Everyone needs everything.

Everyone needs everything.

Postby garethace » Sun Sep 07, 2003 5:21 pm

Louis Kahn’s famous phrase was, “Everybody needs everything”. Louis Kahn tried to give the client/user of his architecture much greater dignity and deeper experience of architecture, than is required or specified in the normal, regular architect/client/contractor agreement.

Agree or disagree.

It is my own firm conviction that, most great architects down through history have in fact gone beyond that traditional client/architect relationship or inter-dependency. Louis Kahn's relationship with his clients bears out this fact. Louis often continued to design projects such as Luanda, long after he had even lost the commission. Louis Kahn stopped working for developers in Philadelphia, on large urban River front projects, because he suspected them of merely using his name to gain weight in commercial developments.

The Architectural Spa-bath.

I am increasingly aware nowadays of a growing designer culture, and the amount of TV series simply based around design/gardens/interiors etc. Using the premise that the current Architectural profession merely supervises actual building contracts rather than providing a total design service to clients. I have something in mind that may happen in the future. As clients are becoming sophisticated, design-aware and so is visualisation technology.

The provision of design and visualisation services may warrant a new contract. One that doesn’t inherently specify the need to build whatever is visualised. The resulting visualisations from this pre-process may actually contain a lot of useful information. About what the client/user would actually need or want. It would be a nice little database of ideas, personal to that client and what (s)he or they, actually would like to build. Like the hair stylist keeps your colour records in the salon!

The client could look upon this service as a preparatory exercise to actually going to visit a real Architect to agree to actually build anything. In a way, the client could play a much more sophisticated role in the design process, from much earlier on. Allow themselves some time to familiarise and to be comfortable with some of the jargon, idiosyncrasies, the issues/strategies of designing architecture. In reality, it would be a kind of prep-school, or ‘Architecture for Dummies’ manual, or even a kind of Spa-bath of Architecture.

This understanding by the client could ultimately be useful to the Architect later on. I mean why wait to six months prior to construction before designing a vision of the house of your dreams? Or why wait six months before construction to envision what the new Town Hall may look like? Too often in practice the client has to learn how to ‘get what the architect is saying’ on-the-fly.

They have to worry about finances, time schedules and a host of other things etc, while trying to listen to what an Architect is waffling on about – in a different language to normal people. I am sure that most Architecture firms are going full throttle trying to build stuff, rather than envision stuff. So most clients are not welcome in the Architects practice, merely as curious individuals trying to figure out what how they can understand Architectural design.


Brian O' Hanlon.
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The Architectural Café.

Postby garethace » Mon Sep 08, 2003 11:37 am

Architects merely providing a visualisation service would become a risky business indeed. If the client was satisfied with his/her visualisation, or virtual building model design (whatever the format, technology is improving in this area all of the time) – what is to stop him/her/they then going directly to a very sophisticated contractor and saying, “Here you go, have your draughtsman detail this up because I want you to build it”. The real bad omen is when the Architect severs this ancient umbilical chord between him/herself and the building contractor.

Kenneth Frampton has explored this notion in a very weighty tomb he wrote, tracing the connection between various Architects and construction. Mies van der Rohe said “God is in the Details”. Whereas Mies was indeed a wonderful builder of buildings, and great Architecture. His relationship to his client was different to that of Louis Kahn. He told Mrs. Farnsworth basically to go bugger off, when she was unpleased with his efforts. Then you have his young student at MIT, Philip Johnson who managed to compromise the purity of the Farnsworth design solution, and build the Glass house and other little houses. Which gave more back to the participant, but which also followed up the strict Miesian belief in ‘Master Builder’. Johnson didn’t obsess as much over, ‘What is a brick’. Louis Kahn designed Yale, and other early projects against a backdrop in America of very Miesian puritanical design values. They were like a portable ‘Lego kit’ the architect was given to make Miesian solutions.

Whereas Kahn, Shroder etc gave you light, space, views – much more. Mrs. Schroder was apparently quite instrumental in keeping Mr. Schroder 'on track' to design something way ahead of its time in Holland. Some Architectural Journals do come with good details of the construction, and possibly a rough breakdown of costing and procedures for fabrication. Personally I like the idea of breaking a design down into costs in an Excel spreadsheet. It does bring an air of reality to whole process.

