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Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1309
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 08:35 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

By Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

What it is, is architecture! Or is it?

Architecture has long been held, considered and defined as part artistic, and part engineering. The exact breakdown of these two attributes has never been established, and more than likely vacillate in the perspective of the individual. And in the project requirements and needs-- some simple; some most complex.

Is it possible for architecture to be handsomely conceived, but poorly constructed?

Is it possible for architecture to be wonderfully sensitive, aesthetically astute, but ugly in its drabness, and its dilapidation? Or aesthetically aplomb, but lost in the mind of the public who do not understand such criteria?

Is true architecture only that work which closely approaches “perfection”-- or that which is bizarre, revolutionary, extraordinary, well thought out, optimally designed, meticulously detailed, and constructed with artisan ability and concern?

Is true architecture only that miniscule number of published projects, which survive critical review by the most knowing minds, and attributable only to the “upper echelon of signature architects” [those who seemingly can do no wrong, and have a trove of hotly anticipatory clients anxiously awaiting their “piece” of the best the profession produces?

If Gehry, Graves, Johnson, Pei, Pelli, Koolhaus, and the other currently “hot” architects speak for the profession, what of the other tens of thousands of architects, world-wide who produce sound projects, within budget, on time, and to the satisfaction of their clients? Are they failures? Are they second-class practitioners? Are they unworthy of the title? Are they impoverished, on their last legs, prosecutable, unprofessional—what exactly should their adjective be?

Another approach, besides the obvious glitz and heavy PR, is to look at the inspiration to the individuals, their abilities, and the training they receive. It seems quite apparent, that success breeds success—i.e., if you can get one commission to be a stretch, and extreme solution, you may just open a whole new aspect to your career. How do you best do that? Rhetoric seems a good approach; talk ‘em into it, by making them believers. Like missing not only the bulls-eye, but the whole target—and still bragging about it!!

Is the seat of true architectural expertise in the vocal cords?

Fundamental to a discussion of architectural design is the recognition that architecture is a form of intricate and carefully prepared technological innovation as much as it is concerned with cultural expression , or with the pragmatics of construction. So no matter how logical software development may appear to be, what is required from the resulting software is more than a logical encoding of existing architectural practice-it extends to design tools that can help realize the expressive intentions of creative designers and can be a platform for future research. But a large portion of the documents produced are highly technical in nature. Therefore it is extremely hard to understand why a profession like architecture will simply choose to turn its back on the very heart of its work-- the technical. Bulls-eye!

It is almost pathetic that training and education are just words and not truly embraced as integral part of required professional skill, developed to a rather high level. Herein is the point where the quality of building construction is “taken for granted” and not a subject of intense effort. Yet this is the very future the profession is on-- producing new professionals with so little, if any, technical knowledge and know-how that the lack of same is inconsequential, and topic and situation not even worth discussion. But then none of the many agencies that impact[?] the profession is really “in charge”, making properly overviews of the profession [registration is really the only legal requirement] Oh, and these groups don’t talk about the profession as a whole-- only their own narrow perspectives. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!!!!
Carolyn Corbett (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 10:33 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Having recently gone through the educational system, I completely agree with the point you are attempting to make here. However, your writing style is evidence that architecture is/has become only about trying to impress instead of actually having good discourse on what is needed/good. Why does the public not understand? Because we're not writing/discussing in full sentences or complete thoughts. We're trying too hard to look good with big words that no one uses.
Why is theory taught more than the technical in schools? Should they be more balanced in all schools? Why does this discussion constantly come up and yet no one does anything substantial to make changes?
Liz O'Sullivan
Senior Member
Username: liz_osullivan

Post Number: 36
Registered: 10-2011

Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 11:05 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Carolyn, regarding your last sentence:

People are trying to make changes. But change cannot happen overnight, and it cannot happen through the efforts of one person alone. Like-minded people have to find each other, figure out through discussion (or through writing) what the exact issues are, and come up with a coordinated plan for action.

There aren't that many of us who feel the way that you and Mr. Liebing and I do, so we have to reach out and find each other, the way Mr. Liebing does here, with his newsletter. This is part of the process of change.
Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1310
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 11:08 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Sorry to fall short of your standard in the piece,

Answer to second paragraph questions-- exactly the right questions! Some discussion is underway at this time-- the outcome, though,is not yet established. Lack of responsibility, seated in one agency. is the primary fault involved.
Lynn Javoroski FCSI CCS LEED® AP SCIP Affiliate
Senior Member
Username: lynn_javoroski

Post Number: 1435
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 12:14 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Writing style is not the issue; the standard of architectural education is. Architecture schools, like all schools, must attract students to continue. Students are attracted to design-oriented architecture schools, not technically-oriented architecture schools; those are viewed as engineering schools. And every young architect-wanna-be is convinced she/he will be the next starchitect.

Upon graduation and employment, reality rears its ugly little (but growing bigger) head. Not all graduates will be designers, much less the next big name designer. Most will have to learn the technical aspects of architecture.

Why don't the schools teach this? Because they don't have to.
Robert W. Johnson
Senior Member
Username: robert_w_johnson

Post Number: 188
Registered: 03-2009
Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 01:18 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Why don't the schools teach this? Because they have always depended upon internship to teach the contract documents and technical side of the profession. Problem is that internship doesn't cut it anymore in many offices because the industry has changed so much - documentation and technical issues are much greater in today's world.

Maybe you can change the schools - I don't think that is going to happen anytime soon.

The quicker solution is for CSI to expand its education program beyond CDT/CCS/CCCA (contract documents and how to operate in the profession) to building technology education. CSI has the capability to put together such an education course. If you see a problem, why not attack it within your resources?
Carolyn Corbett (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 12:53 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I could write to my school as a starter to make sure they understand the position of someone in my shoes. I could encourage my schoolmates to do the same. Is there anyone at the agencies that we could all send emails or letters to help make a difference?
Lynn Javoroski FCSI CCS LEED® AP SCIP Affiliate
Senior Member
Username: lynn_javoroski

Post Number: 1436
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 02:15 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I don't have an answer for that. Perhaps some of my colleagues do. BUT, starting with your own school and asking why classes in the technical aspects of architectural practice aren't offered would be a good beginning. Were classes on specifications offered? I know they weren't at my school. How about classes on the building codes? I was actually told to ignore those! Classes on how walls/buildings are actually constructed? None.

Oh, and ask if there's a local CSI chapter willing to help with this aspect of architectural education. There are quite a few CSI members who teach at colleges, universities, and technical schools and offer real-world information.

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