A Basic Understanding of what we learn

Before we start out with learning architecture, one should be able to appreciate good architecture. But  the word “good” is too vague unless it is defined.  And even then “good” depends on who it is related to.  Ones good may be another persons bad. Lets compare it easily to something that makes sense.  Music.

Watch the video:

You might have heard the music  in the video. Its soothing and most importantly appropriate for the context. While the visual  is conveying the message, the voice and the music is giving the right feel  or mood to the video. The purpose of the video was to communicate what is meant by architecture, not only of the building, but of any object. But the music gave the right feel to it. This is comparable to architecture of buildings.  Architecture is not just about the purpose of it, but about the feel of it.  So if you design a house one should make sure that the design is giving that right experience to the user. When I talk about experience, it can depend on a whole lot of factors. I would compare architecture with music and art in every aspect because there is a very established similarity or common factors between these. This topic is explained in another article. So we were talking about the factors that would affect the experience of perceiving a good design. In the west, Rock music can be considered a general type of genre but most of the general public in India may not be of the similar opinion.  Because our underlying factors for analyzing a good music is different. The kind of music that we have been listening right from our childhood is not of any similarity to rock music. So we cant digest the kind of rock music. Vice versa. Carnatic music is not entertaining for the west, same as how opera music is to us. This difference in taste is due to the culture that we have grown up. Now lets recall the simple shape that comes in our mind when I say a house.

Common symbol for a house

Right from our childhood this may be the symbol that has come in mind when we think about buildings. Symbols has always been a way of expression for humans right from the stone age. Symbols inject  an idea directly to the  thought process. Reading a word, relating to the context and understanding the meaning will actually take more time than what can be expressed through symbols. Think about situations where a symbols have communicated ideas better than words. Ancient humans considered house as a symbol of their culture. In the tribes, people used to draw symbols and decorate the exterior of their huts, that would make it easy for people to understand.  This was their design. There are specific architectural elements which convey the cultural background of the residents. I believe that trying to be different by completely avoiding any of these elements in the design of a residence in a locality, the design would stand apart which is not to be appreciated. How much ever the designs change there would be some factor which would be linking the streets.

In order to evaluate anything there should be benchmarks. In case of design, the benchmarks  are very broad and also specific to region and other factors. The standards are to be understood before we analyse a design.  I assume the standards can be classified  as:

  1. The cultural or pragmatic style of architecture followed in the region.

This contributes to the aesthetics of design to a large extend. Because the majority of the people who see the building will be  from the locality and thus would share a common baseline of symbolist thoughts.

       2. Functionality of the design;  as expected by the client

        3. Innovation in design, material selection, construction  method while satisfying (1) and (2)

 This design has innovation in design, but the character which portrays the culture neither the location is absent. Functional aspect may be working fine if the client is not much keen on maintaining privacy. May be there is nobody in the nearby vicinity.   And with this three points, I can clearly define what is meant by trendy. A trendy design will include the last two points i.e, the functionality and the innovative aspect of it. But it does not maintain the cultural link. A trendy dress is not acceptable for elders because their cultural background and baselines are different.  A trendy design will be fresh and new, but as long as there is no link to the culture, it would take time for them to get adjusted to it. The adjustment happens not because of the design, but the people start getting used to the new culture. A naalukettu was considered a pragmatic design as it had fulfilled all the needs of the people lived at that time. It was functionally good design. But as the generations changed, ladies were not confined to the backyards and kitchen( The cultural change) . So gradually the function of the design demanded a new plan for residences. And thus gradually it changed. Now a naalukettu planning for residences would not a practical design.

                        Until now I have been discussing about the  general way of analyzing a design. I assume this would be a common way of how a design is understood. But I would not support nor preach this way of analysing a design. The process of design should actually follow a different view point. The above analysis is right in case of a common man. It was just a thoughtful breaking down of how a common man thinks. The three points I listed out would be correct in case of any design. It may not be always a house that should come in mind when I tell design.  A table. A dress. A new pair of slippers. Think how the three factors help us analyse a good design. The three points would closely relate to what Vitruvius tried to explain through “Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas”. Click on the link to know more about it.

I would suggest architects and designers in general should not follow  the three factors which I listed. Because it explained how a design is analysed by the subject. A common man. There is a bigger realm of thinking and analytic algorith I would call it,  that we have to follow while analysing a design.


Music, art and architecture

Think of a famous musician of the time. Now consider the best music he has ever created. When you say you like a music very much, you can’t really trace out the reason why you like the music, except a few common reason that its soothing, good composition.etc.  Or may be because you like the voice of the singer. When you consider a case of a not-so-good music and compare it with the song you liked, there is a very small question that arises. How was a song good to listen and other bad when both were composed of the variations of the seven basic notes of music. From early ages of the Mozart to the fresh hits of LMFAO, the basics of the music is just the seven notes.

Practice safe concept

Architects and scientists can be closely related for the fact that its ideas that they sell. The product of the idea is the next phase of the profession. There are ma y ideas that couldn’t see light. May be because it’s difficult to even communicate the idea. Or impractical in that point of time. Specific to ” that point of time ”  because there are fictions that have become reality in time.