On the other hand, Kahn could have built a lot more works than he did, but would often refuse to design a project, which was half the cost than what he had envisioned. Louis Kahn was trained in the classical system of drawing esquisse designs, to get ones head around the brief/client/user. This aspect of Architectural design travelling into Modern Architecture via Louis Kahn by strange coincidence. Since there is alot of evidence to suggest Kahn, did at first attempt to copy some Pilotis plans, a la Le Corbusier - but seeing them now, the columns etc just look like tree trunks than pilotis. So this whole Miesian business of slenderness of proportions, just didn't work at any level for the young Louis Kahn.

Frank Gehry doesn’t design/envision using a computer, but with more traditional physical scale models and Architectural drawings. Only inputting that information into the computer, via 3D digitising methods, to later become very accurate construction documentation given to a builder. He doesn’t actually conceive Architecture in the computer, as some people often think – when they see those very nice CATIA visualisations. So at the end of the day, you are still getting a real Frank Gehry design, not some binary solution made by CATIA Inc.

Yet I do question why the Computer Visualisation happens at the end of the design process. When the Architect is practically ready to go and compile tender documentation. There is this nervous anticipation on the part of the Architect, will his/her client like the visuals, having gone to so much trouble in preparing a design. Months of hard work can just go down the toilet, if the client sees a problem with the 3D visuals. I have asked several really excellent young Architects you use 3D modelling software, if they would show a client their 3D Visuals. They said no, only the standard 2D documentation – rather than confusing the client or give them an opportunity to get ‘cold feet about actually building the project’.

But on the other hand, take for example, the client with 1 million to spend on a house, four times the size of a normal dwelling. This type of client, and many other clients on government boards, with high-powered lifestyles and jobs are used to being pampered and treated to a very lavish array of services. Don’t tell me they cannot afford to have visualisations done of their project/house/Master Plan. Whether they ever build these grand visions is beside the point. Already a lot of Architecture firms, do drawings, visuals and physical models for clients/projects that will never be realised. But you can ‘never say never’, not in this game.

Architects normally contract to take responsibility for the construction documentation – not visualisation. They administer the timely, and economical completion of the building works and fabrication. But clients often do worry and become very apprehensive. This is always eased by a few good visuals. When I did 3D visuals for the clients, I felt a bit like an in-house counselling service to the client. On large government jobs, a nice physical model can soothe the client’s conscience and allow them to feel like an important part of the whole great merry-go-round. Without understanding what a foundation, a bill of quantities or what scaffolding is like. Instead of being invisible beings, in this drawing office of busy secretaries, noisy telephones and busy Architects.

Some clients are developers, but were previously building contractors, or Planners, or one thing or another. Born and raised in the trade, and used to looking at building plans. But some clients aren’t, and I think the beauty of Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi and these kinds of Architects, was being able to design such wonderful little buildings for very simple but nonetheless dignified everyday people. Without being very patronising to them, that is. I find this whole ‘Ken Stark’ designer culture to be very patronising. But still house wives and a lot of men nowadays seem to buy it wholesale.

They can spend hours strolling around stores, imagining what the new living room could be like, while stopping to have coffee and discuss purchases from a catalogue. When they come to an Architectural firm, they are lucky to get a mug of coffee. Not to mind a computer visual. While they have to listen to everything their Architect often talking in a completely foreign language.

I would ultimately see this pre-visualisation contract/process as satisfying a growing hunger amongst affluent, trendy younger people for habitat types of leisure activities. Something a person and their potential partner could do on Sunday mornings.

I would ultimately see the service being primarily web-enable. Meaning that anyone, their family, friends, neighbours etc could visit the design visualisation, and offer opinions or suggestions to the young trendy web-savy couple, on a message board. The young couple might then be able to respond to their friends suggestions, and learn to think more about what they are designing, paying for ultimately. Gradually making the final decision to go ahead and build/decorate more real, but not too real. I can imagine even a few younger practicising Architects taking advantage of such a service too. Rather than have their partner constantly bicker them about ‘drawing up some ideas’.

