Below is something I wrote as a concept note ( for teachers), for 5th semester studio ahead of formulating a teaching plan for a 3 week time problem.
Architecture as Discipline
Architecture’s claim to be a specific and autonomous discipline (as opposed to be a ‘mix’, synthesis, derivative of various other disciplines) is premised not merely on its ‘ideas’ about the world but in the very specificity and uniqueness of the codes that constitute these ‘ideas’. We loosely call it the ‘language’ of architecture. In a certain sense, knowledge about the discipline of architecture (being an architect) necessarily means the ability to imagine, think and speak in this language. This studio will not believe that the drawings (plans, sections, elevations, axonometric etc.) are ‘mere’ and imperfect ‘representations’ of some pure ‘idea’ that exists inside the mind – but instead will operate with the understanding that drawing (as a product) is the very idea itself and that it is through drawing (as a process) that the idea is shaped/built/explored.
We will attempt to understand 3 components that will form the basis of exploration in this studio.
- Architectural Alphabets/Elements – Wall/Column, Roof, Plinth
- Architectural Language: Thinking through drawings at scale: Plans, Sections, Elevations, Axonometrics – Doodle, Sketch, Diagram, Models, Orthographics
- Architectural Vocabulary & Syntax: Canonical formal geometries & spatial configurations, Sequence & Movement, Formal & Volumetric geometries
Indeed to distinguish ideation from the disciplinary codes of experimentation and articulation in architecture is as impossible as it is fool hardy. (For e.g. Phenomenology as a philosophical idea is parallel to but separate from phenomenology in architecture. Architecture does not ‘express’/represent phenomenological ideas about the world, but generates new knowledge about the world by experimenting with phenomenological ideas through its own specific codes, transforming both phenomenology and architectural codes.)
Indeed these disciplinary codes are learnt and acquired through rigorous formal analysis of canonical precedent rather than born out of pure internal will/volition/imagination etc. This is also the only guarantee that architecture is a ‘practice’ of ‘doing’ that can be taught. Disciplinary codes can be taught. Ideas cannot be. The command of codes : (vocabulary, syntax/grammar ) guarantees the possibility of a process of experimentation and expression of ideas.
The time problem will therefore de-construct an architectural project through drawings ( no photographs, no text) in order to learn the vocabulary, syntax and language of architecture. The student is expected to use the same when he/she develops and explains his/her design project in the latter half of the semester.
Part 1 Exercise : Time Problem to beone IN STUDIO: (Each Group to have 4 Students)
The teaching plan was written in co-ordination with a colleague, Savinder Raj Anand.
Reference Hand out:
- Precedents in Architecture (for Format)
- Architecture: Form, Space and Order (for canonical patterns in organization)
- Le Corbusier: Analysis of Form. (for site, geometrical order in plans and fenestration)
De-construction of the different Layers of the architectural Project, through the following steps:
- Reading Buildings through Drawings – Thinking/Looking in Specific Scales
- Identifying Site Geometry and Building geometry (Site Plan, Site Section or Axo)
- Identifying positive open space and negative open space (Figure ground, Site plan)
- Identifying Structural Order (Floor Plans, Axo)
- Identifying Architectural elements – wall, column, plinth, roof (Plan, Axo)
- Identifying Patterns of Spatial Configuration and Geometrical Order (Floor Plans, Elevation or Axo) Additive/Subtractive, Part to Whole, Repetitive to Unique, etc.
- Light (Section)
- Identifying Volumetric Order and Program (Co-relating Plan & Section)
- Identifying Circulation & Movement (Plan, Section, Views)
- Identifying Geometrical Order in Fenestration (Elevations) Additive/Subtractive, Part to Whole, Repetitive to Unique, Golden Mean etc.
- Building Services & Spatial Order (Plan, Axo)
- Visual Order & Detail (Elevation/Section)
- Only Two Sheets with hand drawn plans, sketches, text written (double the length of A0)
- At least 5 study models (paper, thermocol, clay…)
- Reading/Understanding Conceptual Thinking in architecture through the above identified patterns
The Project works must be discussed with a series of HAND-DRAWN drawings & sketches & hand-made study models that illustrate some of the above concepts.
Study models should help in understanding the various facets/Layers of the design.
Layering of drawings through transparent overlays has to be used for analysis while working in studio – in presentation it is to be used strategically.