The extent to which one is unaware of regarding a particular subject shall always be more than the factors one is very well aware of. And being curious by nature, we often find ourselves caught in this chase of knowing and learning things before being outrun by our short-lived existence on this wondrous planet.
“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” These humbling and thought-provoking words said by one of the greatest minds of the century, Albert Einstein, indeed resonate with all. The more I dwell on this thought, the more it reminds me of the things that I have fortunately chanced upon as essential lessons and the vast ocean of untapped knowledge that I am yet to navigate.
The other day I was clearing some old junk piling dust in my room for months. I came across some of my first and second semester assignments; I jocundly smiled at the sheer display of naiveness and kept them aside. What I couldn’t put aside was the thought that I had somehow managed to come a long way and as I look back on the path I tread; I couldn’t help but reflect upon certain things that were inevitably taught to me in these two years at architecture college.
Some were pure lessons put forth by professors, and some were passive realizations that were induced by experiences. It threw light on the teachings that each one of us learns during our journeys at Architecture college that inescapably end up shaping our identities, perceptions, and what we choose to believe as an individual.
When I had set foot into architecture college, I was consumed in my preconceived notions of architecture. I was unaware of the multiple facets and topics that came under the umbrella of this mighty word.
It was only once I was shoulder-deep in these waters that it dawned upon me that I had set course on a journey that is exceptionally personal and collective at the same time. It all started with those small lessons which left a significant impact on my understanding and perception of space, people, time, and eventually architecture.
Apart from the drafting techniques, software, technical and presentation skills that we end up learning in college, specific skills are far more impactful and leave a long trail of acuities.
Patience and resilience
There are long-term and short-term inferences when it comes to these learnings. I’d like to share an anecdote. I was trying to craft a small-scale model to understand the implications of ‘Form follows function’. In the process of holding up pieces of paper and waiting for the glue to dry before I could attach another element, the quality of patience in those little things showed prominence. There have been several instances that have taught lessons in patience and perseverance, waiting for the model to be rendered on 3D software is one of them. Certain things can never be sped, and they shall take their own time to grow-just like seedlings blossom into plants, casting one’s ideas into concrete takes the same amount of nurturing.
I believe many would agree that the most fundamental skill that one could ever learn at an architecture college is the aspect of being a team-player. It becomes crucial to be vocal about one’s opinions all the while being respectful towards those of the others. Working in groups with the peers of my batch, we would often grapple over trivial alterations to presentations or the division of the amount of work for each person of the group. While some alterations would prove to be bitter memories and leave several members sore, it was dealing with situations like these that taught us to rise above our singular perspective and interpretations and look at the subject with a collective viewpoint. This, in turn, leads to another lesson in understanding multiple perspectives and acknowledging their difference all the while trying to construct a bridge between, say, two radically polar ideas. I had always heard people say ‘Communication is the key to solving problems.’ It was only after watching these words bearing fruition from application in collective discussions and group work that I happened to understand its essence entirely.
It took us time to understand that for the result to be great; it requires active and honest efforts from each member of the group and resolutions were made to actualize these observations.
Another skill I tried to hone in architectural school was to be observant. I would mindlessly wander into spaces without examination or any sense of acknowledgment towards the type of areas, nature of construction, textures, materials, etc. To understand, we were taught to be aware of our senses whilst meandering through space. To listen intently, keep our eyes, to look under the surface, and through different angles, and most importantly keep the window to the mind open. For one to be able to question the proceeding of a particular activity, it is vital to analyze it critically. And to be able to analyze it, one should understand the purpose of the activity altogether.
Designing is messy
Creativity is messy. This took me a while to realize that design can rarely be a linear process. In my school days, I’d make a schedule for the entire day and follow it religiously. After joining architecture college, this simple illusion of proceeding sequentially through a series of tasks was shattered. I had always thought that one’s approach towards designing is a linear or a unidirectional process. A plan would follow the concept, and a section would follow a plan. I would often condone the need to go back to revising certain design elements and force myself to follow the linear track. It would usually result in massive agitation and dissatisfaction. It was when I happened to make it to the third semester that I realized what I happened to believe for so long wasn’t necessarily true. Designing something can be as messy as creativity, and it need not follow any specific order or set of rules.
Architecture is multi-layered and unbound
Another notion that I had about buildings is that they are defined by the materials with which they are built and are limited to the site of their construction. Several revelations were made when I heard the following lines “Architecture is free. It is art. It is not just the science of merely building and putting together a framework of lifeless beams and columns. It is more about the process than the end product and about the intangible space that is crafted by putting the two together.” A perplexity of tangibles and intangibles, it deals with views and projections that lie beyond those of just the isometric and perspective. It is only after much reading, listening to professors, reflecting and learning that I happened to realize that there is more to architecture than what we see at its surface. Designers, architects, and individuals over the centuries have formed principles and strategies of being able to comprehend the complexity of this vast subject. It’s a promise from the past to the future.
Christopher Charles Benninger, in his book, Letters to a Young Architect, has said, “The greatest gift we can give a student is the knowledge that they will always be students.” Learning is a perpetual process, and from this, I gathered, ceaselessly we shall remain mere patrons to the wonders of architecture, deciphering the words it has to offer, letter by letter.