Have you ever watched an architect enter a building and spend the next 15 minutes just observing every single nook and corner of that space, touch every door, and texture they possibly can, and stare at that simple, false ceiling like it’s the Sistine Chapel. They might not know what they’re doing, and as pretentious as it may seem, it becomes an integral part of their character trait as soon as they enter architecture school. Everything goes from a house and an office to a G+2 residential building and a high-rise green LEED-rated office space.                                                                                                                                                        

The Sistine Chapel ceiling_©Governatorato dello Stato Citta del Vaticano - Direzione dei Musei
The Sistine Chapel ceiling_©Governatorato dello Stato Citta del Vaticano – Direzione dei Musei

To Each Their Own

A ‘non-architect’ contemplates the field of architecture through iconic structures renowned for their historical and cultural significance. These buildings dominate popular imagination as the epitome of architecture.    When you look at some of the biggest architectural masterpieces, the masses look at them as monumental articles that will redefine the state of their country. But more often than not there is a discrepancy between the architect’s ideology and the perception of the ‘non-architects’ towards it.                          

The Architectural Eye-Sheet2
The Dynamic Structure of Casa Mila_©Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona. c. 1910

For example, if we consider the famous Casa Milà in Barcelona, this building represented a paradigm shift in architectural design, changing how people perceive and engage with buildings in the architecture world. An architect looks at it as one of the finest examples of the Art Nouveau Movement, the lack of straight lines, the curved columns, the organic structure, and the irregularly shaped windows all make it so interesting to understand and decipher for an architect. But that is not how a lot of people saw it. According to George Orwell, it was” one of the most hideous buildings in the world”. That is what draws the difference between an architect and any other person. 

Architects have the ability to look at a rudimentary drawn two-dimensional sketch and instantly be able to visualise it as a structure. Amidst the sleepless nights, the copious amounts of coffee intake, and the relentless deadlines they are constantly trying to conceive the next revolutionary design. This ambition is fueled by their constant marvelling over these structures that have grown known over history.

A two-dimensional sketch of the School of Decorative Arts Paris_©BEAUDOUIN – ARCHITECTS

Knowing the Unknown 

Being somebody who designs a place not for themselves but for a variety of different individuals forces you to look at the world from the perspective of others. You become so cognitively flexible to transmute yourself from a kindergarten student to a stay-at-home dad to an 80-year-old grandma all depending on the space in question. When an architect looks at a space it unfolds in front of them as an open book and they read it thoroughly from top to bottom. Everything in front of them is an answer to a rhetorical question they asked themselves. Nothing for them is just a playground, just a bedroom, or just another monument. Their way of understanding is that a playground could be a place of a congregation that brings together people from different runs of life. A place that gives kids from ages 3-13 a haven for play, a place for the elderly from ages 60 and above a place of vitality, and the people from ages 18-40 who are stuck in the churn house of life, some respite. All of this is only possible because an architect knows how to connect with the prospective user and emulate their needs. With a deep understanding of humans comes a certain discernment of social differences, people, and cultural impact which only grows the architect’s ability to deliver exactly what’s wanted of them.

The Architectural Eye-Sheet4
understanding perspective_©Annett Zinsmeister, VG Bildkunst

Speaking the Site’s Language 

Architects spend a lot of their time analysing already-built structures. Everything about that space that makes it unique, and especially everything they would change in it. A lot of the time those analyses are based on everything other than the building.  They do not leave an opportunity to explain how well a structure sits with the site it’s placed at. The way the morning sunlight is received at the porch or the afternoon sun is obstructed by the louvres, how there are just enough openings provided in a particular direction to allow for the wind to flood the most interior of spaces as well. How the entire place has been planned so that nature can continue to play its course. An architect tends to become one with nature after spending hours and hours strolling through the same green patch conceptualising the different ways they are going to fill it with their ideas. This site acumen when incorporated with cutting-edge technology is what creates the avant-garde nature of architecture that can be seen throughout history. 

The Architectural Eye-Sheet5
Correlation of nature with architecture_©Architizer

Architects see themselves as problem solvers and design as a radical solution for all human needs. Humans are what give reasoning to a space. An understanding of architecture means an understanding of the indeterminacy of humans. It’s a description of the social, cultural, and economic conditions of a place. 

This intimate familiarity underscores how the architectural eye looks not for the grandeur but the mundane.  Architecture is succinct proof of life and being able to comprehend it even to the smallest degree gives a person a profound sense of connection to the human experience and its milieu.

REFERENCES:

  1. Colomnia, B Wigley, M. (2017). Are We Human? Note on an Archaeology of Design.Baden: Lars Müller Publisher
  2. The Guardian (2007r). CASA MILA. [online]. (Last updated: 10 Oct 2007). Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/arts/greatbuildings/casamila/0,,2183696,00.html[Accessed date: 14/06/2024].
Author

Siddhi is an architecture student with a blended passion for design, architecture, and literature. She believes writing is what drives ideas and progress. Siddhi strives to demystify design concepts, bridging the gap between professional knowledge and public understanding.