Learning to wear the third skin.

Learning to wear the third skin.

Postby garethace » Tue Oct 14, 2003 5:59 pm

The confusion or mess of different issues associated with doing a very long course in Architecture does impose enormous stress on both the individual student and the system of education required to teach Architecture. I think the senior years in Architecture School aught to be about laying foundations for good practice later on in life. Part of that foundation should for me include learning to cope with all the current mess and confusion of issues an Architect must deal with.

In my late twenties, I am still young enough to incorporate many new and difficult ideas into my understanding of Architecture. Yet I am old and experienced enough to learn those ideas much better than someone much younger. Things such as pedestrian movement and other phenomenological aspects of Architecture indeed do form the backbone of many a good design scheme. Yet I have devoted very little of my effort until very recently toward studying these reality-based phenomena for myself. In short I needed to work toward an integration of many different phenomena in Architecture. But do so in a manner that avoided confusion and wasted effort. So I could speak about Architecture like a third skin I can wear, or conceptualise independently for myself.

In college or work experience I would normally find myself doing incubation work for a design concept, or working on the earliest, broadest brushwork stages to an Urban Master Plan project. One must learn to appreciate Architecture first as a third skin. In order to design Architecture and urbanism, one must first feel comfortable in Architecture and urbanism. To design anything in Architecture requires one to have good understanding of peoples’ everyday interaction with their environment. Developing the project is ultimately about refining its diagrams on many levels.

Unfortunately I believe the Studio environment in Architecture college, or the office environment in work experience can be too studio/office based. An experience of Dublin city in the cold, damp month of November or December doesn’t make the best third skin I will admit. But imagine if by some miracle the Architecture Studio program in the colleges could be run over the summer? Though often perceived as an opportunity to ‘get away’ from the worries of doing projects, etc, I must be understood that summertime is the best time to experience much Architecture, cities, spaces and places. Especially as one can experience the built environment, and observe how the cities inhabitants manage use the city as an amenity. The streets, parks and public spaces become spaces for availabilities.

I think it is all too easy to build up a negative perception of the urban environment, from spending too many cold winters merely ‘holed up’ in a warm college or office environment somewhere. During summer months, people will tend to move greater distances in the city and more frequently. It is important to appreciate the environment as a place connected together by strands of transport infrastructure, walkways, cycle ways and bus lanes. I know it is not that common a practice, for a University student to study the environment in so much detail. But in fairness, how many other courses do require a student to design the built reality?

Students of fashion design will spend long hours making and constructing the clothing concepts for their models to wear. Architecture students are not so lucky having to depend upon the diagrams they draw to illustrate their meaning. The trouble with my development of awareness of the built environment is having to devote more time as I get older to reading the observations of experts like Lynch, Jacobs, Bacon and others. I have found the Local Area Master Plans produced by County Councils and City Councils a god send. Because I can experience those environments myself on bicycle, on foot or by automobile transport.

It is very hard to advance towards becoming an Architect, if one does not possess the coherent framework of human perception necessary to organize the huge amount of knowledge, awareness and learning a Student does over the years in Architecture school. Architecture has become more than ever before, a confusing mess of Computers, Graphics, Projects, Clients, sabbatical years, repeat years, changing college staff, aging college staff, personal study and experience of Architecture. The class trips, the class walks around town, the wonderful design projects, the very interesting discussion, freehand drawing exercises, development of observation, site analysis and lectures on urbanism. I see Architecture as a real opportunity to get badly confused, disorientated, sidetracked and even mislead.

As if drunk on the weight of information and learning the Architecture student receives, confidence and motivation can quickly slide into disorientation and apathy – in a New York minute. The widespread success of the third level education system in Ireland has much to do with the quality of secondary school education. Without a good foundation, it would be very difficult to manage all the challenges presented by Third Level. I think studying Architecture in third level is similar to starting without that foundation – since very few of the skills developed in Secondary school are useful in Bolton Street or UCD. In short the young Architectural student has been deprived of the most basic form of independence they possess – a good secondary education.

Architecture is about the only third level course, out of the whole panorama of courses, that hasn’t become firmly bolted onto the back end of the secondary educational system. Without that necessary connection, I feel students of Architecture are left hanging in the breeze without much substitute. Without any foundation, I feel it is hard to develop an independent awareness and self-confidence – the most essential attributes of any successful practicing Architect.

Brian O’ Hanlon.
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Postby garethace » Tue Oct 14, 2003 6:06 pm

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Postby sw101 » Wed Oct 15, 2003 12:05 am

?
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Postby garethace » Wed Oct 15, 2003 7:19 pm

LOL!
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Postby garethace » Wed Oct 15, 2003 7:28 pm

Yeah, I have just read through it again for myself and I will honestly admit, that none of the long speech above made much sense to me either when I was 21 years of age, having done four years in Architecture School.

