Friday, September 23, 2016

Architect, the Creator!

"It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time"... David Allan Coe.

With above words from American singer, who is wise enough to utter such quote, I started my speech at Sinhagad Architecture College. Occasion was construction technique workshop & most of the students were beginners of architecture i.e. first or second year. When I got the invite from my friend Shilpa Pande who is an architect herself & professor there, for a moment I thought what I am going to tell the budding architects as an engineer by myself. Though I am used to share my environmental aspect of planning with architecture students but that’s mostly senior cadre of the course. Never I have took on the younger lot of architecture who yet to have crossed the basics of designing or planning. Yet I always love to meet with fresh minds & think that’s the best way to gear up our own brain as to fulfill those minds you always have to remain one step ahead & think as fresh as them! It was very clear to me that I should not be speaking too technical or about the course structure but make them understand what is an architect’s job that lies ahead, when they will be passing from here as well what makes an architect so special in any structure? At the same time I was happy for college’s initiative to make them expose actual construction techniques as if a building is a coin then architect & engineer are two sides of the coin! The architect is happy in just making drawings & rarely bothering about the way that drawings execution will be done. At the same time the engineer is happy in following blindly the drawings he receives from the architect, without bothering his brain in the planning aspect of the structure! On such background trying to induce execution knowledge in beginning to the architects is really good initiative & obviously I wanted to tell them importance of this aspect for their career ahead.

That’s why I choose the quote which defines the importance of foundation of the building than just its beauty. I started with confession that I accepted this invitation in first go just to take the opportunity to lecture the audience of architects as rarely an engineer gets to say something to the architect & I wasn’t going to miss such chance! Because in the field it’s always the architect who has upper hands in giving instruction which the engineer has to follow! After the laughter got settled, I then showed series of photographs of world’s some of the recent iconic structures; it covers two aspect , first a visual support plays vital role with younger lot of listeners to make them stay with you focused as well they can correlate your spoken words more easily as they haven’t yet started imagining! So I showed them images of PETRONAS’s Twin Tower in Kualallampur, The Guggenheim in Spain, Burj Khalipa & Burj Al Arab in Dubai, as well Lotus Temple from Delhi. I told them these all are modern world’s icon & don’t just get awww with the images as you can Google for them & get thousands of more such. What is more important that when you Google for information of these structures then first comes the name of the architect. Cesar Pelli designed PETRONAS’ Towers, Frank Gheri imagined Guggenheim, Adrian Smith dreamed of world tallest building Burj Khalipha & got it in reality, Tom Wright sketched world’s tallest hotel in form of Burj Arab & Fariborz Sabha made India proud by his Lotus Temple at Delhi! Even if you search Google, in all these structures which now stood proud to man kind’s development in creativity, the first names pops out is of the architect! This is the difference between an architect & other who may be equally part of creation but its one single mind that sees that form first & get it on paper so others also can visualize it!

Agreed it takes an engineer too, to build any structure but first that structure has to be imagined in the mind of one single person & that’s why architects are so special! That’s why the building is usually named after the architect & not the engineers. After all let’s remember architecture is creator of the building where as an engineer is executioner of this creation. Imagine any structure as a coin of which two sides are architect & engineer, so a coin gets complete only with both sides in place. Yet as an architect one should mind that it’s an art to create, to visualize which is not in existence & that’s why the architect has to be within you. I told them, engineering is a science & anybody with better brain can learn engineering as ultimately its game of formulas! Whereas in this course nobody will be making an architect out of you but they will just show the path to become an architect to you on which you only have to walk! But at the same time an architect should understand whatever form he or she imagines has limitations of existing formulas of engineering as well material knowledge. And that’s why it will be always helpful for them to learn engineering techniques which we call construction practices. As what better combination it can be an architect with understanding of limitations as well knowledge of the way his creation is going to be built! Rather for ages building industry is in shackles of technology because R & D was never forte if this industry, especially in our country. So if any architect ever comes up with some innovative idea about the way buildings are built i.e. other that concrete & steel, then that will be best contribution to the industry. 

