The “Architecture”

What should our designs try to achieve? We must take a critical look at the brief, make it more comprehensive. We must look beyond the narrow object and ask ourselves: What will be the ecological consequences? – Sir Ove Arup

Hi friends,

I have had this for a little over two years, if I am not mistaken. First I was a bit too busy with work to post it,  finally too much time had gone by I pushed it to my drafts. There it stayed and gathered dust until I saw an image of  a failed house that jolted my memory.

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Anyhow let me jump right into it, as written two years ago below.

Two of my friends and I decided to link up one Friday night. I remember just coming from my little nieces graduation (she’s 4), moving from reception to grade one as she emphatically puts it whenever asked.
We sat down, ordered some pizza then got chatting about life, work, life after school among other things.
What started off as an innocent inquiry seemed to stir the conversation into what felt like a whole new direction. I was asked a hypothetical question;
So how long would it take you to design a school campus, dormitories office block and some teachers’ houses?” “A week has to be ample time to design a dormitory, right?

I replied with an are you insane kind of look. I would need more than just a week for a full design, especially with all the other work I have on my table I let out loud.
The conversation started off light in the beginning but I found myself getting a little offended I got irritated as we spoke progressively. I tried to familiarise myself with the idea of designing several different structures in a matter of days, but came up short.      Even if it was just a large open space with four walls. If indeed it has/is being done, it surely wasn’t something that I am accustomed to.

In trying to explain that generally architectural design involves a process or processes. Then comes some level of editing depending on the type of the project and amount of information available or required. In my books a week was not nearly enough time. I realised however that it must have sounded like Greek to them.
General view was, if a builder could go to a site and whip out a house design in a matter of hours why couldn’t I? I felt the sudden urge to validate what I did (as if I had to), my cheeks felt a mild flush from the sheer effort of trying to make them see my point of view. After a while of going back and forth I realised that it really was due to a lack of information, at this point I listened not with the intent to reply but just heard them out. After all I have been called an “architecture” by well meaning people with ease, countless times.

As you have already gathered it was not the first time I heard this, likening a modern day builder to a modern day Architect. They was a time when builder and architect were synonymous but not today and definitely not in Zambia.
In the grand scheme of things it is a well known fact that most domestic plans are done informally with little or no impute or the services of a quaified Architect. This could also be due to the fact that most people are only just learning who and what an Architect does not overlooking the fact that  it also serves as a short term cost cutting measure.

Bigger projects are often an exception, having a team of qualified persons burning the midnight oil to ensure a good quality design.

Sometimes clients are in haste to start and complete projects only to notice defects after the project has already commenced, worse still upon completion. It is sad to see, after money and time has been invested. Most times there is little one can do to rectify the situation.

One thing I did walk away with is a series of burning questions. Such as;

what is reasonable time and how do architects allocate that time? 

what measures can be taken to inform, educate. If indeed it is my duty to do so, then how can I do it? If not then whose is it?

convincing my friends was out of the question, I do hope however that with time and more experience I can have more precise answers. I hope more people can learn and understand what it is that I do as a graduate architect, cause for me it really is more than just four walls, a floor and a roof. To really appreciate something you need to understand it.
Thanks for reading, cheers.

What’s your take?

Thanks for reading, do feel free to comment like or/and share. Zikomo.

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