Over Thanksgiving, I recently had a discussion with my uncle, Brian Clements, who is an architect in Bowling Green, Kentucky.   An interesting question was asked about what the focus of TCAUP at University of Michigan was. I responded with these segments:  Systems/Infrastructural thinking, 40%, Urbanism/Urban Design, 15%, Making 30%, Typology/Exclusive Building Design 15%.   I questioned the emphasis on systems thinking, as it at times seems far from architecture/buildings.  Brian’s response, however, expressed a concern about the commodification of architecture, such as corporations using standardized models for their buildings.  In this sense, the architect was  no longer looked to for a unique building because a more standard model was used.  He described the essence of the architect as being able to bring diverse systems together for a more unified and performative whole, which I also agreed upon.  The profession today is evaluating whether it should be about construction and buildings or if architects become “architects” of other systems, such as infrastructure, landscapes, environmental, and social processes.   For the time being, I am focused on understanding the architect’s traditional roles of building design and construction.


In my other experiences, I have learned the challenges of group work and collaboration.  Keeping a full six people occupied is a challenging task, and it makes me more conscious of how leading a company or group of individuals would be like.  Of particular importance is the ability to make decisions, based on intuition, that lead projects down towards successful paths.  Intuition is absolutely necessary to save time and money; experience, although helpful, many times is not owned by the person undertaking the task.

Also, of particular interest, is a pedagogical shift from “tell me how its works” to “show me how it works.”  This shift has been brought about by drastically improved means of making and visualizing.  Abstract ideas about light, material, and effect can be manifest in a physical prototype model using the CNC router or a 3D printer.  This changes dramatically the way an architect works and interacts with clients. In the future, architecture may again return to the model for a tactile, more visually informative experience than the drawing, which, although powerful, embodies many abstractions; physical modeling allows these to be vetted and tested in real form.  There also exists a joy  in making actual physical things that frees one from abstraction and promotes a tangible understanding.