I am reminded primarily of that film starring Michael Douglas called, “The Game”. But also the current crop of reality TV shows – the line between reality and fiction is very blurry indeed nowadays.

Brian O’ Hanlon.
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Postby garethace » Wed Sep 10, 2003 1:59 pm

I boils down really to one simple thing. The traditional well-trodden path taken by Architect after Architect over the past 100 years has been this. (You referred to this in saying it is hard not to go with the flow) The natural flow is:

1. Architect meets with a client willing to build.

2. Architect builds a building for that client.

3. Architect then draws concept sketch for the building and proceeds to talk to other Architects and to post-rationalise what (s)he has done. That is when the cheques have all cleared and the Architect has some spare time to waffle and debate. Everything looks rather different in hindsight. The Architect doesn’t really discuss his/her work with the client, but with other Architects.

4. Architect then publishes their words, opinions and photographs of their work in a magazine.

5. Architect then becomes famous and a household name amongst circles of rich clients and other Architects.

6. Architect then perpetuates the myth, their very own celebrity status as a media creation. But the actual person is ultimately lost in the dog and pony show of meetings, pin-stripe suits, laptops, contracts and money earning.

7. Then Architect has to become a father figure to the whole profession, and digs deep into their souls for something really cool to describe what they actually do. How many lectures like this have I attended now?

Where is the need to interrupt the above process with a VIZualisation? If the system isn’t broken then why try to fix it. The most it can hope to achieve, is to simply interrupt the REALisation process. That is really why I invented this artificial client-driven idealistic fantasy world, where clients could just come into Architects and have a virtual home built online, and invite all their friends over etc. I am really tired of people describing architects like Louis Kahn, as late bloomers. That Kahn never built anything in his life, and then suddenly started building all of these buildings. Perhaps Kahn had just gotten to know himself and others better at that stage?

One person said to me recently, “Go and build something and then you might know what Architecture is all about”. I wonder is that the problem, that Architects are in a mad rush to build something? I think that Louis Kahn has left behind him, as many UNBUILT great projects as REALISED great projects. And what he actually built seems to have this timeless quality about it. It does not look like something built in the 20th century often, and I believe he actually liked it like that. Having attempted to do modern glass facades, and slim columnar 5 points stuff. Yet in the current profession something, which is un-realised is deemed to be inferior. As if most Architects actually got on planes and taxis to visit that much Architecture anyhow. As if looking at the real photography of a new building in a magazine, was any different from looking at a VIZualisation. You see the blatant hypocrisy? I am a bit of a Conrad Gallagher I suppose, an Irish chef who worked in plenty of PLAZA, four/five star Hotels in Manhattan, before returning to Dublin and eventually ending up broke to the sum of millions.

He still cannot see the problem with that, and most of the people who did work for him are now owning/running their own restaurants, while he is broke. Nothing moved fast enough for Conrad, and that is the problem with the Architectural profession too, if you are the Conrad Gallagher type. You will try to force it to change and ultimately fail I suppose. I should be a very respectable, professional, delegating Architect here in Ireland. But somehow, I managed to take all of my enthusiasm, training, ambition, skills and talent – and throw it all away for some kind of crazy ideal. I will be 29 years of age in November and I still haven’t a clue where the last ten years of my life actually went. So fighting against the system, and insulting/criticising other young/old professionals in the process is about the best recipe for a disaster I know of.

Text book example nowadays, Frank Gehry. (Even though I could have chosen Rem Koolhaas, but he is more the Urbanist/Architect and fills the shoes of Le Corbusier) I think Gehry fills the shoes of Mies nowadays. I really don’t know who fills the shoes of Kahn anymore, if anyone. Frank Gehry would have said, the Architect is the child in the process and the Builder is parential. If you straighten out this wall, it will cost you 1 million less. The Architect is NOT necessarily looking after the clients interests, the building contractor is. On the other hand, Frank employs a system of computerisation, which does a lot of the builders work. The builders trust, know and love Frank Gehry. Now the Architect is the one who is parental in the design process. But in the United States, the insurance companies, or the lawyers haven’t actually yet defined where Frank stands in relation to all of this – this brand new definition of the role the Architect plays in the building contract proceedure.

