Google Forms, and how architecture students are doing it wrong.

Tags

, , ,

Google Forms are unarguably the easiest way to collect views and conduct surveys. Over the last few years Google has not only optimised the way surveys can be conducted, opinions can be recorded, but, has also provided the surveyors with many options to customise the look and feel of the forms. This is the time in India, when many architecture students would use Google Forms to gather opinions on their dissertation / thesis. Many students are doing it wrong and below, I am explaining how the process of conducting surveys could be made more effective.

1. Introduce yourself and your topic.

Even before you start bombarding people with the questions related to your dissertation / thesis, tell them about yourself and your topic in short. The introduction must focus on the intent of your study, important keywords and what information you are seeking from the participants.

2. Choose your audience carefully.

Decide whose opinions matter. Depending upon your area of study, you should decide the target participants. Is it to be your fellow students, your teachers, professionals, laymen, users of the spaces, or people, like contractors, labour, project managers?

I have seen many students limiting their approach to fellow students, teachers and at the most those professionals whom they know personally. It is convenient to do that, but useless. It doesn’t really help students with their topic of study. It is best to reach out to professionals and people outside your campus. Reach out to people having different kinds of beliefs, practices, scale of work and even location. Try and reach out to people located across India, and if time permits, across the globe. Don’t limit your survey to one or two cities.

Don’t send your survey forms through FB Chat or WhatsApp. Emails are best. If you don’t receive replies, send a gentle reminder. Follow up again and then just leave it. It’s okay.

3. Don’t just ask questions, design your questionnaire.

Google Forms allow almost all types of answers, from multiple selection to check boxes and even paragraph texts. Choose the type of answer that you are expecting and the order of your questions very carefully. Expecting your answers as only ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ doesn’t really work. There is a world beyond Yes and No, it’s called Po. Read this.

Include images, wherever necessary along with their copyrights and source.

People are busy, give enough time to your participants to study and understand your form, but, ensure that your survey form can be filled in less than 2 minutes.

4. Language matters, and it does matter.

Many survey forms put off people, because of the language and grammatical errors. It is okay to be not good at English, but, it’s not okay to not accept it and seek help from others who are better at it. Spend good time reading your own questionnaire and amending it multiple times before it is sent to the participants. Send your questionnaire to your friends or experts not for their opinions on the topic, but, to know if it can be improved and made more effective.

5. Say Thank you.

Google Forms have a place where you can say Thank You, but, if you have approached someone on email or phone it is best to send a personal Thank You message in addition to the standard message that all participants receive.

Credits — Abhiviraj Dev Singh

Do Not Teach Architecture

Tags

, ,

My advice to architecture students graduating this year:

Some of you will go for the Masters, some will join architecture / construction /design firm, some would start on own, but, if you do not get to practice architecture or get a job in the architectural field, don’t worry.. Do whatever else you want. Whatever. But, do not get into teaching architecture immediately.

Do not get into teaching architecture, unless you have an experience of five years or more in the same field..

Travel, write, read, learn music, join a music band, learn to cook.., pick up a new hobby.. create memes, do whatever you want. But, do not get into teaching architecture immediately.

You will not only do harm to yourself, but also to students, education and the profession. Remember, everything that you said about the freshly graduated teachers?

Design Logos and Identity for friends’ businesses,  create identities for startups and small businesses, design wedding cards for friends, do photography, learn coding, do whatever you want, but, do not get into teaching now..

If your passion is to teach, great. Teach at a kinder garden, or primary school or even secondary schools. Best, teach at a government school. Teach arts, music, photography,talk about design at primary schools, but to not teach at any architecture institute unless you have a five years or more experience… 

Your teachers, friends from college would send you messages and try to pull you into teaching.. but remember you can only contribute if you have learned something..

Just because you have a degree in architecture, doesn’t mean you should practice architecture. May be you already realised that architecture was not for you, but you continued for some reason. Great, that you have finished it, and you are done with it. Now, do whatever you want..but, do not teach at any architecture institute for now..

There is a lot of work.. a lot needs to be done and the world needs you. 🙂

I want to quit architecture

Tags

, , , ,

I wasn’t surprised when a student from fourth year came and said that to me. The second sentence, after he said that he wanted to talk to me. I liked the clarity and straightforwardness in his thought. He said ‘Sir, I don’t want to do architecture.’

Now, it is never too late to realize that something is not for you. This wasn’t the first case when some student has shared that they do not want to do architecture. In fact, many students live in a denial. They come to architecture not because of choice, they continue to pursue architecture, not because of choice, because it was easier to get into architecture than any other course, because other friends were doing it, because parents wanted them to do it, because they thought it was all about drawing and painting. Because, there was no other option.

