A Peek at the Real World // Chenyu Lou
Since the beginning of human race, architecture has been a very important part of history. From the rough rock cave in the mountains, to the 100-story skyscraper in the highly civilized city, architecture has bonded with people’s daily life. Since Marc-Antoine Laugier illustrated his version of The Primitive Hut, humans started the endless debate about the true fundamental of architecture. What is architecture for? At the beginning, architecture was for shelter and security, a place that provides protection to people in order to keep them away from the external danger, inclement weather and other hazards. With the development of the building technic and the wisdom of human race, architecture then became a way to express certain meanings. A 488-feet-high pyramid was an expression of worship. A 5500.3-miles-long great wall was an expression of the power of a dynasty. A piece of architecture should satisfy three principles, firmitas, utilitas, venustas. Firmitas means durability, as the building should remain in good condition while being occupied. Utilitas, translated as utility, means the building should serve a certain purpose and be able to fulfill the needs of the purpose. Venustas means beauty, as the building should be aesthetically pleasing. The successful buildings always have these three fundamentals, with or without the designer and builder being conscious of them.
Frontispiece of Marc-Antoine Laugier: Essai sur l'architecture 2nd ed. 1755 by Charles Eisen (1720-1778). Allegorical engraving of the Vitruvian primitive hut.
After several years’ pursuit of an architecture degree, it is a good time for self-examination. For all these years, what we learn and do is mostly about architecture design. Once we get a new project, we usually have a fictional client with a quest about designing a new building for a place that could be anywhere. We are missing the client and contractor, which are critical links to a successful practice. No client means no communication about the needs of the project. Thus there will be no invested feedback for the design. An actual client is irreplaceable and no one can really pretend to be one. Sometimes architecture can be a very specific and personal case. The specifications of a project can only be verified and tested through the communication and mutual trust between the architect and client. And this process will be affected by the personality, knowledge, and experience of both sides. The absence of a contractor also removes a very positive tension between designing and building. Even though architectural delivery methods are much more integrated now, as an architect student, the contractor will still be a good teacher for us to gain a better understanding of the methodology of building things. The contractor may not need to be involved in the design process, but the collaboration is the key to ensuring the quality of the outcome of the pure design. Throughout the real push back and forth process of negotiation of the design and build, we are able to learn the specified constraints such as the schedule of construction, the feasibility of certain building process or the actual cost of resource and time.
Typical tripartite relationship in architecture delivery
The information and knowledge from the class are fundamental. But the true benefit of learning pure design is actually gaining the methodology of learning, the necessary thought for us to be able to learn new things. Pure design is like reading historic treatises and drawing a conclusion of the past. Working on a real project is the only standard to test the feasibility and quality of a design idea. After all, the drawing won’t tell you how much it costs and the details won’t argue the functionality with you. For a long time, the architecture educational studios don’t have the access to a real job outside the class.
The whole experience of the Waldo Duplex project is a tremendous opportunity for us to learn the real procedure of a whole architecture delivery. It is a full service through the design to build. With the guidance of El Dorado Inc, we are providing an unique solution to an unique problem. First of, this time we are going to address a real issue that existing. This is the foundation of a good design that will resolve the problem. By setting up the same goal, we are divided into different groups according to the scope of work. Every individual will have the opportunity to learn and do what they are signed up for. It is a more educational curriculum compares to the traditional studio. Through the whole process, everyone learnt more about the structure of the delivery and the structure of different roles. One big advantage of this design and build process is it gives the design the ability to evolve. The real-time communication between the design team and the client helps us to better understand the design purpose and the problem seeking outcome. The client also can bring us a new perspective out of the box about the whole problem seeking and solving process. The information interaction with the contractor can help us to have the awareness of the methodology of construction which will help us to update the design accordingly. We have to admit that the BIM technology is making the conversation easier, but at the same time, we are misled by the way we build a digital model in a computer. The actual construction is not built in the same way as we build in virtual reality. Although the design needs to make some compromises during all those see-saw game due to the constraints of requests from the client, the schedule, and budget, it is still more beneficial than a purely design process. A architectural practice should be a collaboration between different groups. It is an essential factor to keep the design on track and ensure the project can land on the ground. The goal for this process is to gain a better knowledge of the procedures of architectural delivery. By breaking up the mindset, we are able to think the whole architecture delivery process as an integrated piece of work requires collaboration from all parties.
Most of the time, the architect who is doing pure design without any interference often find themselves in the tower of ivory. They stop listening to other people. They have no interaction with clients. Meanwhile, the acknowledgement of architecture technology is out of date. The lack of transparency and understanding of the design lead itself to failure. As the evolution of architecture never stops. A good designer should keep pace with the time. The design and build process is a bridge to connect the architect to this fast moving world. Keeping close to the client and contractor is the guarantee to a good quality built design. So, taking a closer look at the real world is the key to addressing the problem and solve it. The collaboration with the client and contractor is the essential element to a successful project.
 Laugier, Marc-Antoine. An essay on architecture. Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1977.
 Pollio, Vitruvius. Vitruvius: the ten books of architecture. New York: Dover Publications, 1960.
 "Architecture and Modularity." Java Application Architecture RSS. Accessed February 15, 2017. http://www.kirkk.com/modularity/2009/12/chapter-4-architecture-and-modularity/.
Written by Chenyu Lou