Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An engineer among architects.

Did I mention my constant struggle to work as an engineer among architects? Their way of thinking is almost entirely contrary to my own. It has been an interesting challenge to produce work that my bosses can understand, appreciate, and value. Where I want to take a single design and develop it fully, they want a palette of solutions that are minimally designed. It's all part of the design process to them.

There certainly is an advantage to the design thinking that they embody. It does produce creative ideas. Sometimes, though, their addiction to brainstorming ideas and "mind mapping" gets in the way of moving forward. It can be frustrating when they let touchy-feely ideas get in the way of simplicity and efficiency. (Ir)regardless, it is a good experience as I learn how to work and communicate with designers/architects.

The purpose of this post is not to bash architects. They play an important role in the design of buildings, landscapes, and cities. Their enviable visionary and artistic talents far surpass my own. Rather, it is the tension between engineer and architect, the fundamental differences in their nature and thinking, that amuses me. I always heard of it, but now I encounter it first-hand. While I have great respect for architects, it turns out that I can’t help but cast aspersions from time to time on their design process and product. It’s the engineer in me, valuing efficiency over aesthetic.

I could not articulate this struggle until this morning. The Yokohama Port Terminal project, referenced by DK (one of my bosses), embodies that which prompts exaggerated eye-rolling for me. It’s certainly a cool project. On one level I enjoy it immensely, but on another I think it’s abstract designer hooey.


My favorite:

"The project starts with what the architects have named as the "no-return pier", with the ambition to structure the precinct of the pier as a fluid, uninterrupted and multi-directional space, rather than a gateway to flows of fixed orientation. A series of programmatically specific interlocking circulation loops allow the architects to subvert the traditional linear and branching structure characteristic of the building. Rather than developing the building as an object or figure on the pier, the project is produced as an extension of the urban ground, constructed as a systematic transformation of the lines of the circulation diagram into a folded and bifurcated surface. These folds produce covered surfaces where the different parts of the program can be hosted."


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