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Architectural design: part 2

Posted on: Jul 23, 2013

By the fourth week of our first year in college, we were in a bit of a crisis. The guy who was supposed to be our head faculty for the subject of architectural design had shown us that we all were intellectually on par with monkeys. Never in my life had I ever felt so insufficient. I consider myself fairly intelligent. And I take pride in my ability to debate. But this guy was something else. No one could argue with him! He just knew too much.

His name was Mr. Desai. He was an architect, but he seemed more like a rogue psychologist. Nothing we ever discussed came close to what we thought was architecture. He used to talk more about the rules imposed by society and how they effectively blinded us towards everything. His favourite topic was about our biases. He called it our baggage. And how it weighed us down. Apparently there was no way to escape from it. Lecture after lecture we talked about it. About how we have been influenced from birth to act and react in certain ways. These discussions were okay at first. But then they started to overshadow everything that we did.

The first assignment that we had was to go to a part of the city that our faculty had chosen and take pictures. There were no other instructions. Just take the pictures and put them up the next time we come to class. There wasn't even any inkling of what we were looking for there. All in all, it was an easy exercise and on the plus side, we also got to roam in a new city and see places that we would generally not go to.

When we put up those photos the next time we came to the class, our faculty (Mr. Desai especially) just walked around and went through them. They didn't talk about anything, they just asked us who had taken which photo. After this whole exercise, we had another discussion and it was here that I finally started to realize that this guy had some sort of plan and that whatever he was talking about wasn't just to show us how little we knew. It wasn't a sudden realization, but I started to get the feeling that they were intentionally not telling us things. It was frustrating. Whenever we asked them any question we got more questions in return. There were no answers given. Mr. Desai mostly talked in metaphors, which made it even more frustrating than it already was. During our discussion about the assignment, Mr. Desai asked many of us what we were thinking just before we clicked. He got a variety of answers. But not the ones he was looking for. People described to him the events that took place and the things that led to them clicking the photo. But what he was asking for was the thought JUST as we clicked! The funny thing was that none of us seemed to remember exactly what we thought during the click. As a result, we had to repeat the assignment. And then we had to repeat it again! For about one month we kept on taking pictures. And nothing we said or did would be the thing that they were looking for. Mr. Desai even developed a habit of giggling at some of the photos and sometimes during his amusement he used to tell the person who had taken the photo that they had no idea what they had done!

By the end of the second month, everyone was completely at their wit's end! The faculty had told us (after our fourth attempt at getting the photos) that we should try to sketch the photos that we had taken. And not just copy them. We should highlight or emphasize what it is that we were trying to click in the first place. Then those things could even be intangible like feelings and emotions! They made it sound easy, but this exercise was much more taxing than we had originally anticipated. And all the while all of this just kept raising more questions and no answers. Every time we thought we were getting close to understanding something, Mr. Desai would confuse us even more. When we tried to form our own algorithms and equations about how we should go about our work, he would introduce new variables! It seemed as though all he wanted was to keep us from the answers! Even the discussions seemed to be going nowhere!

After two months of this gruelling exercise, I had thought that people would simply lose interest and stop asking questions altogether. But something unbelievable happened. We started asking more! Not only were we talking more during discussions but we were also discussing things outside of college! Now that is something I realized only in hindsight. During those days, we were thoroughly irritated! We were trying everything in our power and more to understand exactly what this man was asking of us, but we were still lacking. And apparently (according to Mr. Desai) when we did get something amusing or interesting, we had no idea what we had done!

If it weren't for the feeling that there was something worthwhile at the end of this long road, people would have given up on their search for the answers. And it was Mr. Desai that kept us there. For all his arrogance and belittling, that guy was a master manipulator. He kept on hinting at the answer but never gave it. It seemed that the search would only end when we came upon the answers ourselves…

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