Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Arkham Architecture II: Detective Comics and the Architectural Process

By Stephen Tutka

Keeping with my theme of Architecture and Comic books I want to discuss DC Comics (I find it redundant to call it DC Comics considering DC stands for Detective Comics), more specifically one of DC’s most popular heroes, Batman.
Batman is a detective. In order to find work he is notified about a job by Commissioner Gordon. Then, similar to all detectives Batman must do a lot of research. He shows up at a crime scene and looks around for clues that will lead him to another clue and, eventually, to the solution (the crook). Not unlike Batman, Architects must do some detective work of their own.
Really, Batman is trying to find a solution and problems are solved by design. Architects as designers must look into a problem with the same detail orientation as the Dark Knight. Architects have a defined problem that they are trying to solve with spaces. They must look at the site (crime scene) and take in all the information (clues) they can that will affect their design. Batman also follows a process and anyone who goes through architecture school knows all too well that process is the bulk of architecture. If Batman didn’t follow every clue that lead to the next and do the work between each step to reach the next then he would just be stuck with a problem he cannot solve. In the same sense, architectural investigation and iteration is important in the process. How do you know something doesn’t work or that something else works better unless you try it?
Also, what kind of story would a DC Comic about Batman tell if he didn’t follow all those steps and find all those clues? Well… it would either result in Batman being the worst superhero ever and every bank robber getting away or it would result in Batman comics lasting a whole page and not filling the pages with action. There would be no narrative! Architecture, similarly, must tell a narrative to be truly interesting. In school, that same process I talked about is important to the project as a whole. As you progress through a project you must document everything! All of the work you have done lead you to that final design so show that work. A project is not just a pretty picture, and elevation, and a floor plan. Why is it the way it is? Why is one room placed next to another and not next to a third room? Why is it placed on the site how it is? Why did you do everything you did? Your process, that’s why. Design is reason, design is detective work, design in informed. As Scott Adams, a famous cartoonist, stated, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Design is knowing which ones to keep.”

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