But as I have gotten older, that which seemed completely in-comprehensible, seems less so. In fact, Architecture contained within a mental framework of the Triangle, its three extreme corners and the inter-relationship of those three extreme corners - seems a pleasing and organised way to tackle a design project.

But, yeah I will agree with you. ? That was my reaction back in 1996, when my old college mentors tried to make me see the light too! Sorry if I managed to upset you unduly SW101. Cheers man! The apparent simplicity of my diagram, tends to hide an underlying deep sophistication. It is a very understated theory. A bit like my Ying/Yang thread about Learning how to see.

I would like to imagine there was a whole lot more to Architecture, than what is in that simple diagram of mine. But having thought about it for a long time (insert old Cheyenne Native American Indian voice please) I have decided that is all there is.

Or to phrase Louis Kahn: What is, and what always has been.

Brian O' Hanlon.
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Postby sw101 » Wed Oct 15, 2003 8:02 pm

does the phrase 'barking' mean anything to you?
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Postby garethace » Wed Oct 15, 2003 8:08 pm

No problem SW101, just pleased to let you know, you can ignore this thread completely if it bothers you too much. I know at your young age too, this kind of thread would drive me nuts. But then we didn't have the Internet back in the good old days of 1996!

Have some patience with the old guys like me, who tend to get a little bit carried away with this toy/communication device! I just cannot help experimenting with it, probing the old cyber-brain to see if it responds, yaknow!

Brian O' Hanlon.
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Postby garethace » Wed Oct 15, 2003 8:15 pm

Simple question so:

Discuss the relationship between fashion design and Architectural design in the work of Frank Gehry and other modern Architects.

I was looking at the Frank Monograph in the bookstore the other day. The guy did his thesis in 1958, so don't be too quick to jump to the conclusion you know everything in the whole wide world at 21!

End or sermon.

Seeyeez!

Brian O' Hanlon.
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Postby FIN » Fri Jan 16, 2004 1:54 pm

i understand what your saying and i agree with most of it.
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Postby garethace » Fri Jan 16, 2004 4:09 pm

I remember my old professors in Bolton Street kicking my arse over things like MDRDV, FOA, Florien Biegel and what not. The older I become and more of architecture I try to look at and understand, the more some of those old ideas - incomprehensible to me back then - are actually cropping up again and again and again.

So have faith all you young people out there. Of course, this kind of way of looking at the world, will never be everyone's cup of tea - I obsess over trying to explain things - some people are happier without long explanations.
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Postby FIN » Mon Jan 19, 2004 4:52 pm

i find sociology, in the way different communities/ethnic groups/classes are in tune with their world, in which architecture forms a large part, helps my thinking in regards to design.
this can range from a small building to city design. this is very much to the fore nowadays because of the social housing debacle that the government introduced. creating slums. what may have seemed a good idea and a vote getter is turning out to be something that could bite all our asses in the future.
but back to the point. the interaction of the user and the building is as u say like clothing. the user has to be comfortable in the environment to be able to perform to their designated tasks.
i would however suggest the a building be thought of as a item of clothing rather than the clothes. it has to match with the rest of the fabric. to interact with the roads, light rail system, pedestrian movement even metro system. there may to be a uniformity of experience of a building from first contact or it may have distinct experiences but all these must tie in with the what the average user experiences as an overload may lead to loss of familiarity. In this I mean the user won’t get emotionally attached to it. When the user gets emotionally attached to the building is when u know u have created a building that works.
I think the fact you are beginning to experience your city as a whole and not as individual buildings is great. I have to look at Rome for this. It is an amazing city. One where you could never get tired of walking around because even though some of the buildings are of a large scale they somehow feel close to the average punter. The point about the weather is a good one and the fact that one has to experience it in the rain. Then it maybe the case that the model of Rome wouldn’t work here.
I think the idea in Edinburgh of creating a sub-terrain shopping complex underneath princes street maybe deserves merit due to the fact that it is understanding and taking into consideration the weather and the user. Would it work in Dublin? There is also and forgive me cos I can’t remember the city but in Canada something similar where a large swathe of the city is beginning to go underground. I am crap with names but I think it’s Montreal!!! They are taking into account of the weather also. Would this work in Dublin? Would we be able to create a city underground. Or would it become a haven for criminal’s and graffiti artists. This is where sociology comes into play again. Would we be able to create a place where everyone becomes emotionally attached to so as to dissuade them from soiling it?

