Monday, December 30, 2013

An architect's resolutions for the new year.

It's easy to lose track of the fundamentals when one is working on the daily grind of shop drawings, change orders, field reports, and plumbing schedules.  I'd like to step back from the chaos of real life practice for a moment to make six resolutions that I hope will help improve myself as an architect and a person in the coming year.

  1. Draw something (by hand!) every day.  Mundane doodle, architectural perspective, rough sketch - anything.  Drawing from ideas by hand allows time to let intangibles solidify and gives more insight into how an idea can develop.  Drawing from life by hand allows time to observe the minutia that is otherwise missed, the necessary but unnoticed details that make things real.  
  2. Photograph something every day.  Take photos of the overlooked, the noteworthy, the unusual, and the ordinary.  Take photos of things other people do not observe.  The lens of the camera helps narrow the visual field and promotes focus on how a scene is framed.  The immediacy of photography can bring a new experience to the viewer.  
  3. Make physical things by hand.  Make a model of a project.  Make a gingerbread house.  Make greeting cards.  Make jewelry.  Make a sweater.  Make a dining table.  Make art.  Physical creation brings an in-depth understanding and appreciation of process and good design. A useful thing requires skill and knowledge of function.  An artful thing requires skill and a good eye for beauty.  
  4. Learn new skills.  Practice new software with a pie-in-the-sky project.  Study basket weaving at an art studio.  Replace a light fixture (without electrocuting anybody!).  Try watercolors.  Learn a language.  Learn to juggle.  Learning new skills, even if they don't seem to directly advance a career, tends to bring new ways of thinking and wider experiences to bear on problem solving and keeps the mind nimble.  
  5. Teach someone something.  Teach color theory.  Teach a software trick.  Teach knitting.  Teach how to sketch a working detail.  Teach a game.  Teaching brings a stronger and more in-depth understanding of the material one teaches to another, and often can result in new insights. 
  6. Keep a "Fail Book."  Accept failure as an important and necessary part of process and learning.  Learning from failure and consequences is invaluable.  Failure helps in discovering faulty knowledge and thinking.  Failure also indicates where one can improve - improve design, improve process, improve skill, improve material, improve strategy.  "What not to do" helps to define what will produce success just as much as it defines what will produce failure.

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