Abstract art is the art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect”– (Tate| Art Term, 2021)

Yeah, you can go ahead and read that again because I surely re-read it for about 3 hours trying to decipher what it meant. Our first assignment in architecture school was to make an abstract model that best represented our personalities whilst taking note of the ordering principles in architecture; axis, symmetry, hierarchy, datum, rhythm, repetition and transformation. 

“Are you kidding me”, I instantly thought it’s not too late to drop out now, it was only my second day in architecture school. I could leave now and act like I was never here. However, we all know how expensive and exhausting it is to get into architecture schoolso all that effort would have been for nothing, besides my parents had already started bragging about their Daughter the Architect.

Procrastination- A New Order of Life

Abstract What! - Sheet1
Procrastination in progress_©Bec Evans

Okay, it was Monday I had a whole week to take on this assignment, so I was hopeful. I choreographed a timetable that included; research, iterations, model explorations and mock-ups in preparation for my presentation on Friday. At least that’s what I told myself. Fast forward into the week, it’s now Thursday and the only research I have done was on “How I Met Your Mother” mostly because Ted, an architect, manages to have a social life which is now non-existent for me. Back to my crisis, it’s Thursday evening and well I was going to be inaugurated into the nightwalker realm. There is a famous saying, ‘The night belongs to the poets and madmen’ and I have never seen a more accurate description of architecture students since they fall in both categories and tonight was going to be my first all-nighter experience. 

All-nighter

Abstract What! - Sheet2
Famous quote by Barney Stinson_©Shinobi Hunter

I had to suit up in preparation for the night. I caught up on one last episode – can you blame me it was right there, took on a power nap that was just me guilt-tripping myself on all the time I had wasted and wishing I had a time machine. Got up brewed my cup of coffee (i.e. I just put instant coffee into my mug, yeah you know the one that makes your heartbeat 10 times faster), got my warmest pair of socks, head scarf and jumper and rode off into the night. I sat down in front of my laptop screen to do my research on, what was the word again ‘Abstract!’ and well that didn’t lead me anywhere so I just kept adding onto the word to hopefully find an answer. 

‘Abstract models’
‘Abstract architecture models ‘
‘Abstract architecture models following principles ‘
‘Abstract architecture models that fit your personality’
‘What is the real meaning of abstract’
‘Abstract architecture models that fit your personality and follow ordering principles’ 

Well before I knew it, I had 20 tabs open, only more perplexed than when I started. 10 of those tabs belonged to the Pinterest wormhole where I was deciding on a colour palette for my non-existent New York loft. So, I took a walk around the studio to check on my mates and see their progress. 

As we all know the student types there’s the category that claims they haven’t started yet when in fact they have to iterations in their rooms ready to present, they are those who fear to share because they are convinced you’re going to steal their idea, and then there’s the architect offspring whose ideas just come naturally and you’re wondering if you likewise need to include or exclude something in your diet to get to his level of ingenuity. 

Then we have me, done 3 hours of ‘research’, cut myself on my first trial model, trashed the trial model because it looked like my 4-year-old sister made it and was currently staring at my sketchbook.  Due to my extensive research, I was now listening to chill hop because it helps inspire creativity which I needed a whole lot of because it was now midnight and I still had nothing. 

Countdown

Abstract What! - Sheet3
Dynamic Suprematism by Kazimir Malevich in 1916_©Tate

The level of anxiety is at an all-time high and I need to think of something fast. I go in to consult with the older students since I imagined they went through a similar assignment which wasn’t the best idea considering I had only 12 hours left until my presentation. Yup, you guessed it was a horrible idea, not only did they Not! Help but they went ahead to tell me the disaster that the first presentation has ( You know the drill, other students, tutors, and lecturers alike coming in to watch you sweat through your presentation, your model falling apart because you glued it only a few hours before the presentation and the glue didn’t set properly).  

It’s now 1 am and the coffee is in full blast. My heart sounds like a beating drum, some of my peers are going to bed, others are halfway done. I activated beast mode, got my mounting board (yeah, the expensive kind) and just jumped right into it. According to my research, what I knew so far was abstract meant unreal, immaterial, transcendent, intangible. So how do I model something ‘unreal’ 

Time check, it’s now 4 am (What! it was just midnight like 30 minutes back) and after 3 solid attempts and my mentor laughing at each one, we finally had a winner. Well, at least I didn’t have to sleep in the studio or so I thought. As I was packing up my things, she asked me how far I was with my oral presentation and I just sat back down and opened up my laptop. 

Next thing I knew the cock crowed and the sun arose. It was 6 am, I rushed back to the hostel and everyone I met along the way looked at me with eyes of despair as they knew I was an architecture student. Am not sure what sold me out; was it the clothes from yesterday, the red eyes, or the Eskimo fashion look I had on. I got to my dorm room freshened up, boiled another cup of coffee and rushed back to the studio in time for my presentation.   

Architecture students preparing for a presentation_©CommonEdge

Presentation Time

My lecturer walks punctually and gracefully as always. She looked well-rested unlike me with my shaking hands and red eyes. She asks to see our models and I must admit as much as I was scared, I was so ready for the presentation. I had my notes ready; I had already done a mock-up presentation a few hours back so I was prepared for any possible question the jury would ask. I was ready for it all until what she said next. 

“Well looks like everyone made an honest attempt at the first model. I hope you’re proud of yourselves, anyway let us pick up where we left off from the last lecture”. That was it, that’s all she said, she didn’t even give me a minute to describe why my model was black and white and had shapes and inverse shapes to present my duo personality (I might as well explain it here since I never got a chance to).

So, there you have it in my first week in architecture school and I had already experienced a series of firsts that were now going to become a new normal for me; procrastination, coffee, all-nighters, and oh yeah Abstract!  

Reference

Tate. (2021). Abstract Art – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: <https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/abstract-art> [Accessed 3 January 2021].

Author

Elizabeth is a graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design. Her educational background and love for writing has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics within the architectural field. She hopes a journey into architectural journalism will help voice untold architectural stories and the people behind them.