Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Architecture: The Dented Wall

What does an architect do?
The idealistic answer would be: to build a building.
The realistic answer would be: to sit in an office figuring the yet to build building.

What is the significant of both statements which seem to be the same?
I think first of its simplicity of the idealistic answer. Architect's job yet simple in the definition, it is complex in execution. Ideally it should be so, realistically it was so.
Now, in our current state of practice, in our epoch which is the early 21st century, we complicate the job definition for ourselves, the architects, yet what we do is so specialized that it is much simpler practically comparing to the real practice of past, the ideal practice of today.

I am trying to record my experience in the construction site, hoping that my one year stay at my current work place would not change my idea of Architecture.

I like the purity of material and construction.
The material has soul. The process of construction is an act and effort put in by the craftsman, it should be revealed. These are among many the legacy left by the Modernists.
I think it sounds brilliant, but I know it is quite impractical. Impractical not because of it is not doable, but the architects lack dedication and patience to see it through, and have it carried out.
A broad themes I am proposing here in this paragraph. I think of one day, if I still remember it, I shall expand on this.

Back on the title of The Dented Wall.
Today, during my site inspection walk around, I saw it. I saw The Dented Wall by nail or screw, I am not quite sure which to be exact. In a conventionally wrong practice, the workers would plaster the dented wall with certain kind of paste depending on the nature of the wall, obvious we cannot use the same universal paste plaster for steel and wood and concrete. The Dented Wall, though has been plastered, the first cover, then painted, the second plaster, it is still visible to my eyes. I have sharp eyes by training and, I think, so should every architect have trained sharp eyes.
I hate The Dented Wall for perfection and design reason. It is fine if I designed The Dented Wall, but in this case it is clearly a flaw in construction. Such mistake is intolerable. I also hate the fact of covering for it does not reveal the process of construction.
Arguably, covering can be excused if it is the design intention and also provided that the architect knows the contractor has a good painter in his disposal. But, of course, being a lousy architect, my current office knows not.

Back to The Dented Wall, yet again to make my point.
Whose fault is it?
Now, most architects will agree that it is the fault of the contractor unable to carry out or to produce decent workmanship. Most architects are lousy architects.
We, as architects, should have ourselves to blame on this matter. It is our moral conduct and architectural duty to be introspective. We should not blame others before we introspect ourselves.
I am not arguing that the contractor is not to be blamed, I am trying to make my point that before we start to blame the contractor, we should inspect ourselves on what could have we done.
To design such a lousy thing is the architect's fault. Why do the architects allow themselves to design a wall that need to be plastered and painted?
There are a lot of flaws in the design, yet I observe the architects blaming the contractor. Where lies our fairness as an architect? Should we not be the fair judge on our design and construction? If we always blame others for our own fault, how are we supposed our profession to be taken seriously?
We have lesser and lesser significance in society because of these mediocre architects sprawling practicing Architecture.

The Dented Wall has taught me so.

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