Before and After
We are quite often told that life after school is completely different from what we experienced before. It is.
Teachers follow our academic projects. More than a brief, they give us boundaries, guidelines, advices… They care and work as our safety net when we get lost or don’t know how to solve a problem. Sometimes, they can even guide the projects according to their own personal point of view.
Once in a while, to experiment getting free from these constrains, we participate in ideas competitions. Based on a simple brief, we can explore other paths, without the safety net and the advice our teachers can give us. The time we spent on those is usually shorter, and the projects tend to be more radical and experimental. There is no one telling us if we are going in the right direction or if we should change something. We can make all the mistakes possible and the worst scenario is just that we won’t win. There are no actual risks, no grades involved, no judgment. We learn from those mistakes, and we evolve. Architecture is very connected with an idea of evolution, addition… These experiments – the competitions – become, as such, fundamental.
When we finally leave school, and we go to work in an office, things change again. We don’t have the power to decide, even if we get that illusion. We do tasks, sometimes we can propose new ideas that will prevail, but in the end, the final decision is not ours. We learn how things work in the ‘real world’ by seeing more than by doing. That is, in essence, the difference to the school environment.
At some point, we might have the chance to work for ourselves and if that happens we start to be the ones taking the decisions and feeling the real pressure and it’s not all as perfect as we imagined. When we do a project on our own, we don’t have a teacher or a boss to tell us how we should do it, but we have a client that says what he wants. Also, we need to assume the client is neither cultivated in the discipline nor willing to spend what the projects might require (they usually believe architecture is a free service and construction is very cheap, which is not true). Also, he can be an idiot, something that often happens.
This means we don’t have only to follow the brief that he gives us, but we need to deal with the fact that sometimes they want to take decisions and change the project, just for them to feel in control. We get trapped in a limbo between the idea of an “author” and the notion of a “service provider”. The architect’s tasks flow between designing what we believe is the best option and providing the client what the client requested, and then, finding a project – or even more, an idea – that fits both. But, more important: to avoid compromise. Architects should be “either/or” people.
During the academic environment our ‘client’ (the teacher) knows about architecture. After, that often doesn’t happen. We have to work harder to explain our ideas and why they are the best option. We have to apply reason and we can’t depend on a pencil to solve all our problems. We need to learn how the client thinks and be able to change the way we present the projects and the arguments we use, in order for him to understand them.
In an office, we still do competitions, which also work as a scape from these constrains (just like we did with ideas competitions during school). The brief is more complex and the projects are more demanding, but the biggest challenge is that now we have to make sure that our ideas can actually be built, without losing the experimental, the utopian, the bold approach.
Throughout our experiences in the world of architecture, either during faculty or already in an office, we have to deal with different situations but in the end it’s all resumed to the same ingredients being presented in different ways, which forces us to find unique solutions for each one of them. Architecture is more a path than a stair.
Autors: Fala Atelier (Filipe Magalhães + Ana Luísa soares + Ahmed Belkhodja)