At the same time the architect should know the local geography & construction material available around. Imagine a concrete home in Rajasthan where sand stone is easily available or a marble clad structure in Konkan region where red stone is in ample; the outcome will look ghastly in contrast with the surrounding. The best building need not stand out from other structures but it should get merged along with the surrounding is what I personally feel & for that knowledge of what is available locally is vital. It has another aspect & that is making cost of the structure as no client will like to get his pocket burnt by the design you make!
Then comes along the question, what is an architect’s job? Many will say what an obscured question is this! Isn’t it very clearly defined by me only that an architect’s job is to create, to design the building or structure? Indeed yes but there is one hitch, the architect is not free to design the building as per sheer imagination or whatever he or she feels, but it’s as per the clients requirements only! That’s the boundary as if a client wants to build a hospital then you can’t design a hotel, however wonderful it may be! So the architect’s first job is get in to mind of the client & understand what the client wants & what are his needs! Remember there is difference between what a client wants & what are his needs & here come the philosophy or psychology in picture as many a times even the grown up men doesn’t understand the difference between what they want & what they need in actual! For example I am your client & I want a home to be built for my family, but I may not know what exactly I need in that home as how the home will serve my purpose in best possible way. This covers aspects like knowing the clients family to understanding their life style & likings to minute details like what color every member likes & how their time is spent, individually as well jointly in that home! Here the architect’s role is talk to the clients family like a family doctor, analyze their life style, make them understand what they are missing in getting the concept of the home & then design the best home for them; as most persons never know what is best for them! This is applicable for every structure as each structure you will be designing will be different & so will be its clients & their needs!

When you all be getting out of this school, you will be getting opportunity to design every type of building or call it structure, may it be a bridge or a school or exhibition center or even or laboratory; what’s the most important aspect of the design is the people who will be using that structure. It’s not you but the user will be deciding the success of the structure & its design. Off late the term “Sustainability” is used very often in modern architecture or urban planning most of the time without knowing its real meaning. Apart from environment what I feel is an architect must know what he is going to sustain through his creation & most important thing you will be sustaining is peace of mind for the user of the structure. As a wrong design can take away the peace or happiness whatever you may call it from the user or occupant of the building & that’s real challenge for the architect. If it’s a public park then try to understand how the people will be at ease in park & create the spaces accordingly. If it’s a school then the teachers as well students should feel it’s easy to use every corner of it right from class rooms to even the corridors &again for that the architect needs to know why he is designing the structure; here why is in actual meant, for whom you are designing your building!

And while doing all this as today’s genre the biggest challenge you will be facing is how to balance peace of your client along with the nature. Do mind, nothing is Eco friendly as any new man-made structure replaces some natural habitat may it be even for earth worms or ants living happily even on so called barren lands. And except humans no other species have privilege of hiring an architect neither to design nor to engage an engineer to build a home for them! So while getting knowledge of architecture you need to understand your responsibility towards every other specie than the humans. While you create your dream project just see that it damages minimum to the natural landscape or habitats & it has space for birds, for butterflies & even for earth worms to grow along with us. Because earth is not only human’s inheritance, every living object has equal right on smallest piece of the land & it’s only you who can give that right to them by your designs. In our greed for maintaining our life style we make thousands of species extinct by taking away their residences, agreed we can’t go back to ancient times & start living in caves or trees but just keep that aspect alive in your mind while designing & rest will follow!

To conclude I will share few tips for becoming successful architect, it’s simple; read, watch, travel, write, absorb & share! Read as much you can as that will make you think about people & their needs. Watch movies right from cartoons to super hero’s to romance as it will keep your imagination flying. Travel to places as then only you will come to know places & habitats across the world & diversity the earth offers to us. Write as that’s a way to express what we feel & do mind as an architect drawing is your language, so your designs will speak what you have learned. Absorb whatever you have seen & listened as there is difference between seeing & observing, hearing & listening! Lastly share whatever you have understood & share with your family, friends, and teachers as then only there will be more space available to accumulate more knowledge within you!

Lastly to conclude I will say, a successful architect is not the one who charges fat fees or has wealthiest clients list but a successful architect is the one who brings smiles on the faces of the occupants of his buildings! All of you will be designing many structures in your career ahead but whenever you will be standing in front of the building you have designed, you should be able to look at it with pride & compassion, which will make you a true creator! So go on, make this world a shade better by your creations, is my wish for you all!
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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