I would like to compare Frank Gehry to Mies van der Rohe, and the Master Builder concept. And Frank designs with cardboard models, etc and pencil sketches. He is always very proud to show his sketches for any project, and often how little they changed in the final CATIA model. Like Mies van der Rohe, sat down one day with a young student at MIT and just looked at a drawing for an hour without saying anything. Then went out of the room, and none of the students said anything either. But they knew exactly what he meant – to look at what you are drawing! I guess the Chicago School education style, and the one I received (Prepare to receive the true Lord, as in the film Gangs of New York) in Ireland, while at Bolton Street D.I.T. was like that.

No reading or discussion, only drawings and their perusal by myself and the staff. I think that the Chicago school, from what I understand of Werner Blaser’s books on the subject anyhow, was all about learning to feel the building through the weight of your pencil. To distinguish between a heavy line, or a light line and what have you. Even in the 1:20 detail profile, showing the steel sections for the builder to actually use. A lot like the way Gehry uses CATIA Technology nowadays to become parential to the client in the building fabrication process. I am sure the computer visualisation is a very good tool, because Mies allowed his students to make photorealistic models of all their thesis projects.

But there is another kind of Architect too, the one who develops the client relationship a lot more. I talked a lot about how VIZ can teach you to see the world around you. Louis Kahn was very aware of how people experience and use his buildings. From all points of view, like how we use a room, a corridor (or sneak passages as he called the modern equivalent in high-schools etc), how natural daylight is the giver of all presences. Which does lead me to think if Louis were here today, he would expect to use Computer visualisation technology to see how a space might in fact work. Even though his many models and sketches are all excellent vechicles of his understanding about clients/sites/briefs etc.

Unlike the Medical industry becoming really client oriented, the Architecture profession treats those same well off clients very poorly in my view. I have seen company execs and rich house wives being practically shoved around by Architects. I mean the doctor is a professional, but that doesn't prevent him showing courtesy to good clients. The doctor develops a real relationship to his/her client I think, and that helps him to diagnose the problems, notice mood changes etc.

Architecture might change some time in the future though, and become more of a fully-grown service to the client rather than a contract supervisory sort of thing. BTW, the architectural salon and cafe are just like the George Orwell 1984 fantasy, not really what I think will happen, but no one knows what could happen. Louis Kahn was an architect who showed us how to become deeply related to the client, rather than the building contractor. Without allowing the client to diagnose the illnesses for you that is. He managed to show us, how Modernism with a little help from Beaux Arts times could in fact be more than what Mies had shown us.

In the ‘How Designers Think’ book by Bryan Lawson, Michael Wilford who was a partner with James Stirling explains how difficult it is sometimes to deal with clients on larger master planning projects. Because sometimes the client is a large council or board, which can often change many times over the course of a longer design process. Indeed sometimes the Architect is the only remaining individual who began the process at the start. For a students final thesis here in Ireland, students are asked to develop a real relationship to a client.

I remember one young man who wanted to design an Airport and took his motorbicycle out to Aer Lingus, to get a brochure from a receptionist! (Crash helmet under his arm) But at least he made an effort! Most students bypass that stage of the ordeal completely and draw, draw, draw. Walking the site as opposed to looking at an OS Map of the site, is another point I would like to talk more about. But for the sake of simplicity at the moment I will omit this discussion.

The client isn't always the user in Architecture either unlike medicine. At the very moment, the Architect is like the hired bulldog, who goes for the builders. A big hired artillery, a bit more like a lawyer I suppose in that respect. This temperament doesn't quite suit the client relationship thing as well though. And I honestly do wonder, how much of the client/Architect relationship has indeed become watered down – through this insistence upon directing the builder’s operations from an office/contract. The reason I am just curious, is mainly owing to the fact, that my Bolton Street education has been so dogmatic about the building technology side of things.

