following contains an example of the architects ability to 'outsource' duties as you put it. All of us have worked in offices and have been good at a certain aspect of the profession, and perhaps found ourselves very good at some particular aspect, perhaps even too good. But 'outsourcing' computer-type tasks to younger people in practice is not without its problems, i assure you.

Perhaps in this case the architect has been just a little bit too ingenius at out-sourcing - developing students of architectural with a sort of Artificial Intelligence, rather than a real intelligence. The AI side to their personalities, eventually becoming the one that is despised by the 'real architects'.

I was just watching that movie by Steven Spielberg last night called AI. And i must say, his closing remarks on the film were very good indeed. He stated how the human race is making things, which two years ago would have seemed impossible. That is the danger - our own genius.

Like the electric toothbrush, may eventually speak to you in the mornings and give you advice etc, etc. But the thing with all this technology, is not what it gives back to the human species, but we must be very careful what parts of ourselves we put into technology. Some day, will we feel pissed off, to come home and find the dog has swallowed the electric toothbrush, like a part of our lives has been lost?

3DS VIZ/other CG software is similar to the electric toothbrush for the architect. It is not what 3DS VIZ gives us back, but what parts of ourselves are put into it. Paradoxically nowadays, i find it strange that because very young people 'are good' at computers and IT, it is they who are often burdened with the responsibility of 'putting part of themselves' into 3DS VIZ. Yet, it is the older practicioners, not the young people who have the experience, the knowledge and the firm foundation in architectural design.

I have this incredibly dark vision of the story of David in the film AI, being like young architects using 3DS VIZ nowadays. Where you fool the young AI kid into thinking 'Monica is my mom'. You train these machines into presenting themselves in the most attractive way possible to their prospective employment market - be it Lover meccas, Child meccas, Nanny meccas, Teddy meccas.... etc. Then fast forward to the 'Flesh Fair' scene, where all of them are rounded up and pulverised eventually.

Notice the contempt and disgust shown 'by the real human beings' for the artificial ones. They ask them which 'company' did they could from, Cybertronics.... David, who is practically real, finds it the most difficult to accept his faith as merely scheduled for extinction.

This is my whole point about young people using VIZ - it is okay to use VIZ, provided you leave a trail of bread crumbs behind you, so in future you always know exactly how to find your way back to being 'a real architect, who can draw like a real architect, think like a real human architect'.

Otherwise, you might find yourself getting into some rather deep discussions over the morals of whether a computer programme, written by another person - is not a generic code, which repeats itself. Like the one between myself and Doozer, where he said that using computer software, is the ultimate delegation.

That in fact, as an architect you are merely delegating the 'act of really drawing' using a pencil and your hand/eye/brain - to the 'Cybertronics' company, or which ever company wrote the software to begin with. That is the worst possible senario indeed - but if you have a very firm foundation of 'what a real architect does/is' to begin with - then like all the great photographers who have converted to Nikon Digital SLRs, the rock bands who have converted to digital sound systems, the movie directors who make Shrek.... using digital isn't as much a risk. 'Of not being able to find your way back'.

That using computer software, is the ultimate delegation - i would disagree - i think, it is what you put of yourself into the technology, which is important. The trouble is young architects shoved too quickly into the ranks as VIZualists, in my personal opinion have absolutely no trail of bread crumbs left, to follow back again!

The major reason that what urbanists do and talk about, is so, so, so crucial to my perception of myself as an architect being - is that it gives me that very necessary trail of bread crumbs back to reality, back to humanity, back to feeling like i could be a real architect eventually - not an AI machine, due for extinction at the Flesh Fair of Architecture. I find the urbanist's emphasis upon real people, situations, environments etc, etc - has real value for me as a digital architect, rather than a pencil welding one.

Mind you, i would love to explore the pencil drawing aspects, the Santiago Calatrava type of 'architect being able to speak through drawing' idea too - rather than discount it entirely.

I think one cannot discuss something like Le Corbusier’s five points of architecture, without looking at the impact of moving pictures and movie theatres at that time, upon the general public. Even today, our first experience of new ways to travel, of great urban spaces, of the shots of crowds in cities etc, is all through the medium of cinema, television and video/DVD.

It is impossible to go back now, and to imagine what it must have been like for the young Le Corbusier growing up in Switzerland, being energized by these visions of a New Modern World, beyond the pastoral laid back Swiss Cantons. A place where things moved faster, people moved faster and no distance, height or obstacle seemed too large. You only have to look at Ver Une Architecture to see his fascination with this new technology.

But just like the young architects fascination with Information technology nowadays, the young Le Corbusier needed to be able to find his way back to what architecture really is. He must have been able to analyse what the core elements are – to be able to simultaneous jump from the world of smooth curves, hard edges etc of mechanization and huge mass production – back to the world that is architecture. He had to define himself extra carefully as an architect – because with all of this technology, is very easy to get lost, and not be able to find ones way back again.

Le Corbusier explored the 'New High Tech World of the 1920s' through painting and writing literature. By immersing himself into the brand new, mass producing, fast moving Parisian culture back then. He loved to spin around in his blazingly fast 'twenty mile an hour' Citroen beast, with his hair flying in the wind! Just like young architects nowadays love to surf the web, with their blazingly fast Intel Pentium 4 box and broadband superhighway - i think the mouse in the Eircom ad is a very appropriate analogy here indeed.

I think i will photography my first Villa at garache with a Dell box in front of it! :-) What we are experiencing nowadays is the speed of travel of information, not cars. I know of a couple of Citroen addicts in my old architectural college, who would really want to update their architectural symbolism to the 21st century, as oposed to the 20th century. In the 19th century it was railways etc, and grand big cast iron train stations. This IT world is the world the early 21st century architect is faced with.

Le Corbusier also thought about how people live, in his grandiose schemes for Unite, La Pessac and Ville Moderne. His urban ideas were perhaps all bolder-dash, but it allowed him to very quickly jump between different views of architecture, environment, culture, art, science and technology. Don't forget he even designed chairs etc, which are still popular fashion icons - so he really was immersed in everything - a real Leonardo Da Vinci character.

However, for those of us with less brain capacity than Einstein, travelling between the worlds of 3DS VIZ, pencil sketching, urbanism and architecture is one fraught with danger and pitfalls all over the place. I just find it interesting how 3DS VIZ is infact the same tool used by the directors in Hollywood to create movies - and how that that mirrors with Le Corbusiers early 20th century, cinematic view of a new world in motion.

Brian O' Hanlon.
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