sampbarham November 19, 2012

If I said I’d always dreamt of becoming an architect, I’d be lying.

I wasn’t infactuated with buildings from an early age, none of my close relations could hold a pencil-to-paper and I chose all the wrong A-levels. Yet, architecture seemed to embody a logical synthesis of my three, main creative interests: photography, sketching and 3d modelling.

Naturally, I realised this 3 days before the UCAS course selection deadline, making the decision to pursue architecture more of a last-minute process of elimination than the pursuit of any innate childhood ambition. And, although it destined to be both time-consuming and stressful, (as pointedly summarised by one of my lecturer’s)… “If your looking for an easy degree. This isn’t it.”

It’s probably been the best decision I’ve ever made.

Even before the course, I’d fallen for a few of the modern architectural classics: The Villa Savoye, Fallingwater and the Seagram Building to name but a few. Flashy, pin-up, poster-boys of the profession.

Fallingwater or Kaufman House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Yet, as time moved on, I saw past the glossy, polished facades (excuse the pun) and begun to appreciate the more modest role architecture plays in the urban environment.

Architecture isn’t all glamour and abstraction, up-scaled concrete sculpting or “painting with light and shadow”. It isn’t all about star-chitects and their luxurious steel statements… and it certainly isn’t one big hedonistic, vertical competition (I’m looking at you Dubai.)

It’s about hard-graft and banality, persistence and tedium; a creative production-line and thought-process. The appreciation of the existing, and the tactile integration of context. It is the unearthing of the most ingenious compromise to the most everyday of problems. As simple as a thoughtfully spaced stair-tread or pleasantly tactile railing.

That’s what architecture really is. Envisioning elegant things that actually work.

Tasteful detailing on the Villa Maeria

Taking this on board, I begun to appreciate the work of Pallasma and Tanizaki, and valued haptic, more holistic precedents from designers such as Enric Miralles, Edward Cullinan and Alvar Aalto (whose work I particularly like).

This paradigm-shift is no doubt a testament to the huge amount of literature covered during the first two years of the course. It heralded a new-found appreciation for the subject and, (as hopefully identifiable in my portfolio), a maturing of my own design work.