By: Ken Howder
Diagramming our ideas and concepts to clearly communicate with clients, other architects, and the general public is an important poart of what we do in this field. The main reason we do this is because, like any other profression or hobby undertaken by a person, is that the more you work with something specific, the more you understand it – the better you are at interpreting the information in front of you whether graphical or not. However, throughout my 5 years of academic architecture, I have noticed a vast difference betweent different peoples diagramming skills. This raises a question of whether or not there should be certain defined standards for presenting a concept (referring specifically to the “common” concepts of flow, solid/void, relation, etc). With that being said, I would like to give a few examples of some poorly done diagrams vs some that are fairly decent – Note that these are just diagrams found on google from the generic search parameter of “architectural diagram.”
1) First up, we have this “evolution diagram.” Apparently the owner of this was attempting to communicate how and why he/she came up with the design style and shape. This sounds like a reasonable attempt of communication I suppose, but why are diagrams such as these needed? Could this person not simply have explained how they came to their final design? From looking and the simplicity of this design, I would have to argue a strong “yes” and that this diagram serves no purpose whatsoever for their project other than to provide “eye candy.”
2) Next is this diagram. This designer has provided someone with their four-step process that led them from a box to, well, a box with a couple more boxes added onto it. This is another example of what I would consider a diagram that is worth nothing. What is this even telling us? He/she started with a box, cut out the front for an unexplained reason, slapped a slab on top and offset it a bit for another unexplained reason, then sent something in the lower right corner? (as represented in the final illustration with the two red arrows pointing in that direction). Again, this diagram looks neat, but how can we be taken seriously if this is the kind of information that we provide? Were these decisions made for climatic reasons, regulations, or just to create a “modern” looking box?
Both of the designs shown above also have what one might consider (for lack of a better word) a laziness to them. They proposed boxes offset from boxes to produce some kind of complex box. Looking at such designs from several angles would give the same result. However, at least the first one attempted some element of design, as well as what appears to be some kind of decisions on why it has formed that shape.
I found several other diagrams/images that could be torn apart, but for now I will turn this to a couple decent diagram examples.
1) This diagram is ok I believe although It still has a fair amount of “fluff” filling up some areas. It clearly communicates the different areas of the building and their designated associations. I am assuming that this diagram (as well as the others) are part of a much larger project, and I would actually be interested to see what else this one had to offer.
2) This is, by far, the best diagram that I ran across from my search. It’s clean and to the point of what it is trying to explain. Sound flow and reverberations in the form of the dotted lines is clear. The labels tell what materials are being used – but more importantly, why they are being used (their absorption properties). Furthermore, the function of what is going on here could be picked up from a mere glance at the image.
The purpose behind this rant isn’t to bash on other people’s work or say anything too insulting. It occurs to me, and hopefully some others, that a lot of what we learn and draw in this field (or program) function as “eye candy” at best – Neat looking drawings and diagrams to impress those who look at them, but possess very little needed communicative properties. Art is a genuine field – perhaps some belong there instead, least we ultimately have to encumber several Frank Gehry's distorting our world with funky architecture.