By Randy Thoms
Coming from a construction background, much of “school” reinforces what is out in the field, but also falls short. There needs to be more “hands-on” experiences. Not just interning in an office, but in the actual building trades. You have not lived until you smashed your thumb with a hammer and said a few choice words. The building tech courses here have been great to show how a building goes together. But even I feel I could learn more with coursework on building codes, the mass of a building and “best practices” of design that still need to be addressed.
During my design process, much of the time I start from the basis of “how is this going to be built?” and “how expensive and efficient is this structural system?” It keeps me grounded, but at the same time I feel it limits me as well. I work through the problem looking at the big, whole picture…much what an Architect is supposed to do?...and not get too lost is the free-form design or unbuildable building. So that is where the limits stem from, I do not allow myself to push the envelope, go beyond my comfort zone. Does this make me a better designer? Maybe I will always fall within my client’s budget, which is a good thing, right? Maybe I will always be efficient and sustainable, which is a good thing, right?
Ever since a youngster, I always enjoyed building-construction and buildings- spaces, facades, plazas, etc. I always wondered what the builder and architect (when I found out that is who designs the buildings) were thinking about or motivates them? As well as the human scale of construction. With my travels through Europe, seeing all those cathedrals and churches, large and imposing, one can be only in awe. It is no wonder the church has such power. Who would not be inspired, or afraid, of such structures and institutions?
But, no matter how tall, big or deep a structure may be, it all comes down to two things, sometimes five and at other times, ten. I am talking about the human hand…those fingers and thumbs. With all the tools, technology and materials, it still take the relatively small human hand to assemble these large structures. By holding a wrench to erect iron beams, to spinning a nut on a bolt, to holding a hammer and a nail it all comes down to ten items. From pecking away on a computer and getting finger cramps from rolling the mouse wheel back and forth for endless hours, to holding a pencil, yes sometimes architects use pencils and markers, and drawing on a napkin, it all comes together with a finger and an opposable thumb.