Making Architecture

Architecture is unlike most other creative disciplines. A writer starts to write words on a page that become a  book or a play. A dancer moves their body to become the dance. An artist draws or paints what becomes the final piece of art.

But architects do not make architecture. Architects make an abstract representation of architecture. So it is important to understand what this means.

Unlike other art forms, as a discipline, architects do not have time to learn how to create architecture by physically making it. It is too big, take a long time, and involves a lot of people and a lot of money to complete.

Instead, we must develop ways to represent the final architecture to help us understand, test or communicate what the final piece of architecture will be like.

Let’s consider some key definitions.

Abstraction And Representation

Represent is to present a picture, image or likeness of something. It is to express in words, images, drawings, symbols which each stand for something.

Abstract in art is to communicate or express a general idea or essence of something, rather than a literal reality. It uses design elements such as shape, colour, line, texture, form, light and dark.

Abstraction is the process of taking away or removing characteristics from something to reduce them to a set of essential characteristics. Abstraction is about capturing and hiding data or information and including only what is essential to what you are trying to communicate.

All architectural communication is a type of abstraction and representation because it is not the final piece of architecture. It is a representation of what that piece of architecture might be like. Each piece of communication an architect produces has a clear purpose and meaning it is intending to portray.

Before you start any architectural drawing or other communication that you get very clear on the purpose of each particular piece of communication, the main idea, concept or message you are trying to represent and the most appropriate method of communicating this.

Reasons For Architectural Representation and Communication

Reasons for representing architecture in different ways change through the process of design, documentation and construction of a building. They include:

  • Recording or documenting what exists.
  • Testing ideas or options.
  • Recording the process of design.
  • Persuading other people of your ideas or vision.
  • Conveying an atmosphere or mood.
  • Explaining an architectural idea.
  • Mapping relationships between things.
  • Instructing how to build architecture.
  • Recording the final piece of architecture.
  • And many more…

Types of Architectural Communication

Communication is the act of developing meaning among groups through the use of sufficiently understood and agreed signs, symbols and conventions.

In architecture, communication occurs in different ways throughout the entire architecture process and includes:

  • Written documents – Includes a broad range of documents such as letters, reports, emails, meeting minutes, contracts, schedules which help record the process, requirements, conversations, ideas, approvals or changes to a project.
  • Drawing – A two dimensional representation of an idea or object.
    • Sketches – A rapid, rough drawing without many details and not intended as a finished product but used to quickly capture or communicate an idea.
    • Diagrams – A simple line drawing that shows a single idea, how parts relate to one another, how something works or goes together.
    • Mapping – The process of creating a drawing, picture or diagram that represents something that exists.
    • Orthographic Drawings – Ways of representing three-dimensional objects in two dimensions. Most orthographic drawings exist as a group or suite of drawings that depict each side (ie. top, bottom, 4 x sides) and should be read as a whole. House plans are one example of orthographic drawings.
    • Oblique and Perspective Drawings – More complex drawing systems to represent a three-dimensional object in two dimensions.
    • Working Drawings – A suite of drawings that communicate how the final piece of architecture will be built or put together. It uses a wide variety of symbols and conventions that are accepted by the industry.
  • Collage – A piece of art or visual representation which is made from an assemblage of different forms and materials such as paper, cloth or wood to create a new composition.
  • Physical Models – A physical, three-dimensional representation of the final piece of architecture. These are usually made at a much smaller scale than the final product.
  • Digital Models – A digital, three-dimensional representation of the final piece of architecture. These are usually modelled at a life-sized scale but can only be viewed at a reduced size on a screen or printed piece of paper.
  • Photography – Taking photographs as a record or representation of something.
  • Graphic Design and Presentation – The use of a range of graphic, digital software to help layout and present our work in a final product.
  • Built form – The final piece of architecture people can experience three-dimensionally in real life.

What Next?

Communication in architecture is diverse and covers a broad range of mediums and skills. Each of these methods of representation is a tool to help communicate your ideas and what you are going to achieve. Over time, some will become easier or more useful to you in different phases of your project and design. However, it is important to develop all these skills and mediums as part of your communication toolkit.

When you are starting your studies, begin with what you know and start to explore new ways of communicating. At some time you will be required to explore or present particular types of communication such as a collage, sketch, diagram or physical model. Treat each new method of representation as an opportunity to learn and express an idea in a new way.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. All these methods of communication have been done and mastered before. Start to build up your library of examples and precedents to draw from so that you can save a lot of time by studying how others represent and communicate ideas and.

Liz at ArchiMash

PS…If you have any questions or thoughts about abstraction or architectural representation, let me know at archimash.com/askliz.


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