         Architecture of the past was not a profession that was practiced for income. The realm of the profession should reside closely to that of public serveants or politicians. Reason being the profession basically deals with creating living spaces or spaces that the people feel comfortable to use. Architects should get payed for the satisfaction that his client attains from his work of art.

The Butter In the Milk

There seems to be a misconception among general public that architects are half-nut and as if we live and think in some other way that common public cant understand. The moment an architect thinks the way he is supposed to, a building is not a good building for them. Its becomes “a good massing, a not so impressive visual impact”. This is generally the same that is thought about artists and poets. This has made me think a bit.

Lets think basics. Considering two cases; architects and non-architects. All architects were normal kids in their good ages. All engineers were also the same. So this divide of architects and non architects came up the moment their thinking process deviated. Architecture and architectural thinking sustains to those who are bad at mathematics. Lets put it the other way round. Technical thinking sustains to those who cannot think creative. And just because major part of the general public is not creative, it doesn’t mean being creative is a sin. And what is creativity? Is it just for artists and architects.?? Strolling through the Tathva stall exhibitions, I was thinking why my sister is lacking the creative mind. She used to be the one who used to sit beside me for all those drawing competitions my dad has pulled us both into. I remember we both used to go and sit in a big hall of the University Hall and keep drawing and colouring, staring, scratching, poking and back to drawing. She used to do better than me. After all I was the worst in the league. So by definition creativity refers to the ability of a person to think like a inventor, and to come up with a solution, an invention, an innovation. To create. Not to play jigsaw. Will talk about the “jigsaw” later. So in short process of thinking and finding solutions is creativity. A computer engineer is creative in his field when he can find a shorter and effective code for a simple task. Ubuntu is a creative piece of art in Programming. If the complex code of Windows XP which Microsoft could create was 1.4 GB And if Ubuntu could do that in 300MB, that’s creativity. A touch screen was a alien thing in the past. It’s a reality now. A transparent phone or a bubble phone is still not a reality. Any person who came up with the idea is a creative designer. So anyone who can actually make that is creative engineer.

general (1)

                 But it its NOT. Just because the idea is not his. The idea was of the designer who thought that a phone need not be always a piece of plastic. There is something called an essentialist character. The essentialist character of a phone is a communicating medium with the device, a medium through which we could tell the electronic device to ring up your dad or girl friend . So anything that can do that job well is a phone, when seen through a creative mind.

                So what I have concluded is that through course of time, the process of thinking about a new idea turned out to be the task of a designer and developing the design became the job of the engineers. And when time went further as it should, designers became more dedicated to the profession. There it met with situations were designers were very imaginative to the extend that a normal person could not understand. The common vocabulary between a designer and a developer got tampered. The situation now is that there is no common vocabulary between a designer and developer. The developer or an engineer thinks in terms of objectives and technical qualities and quantities. A designer does his job thinking about the human experience.  An architect designs spaces and visualises how good it would be if you can sit in your balcony reading the newspaper early in the morning when it is drizzling outside. The feeling of the persons  mind is an intentional and foreseen result that the architect wanted to provide. The thinking process that has gone behind it is hidden from the subject. The balcony would have been created in the eastern end of the residence which provides morning sun to wake your emotions. The roof eaves might have been designed just sufficient that you could touch the water droplets. There would have been textures or colours which bring up your mood in the space which a normal being cannot figure out the reason. So this way there are intentional inputs that a designer puts in in his design which look stupid but may have a foreseen uses to it. A single horizontal band of dark colour on the wall at the eye level can repel you from going near it. A bad designer would go for a “Don’t come near the wall”. So the point is a good designer plays with these psychology and manipulates the emotions of the subject.

              A society evolves when people live in harmony. People prefer to live in a gruop when they feel safe and comfortable. The The four  noble professions in the world are that of a teacher, a lawyer,  a doctor and a designer.  These are the four professions that ensures that the life of these people are complete. A person feels good to live in a society where he feels safe. Everyone looks to survive the day. When he is confident of surviving the day he looks for leisure. So in a society a teacher is the one who ignites the thought process in a  mind and guides through what is good and what is not. The role of education ends at a certain stage after which each individual is supposed to think and act for himself.  There may be few who were misguided. A lawyer ensures that the people in the society are living peacefully. The same to ensure that everyone survives. Law and Order are to restrict those who are misguided and to ensure a normal living. The law enforcing authority comes under a lawyer.  A doctor has to help a person stay in his healthy state of mind and body. Even the basic need here is to survive. When the three systems are functioning properly,  he is confident that he will survive.  That is when people start looking for a designer. When he knows that he can survive the day, he has started thinking how he can live better. Its not just about living spaces.  Anything from a gadget to a ear buds are for a better living. For comfort. “A car safety air bag is for survival and not for better living.”  Contrary point. True.  But the car itself is for better living. And not for survival.

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