Aha, it’s the end of 2012. Here’s a recap of the highlights of the year.
- Firstly, I’ve finished my second year of architectural education at the University of Sydney. This has led to me forming some more baked opinions about the architecture industry.
- I am now searching for architecture jobs and will likely begin work early 2013.
- My design for of a museum of pacific art was selected as part of the 2012 university architecture catalogue.
- There was the very excellent “Game of Homes” architecture revue, at which I acted as musical director and were reviewed as best revue band.
- I am now a Gentoo developer
- I have had much fun modeling and 3D printing various forest animals
- I have developed a foundation to build web applications out of: a mix between HTML5 boilerplate, Kohana, Mustache, various drivers, and a skeleton DCI setup.
- I have begun WIPUP2013: rebuilding WIPUP from the ground up with an improved and more maintainable backend, improved interface, and multiple device support.
- A lot of fun work setting up a training scheme, dev infrastructure and QA standards with a web development company.
- Early in the year: a couple months learning conversational Mandarin in Shanghai
- A couple months enjoying Malaysia
- Learning to cook a series of Malaysian dishes :) Yum!
Merry Christmas and a Happy new year, everyone!
Recently I did a front-end proposal for Zygomatic Studios. They’re an animation company started up by Erik Kylen and I’ll be maintaining their website.
Given that I knew them, I had some freedom to experiment. For an animation firm, the website itself had to be showy graphically somehow. I ended up making the entire page animated on page-load: to present itself in a showy way but not interrupt the user whilst actually using the page. “Slick” was what I was going for.
Another idea I wanted to play with was the one-page site concept, which displayed the highlights of each “sub page”, which could then be expanded if interested.
You can check it out in my alpha playground.
Designed with GIMP, with a little help from Blender. Personally quite happy with the experiment.
Now that I’ve finished my second year of architecture, I’ve started to develop a much faster workflow when it comes to churning out architectural renders. From being asked to make animations within really tight schedules, to having to produce presentation-ready drawings in a short period of time, being able to do the graphical equivalent of rapid development in programming was very important to me. Fortunately, unlike programming where the product has a 20% build time and 80% maintenance time, most graphics are present and discard.
I have started to collect some of my renders together and release them on WIPUP. Some of the better ones were shared on the Blenderartists forums, as naturally they were produced using Blender.
I was happy to hear that the above render was featured as a render on the week on Blendernews :) Although Blendernews is hardly an official news source for Blender, it was quite nice.
You can view the full set of renders below (click to go to the WIP update and view full-res images). My personal favourite is the forest one :) I find it makes a nice phone wallpaper.
I am releasing the four above renders under CC-by. A link to thinkMoult along with my name will suffice.
A while back, I started modeling a 3D beaver. No – this wasn’t the beaver I modeled for my animation “Big Rat” at least 5 years ago, this is a more recent one. In fact, after I had fun printing Suzanne, I had so much fun I decided I would print a beaver next.
Whoops. Wrong picture. It does, however, show you what goes on inside a 3D printed beaver, for those unfamiliar with Makerbot’s honeycombing.
… and …
Modeled in Blender, printed with white translucent ABS plastic. You might notice it’s always propped up with something – I got the center of mass wrong, so it has a mischievous habit of falling on its face. It seems to be one of those objects which look nicer in real life than in a photograph – perhaps because of the translucency of the plastic.
Oh dear, it’s been quite some time! Things have been astoundingly busy I’ve not had the time to touch the computer. However before we return to regular programming, there’s something I’d like to get off my chest.
Architecture is Selfish.
Architecture is an extremely old profession. However despite having such a long ancestry, it is still difficult to define exactly what architecture is.
In this regard, it is similar to the art industry, whose primary focus was initially representation and communication, but has long since devolved into abstractions that have left people similarly confused as to what art is. But that is another story, and is a challenge I will leave for another time.
I come today with the claim that architecture has and is growing towards a generation of selfish vanities, but before I do that, I need to attempt to answer the age old question of what architecture is.
Architecture is a justified solution to a predefined problem using the world as its medium. To be a master architect it is your job to be intimately familiar with the world in all of its nuances, and to be able to put it together into a solution which can be communicated and executed with results. This is not easy – the world is infinitely complex and to say its interactions are unpredictable is a vast understatement. To be able to master it completely is probably impossible, but it doesn’t mean you can’t win as many battles as you can on the way.
