Tag Archives: education

4 Forces

There are four forces that shape a project: site, user, material, and the designer.

The site is a dictator. It exerts more force over the project than any other. The site is both the physical and conceptual. The physical is geology, geography, hydrology, climate, and all the other natural forces; it is the infrastructure, the roads, bridges, utilities, water supply, and the other man-made aspects of the site. The conceptual aspects of the site are the social, cultural, and political forces that shape the site. These are such things as property definition (boundaries), zoning, codes, neighborhood identity, history, ethnicity, class, wealth/poverty, language.

The user is represented by the program – for what is the project to be used? How are the needs of the user to be accommodated? These needs manifest in distinct spatial requirements for different kinds of uses, and all of this has to be organized in specific relationships.

Material gives the project form. Material has to deal with the site forces: gravity, earthquakes, water, temperature, fire safety, but also has to contend with the kind of meaning that we ascribe to materials. Materials are part of the vocabulary of the language of design. Marble says something different than wood; oak says something different than knotty pine.

Finally, there is the designer. The designer is the mediator of the other forces, interpreting the interplay, and ascribing values and priorities.

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This is for all those students getting their first jobs, or even their fifth job. As per the NCARB requirements for professional licensure, approximately 3 years of interning are required. This is an extension of your architectural education. In school you learn certain basic concepts, and you get a well-rounded exposure to architecture. But another set of concepts is required and actually taught/learned in a professional workplace. I heard this great discussion about internships on the public radio program On The Media. As usual, they do their research. The¬†interviews with interns were really quite illuminating. They describe the differences between paid and unpaid internships, but in general, this is a great article on how to work. The radio piece talks about the benefit of the internship to the intern. NCARB requires participation in a variety of different types of work in an office. You, the intern, have to be meticulous about keeping track of this, and advocating for yourself. The NCARB requirements are a tool for you, so that you won’t get handcuffed to the Xerox machine.

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On December 2, 1964, Mario Savio, a 21 year old student at the University of California at Berkeley, made this speech. The purpose of education is in question in his speech. The original intent was the fostering of citizens. Today the thrust is jobs, in particular the development of skills useful to corporations. STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) reigns supreme. Savio questions this structure. 48 years on and this system is even more entrenched. This isn’t a (total) anti-corporate diatribe. Corporations are useful constructions for organizing large and complex systems. I benefit from my computer and iPhone; the Visa card is an amazing system; when we flip the switch the lights come on. The danger comes when they become manipulators – maybe controllers is the right word – of the political system, allowing for privileges accorded them in excess of others. In particular we see this with the fossil fuel industries, with the resultant existential threat of climate change.

It is inspiring to see such an articulate speech from so young a person. I would love to see this from my students.

Skip to 2:17 to 5:00 for the most important part of the speech, but the entire is interesting from the standpoint of university politics – politics that are with us today.

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