“As an Architect, you design for a present, with an awareness of the past, for a future that is essentially unknown.” – Norman Foster
Architecture has often been called an allied discipline. A melange of principles from the fields of design, mathematics, structures, chemistry, psychology, sociology, economics, and environmental studies. Like nature is composed of components both living and nonliving, building or rebuilding in nature is obviously also composed of a variety of animate and inanimate factors, all of which play a unique role in shaping up not only built and unbuilt space, but also a person’s experience of it.
The architect has always been considered a multi-skilled person, one who has to take care of not only the structure of the building, but also its function, aesthetic and experience. The talent of the architect, therefore, is almost solely reliant on their versatility. Interestingly, some of the world’s most famous architects, including Wright, Sullivan and Corbusier did not in-fact hold a degree in architecture. They either dropped out, or came to the due course of designing buildings after having formed a very non-conventional understanding of forms and spaces. Needless to say, this was very evident from their work.
This also goes on to imply that only an education in the design principles and building methodologies does not make an architect. There is a zeal, a passion that is a driving force in a person who dreams, and desires to change the way we live and experience the world as we know it, quite literally.
If architecture is a visual art, the nature is our canvas, and building materials, our medium. Our design ideas are the brushes we wield across this canvas, to create a masterpiece. Hence, the
idea of the creation has to be bigger than all of the rest, and it must be our capability to master these mediums in order to create. But slowly after the industrial revolution, the materials have become bigger than the architecture itself. There is a mad scramble for the use of glass, steel and concrete, and the race to touch the sky only gets faster. Architecture, instead of becoming freer in expression, is now bound by the compressive strengths of concrete and the bending of steel.
An architect’s imagination should never have to be curbed. It should be
given means and expression to come alive. This can be proved by the structures of unbelievable dimensions that have been brought to life by people like Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, and Antoni Gaudi. But only imagination cannot bring a building to life. The structures envisioned by these people have had to be practically approached by their respective consultants, and also worked on such that their intent would not be lost.
That being said, the architects face an even tougher challenge- to use these materials in a
way that had not been conceived of earlier. Architects who rose to this challenge include Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Shigeru Ban.
While Gehry used metal twisted, turned, topsy turvy, and Hadid conceptualised almost unthinkable forms with composite fibres, Ban showed us how to build with paper and cardboard. Others like Oscar Niemeyer and Corbusier have made marvels of concrete. Closer home, Indian architects like Charles Correa, B.V. Doshi, Laurie Baker, Revathi Kamath have been using earth and brick along with concrete to make environmentally conscious buildings.
They are truly the masters of the materials they use.
My journey through five years of architecture studies has been one fraught with unlimited coffee, erratic working hours, and strange design outcomes. But through it all, the one thing that we were repeatedly asked to focus on, was that architectural design was an exercise in mastery in all trades. Your design had to well-conceptualised, structurally sound, efficiently serviced, and built with viable material. However much truth there is to that, it remained to be understood that the marvels that I had studied, analysed and come to respect were the result of a combined effort of a team of experts. The idea might have been conceptualised by one person, but the reality has created by masters in different fields.
Therefore, as a would-be architect, I seek to be a jack of all trades, and a master of Arts- the art of conceptualising, understanding the viabilities of a design, the art of finding the right expert for consultation, the art of working together with a team, and most importantly, the art of building responsibly. The planet, and its resources are a valuable gift, and as architects, our license also comes with an implied duty to safeguard the well-being of our lands. In the urge to build taller, and larger, we must also balance it out by building thoughtfully, and sustainably. As the torchbearers of the masters of materials, the architect of the 21st century holds within themselves immense potential, and a responsibility for shaping the future of this planet. Architecture is a field that has scope for collaborations with almost all other forms of art, as well as engineering. The millennial architects, today, are curating their design senses and thought processes, to not only use material and space, but also technology, psychology, sociology and phenomenology to create something that is not only deeply experiential, but also responsible towards the environment.
Ankita Sharma is an architect by training, and a writer by choice. Her love for books has given her a vivid imagination, and an eye for detail. A little impatient, a little lost, Ankita is trying to find her own voice amidst the world’s chaos.