I have at the very end of all of this, come up with one single lasting truth. It is simple, and was staring me in the face for years before I eventually saw it. Someone said to me the other day, not everything in life comes to you on a plate. It is funny I didn’t actually know what that person meant by that statement and I casually brushed it off initially. That is, until I was chatting to a very knowledgeable music type of individual. He asked me to explain Architecture to him, as best as I could. I proceeded into my normal long effort of what I think Architecture is/is not. But suddenly I drew back and said, lets wait a minute here – perhaps things don’t always come handed to you on a plate. So I suggested that I e-mail him a few hyperlinks, to some of my deeper discussions about the topic at Archiseek.

I mean, isn’t there something in the effort of reading? Isn’t there some sense of achievement when you have finished that page, and worked yourself to understand something relevant or important? I mean if I give it straight up on a plate in a pub/cafe, to some guy who thinks he knows everything (and possibly does too) about music, did that person have to work for that? No. So my question is precisely this, why isn’t Architecture education about students learning how to read AS WELL as learning how to draw? I mean to say, why does Architectural education teach young people to be like puppy dogs, lapping up just any old mess that is thrown in front of them, in the form of rhetoric, buzzwords, slang and drivel?

I think there is a triple wammy in Architecture, you have to walk quite a lot of ground to understand the site. To read quite a lot to develop skills of debate and criticism. And to draw a lot to understand what you draw is eventually read by the builder who fabricates what you draw. But is the reading part gone? Is information just tasty bite sized chunks now? A seudo, pre-processed version of the real thing, and are we all like puppies? Until the Architecture profession does learn to be a thinking, a probing, a questioning profession, it will perhaps never ask the right questions about itself. Not to mind find any of the right answers. And I go back to my friend Louis Kahn once more: “A good question is always much better than the best answers”.

I don’t think for a second it was so sad how Louis Kahn died in a toilet cubicle in some foreign airport, on the way back from Pakistan to the United States. It just explains what a great affection the man really did have for his clients, his site and the whole rich process of designing Architecture. I imagine more young architects nowadays would just say to hell with that. E-mail me over some digital photos of the site, and a schedule of accommodation – I will have something for you by Friday. That is I suppose the biggest criticism I have of projects like the Egyptian Museum one in Cairo. At least the winning entrants actually flew over and drove around the dusty roads, in some Egyptian guys Taxi!

Brian O’ Hanlon.
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Postby shadow » Wed Sep 10, 2003 2:53 pm

"Then you have his young student at MIT, Philip Johnson who managed to compromise the purity of the Farnsworth design solution, and build the Glass house and other little houses. "

Johnson was a student at Harvard, a mature student, who built in Cambridge a neo miesian house,while studying there under gropius.

The descent into style was originated by Johnson while curating at MOMA "The International Style"... book with Hitchcock as well, funded heavily by family interests.......
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Postby garethace » Wed Sep 10, 2003 5:33 pm

I wonder where this Mies, Johnson connection came from? Did they have any friendship? I know that Mies used to like to have young students call into his apartment to tell stories, and drink brandy etc.

Did you ever hear the story about Wright knocking on the windows of the Glass house looking for the door?
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Postby Paul Clerkin » Wed Sep 10, 2003 5:41 pm

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Postby garethace » Wed Sep 10, 2003 6:09 pm

Apologises btw, for my ridiculous behaviour of dragging individuals like Konrad Gallagher into the discussion, but I am just looking at analogies for Architecture as a service industry. Things like exclusive clinics where professionals pander to the clients every need. Boob jobs? I mean there is no point in turning over millions, if you still are insolvent at the end of the day. How ‘serviceable’ can the Architecture profession actually become, before you are putting too much of what you earn back into the service to your client. Considering that a good visualists salary might be more than what some Architects make. On the other hand, I have seen Architect saying to clients basically, you are important up to a point, but basically you will have to take whatever I give you. Or what the builder can build, and I can stand over. Were Architects like Kahn unable to delegate, was that model of professional practice a bit like ‘in an era of tall cuisine, it was the tallest cuisine around’? Certainly Kahn did go to great pains, compared to other professionals to care about his clients/users.

I just feel the debate as to how an Architect handles a client, has received altogeher much less attention, than other aspects like Building Construction. Especially in Bolton Street and places. Is that a mistake, or a limitation of the profession? Your guess is about as good as mine, since i have ever built anything.

