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.


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