I would like to renovate my kitchen. My wife has an opinion, but so do I. Well, the internet does give us options, so we can choose and reach a decision, eventually. We have a unique requirement and I think the stores are not up to giving me what I want. I am also keen on the built quality; I believe it is cheaper and better if I do it here, on site. I trust my carpenter. He has been here a long time. Worked for my father too. He is an ideas man, you know, so I am sure we will get to something nice. Yes, there is the pain of getting things actually done, but I don’t have much choice, do I?
Architect..? Those guys are expensive, are they not? And pretty much opinionated. I wonder if they will listen to us? I know they are creative, but I need someone who can get it done, hands on. If you ask me, paying for design and for the execution that their costly designs may ask for, scares me.
I mean, haven’t the carpenters done it all the time? They know how to put things together, things that last. It may not be too creative, but I prefer a safe solution, and I am willing to compromise on it not being efficient and new. After all, he does seem confident about the internet image I showed him. I will also call in masons, plumbers, electricians in due course and we will all put it together, make it come close to the image.
We brought this upon ourselves. The architect is seen by many today as expensive, egoistic, unreliable and impractical. We are seen as people with ideas, stuck to our computers, using the same body of references while the contractors are seen as ready to build, reliable and reasonable.
The day we established this profession and moved away from the role of a master builder to only a creative, ideas and graphic artistry bound role, we destroyed the essential link between the art of conceptualising and the art of building. The day we fell shy of taking up the saw and the lathe, the chisel and the needle, craft got separated, isolated and downgraded from the context of architectural study and practice.
Thousands of architects emerge from institutes today without having smelled the heat of the burning kiln or the molten glass. We are ideas-ready and yet clueless on what physical forms emerge from these ideas. We are distant from people from their income and from reality itself.
We can seek excuses and give explanations. We could speak of the era of specialisation and the importance of core competence. We can even say that this turn of events pervades all professions today. The field and the contractor are to receive documents and instructions from the studio. The lines of responsibility are divided.
Yes, perhaps the complexity of the nature of work and the components that need to be erected in the time -schedules now inevitable may necessitate specialisation of work. But, the pertinent question is, does it not divide the mind? The artist has to embody the soul of a craftsman and vice versa, is it not? Is not greatness born out of sensitivity to material, to method and to practice?
We need to unify the learning and then build it into our practice. We can choose to build as designers or not, but we cannot choose to ignore the integrity of design – build as one activity.
by Samarendra M. Ramachandra
Featured image: http://www.zazzle.com