Architecture belongs as much to the physical as it does to the mind, more so to the physical. Architectural spaces create atmospheres for sensorial experiences and recall. They affect our skin, sight, smell, and sound – and a great part of these characteristics are inarguable affected by the details of any space; the domain involved in understanding of material and construction processes.
The importance of understanding materials, technology and construction process cannot be over-stressed. It fundamentally necessitates design and design drawing. When Zaha Hadid, was thinking of parametric spaces, there weren’t systems of drawing that existed to bring her ideas on paper; and hence, in order to bring her shapes to reality, she first had to devise methodologies and tools to draw such spaces. Frank Gehry took considerable time to find the right material for Guggenheim Bilbao, and when he found Titanium as the right suit, he had to work with industrialists to make that material suitable for construction standards. Santiago Calatrava had to strive for years, for the technology to advance, and be competent enough to execute his forms.
When we talk about great architects, we must not only look at the finished products but the effort that went into delivering that product. Here, we will begin to look at the edges where two materials merge, or the longstanding argument about which textures of timber suit the flooring, or which particular material can withstand the weather.
The issues that need to be solved here are: how to draw, how to build, and how to clad. If there is something that cannot be drawn, then it cannot be measured, understood in qualitative terms, and improved upon – therefore, it lacks feasibility. Hence, understand the right tools and methodologies for drawing a design to the utmost detail is an indispensable factor in its execution. Understanding its construction requirements, prerequisites of the brief, and context, are an integral part of the design process. If the design negates these factors, certain anomalies will cause hindrance. Lastly, it is very easy to imagine buildings in certain materials, however, it is very difficult to figure out how to apply them on-site. Therefore, a clear understanding of how the materials interact with the mass of the building when applied as a skin, is a fundamental aspect of design today.
Evaluating this aspect not only improves the quality of the final product but makes the process of design an enriching experience in itself. It is the aspect that students find tedious, partly because they are not exposed to the diverse materials and construction methodologies that make a designer’s mind tinker, and keep it fresh.
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