Again I digress, and I offer my apologies, architecture is a complex subject as we are expected to know a little about a lot of things. There is often a weight of information heaped on students without any form of coherent evaluation. This may hinder the development of some or most. Speaking from personal experience and I have to go back and finish off yet. They are then reduced to thinking of a building in isolation or near isolation, with only the surrounding buildings as a guide instead of taking the whole area/city into context as well. This may seem to involve too much thought but I think it helps to at least consider it when designing. The language of the whole city then comes into play. This is where the item of clothing fits into the suit perfectly and one becomes trendy.
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Postby garethace » Mon Jan 19, 2004 5:29 pm

Originally posted by FIN

There is often a weight of information heaped on students without any form of coherent evaluation. This may hinder the development of some or most. Speaking from personal experience and I have to go back and finish off yet. They are then reduced to thinking of a building in isolation or near isolation, with only the surrounding buildings as a guide instead of taking the whole area/city into context as well. This may seem to involve too much thought but I think it helps to at least consider it when designing. The language of the whole city then comes into play. This is where the item of clothing fits into the suit perfectly and one becomes trendy.



Yeah, I lament the way that computers for instance are taught to young architects. I mean, you start off doing a small object, you might say model up or draw something like a door, a window and a roof. But you always get the impression that you are 'too close' to buildings and not thinking about environments. I mention the Total War series of PC games here and there, which are a great help at understanding how a computer visual can show dynamically moving people, across vast expanses. The mere fact, that you cannot just press a button and say 'attack'. That the 'units of soldiers, cavalry, infantry, spearmen, pikemen, archers and what not' have to be organised, moved and ordered what to do in both space and time.

When you look at battles in Brave Heart or The Patriot etc, you realise that it is not as easy as it looks - having played a game like Medieval Total war.

On the subject of clothing

What about the opposite to what you describe, the different native styles becoming replaced by a global Beneton look? I mean, Eskimos are not longer born in Igloos, except in Encyclopedias for kids and Walt Disney movies. It would seem that everyone wants to have a certain image nowadays. I noticed on the news though, that Arab womenfolk were protesting about not wearing their garments - so perhaps that 'ethnic' argument could creep into architecture too.

But on the topic of something like a message boards, institutions and architecture in general. I have been observing this dynamic for a while now, how people behave online, and how it might even help them to behave or even relate in the real world. There is something missing in today's Universities, even though they are real buildings as opposed to web sites, they have real people as opposed to Avitars, your time is strictly regulated and you always have someplace 'you need to be' at a certain time. But still the content seems like substituted food in ways.

First Point:

I find that family dinner table conversation have also become a poor substitute for what once was. A bit like having a fake leg having lost one in an accident - family conversations are in that same league. Communities, even if they are just online ones about a common interest - teach people a little bit about the value of discussion, in the absence of anything like that in today's modern society. Real communication and discussion is a really healthy thing, and not valued enough anymore.

Second Point.

Then take institutions, like Universities for instance, or families, marriages etc - it is cool to run down all these things nowadays and one asks the question what were they for in the first place. Well, as someone pointed out only recently, it is natural that the younger generations always help out the older ones. Institutions at their very best facilitate this to happen - at their worst, you just witness the breakdown of this synergetic relationship between older people getting slower and less able, and young people with all the enthuasiasm to be of service to the older community or profession.

Funny, because I had grown up with that all backways. I did imagine that in some strange fashion, that older people in Universities were meant to do everything for the young people. But that runs contrary to how nature has been working for centuries. I think the role of 'mentor' and 'undergrad or understudy' needs to be properly defined once again, in a way which is respectful to everyone.

Third Point.

I find, that after spending a full year visiting one about Information Technology, that a lot of really bad misconceptions I had about that whole area have been worked out properly. By the mere fact, I was able to access experts who really knew what they were talking about, and I could listen. That is, like Kahn says about schools - they started originally with some guy under a tree talking to young kids and evolved from that point.

I have linked an article somewhere in the past, which tended to suggest the future for the 'brighter' young people in America, would be online learning and access to information. So this E-learning thing isn't just pie in the sky either.

That is, the policy of 'leaving noone behind' in current educational policies, has resulted unintendedly in 'working at the pace of the slowest student'. This of course, has led to certain young people becoming very bored indeed.

But my understand of higher level education in America, is that there is literally a phone box full of courses you can do. It is all about finding the correct one for your chosen direction - i.e. the fast lane and the slow lane - and not all youngsters have the advantage of choosing the right one.
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Postby garethace » Mon Jan 19, 2004 5:32 pm

BTW, I don't think that I am any kind of expert to pass on any great knowledge via Archiseek. But if you just take that first point, about conversation - that is a big PLUS with this on-line stuff. You are at least getting somewhat more comfortable with the sound of your own thoughts and opinions. A bit missing from common third level courses out there, to say the least.
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Postby garethace » Mon Jan 19, 2004 6:29 pm

http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=13477

Article there about America and education.
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