Unexpected Instructors and Longed-for Lessons

I’m hardly a student anymore. I have no studios, no evening classes, no all-nighters… I only have class three mornings per week – that’s it! Not even an afternoon at school unless I’m slow to leave. And one of my instructors felt I should work less.

I don’t even drink coffee every day anymore.

On the plus side, I’m relearning how to sleep, and I finally organized three years worth of loose notes, assignments, drawings, and models. And having time to really throw into my electives is huge. Learning Revit? Check.

On the minus, I miss studio. I said it. The nine in-class hours per week, the ninety out-of-class hours… The sketchbook worn and filled after only a month… The search for driving ideas, the critiquing of them… Above those, I miss the presentations – sharing my thoughts, defending them… Engaging adept jurors in frenzied conversation, hearing from them better solutions to the opportunities I had found.

Above even that, I miss the learning, the practice, the opportunity to begin a project anew and see how deep I can dive. I miss the feeling that I’m sharpening every facet of myself, from critical thinking to creativity, from managing my project to managing my personal life.

I don’t miss, however, that particular point in the semester when my instructor stands with arms crossed, head hanging in frustration at having to hear more of my blathering about questions and concepts rather than seeing some discrete floor plans. I can count how many times I’ve heard, “Kevin, I love the thinking but I’m a little scared. Just – get – it – DONE!” – virtually every studio instructor of mine has said that two or three times, generally five days or fewer before a review.

I would plead, “I don’t know how! Please, show me how!

Each would answer along a theme, “Design is personal. We can’t teach design.” And each time, I would resign myself to the inevitability that I would forever struggle with design, struggle with resolving the complex problems that I set up for myself whether in architecture, music, writing, or any other hobby I play around with along the way.

A few weeks ago, in the course of a few hours, two architects showed me how.

My Urban Housing instructor mandated, as part of the course, our participation in the Housing Colorado NOW! design charrettes earlier this October. Within two days, three interdisciplinary teams of twenty or so (six students apiece) were tasked with studying various properties and devising site plans replete with (hopefully) viable buildings.

Within only a few hours’ time, I watched our designers go from empty property lines to building forms responsive to a greater urban scheme (which they also detailed out). I was neutral at this point in their building designs, maybe (I’m reluctant to admit) almost a little let down.

And then I saw their magic.

I doubt I could have finished two episodes of The Walking Dead in the time spent watching them rip through sheets of trace to refine their thoughts, or listening as one explained to me his general process, the factors that each quick stage of redesign should focus on to approach something more humane, more complete. That evening caught me staring at their designs like an adoring puppy.

For the first real time, I saw a process.

And, for the first real time, I finally saw how to improve my own.


*Note: No images could be included due to confidentiality concerns

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