Style.  It is the aesthetic perception of an object, artwork, or architecture.  And although it may be said that, oh look, there is a “new style,” the reality is that style is an evolutionary process.  It is only at that “oh look” moment that it clearly breaks from its evolutionary state to become recognized as a new style.  This idea of a “recognizable style” often only becomes verbalized clearly when the history books are written.  When an author sits back and reflects, categorization comes to bear, and there the styles are titled and delineated.  Now, these thoughts on style are important to consider as an architecture student, whether novice or experienced, because style, I believe can unnecessarily confound students and prevent other education goals from being reached.  There are two approaches to design studio when it comes to style; the first is to give a student the building program and let them, through contemplation and research, find a style that fits their own artistic/functional inclinations for the program.  The second is to give students a stylistic vocabulary from which to take concepts or materials.  Now, I have been in both studios before.  In the first case, I believe there are often students who struggle unnecessarily with “picking a style.”  At some times, I believe it is a fear of copying.  In reality, as was stated, it is better to think of style’s as evolutionary.  And if one does decide to “copy,” it still takes skill to execute a building in any style.  Thus, I think it is important that students are taught to understand styles, what makes them successful, and how they are executed.  Now, style, I mean could be the difference between Zaha Hadid and SHoP.  I do not mean “Modernism” vs “Art Deco” etc.  On the other studio model, encouraging students to start with a “style,” allows them to concentrate on many of the other important lessons an architecture student should learn, such as creating a well developed building, site, choosing materials, and developing building details.  It was only in my first year of graduate school, where the program was “Holland in Holland,” where we were encouraged to use dutch design principles for a civic center in Holland, Michigan.  Now that style had been narrowed within a genre, I was less concerned and was able to to develop further other areas of the building, including plans, sections, material details, etc.  

This reflection comes to me in my conversations with Jeff and Brian.  At the start of our projects, we often start with something we have already done.  Jeff often has an image of something he likes, a project he has done, or an idea that has been started but hasn’t been successfully implemented.  Now, it is to say we don’t look for “genesis.”  Our projects are in physical places that have history, the clients have preferences, and style is often not their first concern.  Because of this, our projects beginnings are much more located per se in a soil bed – only certain plants will truly grow here, so our job then is to pick the best plant and grow it into the best tree it can be – not all the trees are an option.  In contrast to school, where style may be lamented for a long time, in the work place, we often know fairly quickly what look we are going for; and the project begins.

So, to the student, novice or experienced, remember that “genesis” – the creation of a new thing – may be too much to ask.  Look, borrow, modify and adapt; that’s what real architects do.  And after one point, when years of experience come together, that evolutionary process may come to a recognizable moment, and then genesis just might be. 

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