Architecture is the only course where you get to taste all the flavors of the entire world. What I have learned so far in these three years is just an iota of knowledge, and I have a lifetime in front of me. I learn new things every single day, either related to architecture or life. Never did I know that a college subject could have so much impact on you. This course has changed the way I perceive a few things and has given me a new perspective on things. The kick from getting a good result and the self-realization from getting a bad result have always made me want to explore more.
Foundation | Joy of Learning
The first semester in architecture college is usually plain sailing and exciting. We get to go out a lot and do real-life sketches. I still remember our first drawing assignment, which was to draw twenty buildings within my college campus. I was awed by just visiting a couple of buildings. Some buildings were a few years old, while some were a few decades old. Each building had a unique function and design, belonging to the trend of that time.
Every building that we saw excited us and prompted us to explore more variety. Though we didn’t lose much sleep and didn’t work as hard as for the other semesters, this laid the foundation for a strong building. I then learned the history of architecture and got intrigued by its complexity and beauty. Whenever I went out, I explained to my parents with joy the type of arch, column, or the materials used for construction.
While learning basic design, we were introduced to serendipity. We tried to explore new designs-started with one idea but ended up getting a completely different one. Understanding this and creating a meaningful design was very important. Every line had to be reasoned and explained. The correlation of all these subjects was tacit, only in the second semester.
The second semester is when you unlearn the knowledge you already have and learn again from a new perspective. Our first design challenge of this semester was to design a bus stop. I thought it was an easy task since the shelter was the single main element. Obviously, I was wrong. Only after my professor explained the critical aspects and details, I realized how much I had to learn.
As stated by Mies Van Der Rohe, ‘God is in the details’. The user type, anthropometry, site, climate, population, other modes of transport nearby, waiting time, activities, shops nearby were just a few specifications that he mentioned. That’s when I realized there is more to it than meets the eye. The numerous case studies available in my library and multiple discussions with my professor helped me analyze in detail. I started having my own opinion on designs and tried understanding details. Since then, whenever I go to a bus stop, I study the aspects I considered while designing.
Apart from learning to make a variety of models, draw sketches from different angles, draft sheets, etcetera, I learned to work hard and constructively take criticisms. In the Building Construction studio, the number of redo sheets keeps increasing, and new mistakes pop up every time. Every time I did a new sheet, I wanted to do it better than the previous one and put my heart and soul into it. I learned to be patient and manage time when everything is haphazard.
The fun of using set squares and t-scale made it more interesting to work. The class that enlightened all of us was the Theory of Architecture class. The correlation of all the subjects was perceived only then. I had an organized and planned approach to my design there afterward. The next time I had to design a residence, I had an idea of where to begin and travel. The multiple presentations and crits made me bolder and, at the same time, pinned me down to earth.
Exposure | Joy of Learning
The second-year was a whole new level of learning experience and exposure. I would call it the best year of my college life as learning and enjoyment was maximum. For my third semester, we were to design a school. The preliminary study for it was so tremendous that we covered more than ten on-site case studies and several online case-studies. Each on-site case study had a unique curriculum and was designed for a particular group of people. We visited a diverse group of schools, from a school designed by Laurie Baker to a village school on the hillside. Both were equally aesthetic, user-specific, and had unique construction methods such as jack arch, rammed earth, adobe, CSEB, stone, double roof, steel frame, glass bottle wall, etc.
I learned about so many new materials like Ferrocement, terracotta roof, oxide floors, etc. I was awed by how a school in the outskirts of Thiruvavamalai, Tamil Nadu, had beautiful sewage water treatment and rainwater collection integrated with the surrounding. The sunshades above entrances were nothing but a steel frame supporting flowering creepers that left our jaws open in amazement. I learned that beauty is not only in extravagantly designed things but naturally found in our environment.
One of the most memorable trips in college was during the fourth semester, during which I had to work on rural design. Learning the origins of a village and its evolution and mapping it on a sheet astonished me. Going back in time, finding out the reason for its growth, the group of people there, how their occupation and religion influenced their housing, their relationship with members of other caste and religion, the evolution of the house design, etcetera, blew my mind.
After understanding this, we were asked to document old houses. Our first house was a century old with an impressive architectural style. The center of the living area had one small square opening on the ceiling, measuring about 20cm X 20cm, that illuminated the entire space of 400cm X 300cm. There were six rooms, each having a different ceiling height, and each wall was 50cm thick, keeping the interiors cool throughout the year. The second house was a tailor’s house and so had two shop rooms in front. Similarly, every house had a unique feature and interacted with the environment. Our vernacular architecture is not only sustainable but also has spectacular design elements.
Not only do we get better at tangible things, but we also get better at intangible things as time progresses. I learned to communicate more efficiently and confidently with more presentations. I have learned something about everything. The experience of each trip has changed my perspective on life and has made me more humble. As an architect, I feel a responsibility to protect our environment. I will carry everything picked up here forever on my back.