the ideal home

Many of us, humans, mortals, live our lives with an eternal fantasy in mind. Yes, it´s true, life seems more beautiful in our dreams, but what is the point of dreaming about the perfect place or the perfect life if we are unable to enjoy the life we ​​already have?

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The same thing happens with architects and design. We try over and over again, always striving to create the ideal space in which everything works in perfect harmony, but as soon as we introduce the human factor into the equation, failures begin to appear.

Architects spent our entire life dreaming about designing the perfect place, the perfect space, the perfect home. But humans are imperfect beings. So, wouldn´t it be logical to start the process by taking these imperfections, this reality, and designing according to them?

Consider what happens with minimalism in the field of residential projects: we depurate, empty spaces in search of spacial cleanness, which is basically the same as the pursuit of perfection. Imagine a minimalist home: empty, impeccable, flawless… perfect! Now, place a human being in our imaginary house; one which, as all, eats, sleeps, bathes, messes up… the house doesn´t seems so perfect now, right?

Now do the reverse process: Imagine a human being, one who eats, sleeps, bathes, messes up… Follow his/her steps while he/she performs the daily activities. Accompany him/her during day and night. Analyze his/her customs, habits. Discover his/her imperfections…

Now think of how to reduce these imperfections, or better yet, how to make these imperfections a little less obvious, more livable; think of how to make him/her feel at least a little less imperfect.

That’s the ideal house! A house that fits its inhabitants like a glove; one that is capable of molding, adapting according to the needs of those who live it, experience it day after day. One that allows them not having to think, with every step taken, in their flaws and how to correct them; one that allows them to just relax and be. Perhaps for many, this one may not be the perfect house, but for those who make it their refuge, that’s definitely the ideal home.

why I love what I do – architecture

Guest post in @TALV58´s blog http://goo.gl/SOg6o

architecture, an equation with many variables

Architecture, as life, is an equation with many variables and, of course, the result changes depending on which variables are included. Therefore, in the case of architecture, if we only think about design, we would be focusing exclusively on one of many variables.

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I recently worked on an industrial project and, as expected, after spending so much time dedicating myself to residential and commercial projects, I had to take a few minutes to change the frequency.

And it was precisely this process of change what made me think of the importance of taking the time to define the variables to be included before beginning the journey of a new project.

Obviously everything is easier when we work on a specific area of ​​design all the time, but in times of crisis such as the one we are facing, we cannot always say no to a project that is out of our area of ​​greatest expertise. In my case, I had worked before with industrial projects, but I cannot say they are my specialty.

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Whenever we go from one design area to another, there are some variables that can play tricks on us; in the case of the switch from residential to industrial, scale is usually the most misleading. It is very easy to get lost in a game of huge spaces if we don´t use the necessary tools to understand what we do.

Hence the importance of making a pause to adapt our predetermined minds to a new set of variables and not get carried away by the rush that often drags us *to use an old expression* to the drawing board.

Seizing that rush is important, but it is even more important to begin the processes in the right way so we can avoid, detours along the way…

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* This is just for fun*

special people with special needs

Designing for minorities can be an extremely challenging task but also a very inspiring one. Disabled people, old people, children, dyslexic, obese, left handed; special people with special needs which are often not given due importance.

Recently, I discovered this video through one of my Google+ contacts

What drew my attention to this innovative design is that, even when it seems to have considered each of these different people with particular needs, it expresses so in a very subtle way.

Most of the time, the designs for these type of people tend to be oriented specifically toward them, so they tend to be exclusive. These designs, even when making this type of people feel like someone is thinking about them and their needs, he or she seems to be someone who thinks there should be a differentiation between them and the rest of the people.

This particular design is the complete opposite of this. It is designed with the mission of unifying, of clustering, blending.

While a person with special needs can feel perfectly comfortable in one of these desks, he/she will not feel different or excluded from the rest. Which, in my eyes, makes this beautiful and practical piece of design, something really special, and it also makes us think; it definitely is an issue to be considered by us architects, who usually focus so much on the spaces that sometimes forget about the people…

take a break and breathe…

Guest post in @archGraduates´s blog http://bit.ly/n66NKa

venezuelan warmth

Guest post in @tcpg / Tabitha Ponte´s  blog http://bit.ly/rptSGf

I´m an architect, ergo, the word “ergo” is in my vocabulary

Whenever I think of the stereotype of architects, I don´t think of the so frequently described image (black clothes and heavy black-rimmed glasses) with which we are often associated. Instead, I think of the complicated words we use, the highly elaborated speeches we usually give to our clients, half of which make less sense than we like to believe.