Brian O' Hanlon.

P.S. A poster at another message board, did offer his point of view as follows, and it might tie in with what Cathal O'Neill has said in fact.

Architecture on the everyday level is so lacking in detial and feeling. You seem to allude to this in many of your posts. SO much of this has to do with the costs. It's easy to draw a dark shadow line on the buildings cornice, it can cost so much more to actually create it. The "Builders" very quickly reduce the cornice dimensions to typical lumber sizes or less costly profiles. In an effort to minimze costs and maximize profits, usally on the clients behalf. Where does this leave the architect... "You can't beat um jion um".

This is similar to the Firefighters here in the US. Thier unions and associations fought to ultimately eliminate wood truss construction. Due to the inherent rapid failure rate in fire. Many still to this day have a real problem with wood truss construction. Commercial use is protected by automatic sprinkler systems from, at least in part, that effort. But the real piont I'm making is, not one FF I know opted for the additional cost of standard wood framing in thier own homes. Go figure. At the end of the day it's about costs.
Ideals fade quickly when it costs money.


So I suppose really what Mies and Kahn did have in common, was being able to prepare a design, which was perfection of sorts – either from the build-ability point of view, or the clients/user experience point of view. And that the Architects ability to draw, sketch or design spaces that people can enjoy happens before and not after the building has been constructed. Sounds like a convincing explanation of what an Architect does alright, and a good defense of his/her major activity – that of handling equisse designs, sketches, working drawings etc. Working through the language of a drawing to learn more about a project. Except in Kahn, it was a lot more like a classical, ancient esquisse drawing. Whereas in Mies, it was a rational means by which to build.

The purpose of the exercise was clear; it is, after all, the basis of every architect's work process to propose, observe, refine. But the lesson was clear: architects spend too much time proposing and rarely enough time observing and refining.


I like this quote from Cathal O’Neill, a description similar in fact to the practice of reading. Instead of just consuming little bites of information in handy disposable quantities.
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Self-reflecting architects

Postby reener » Sun Sep 28, 2003 2:55 pm

My dad is a goldsmith, and when my cousin came to him when he was getting married with the request for rings for him and his future wife, my dad listened to their story and send them away… with homework.
To first let the client get its thoughts in one line and do some research on what they really want instead of rushing into something the architect likes and they kind of too, but afterwards have second thoughts about (as you suggested with the VIZualisation of designs to clients). Why not let THEM look around them as well! And let them come back a little while later. Explain to them what a design is about: light, TASTE, materials, open and/or enclosed spaces within or outside the building…
while they go out and look for what kind of stuff they want to fill their brief with and have suggestions for the design itself: because the design will BE FOR THEMSELVES!! And not just an illustration of skill of the architect. For WHY does an architect design? Because clients WANT them to. Clients often don’t have the skill, means, and knowledge to put their ideas onto paper, or visual computerised models or write it down in words (speaking about what kind of emotions the building has to produce, what kind of atmosphere they want to have inside).

The standard 2D drawings are very nice for the contractor, for the architect, for his colleagues to praise him about and for the client to be amazed about. NOT knowing how he should see the drawings in context to the real thing. I know some architects who take the clients brick-and carpet-shopping. This form takes it a bit far, but you cant say it doesn’t create a cosy atmosphere in which the client has appreciation of what that funny man actually does. He/she sees it being created while they go along. And he doesn’t want to take the architect off the project because through the process, the client knows the architect is a vital piece of in the puzzle out of which his project is going to be realised to his wishes. The architect leads, supervises, steers and controls the whole process from inception to completion.
-just a reflection of what stages all this goes through-
… inception, outline proposals, scheme design, detail design/building regulations/product information, production information, tender action, project planning, operations on-site and completion …
years of ‘hassle’, joy in your profession, long hours, creative inspiration through what you do and self-improvement.

