Boston College, April 1997
Not merely building:
Building is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for Architecture. The distinction is fundamentally a matter of intention or motive. Building aims solely at utility in a narrow practical sense. Architecture aims to meet the total needs of human, spiritual, aesthetic, intellectual as well as practical.
Vitruvius (a Roman architect and writer) stated that the three principal qualities of architecture are "Firmness, Commodity and Delight". structural soundness, utility for the purposes for which it was built, and visual pleasure or aesthetics.
Architecture is therefore the tangible and enduring expression and record of a culture or civilization, in all its aspects.
"Culture is Destiny" as stated by Robert Kaplan "Architecture is the memory of a culture." -- Ruskin
Architecture contains human activities. It is to be used unlike painting and sculpture.
Architecture while it is the ART of building, is not a pure art. It is a highly compromised art Architecture involves and is concerned with the shaping of the total three dimensional man made environment including Land Planning, Urban Design, Building Design and Interior Design, yet Architects are responsible for less than 20% of the building construction going on around you. Architecture uses not only materials like wood, stone, steel and glass, but it also employs time and light as well to create space, both interior and exterior.
Buildings change with changes in the light. Buildings change as we move toward them, around them, into and through them, in time.
"Continuity vs. Change in Architecture"
Buildings can be viewed as metaphors, but is a particular expression or vision an appropriate or sensible metaphor?
Mr. Ed vs. Howard Roarke (in The Fountainhead)
The bumbling ineffectual buffoon vs. the arrogant uncompromising visionary artist. Architects really are BOTH and NEITHER. "The Loveableness of Architects". (Architecture is) Everybody's second choice of a profession. But is it a profession today? Historically - first an Artisan, then an "Artist", then a professional -becoming now a businessman.
An Architect is also to some degree, an engineer, a sociologist, a technician as well as an educator.
Where does the Architect commence? The Architect starts with the definition of the design problem which, as I stated last time, is defined by the questions asked.
An analytical dialogue is begun which must engage and reconcile the three principal variables on any project:
1) The client's program,
2) the site on which the building is to be built, and last, but by no means least,
3) the construction budget.
Ideally the Architect should be involved in the selection of the site and in the preparation, or at least the confirmation, of the program. Together with either a Cost Estimator or a Contractor, the Architect should be a participant in any discussions of the adequacy of construction budgets developed for the project.
It is much more than just a simple shopping list of space needs. It is a vital tool in the design of a building. It must speak also to the more general needs the client has and what goals the building will be expected to achieve for the Client, not just physically and quantitatively but also spiritually and qualitatively. Beyond this a program will define desired adjacencies, affinities and the qualities necessary for the various spaces. The program , therefore, really establishes the basic scope of a project.
As LeCorbusier stated "Creation is a Patient Search". The creation of architecture is a process. Furthermore, it is an iterative process. This involves Analysis - Synthesis - Analysis - Synthesis. This process progresses from the general to the particular.
The same two basic modes of thought common to us all are central to the creation of Architecture.
The Analytic - taking apart; both site and program. Noting the salient characteristics, discover the essential, establish relationships and their priorities, investigate the size, shape and qualities implicit or explicit in the program elements.
The Synthetic - putting together, reassembling the pieces. Invariably several ways of solving a problem. Experiment with different ways of achieving each of the several goals. Maximize the good relationships, minimize conflicts. Even so, there are usually several "good" ways of solving a problem.
The selection of solutions and the synthesis of the building form is in large part based on the analyses of the previous stage, partly by trial and error and partly by "feel", insight or intuition. This is the most intensively creative stage and the most difficult to talk about. Explanations of why one form rather than another was chosen are more often than not rationalizations after the fact, as is criticism.
The choice of forms is influenced by our personal preferences, the visual canons, or principles of form of the age, the technology and materials available.
"The Joy of Breaking the Rules" -- But it must be the right exception at the right place at the right time.
Architecture is ultimately the embodiment of the kind and quality of the life of the times, at its best it is not mere fashion or cosmetics. This is unfortunately less true in the United States than in Europe.
"Architecture can viewed as variations on the past."
These change from Age to Age. They serve as aids to creation and the creative process. Some of the oldest and still useful ones are:
Variety & Repetition: A design motif should almost always be used more than once, but not ad nauseam. Consistency!
Balance: Symmetry versus asymmetry.
Proportion: The relationship of the size of each part to the other.
Scale: Many different types of scale exist.
Of the Building to the Site and to other buildings. The CONTEXT of the building.
Architecture should be contextual both as to place as well as time. Not just the visual context, but also the social and cultural context.
Herein lies a paradox. Is the "context" which we seek to express and reflect fundamental or ephemeral? (It is) "much more difficult to be a Fundamentalist than a Mannerist."
Of the parts of a building to each other. Relative Scale
Of the parts of a building to human scale. Absolute Scale
Of the building seen or experienced while moving at various speeds.
Textures, Material, Color
Reduction of Means - to those which are truly essential
Qualities to be Embodied
Possibly the most important consideration for building communities and
Are we creating an object set in space or a space(s) defined by buildings?
Modest or monumental
Opaque or transparent
Rough or high finish
Open or closed spaces
Sculptural (plastic) or planer or linear
Spacious/grand or intimate
Public or private
Elegant or austere
New Techniques - Computer Aided Design - CADD
Must Balance Competing Needs
Architects thrash out disputed areas in Schematic Design
Facilities Assessment - both vital first steps/tasks
2) Site Analysis & Feasibility study
3) Schematic (and Preliminary) Design.
4) Design Development
5) Contract Documents
Three basic constituent parts
6) Bidding and Contract Award
7) Construction Administration
During Contract Documents, the Architect develops detailed drawings incorporating the design requirements for site, structural, architectural, mechanical and electrical components and integrates these with each other.
Detailed wall sections and building details at a larger scale are developed describing how the building will be put together.
Bidding the Work
Supervision During Construction
Final color and material section
Must be viewed in the light of the arena in which architecture is to occur and the tasks which will be paramount. The education of skills in design, drawing and technical disciplines.
The education of vision.
The education of social conscience.
5 years leading to a Bachelor of Architecture. e.g. M.I.T.
BA +3 years leading to a Bachelor of Architecture, e.g. Harvard, Yale, etc.
and in addition
1-2 years Master of Architecture
Math, through calculus and statistics, nearly essential.
1 year Physics helpful.
Workshop Design Course essential
History of Architecture and Art essential
Urban Sociology valuable as is History, in general.
A person or institution having an architectural project, the understanding, the intention, and the money to implement it. This really requires a one-to-one relationship, yet also a good relationship with a user group or a larger community.