Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Losing Touch

By Tyler Dunahee
"Dear architects,
You’re outdated. I know this because I once was one of you. But now I’ve moved on. I moved on because despite your love of a great curve, and your experimentation with form, you don’t understand people.
I correct myself. You don’t listen to people."

                This was the opening to an article I just finished reading titled "Why I Left the Architecture Profession" by Christine Outram on the ArchDaily website (I'll include a link at the end of this post).  The article was eye-opening in one sense, however, it was almost expected as some instructors in the architecture program here at SIU have discussed issues the author of this article has issue with.  She basically accuses the majority of architects and firms of being out of touch with what the people using the building truly need stating,

 "... the truth is, most of you don’t try. You rely on rules of thumb and pattern books, but you rarely do in-depth ethnographic research. You might sit at the building site for an hour and watch people “use space” but do you speak to them? Do you find out their motivations? Do your attempts really make their way into your design process?"

                Her accusations also include not utilizing all of the new, powerful tools that are now at our grasp, nor do we try to perfect old methods and techniques.  She uses Starbucks as a comparison to the architecture profession as a whole.  Starbucks takes comments from their consumers and uses them to design to, take, for example, their round tables.  The round tables were a result of asking the question how do we want people to feel before considering what do we want them to do.  The thought behind the round tables is the comfort for those there alone, there are no empty seats at a round table.  She does not believe architects, in a general sense, take this step in their design, and if they do, they employ old methods of doing so, ignoring the capabilities of new methods, allowing for vast polling, et cetera, very simply and easily.  She does believe most residential architects have the capability of designing to ones needs, however, on larger scales, commercial, healthcare, governmental buildings, this is lost.  She discusses the hardships in which Santiago Calatrava, a widely celebrated architect,  has put a number of cities with his flawed, and sometimes dangerous, designs.

                In ARC500: Research and Methods with Professor Craig Anz we have discussed how our ultimate goal as an architect is to "Do No Harm".  This "Do No Harm" sentiment is nothing new, as it was published in an American Institute of Architect's article, the author stating it as the new Architect's Standard of Care.  In this class we have also discussed the lack of post-occupancy evaluations (which Outram also brings up). Post-occupancy evaluations are an evaluation to see how the flow and spaces truly worked for people, if they worked at all, as to not repeat mistakes if the design did create errors.  However, very few firms actually take the time and money to investigate if their designs worked, and instead just assume they did, because we're architects, and we know what we are doing.  I do not mean to be so condescending to the profession in which I hope to practice, however, there are a number of issues within the profession. Correcting these issues could make architecture a much stronger profession and architects revered once again, instead of just a necessity to get all of the drawings stamped.

Here are the links:

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