I have been following the architecture firm BIG for a while now. I happened upon them a couple of years ago when I was looking through some architecture blogs and one of their projects caught my eye. I clicked over to their website and found one of the more inventive architectural websites that I had seen in a long time. Each project was represented by a small square graphic, all of which could be sorted based on project size, cost, and a couple other categories. I found I could focus on all the small projects that BIG did or all their theoretical work. When I actually clicked on the graphic, the project specific page was laid out in a very clear and understandable way. The projects were explained through a series of simple diagrams where the connection between the concept and the design was very direct. The wild forms of the projects were broken down and explained clearly such that I could understand why they did what they did. This accessibility to design process; the clarity of the graphics, the look of their work, the simple diagrams, was invigorating. It was exciting and fun in a way that most architecture websites are not.
This post isn’t about the quality of BIG’s work, it is about making architecture and the design process accessible to everyone. Perhaps it is my natural curiosity but I want to know why things are the way that they are. The crazy folded, warped skin of a building is that way because? In a perfect world, I would get to see a step by step diagram showing the evolution of a project. I want to see the decision-making process so that I can understand how a particular result was arrived at.
I understand that the question of why a design is the way it is, can be a complicated one. There are many variables that influence and shape a building. That said, I think that there is great value in the ability of an architect to concisely explain their design. Further, I think that making this explanation available publicly on platforms like websites can do great things for architects. By explaining what we are doing, by being more open, we can help clear up the question, what is it that architects actually do.
I am getting closer and closer to finishing school and for my final design project, I have been challenged repeatedly to communicate my design ideas and concepts clearly and succinctly. I have been asked to lay out my design process such that someone else could come along and look at my work and understand how I got to my final design. I have to do this because my reviews are short and my reviewers are busy folks. I think that those lessons transfer to the professional world. We as architects only have a short time to convince busy people of the worth of our projects, whether they are seeing the work in a presentation or on our website. The more accessible, the more clear and straightforward the reasons for our work, the better for everyone.