Having the world as its medium means three things:
- Architecture extends across many, if not all industries. It is a saying that an architect needs to know a little about a lot – a form of a jack of all trades whose real ability is in the selection of trades. Architects need to be trained from the beginning to be exposed to other industries.
- We cannot predict the world. We have to train ourselves to be sensitive towards behaviors and interactions. We won’t be perfect, but it’s better than not trying.
- There are plenty of audiences to cater to. A well justified architecture needs to first filter what choices are relevant and prioritise the many interdependent aspects that make up the world. Justification has an audience, and knowing the audience is half the battle.
I hope, then, that I am alone in my experience of [undergrad] architectural education, which apparently doesn’t recognise the world as its medium.
Architecture in Education
In the undergraduate university, design is shifted into a dull detail whereas form, theorising and philosophy have been granted the “big picture” pedestal and requirement towards architectural fame: ie. you can’t be famous if you don’t have a charismatic philosophy.
Philosophy, or at least western ones, has the trait of “construction” – of adding a layer of imbued meaning or interpretation with increasing layers of complexity until it is taken as a truth, and then subsequently built upon again with another layer until it moves back into a subjective phase. Bonus points if your new layer is a reinterpretation or a controversial new direction.
For architecture, this means we are taking the already infinitely complex world scenario previously described and adding even more complexity on top – and the further up the abstraction tree you climb, the more you worry yourselves with incredibly irrelevant and in some cases, plain wrong, ideologies. Even worse, it is encouraged to add our own to the pile of abstractions rather than the opposite – stripping away constructions to get closer to what is -dare I use a dangerous phrase – an absolute truth. Architecture already presents itself with a fiendish problem without us having to add imaginary ones of our own.
Abstractions are a waste of time
Architecture has enough problems: a complex medium – to understand the world as its medium, unpredictability – problems revolve around people, and justification – how to confirm solutions. The only way to solve these issues is to look away from yourself and start learning about the worlds of other people. Architecture is not designed for the architect and never should be! Architects should design for the smile on other people’s faces, not their own.
It was worrying, then, the focus in my education on ideas like “what I thought”, or “what I felt” and then having it passed through the roulette board of critics. This is not what architecture should be – it should be a caring, empathising industry whose professionals aren’t those who are worshiped for their ideas but instead those who are able to appreciate the ideas of others. The real questions should be “who feels what, who thinks like this, and why are we listening to this who?”. With all the focus on “I”, we train ourselves to treat the architectural problem as an enemy with which we are at a constant war, whereas we should treat that world, our world, as our friend and ally. A proposal which doesn’t account for those most affected by it is a bad proposal.
This is why it is so important to be trained from the beginning to listen to others and to experience the worlds of other people. Not to make funky shapes or listen to arrogant philosophies and definitely not to make your own. Forms are getting easier to imagine with technology helping us, structural solutions are speeding ahead, and theories are a dime a dozen nowadays – the real issue is knowing how to empathise. It’s only from a young training that we can bridge the chasm between ourselves and the people around us.
I’ve come up with a few simple tests as to whether or not your architecture is selfish. Most architectural proposals have a concept – an overarching objective which governs all the decisions in the design process and the benchmark. This is the design equivalent of business’ mission statement. There is a lot of work put towards accurately defining this concept and then communicating it to others. A good concept is normally one which is loaded with meaning which can be extracted throughout the project. The tests are as follows:
- Have you understood the complex medium of the world? If you have, you should be able to tell your concept to a bricklayer and they would understand the importance of why they are laying bricks. If you understand it well enough, you can present it simply enough.
- Are you catering to unpredictability? How good can you predict a rant about a bad day in the life of your audience, and does your concept solves at least half of those issues?
- Is your concept justified? Justified concepts can be re-communicated: somebody else should be able to present the concept on your behalf without any loss in key information.
And finally, to combat the common denominator – does your architecture care? Can you confidently say that introducing this building into the lives of the people who would be most affected by it improve their lives and make them happier?
The actual implementation is a separate issue – it turns into a benchmarking game whose expertise still extends beyond the role of the architect but is relatively straightforward to orientating your conceptual goals.
Architecture’s solution defines a world for other people. If we can’t be bothered to understand how others see the world first, our solutions will never be more than a hit and miss. This is not opinion – this is an ethical responsibility of a professional.
I don’t want to be a selfish architect.