Visually Speaking

It’s been an interesting week in my architectural career.

I just returned to my hotel after a very full day of working in our Regional Office in Los Angeles. My time and efforts have been spent compiling a drawing set for one small building within a very large development. In the next week I will spend here, that drawing set will be reviewed by several local and remote teams, redlined and reviewed numerous times, and eventually sent to the client and contractor abroad for construction.

Shortly thereafter, this project rooted in Western iconography and imagery will literally rise from the dust in the Middle East.

As the set is issued, I will remain, in many respects, a world away, likely sitting in an ergonomic task chair and ready for my next coffee break. Yet despite physically being a “world away,” the reality is that I am only one instant message or real-time email or lync call away from our Dubai office, or any other remote office that is currently engaging in the next phase of production or shift in this large undertaking.

Having spoken or indirectly worked with colleagues from our Costa Rica, Bangalore, Dubai, Las Vegas, Denver, and LA offices in the past few days, it is fair for me to say that it is projects like these that confirm that architecture is a universal language. Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of these interactions has been that the questions and solutions being communicated are being translated first and foremost through the medium of drawing.

This aspect of architecture as a universal language is one important aspect of why I decided to pursue architecture as a profession. How tempting it is to think that the world we are living in, while globalizing and in turn shrinking, might become that much smaller to a community of designers and architects willing to share their (literal) views of what the developing world will look like?

For those who have been trained to look at a plan or an elevation, a detail or an axonometric drawing, whether you are in Prague or Poughkeepsie, I have always liked the idea that despite spoken language barriers, architects are seeing the same thing. In turn, our world feels smaller, and our networks become stronger than ever when we enable the sharing of cross-cultural viewpoints and a wide range of highly different but equally informed opinions.

While construction methods and measurement systems may vary (thank you Google, for your inches to millimeter tool,) I imagine that this way of working which includes utilizing drawing and technology that facilitates an easy sharing of drawings across continents and time zones will continue to become more and more prevalent. With this comes a broader sense of shared responsibility, knowledge, and strategic development.

Where regionalism fits into this global dialogue, I haven’t yet decided. But, in a time when the world can feel cold and often divided, the idea that drawings and technology make the sharing of ideas and information both easy and enjoyable instills hope that we will continue to push ourselves to build thoughtfully and consistently across continents and physical boundaries.



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