I try to understand why we architects speak as we do and the only thing that comes to mind is the almost pathological need to seem more intelligent than other mortals. *Yes! I said it!*

What impresses me the most is that our system actually works! As crazy as it sounds, most of the times, the number of contracts that an architect gets is directly proportional to the level of sophistication of his/her vocabulary.

I try to use my vague knowledge of psychology to decipher this mystery, and it strikes me that perhaps clients really assume that architects are smart, because they (clients) don´t understand even half of what we architects say, ergo *See? I am an architect so I use big words. This means therefore*, architects should be a lot smarter than them (clients), ergo *again, big word* architects should be very good at what we do. *Logic, right? …right!*

I really think that if a client believe in this theory, he/she can´t be so smart, or at least is someone who doesn´t use logic on a daily basis, * knife in my neck * because all this madness of incomprehensible words compared with people´s IQ, doesn´t make any sense at all, but it is so common, that frightens. Every time I ask for an opinion on any of my essays to a non-architect, I get answers such as: “it sounds nice, but you know I don´t understand so much about it.”

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I don´t know when does this process of becoming complicated language machines begins; perhaps we are simply born with it and we have this language of architects printed in our genes, or perhaps it is a product of a brainwashing process conducted during our years in architecture school… I wish I knew the answer.

In any case, I’m sure it is a higher power that escapes our control, and the reason why I am convinced of this is because, even though I´ve was always made fun of the language of architects, I keep using it whenever I get to meet with my clients; I always delight/confuse them with one of those phrases that only we architects know what it means. The most surprising thing of all is that we (architects) really believe that what we say is completely logical and understandable.

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I´m thinking that it would be interesting to create a dictionary of architecture; but not one of those with the technical terminology that already exist; I mean one with the most commonly used phrases we employ to describe our projects in the descriptive reports.

One that can be lend to prospective clients, to be read before meeting with us, so we don´t make them feel like complete ignorants. But, on the other hand, then we couldn´t meet our pathological need to seem more intelligent than the rest.

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Mhmmm … now that I think about it, the dictionary doesn´t seem like such a good idea.

a small step into the future?

A walk through the mall activates my senses and puts a new idea in my head. The words begin to travel back and forth inside my mind: products, clients, marketing, future…

One of them decides to stay and starts to echo: marketing, marketing.

“Marketing is a total system of activities that includes a set of processes by which, the needs or desires of consumers or clients are identified, to then satisfy them the best possible way…” Source: http://bit.ly/njqVYK

Achieve satisfaction through the detection of the needs or desires… Isn´t it what we architects are supposed to do?

I find it really interesting being able, to some extent, to predict the future through the analysis of our desires, interests and lifestyles. That is why for me, marketing is much more than a set of processes. It is a tool that allows us to make predictions, it is like having our own crystal ball.

What really is beyond my understanding is how something that works so well for the launch of new products, has not been adapted and applied in the field of architecture with the same intensity. Yes, we meet with clients and listen to their needs and make a proposal based on them, but are those needs that clients tell us about really their needs? Or are the needs of some client who managed to publish his/her project in a magazine or book?

People in general give great importance to aesthetics, to image, to what our eyes tell us is beautiful, and sometimes that glare, prevents us from being objective and honest with ourselves. At times, we put aside the things that are vital for us, our true needs, to make way for what´s beautiful, pleasing to the eye.

The concept of placemaking is, perhaps, the closest thing we have as a connection between marketing and our profession but it is aimed at making city, urban planning; but what happens to the small and medium scale? What about architecture?

Try searching on Google marketing and architecture, and you will only get a group of web pages giving us recommendations on how to get clients to work with us. But what if we already have a client? Why not think about the possibility of incorporating marketing into architecture at a later stage?

It is then, at that moment where it becomes imperative to define needs, where I would place marketing in our profession. An outside help from someone or something able to really capture what the client requires; a tool that allows the client to embrace their deepest desires.

An objective study conducted with proven techniques could save us many future problems. And for this, it is necessary to work hand in hand with expert professionals who help us develop a new system of study that can be applied to architecture.

I’m not trying to pretend that a cold survey is the solution to our problems; I have always thought that the connection with the client must be present at all times; which is why I am referring to adapt or develop a new system, one that gives us the ability to be objective without putting too much distance between the client and us.

I think the future would seem a lot less scary if we really knew how we behave, why we do it and what is the way to continue doing so without worrying about the problems that this behavior can cause us later on.

