Architecture possesses a surplus.
It possesses a generosity beyond designing a building or the artifact itself. This surplus is what gives meaning to a building and permits architecture to exist in other forms and media. It reminds me of a statement that one can ‘do’ architecture without designing a building. Or when the late Raimund Abraham said that to be an architect, all he needed was a pencil and a piece of paper. Whichever journey one takes, the quest for architecture has to begin with the architect and no one else. In fact it begins with the education of an architect.
It begins with a search- by questioning fundamental aspects of the human condition both historically and contemporaneously because architecture is material form and space that articulates the human condition in all its failings and goodness. Recall the Nazi’s use of architecture in the expression of its warped, destructive and horrid ideology. On the other hand, see how Gaudi strived to embody the highest spiritual aspirations in humanity through his yet to be fully completed Sagrada Familia or John Hejduk’s poignant depictions of loss, remembrance, desire and love in his powerful drawings of angels and their housings.
The search has to manifest into an act (not necessarily in designing a building) and must be carried out with sensitivity and empathy because architecture must be an affirmation of what is ethical and all that is good about humanity. Sometimes the action demands the architect to resist or subvert. In other moments, to strengthen, protect and shelter.
The architect constructs a world.
By this, I mean the architect structures and orders spheres of human experience through the thoughtful and intelligent use of media. The process is as much influenced by the character and propensity of the media as the inner voice of the architect. It is a voice that is first recognized and nurtured while in architectural school and matures through the life of the architect. It is shaped by cultural specificities, personal experiences and reflections, which re-emerges from the architect in in myriad forms and ways. Donald Schön notion of the reflective practitioner echoes this act of design that is informed by a continuous feedback loop of reflection, understanding and action. Each stage of the process moves from confronting something new in the beginning, drawing from one’s past experience in probing, testing and transforming the initial condition while creating a new understanding for the architect. It is a process of educating oneself. In other words, the life of an architect’s education is inexplicably linked to the architect’s process of understanding and awareness of his or her place in the world, which does not stop after graduation but continues into the professional world. It is a lifelong process of questioning and searching that marks the arc of an architect’s growth and development.