Being the people who hold the capacity to build the future. We as architects have realized that from the brick in the wall to the chandelier in the living room. Everything in our design world communicates. The walls speak of what kind of mood the room holds as the large windows speak of the mother nature the house resides in. And just like them, we as architects have to communicate too. And that too with various people and through various mediums that we are often unaware we use. 

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What architects must know about Verbal Architecture - Sheet1
3D Isometric sketch showing how complex designs and concepts can be explained through graphic architecture ©Fablearn.stanford.edu

Like? 

Like the verbal and non-verbal communication that happens as we try to explain and understand the tangible and intangible aspects of design. And even though non-verbal communication is primarily observed by the clients through the drawings and the actual site view. But what it leaves is a space for the observer to interpret the unsaid through his or her interpretation. Which most often isn’t the thing you tried to say. And even though we spend nights and nights toiling over making our drawings and visuals perfect and self-explanatory. There is always room for errors and space to get misunderstood. Which is quite human. And can be fixed easily. 

How? 

Well, it can either be you talking and explaining your work to the client and the stakeholders yourself. Through oral verbal communication. Or it can be through written verbal communication like articles, notes or even guiding lines which can help convey your point equally well. This type of communication isn’t needed to be practiced just because drawings are not working. But because this type of communication is a great enhancer in your work. 

Sometimes, you can have a great design on your sheets but if you’re unable to converse well with the jurors or the client as to how you made it or answer their questions effectively. The design ends up being misunderstood even when you did everything right. 

And as much as frustrating it sounds in those moments. It is very much true. This just brings up to a realization that there is an incessant need for more than one medium of conversation; as we cannot stick only to the graphical representation. And maybe that is the exact moment when we realize that architecture communication is not the same as architecture visualization. There is much more to the story. 

What architects must know about Verbal Architecture - Sheet2
Oral discussions through meetings ©UXcollective

And that is when you come across these terms that seem alien or too scientific in the beginning. Like Oral architecture or Written Architecture. Which falls under the same verbal architecture roof. But you don’t need to be so taken aback with this new jargon in your profession. As they’re quite simple in terms. 

Oral verbal architecture is when you talk or explain orally to clients or users. 

Written verbal architecture is when you convey your thoughts through words. 

Either way, they’re often the mediums you have used before but have been quite unaware of their importance in your design. And partly because most of our school time we lay way more emphasis on the visual mediums to convey our thoughts. But as we step into the real world there is a realization of the fact that visual mediums still hold a major part but many other things do too. And they often become one of the most crucial ones. 

Like architects need to interact with a variety of people starting from fellow workers to clients or users, policymakers, and stakeholders. And to effectively manage and work along with them we need proper understanding between them. Which can be either through talking with them; explaining them, understanding what they want, what we are proposing, and what the plan is. Which can be carried out effectively through both written or oral methods. 

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What architects must know about Verbal Architecture - Sheet3
Mind map of design process ©Fablearn.stanford.edu

Oral communication helps and allows us to understand the user needs, their idea of design, and what they feel it should be. This helps them break the barrier and step actively into the designing process which they often find it easy to interpret through drawings. 

On-site work often includes people from various professional backgrounds and working methods. In those situations, oral communication works well to work in harmony. It is more like “What would you like the living room to feel like? Would you love an antique bookshelf in the corner near your study?” Some direct questions that help us go beyond the professional aspects and dwell deeper into the ‘Wants’ of the user effectively. 

What architects must know about Verbal Architecture - Sheet4
One to one discussion ©Megapixl

While written communication helps the user to dwell and understand things even in your absence. As language is a way of communicating and getting the point across which writing does very effectively. And It leaves hardly any space for confusion. 

As it is a way of getting things across where the person doesn’t have to keep remembering what has been told. It also can be explained better as “The room would be having one white fur carpet complementing the minimalist leather sofa giving a modern look to the wooden-floored room” It communicates easily well with the intrinsic details. That might get missed In oral or visual communication. 

What architects must know about Verbal Architecture - Sheet5
Verbal architecture wordle ©Renuka Deshpande

Thus, in both the verbal architecture cases; all they do is help us get the message conveyed in the best way. Aiding the already present visual drawings and sketches. Thus making this designing process a little easier on us and also on the numerous people involved in making it a success. 

As POE had rightly said in his quote that: 

“Communication is not just words; communication is architecture. 

Because of course, it is quite obvious that a house which would be built without the sense… without that desire for communication, would not look the way your house looks today.”

  • POE the musician
Author

Renuka is an artist, architect, and writer. With a keen interest in psychology; she is passionate about 'User-centric and need-based designs'. As an empath herself she finds writing as a way to empower and voice people. While aiming to make this world a better place as a designer.

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