It is possible that this new system could help us design projects tailored to real needs, preventing real problems, allowing us, perhaps, to take a small step towards the design of the future…

trust and start dreaming

Sitting in front of my computer, remembering my University years, I was invaded by a host of emotions. I remember feeling big, adult, with a purpose in life, but above all, I remember the anxiety; the one that came from not knowing what might happen after the presentation of any project in design classes. The intense anguish and emptiness in the stomach product of not having a rule to follow, a list of steps to let me know when my hard work would bear good fruit. It was not the same for students of other careers. Engineering students, for instance, knew that if they learned the formulas, they would do well on tests; but it was different for us, everything was subjective and confusing.

Every time our teachers gave us a new assignment, a new project to be designed, we ran to the library (yes, library, we did not use the internet as often as now) to get as much information as the limited free time we had allowed us. We filled our minds with snapshots that our eyes took; straight lines, curved lines, double heights, fullness and void; everything that had worked for others in the past, with the intention of making ourselves believe that we had hope of doing it well.

It was so clear to us that this was the path to follow, that it was almost starting to become THE rule, the rule we did not have but we desperately needed. Even teachers supported it, it was the way in which, they said, we could jump-start the creative process.

I always remember that in design classes, teachers would listen one by one, to our long and intricate explanations about the project we were working on, and most of the time, at the end of our explanation, they recommended we seek information about an architect they had associated with our design. Once, when the teacher was almost finished with his round, he met one of my classmates and, after hearing his description of the project, he said: “Look no further information, you have too many references in mind, and the project does not seem yours.”

This story became an awakening moment in my career and helped my open my eyes. Right there, standing, as against a movie screen watching a thriller, I understood for the first time, that it was not about becoming a walking-talking library that was able to recite one by one the projects carried out by the great architects; that we should be able to believe in ourselves and make the world believe in us.

I understood that we must avoid to follow the common path, the one taken by most people, the one that, during our years of study, part of the uncertainty of not knowing what we are doing, and that leads us to focusing too much on what others do, what the great and famous do.

It is not about (re)inventing the wheel, and this is why it is important to analyze what others have done in similar situations, but it is very important to discover who we are to achieve success. We should always leave our mark, our label, a little detail that sets us apart and makes us special. I know it takes time, but when we finally get the confidence to know what we can do, we really begin to enjoy our career.

Architecture is a beautiful profession, capable of making us leave a mark on the world, but only when we acquire the confidence to move forward, to leave behind the insecurities, the references, we can accomplish great things.

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A little confidence and a few hours of study and research can take us as far as we dream…

simple honesty

Ever since I was a student at the University, I remember feeling some sort of rejection for projects that were presented with exaggerated and fanciful renderings.

The reason for my rejection was simple: I felt that the person presenting the project was shielded behind a striking image to avoid having to provide important details about the design created. That was my initial perception, and I was probably wrong more than half of the times, but it was the feeling that this type of presentations produced in me.

For me, it always seemed much more appealing to look at the presentation of a project that included many plans and sketches, than one with strange and unrealistic images.

Don´t get me wrong, I think that succeeding in the creation of an image of this kind is extremely valuable, some of them could almost be considered as works of art, but for an architect trying to present a project, an image like this could give a false impression of what the project actually is. The reality, the one that should be shown, may disappear between contrasting colors and excess of lights and shadows.

There are lots of architectural firms that use this tool to present the world with their designs. MVRDV is one of them, and while many of their built projects seem very interesting to me, I think their renderings don´t reflect what they really are.

These images are beautiful, really beautiful, but after seeing them, analyzing them, do we have an idea of ​​how these spaces actually are?

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Over the years, my mind has opened up a little (or a lot) to technology and I have begun to appreciate the importance of an image that helps us understand the lines which we architects call plans, I particularly understand how important this is for clients who, unlike us, were not trained to read plans.

But I still don´t like fanciful images.

There are many programs that allow us to show our designs as we have imagined them. SketchUp, for example, seems as an excellent choice to reflect what in our mind is so clear, without falling into fantasy. This program allows us to create an image of our project that could well have been drawn by anyone (of course, anyone who, unlike me, know how to draw well).

When we see an image created with this program, we know that what we’re seeing is a drawing, we’re not fooling anyone into believing in a space that does not exist and probably will not come into existence, but we can still understand the project; its shape, the colors and materials to be used, location, and all the details that we want to include.

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The job of an architect goes far beyond imagining and creating. When we start working with a client, we acquire a responsibility to him or her. It is our duty to understand what clients want and submit a proposal consistent with their needs, but it is also our duty to be honest with them.

We complicate our lives trying to embellish our words, actions and, in the case of architects, our designs, but sometimes the most beautiful and honest way of doing things is also the simplest…