“Designers are peculiar creatures within the realm of professionals. While ideally concerned with making the world a better place, the actions of design practitioners are tied to immense, costly, and spatially bound products. Their work engenders the complexities of politics, culture, and environment, blending artistic practises with technical expertise. Together, these characteristics distinguish the design professions from other professions, creating the special conditions that confront design practitioners.”
- A quote from Dana Duff out of “Design Professionals and the Built Environment” -
The world of architecture is really broad, covering many sides: politics, culture, environmental aspects, artistic ideas and technical expertise for example have to be part of any design anyway, or at least, they should be part of it. Matters that define a scheme, and matters, which are necessary to come to those definitions. “Why” is a very important part in the latter.

I study architecture at the HAN-university in Arnhem, and also every Friday and Saturday on the academy of architecture…
We get classes in construction (to design something that is at least possible…), working experience on-site, to be able to stand in the contractors feet… and classes in concepts/presentation/expression from actors (who teach you to work with words, to simply explain something to someone in shapes, emotions, colours etc…), painters which let you express emotion, get a feeling for colours. and architects: who let you design and let you present your design, after which it is discussed: WHY. And architecture in a way to discuss buildings of this and other times to see why, how, relations to other architects, different styles, methods of work etc…
The whole idea is that your way of thinking is questioned: WHY! That’s the eternal question in architecture: why did you draw it up like you did, why this line there and not there, why brick, why follow what they did, why copy him, and not him, why why why…
A self reflection on ‘why’ is very important if you want to design, even to question your own motives: why you are going in the way you are. Why did you choose to follow the international style, or go for the organic way of designing a building. Why NOT interact with clients, or am I doing it too much… every one of us has to do this all the time before we mess up. Where did the time go??? What did I do I am still proud of, still remember. Why didn’t I do it differently. Why am I not going to change right now? Or you like the way in which you are heading: keep going in that particularly chosen way: WHY NOT?

This is what I wrote in the introduction of a report during my working experience with Scott Tallon Walker architect in my time in Dublin.
-Who are architects really? People think architects make loads of money, draw a lot, drink lots of coffee, should be innovative & otherwise creative, but many of them are not.
But above all: they are looked at with awe: 7-11 years of intensive training (in Holland), late studying and many times exhausted, these are some of the typical stories you hear about architects. It is only now I’m beginning to understand what it is all about; for participation in the creation of something never done before, (which is actually going to be built), is a new experience in itself for most students.-
And it IS.
“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel: look around you: you’re not the first person in this world to think of a building… look at what your neighbour did, and the guy across the road. If you think you're innovative and new and original you’re pretty ignorant or just not that well familiar with the world of architecture around you. Look and you will find.” Was something an experienced architect mentioned to me…

A better enthusiastic comment to young architects is one by Donald P. Grant:
“There has never been a better time to be a young and aspiring beginner in the design professions. You will hear many discouraging words and expressions of despair about the limited power of architects and planners, the inappropriately low income of architects, and the degree of inference that architects and planners suffer in trying to realise their visions. But you should not be discouraged, and you should not despair. These are problems to be overcome, and you must work to overcome them, just as creators and innovators have always faced problems that they have had to overcome in order to realise their visions. The great thing to remember is that the opportunities that you will have to make, make human life better by design and planning are probably greater than they have ever been, and that is why you as students are preparing for a life’s work in what can be a great and golden age of design and planning. The biggest problems that you will face will not be negative problems, life frustration, rejection, interference, or inadequate income. They will be the greatest and most positive of problems: can you generate, refine and fight for visions appropriate to the greatness of the opportunities that the future will offer? Of course you can. Now work hard, think deeply and imagine greatly as you prepare yourselves, and then go out into the world and do it.”

Those were his closing words and also mine right now…
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Postby garethace » Mon Sep 29, 2003 11:27 am

This article is good on clients and architecture, with some details of the guys who employ BDP, Allies and Morrison and David Chipperfield.

For WHY does an architect design? Because clients WANT them to. Clients often don’t have the skill, means, and knowledge to put their ideas onto paper, or visual computerised models or write it down in words (speaking about what kind of emotions the building has to produce, what kind of atmosphere they want to have inside).


That it is indeed about the best no bullshit definition of an Architect I have ever heard. It is about the only definition of an Architect that was good enough for me - I don't subscribe to these definitions of Architects being master builders and such, even though that definition has some useful concepts embedded within it too, from a theoretical point of view, or for larger practices such as the Frank Gehry's of the world.

