Why has the conventional wisdom of architectural design practices come to a pass?
We have reached a stage where architects are only able to gather one percent of the total options accessible in the market. They are restricted to what is created and delivered on AutoCAD rapidly, which is virtually nothing. You already know why it is the dumbest software that is ever made. People going on and using it to deliver clients their ‘house of dreams,’ is the cruelest thing to happen to architecture.
Architects spend so much time figuring AutoCAD (or other software) that they lose focus of what counts. What the customer wants from their lifestyle takes a backseat. They overlook any design aspect, user sensitivity, and empathy, to CTRL+C, CTRL+V all of their projects.
Architectural design solutions are nothing more than redundant layouts that were added to architecture at the dawn of the 21st century. Every architect has a limited selection of finishing components to choose from. Almost all the developments in dense areas neglect the importance of nature, daylight, and open space.
Today, architectural service is analogous to broadcast television. Yes, the same industry which creates K-serials or inspired copies of them at best. In reality, our client base has progressed well beyond Game of Thrones.
Every architecture firm in India recycles ideas from Pinterest mood boards. Why? Because their clients are already on Pinterest, looking at far more intricate designs than the architects today can execute. Clients today are way ahead. They are moving beyond the generalised catalogues these firms provide, at a pace architects cannot match yet. IKEA Place is a word to the wise — the “Netflix of Architecture” is on its way.
We have gone from broadcast television to cloud-based subscription models in a decade. Netflix is the new gateway to entertainment. It is user-sensitive and user-centric. Its brilliance lies not in its superior content, oh no. The devil is in its superior suggestions.
According to Netflix, it analyses your internet search history and viewing habits to determine what you like or dislike. Based on how well it matches your tastes, it makes suggestions. Mostly, Netflix delivers something you end up liking, so you keep coming back.
Similarly, a company that can categorise design values within images, such as Pinterest, might as well start selling architectural design solutions. It will be able to arrive at the best design response to match the taste of potential customers much sooner than an architect will be able to do so. How? Thanks to its huge data and tracking of user profile and search history.
Several examples throughout history demonstrate how architecture is used to promote segregation and division within society. Think, the concept of a basement for servants and an upstairs for their lords. It is seen in plantations, which were built to reinforce the mandated hierarchy of a master over his slave through location, quality, and architectural embellishments. Even now, “poor doors” give inhabitants of inexpensive housing distinct access within residential buildings.
Legislation such as the European Convention on Human Rights protects persons from discrimination based on their socioeconomic status. Nonetheless, these doorways serve as tangible markers of the distinctions between ourselves and our neighbours.
This does not have to be the case.
Consider the Galehead Hut, a 38-bed lodge near the top of the Appalachian Mountains. It was erected by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Many questioned why the lodge was required to conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), claiming that wheelchair users would be unable to access the lodge along the 4.6-mile route.
When the lodge reopened, handicapped students from the University of New Hampshire's Northeast Passage programme proved the sceptics wrong by making the trip. When the party arrived at the lodge, they were confronted with the question: If you can navigate the route, surely you don't need the ramp at the lodge entry because you can utilise the steps? The program's director, Jill Gravink, said, "Why bother putting stairs on the hut at all?" 'Why not sneak in via a window?'"
This serves as a reminder to us to always question views of what is deemed ‘normal' or conventional in design. We broaden our skills as designers of the built environment and serve our users better by questioning, rather eliminating, the notion of what is usual.
When it comes to inclusive design, designers have a chance to go beyond the box. Rethinking traditional architecture creates a blank canvas for creativity. It also creates opportunities for inclusion in the built world. A lift was unthinkable 300 years ago. Now, they can be found in nearly every structure.
By acknowledging that all individuals, regardless of the situation, deserve equal chances to engage in society, architecture becomes something that permits a world in which everyone may participate equally. It is critical that we welcome and appreciate variety, that we see it as a chance for innovation.
We can build solutions that are inclusive and useable by 100 per cent of the population by balancing all conceivable applications of architecture. Design, it is claimed, enlightens and improves the quality of life. Great design should be accessible to people from all walks of life.
In this day and age, we should make an effort as an industry to develop workplaces that foster social interaction, integration, communication, and respect -- places that celebrate variety and uniqueness. In other words, welcoming and inclusive environments.
Having said that, If you are a young architect or a student, the best idea is to drop out of conventional practice. Do an internship with Pinterest, IKEA, or a technology startup working in the architecture or interior design industry. What you will learn there will be far more valuable than slogging on a construction site or on AutoCAD as a junior architect/intern making random lines of no inherent value. AI will take care of them in a few years.
When that happens, what will be the value of that experience your head architect sells you at the pay lesser than the legal minimum wage set by the penal code of India?
What will you do with the knowledge you gained when it is no longer needed?
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About the Writer
Sana Paul is an undergraduate architecture student and writer at the Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, hailing from the cozy streets of Punjab. She has experience working at the India Lost and Found (ILF) by Amit Pasricha, and Rethinking The Future (RTF).
About the Editor
Nishtha Singh is an editor, writer and researcher in the fields of Philosophy of Language, Ethics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). She has trained as an editor at the Seagull School of Publishing, Calcutta and is a graduate of the Department of Philosophy, and the Hansraj College, University of Delhi (DU), India.
About the Illustrator
Diksha Garg is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture Bhopal, hailing from Chandigarh. She is an illustrator, graphic designer and writer. She has received a citation for G-Sen Trophy and a Juror's Choice Award for Journalism Trophy by the National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA), India.