Anecdotes on the skill-set of an architect
By: Richa Surati
How often does architecture fraternity explain the profession of architecture to others? Even as ones who belong to the profession, one struggles to define all that comprises/ consists of architecture. A general impression of the profession is that they ‘draw’ and make buildings. It sounds vague, but this is how a majority (not from the profession) understand architecture as. Many of us join architecture because of our ability to draw and not the knowledge of the field itself. Little do we know that the profession is not about acquiring drawing skills, but something much beyond that. Naturally, we think and mull over the 5 years’ curriculum that shapes us as professionals. The curriculum of undergraduate years of engineering and medicines make them a specialist of some sort, but such is not the case with the architecture. All these years we are exposed to various things that make us a generalist with an inclination towards varied things rather than a ‘specialist’.
We come across an immense number of directions in our undergraduate years. The knowledge of this course is not constrained in any of the ‘textbooks’. Visualisation, speculations and critical thinking are the tools with which we develop and grow. This process of discovery through readings, conversations, discussions and reflections set the base of architectural education. The development in the first year trains hands to express thoughts freely. It develops cognitive abilities to visualise and represent. Gradually, we acquire skills to comprehend the measurements of our body to understand the spatial constructs of our everyday objects/lives/spaces and hence learn anthropometry. We analyse the cultural construct of the spaces in ‘humanities’, develop an understanding of the ‘history of architecture’, learn the fundamentals of ‘structure’ and eventually, learn to ‘construct’ things with workshop-based courses. All these courses make us wonder about its relevance at a point. Steadily we realise its value, depth and the holistic approach of the curriculum. We don’t merely build a block but understand all that goes in its making to give it life and experience.
We learn the convention of communicating with sketches, drawings or with models. It is in these five years that we develop and mould our abilities. Some of us develop an inclination towards photography, ceramics, history, the art of detailing, and whatnot. The process of visualisation, ideation, conceptualisation, designing, detailing, representation is learning in itself. Architecture doesn’t stop at the end product. The end product becomes a tool for critical evaluation and thinking to then question, speculate and analyse our thought process.
Over the years, we gradually learn to work with different scales. From resolving a unit to move on to the institution to housing to urban level, we understand the technicalities and challenges that each scale brings upon. Along with thinking about the spatial construct, multi-faceted approach to think about structure, aesthetics, materials, climate, response to context, resolving details at a micro-level are all an integral part of it. This is the beauty of architecture that we start understanding the implications and the consequences of our actions at every scale.
Precision to make technically correct drawings, drafting, making models with accurate measurements all reflect the discipline of this field. Imprecise drawings consequently lead to errors on-site and so, architects are well known to the importance of accuracy and precision. A semester on working drawings makes students conscious of the building-process. It makes them aware of how the drawings they make are translated on-site. It is a process to realise the germination of thought to have ascribed some form and meaning. A mandatory internship experience prepares young students to look at the number of agencies involve in the profession. Architecture is not an independent profession, but a collaborative discourse and practice. All these acquired skills have values ascribed to them and thus, is a ‘part and parcel’ of this profession.
Gradually, one acquires the ability to make relevant drawings for specific purposes. This nature of architectural education moulds one’s thought process to analyse, question and think with an intention. This eventually develops a habit to listen, reflect and argument where necessary. These debates and discussions enrich our profession. With changing-times, the tools that we acquire changes. One acknowledges the shift from hand-tools to digital medium. The advancement in the technology impacts architecture as well and with it, one takes the opportunity to learn the skills of designing with software/computers. This profession is constantly in the flux to innovate and produce. Consequently, this holistic approach prepares us to comprehend things when we enter the profession.
Even with 5 years of rigorous training, it does not necessarily prepare one to know all about the practice. Several processes of the practical world are not dealt with in the curriculum. Often, the design problems are hypothetical and inconsiderate of the agencies involved in the decision-making process which results to not know about various negotiations and compromises with clients/contractors/artisans. Despite that, with the skill-set that one acquires over 5 years, one can comprehend their interests, think humanely and holistically to further define their trajectories.