While ideally concerned with making the world a better place, the actions of design practitioners are tied to immense, costly, and spatially bound products. Their work engenders the complexities of politics, culture, and environment, blending artistic practises with technical expertise.


I guess Dana Duff is correct, while the Architect can develop a good relationship to a client, the building is ultimately a piece of 21 century construction technology.

I study architecture at the HAN-university in Arnhem, and also every Friday and Saturday on the academy of architecture…
That is an interesting concept, because what is missing in Dublin at the moment, is some kind of alternative institution for students to visit and find out about issues not covered in the main body of the course. Issues like wondering what a client does in the process, how a building gets realised/built/assembled, or how are the City corporation urban planners responsible for the spatial strategies and environment which its dwellers use. In normal Studio programmes, the idea of a real client, a real building or real planning bodies influencing your design are lost. Sometimes, when the tutors attempt to integrate Urbanism, and structural-ism or constructural-ism into the main studio course, it can confuse rather than enhance.

So I am all for separate courses or studies in parallel to the main course.

A self reflection on ‘why’ is very important if you want to design, even to question your own motives: why you are going in the way you are. Why did you choose to follow the international style, or go for the organic way of designing a building.


There are so many different strands in the every-day life of an Architect, what happens normally is that Architects develop one very strong visual eye, and one very lazy, or weak theoretical eye. What doctors do with young kids, is they put a patch on one eye to force the child to use the other one and develop better harmonious binocular vision. Because we see with our brains rather than seeing with our eyes. I like Ching's books about architecture, because he simultaneously teaches you to see with your eyes and your brain.

The standard 2D drawings are very nice for the contractor, for the architect, for his colleagues to praise him about and for the client to be amazed about. NOT knowing how he should see the drawings in context to the real thing.


Students in colleges develop one lazy eye for theoretical sides, or questioning sides of Architecture - that is the fault of the educational approach, and one which I have always rejected to and hence my lack of sucess in college of Architecture.

But I believe Architecture should be binocular, one should be forced to see with both eyes, both sides of the brain. Unfortunately if you want to do this, others will acuse you of 'rocking the boat too much' or of being a pain in the ass. Architecture has never invested anything is ways to study/learn/teach Architecture. It has never had the cash resources available for R&D into how it should teach a body of knowledge. It has just been content to allow Architecture be fire fighting, saying that time is the enemy, complexity is the enemy, cost is the enemy, the client wasn't good enough or the government doesn't understand properly. 101 reasons all why good Architecture is just a theoretical fantasy - almost a figment of the imagination.

“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel: look around you: you’re not the first person in this world to think of a building… look at what your neighbour did, and the guy across the road. If you think you're innovative and new and original you’re pretty ignorant or just not that well familiar with the world of architecture around you. Look and you will find.” Was something an experienced architect mentioned to me…


Mies van der Rohe said, Architecture is about proposing, observing and refining. But Architects spend too much time proposing and not enough time observing and refining.

These are problems to be overcome, and you must work to overcome them, just as creators and innovators have always faced problems that they have had to overcome in order to realise their visions.


So why doesn't Architecture today force itself to 'cover its strong eye' and use the lazy side? Rocking the boat,... Architecture has worked very hard to collect as many complicated arguments as it can, to why it cannot operate efficiently today. This exercise of looking for ways to NOT build, not design, not allow more young people qualify as Architects, making the requirments for a degree in Architecture more and more.... not looking for the right kind of people to become architects, not investing anything in R&D... it has all crippled Architecture badly. Architecture isn't a flowing metaphor of human creativity now - serving the human soul - it is fire-fighting for its life - and it cannot serve the human soul in that way. If it doesn't watch out, it might not be able to serve people at all in the future. That is why the client, and taking care of the client is more important to me than master building.

For WHY does an architect design? Because clients WANT them to. Clients often don’t have the skill, means, and knowledge to put their ideas onto paper, or visual computerised models or write it down in words (speaking about what kind of emotions the building has to produce, what kind of atmosphere they want to have inside).


That is basically my base of operations, around which everything else would revolve.

Brian O' Hanlon.
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