As visual learners and huge proponents of visual stimuli, architects and designers are often found oogling over beautiful renderings or the perfectly captured photograph of a product or building. Beauty is often found on the face of a thing, the visual appearance of something can almost always grab our attention and create intrigue. Often times, we find ourselves crunching for time as we produce these images, photographs or illustrations which convey our idea 'beautifully', or refined and finished. Yet, most of the work (75%?) goes into preparing this content to exist and we simply disregard it. Process is precious, it is imperative and above all else it is beautiful.
A building is a 'finished' project of sorts. Its pieces are amassed, components aligned and aesthetically is suffices for what we have conveyed (hopefully) through illustrations. To get to this point, however, we had to sit through several hundred or even thousands of hours of process work. CAD documentation, hand sketching, physical models and mock-ups, it all leads to what is the manifested final product, but where is it when the final product is up and running successfully? Probably in the trash, or stowed away in a drawer only to be forgotten and stumbled across years later sparking some momentary nostalgia.
Design, for professionals in the field, should be much more about what you actually get at the end. Show your work, just like in high school math class, if you can't define your process for getting to your final production, how can you prove you're the originator? We should all be extremely interested in learning the methodologies of how others in our field do what they do, especially if they are successful and mentors to us. Many architecture sites display some sketches here and there, but I'd love to be able to see more of the narrative that took the team through the entire process, in this way I can better understand how I can mimic this in my own ways to reach a similar goal, or better yet avoid some common mistakes.
Leaving a Trail
My entire reason for writing this article was actually spurred from my website itself. I started writing code and learning basic web design a year ago as school was ending and I found myself disillusioned with the daily practices in architecture. Coding and web design were portals of the unknown, space where I could step back into the realm of disillusion just for a few hours and a couple hundred lines of script. While I must say I've grown much more accustomed to my career in the "real world" (a job change has also helped greatly), I still find learning new things and showing them off to be extremely important both to how I produce and how I present.
At the beginning, my website was a mess. Some pieces of text were completely different fonts, photos were unaligned and there were varying sizes of layouts. Today things are improving as I learn more, but I'm always rushing around to hide my previous mistakes and have even held from posting things because they weren't perfect. This is just an example of the overall design process mantra and how things get covered up along the way to clear a path that shows beauty and leaves process to the side. But after all the dust settles from a project, don't you want to display the inception of the ideas and how they eventually manifested themselves into concrete forms?
Ideas are best when they are presented in the rawest fashion. I've always been a huge fan of BCJ's work because of their displays of sketches, models and the final product. There is a culmination of information, a way to see how the idea began and how it ended. It's a beautiful and poetic thing to see how a project moves on a path. As designers we shouldn't shy away from our process, we should gleam in it. Presenting a final product only furthers our appreciation for all the footholds that got to that beautiful item that is as close to perfection as it gets.
We under-appreciate the processes of what we do. It's a tedious, stressful and at times overwhelming path of the unknown and experimentation. Embrace not knowing anything and wandering into the dark because that is when the truest discoveries happen; when we have no idea where we are going or what we're looking for. There is no reason to shy away from displaying past work, past process and even current process as we work through the next issues. Past projects that have perhaps fallen out of line with what you now do today still hold clout in who we are and have become. These will help bolster our individuality as well as demonstrate our current path. Do not be afraid to show where you have come from and what will get you to where you want to go, it's all about the process because at the end of a day a building can be destroyed but the concepts and ideas which have intangibly created it will live on forever.