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Welcome to Mayukh's Diary
Follow the adventure of a (not so) typical Indian student.

Architectural design: part 1 - an introduction

Posted on: Jul 10, 2013

If we consider basic design to be our first contact with the language of 'design' itself, then architectural design dealt with the grammar. And unlike basic design that takes place only in the first year, architectural design stays with you throughout your academic life. Technically speaking, both remain with you your entire life, but in the first year, it is better if they are divided like this. For us, architectural design started with our head faculty member. This guy is responsible for forcibly and painfully extracting each and every one of us from our comfort zone and exposing us to the brutal and barbaric truth that is what we call 'being human.'

From the moment we start interacting with people and thinking for ourselves, we start categorizing things. Things that are necessary. Things that are not allowed. Things that just don't matter. Things that are gratifying. And the list is endless. By the time we pass out of junior college, we have categorized, judged and classified everything that we have ever come across. It's just our nature. It's how we have been brought up. It's the norm. But to be able to design something, you have to think about things that you generally tend to avoid. Things that are not spoken about. Things that we don't bring out in public lest we be termed abnormal. We have spent the last 16 years of our life building up elaborate shells around us. How we look to others is never how we truly are inside. That is what we are taught. That is what we must do to be socially acceptable.

The same society that has trapped us inside that cocoon of laws and conventions also teaches us what we know about architecture. From a very young age we have been selectively exposed. The homes that we live in. The school and college that we go to. The shops that are indispensible. The hotels and restaurants that we frequent. The theatres that we watch movies in. All of them are pieces of architecture. There is perhaps no other profession that surrounds us so completely. In fact, it so complete that we are effectively blinded to it. When asked about architecture, a layperson always thinks about the monuments and iconic buildings in any given city. That is the extent of what we know to be architecture.

The first thing that the guy did was to break this mental image that all of us had. What he talked about in the beginning wasn't about buildings or structures at all. Not even about history or how architecture as a profession came into being or what it was. Instead, he talked about vision. He talked about what we see and how we are actually quite blind. He talked about his favorite bands (Metallica and Pink Floyd). He talked about money and freedom. And also about their interrelation. But above all, he talked about human psychology. At first we had no idea what was going on. How was all this related to a building? Why were we being told by a complete stranger that we were blind? And on top of that he said that our parents were responsible for it? And how were Metallica or Pink Floyd ever going to help us do our submissions?

At first it was a bit interesting. But in about two to three weeks it became downright irritating. He never said it outright but we all knew that he looked at us as though we were dumb! And in all this time, we had never once talked about anything even remotely related to buildings. There was one thing that kept on cropping up in our discussions, though. There was something called 'bias' that he kept referring to. And apparently it wasn't what we had come to understand. It had some deeper meaning which he was careful not to let slip. At first people just listened to him but after constantly being talked down to, some began to retaliate and argue (I was among them). But this guy wasn't just arrogant, he was the real deal. He could break down any and all arguments quite easily. Just who was this guy and what did he plan to accomplish here?

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