As this last studio of my M.Arch journey winds down I am becoming increasingly aware of how I want to position myself in architecture. I realize my strengths, my weaknesses, what I am interested in and what I am not. This is really what I was hoping to get out of a masters education, and it seems to be materializing. It feels like the right head space to be in while solidifying my thoughts for thesis in September. It feels that way, whether it is or not is another matter entirely.
Throughout my education I have never excelled at directing the experience of architecture. I have an analytical mind, the majority of my first degree was technical, I do not mean it was lacking in history and theory, there was plenty of that. What I mean is that thinking of how someone feels in my spaces or impressionistically how spaces are experienced, has never been at the forefront of my process. There is often not enough time in an academic setting to get this level of design, but that is not really an excuse, when you know that is a weakness. I have always found the crits go well when you can take your jury of architects through your project an discuss your hypothesis, analysis and synthesis of your decision making that constitute your designs, and almost nothing could be said of how spaces feel except for renders done at the last moment as a proof rather than a design tool on its own. I did however have a crit last year where something was said that really stuck with me “Anything you do, it has to be compelling, you can through all the process in the world, but if it is not compelling, that it is irrelevant.
I am getting in to all of this because I have got that stage in my studio project where my thinking has lead to a building that is functioning, understandable, been edited after that too far designing moment and still working with my concept stage. If I am lucky I get to this stage just as I am about to present, but somehow I have managed to get to the stage with 3-4 weeks left in the semester and none of this thinking dawned on me until my prof asked quite simply “what are your spaces like?” and I had no answer.
This bothered me for three days straight, because I had no system of designing this way, no approach to solving this quite indispensable question of architecture. Which in an academic studio is one thing, but in the world with clients and money and contractors where people have to live with this thing, is quite another. Architecture and everything else for that matter has a experience associated with it, whether it has been done purposely or not.
I wish I could say I had a eureka moment, where the heavens opened and instantly knew how to design experience by reading a passage from Zumthor (which I did try). However for the last few weeks I did explore how intensity and amount of light play a role in my building, which did not even come up in the final crit of course. But it felt like a huge learning experience and at the very least I realized how much I still do not know about architecture.