Coming back to the student. I feel it is equally important to know what you don’t want to do and what is not for you. And the student realized it after completing more than 60% of the course. I tried to find out the reasons why he didn’t want to continue the course and what would he do next. He wasn’t sure. He thought he was the weakest student in the batch and his interest was sports. He wasn’t sure where and how to start with sports again.

Many students continue to pursue architecture just because they started it. Just because they did not know how to get out of it. Or, many universities make it difficult for students to quit in the middle of the course. My advice to such students is to quit architecture as soon as they realize it that was not meant for them.  Or, at least plan an exit strategy so that you do not lose on time and enthusiasm. Or, take a break for a semester or a year and do something that gives you more pleasure. If things don’t work, you can always come back. You cannot be denied of your right to be wrong.

Frank Gehry goes viral

Tags

,

Noted Architect Frank Gehry’s post is doing rounds on Social Media. No wonder, the post is hit among many youngsters. In an interview Frank Gehry described 98% architecture as shit and responded to criticism by a journalist with middle finger.

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry responds to journalist with middle finger. Picture Source: theguardian.com

Here, I have a question:

Would the post still go viral, if it was not carrying picture of Frank Gehry showing his middle finger?

Let me know what you think.

 

StudioBoxx’s New Website

Tags

, , ,

Studio Boxx has launched its website with major changes. I will call it version 2.0.  Click Here to know what version 1.0 was.
The new version of the website, involves more usage of JavaScript, jQuery and jCarousel. Built on Core PHP, the website now has a continuous scrolling, more randomization in fixed grid, better Search Engine Optimisation features and speed. Version 2.0 continues with its grid, minimalistic look, whiteness and accents of red (Logo).

Some screenshots:

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 09.56.05

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 09.56.23

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 09.56.49

In coming version, plans are to make the website responsive to all major devices.

Design Education in India

Tags

,

An average person in India would define ‘Design’ as something related to beauty, aesthetics, decoration or piece of art. It is much beyond that, Kshitiz Anand explains.

“It is a wholesome solution for a need. It is an answer to some problem. It is something that betters the life..beauty is an integral part of any design..”

The Design Village hosted a discussion which emphasized on many aspects of Design Education in India. About 15 participants, mainly from education contributed their views. Issues like Design Paedagogy, Curriculum, Education – Industry connection, Upgradation of teachers, Teaching and Learning environment was also discussed. Kshitiz Anand moderated the discussion and many questions which ranged from fundamental question like ‘what defines design education in India?’ to advanced questions on entrepreneurial spirit among students..,  sparked intriguing debate among the participants.

Design Education In India

Informal discussion at The Design Village, Noida

Below, I am sharing my views on the discussion, and, i would welcome your comments and feedback on the same.

1. Elitist Approach of Design Institutions

At present Design Education is accessible to only upper strata of the society. It was argued during the discussion that due to high costs of running the institutions, the fee cannot be lowered. In that case, what are the steps that these institutes shall take to ensure that Design Education reaches masses. Some of the solutions that were put forth were

  • Conducting workshops (on Design Education) at primary schools both in urban and rural setups.
  • Introducing ‘Design’ at a very primary level at schools, like in third or fourth standards

My personal view is that, this elitist approach is not going to go away easily and education is going to be much costlier in near future. I am afraid that this will also widen the gap between rich and poor. And if that happens, Design will continue serve only elite.

2. Job mentality and Degree mentality

Among many students who opt for Design Education there is this ‘Degree mentality’. In India Entrepreneurial  mindset doesn’t easily come and there are many hurdles that entrepreneurs have to face. I am not sure, if apart from MBA curriculum any other curriculum talks about entrepreneurship.  Thus, job mentality among students is aparent at a larger extent. Institutes must encourage students to create jobs and more partnerships than looking for jobs.

3. Location of Design Schools

Design Schools shall not be restricted to urban settings, efforts should be made to ensure that they come up in ‘rurban’ places as well. unfortunately the talent among children in rural and ‘rurban’ areas is untapped. Above that there is increasing unemployment. Design Institutes in rurban areas will create more entrepreneurs and jobs, in addition, this will also help create more awareness about Design.

4. Curriculum and teachers

This is most important aspect among all. The curriculum must be revised at regular intervals, say every three years. It must be flexible enough to suit the different needs of the students also the location of the institute. Same curriculum cannot work for rural setup and urban setup. Teachers must have enough freedom to tailor the curriculum.

Teachers. Design cannot be taught, it can only be learnt. A batch of students shall not be looked at as one entity, it is many different mind sets, it includes students coming from different background, culture and influences. It is must that teachers are able to connect to each student individually. And to be able to achieve that, teacher – student ratio shall be thoughtfully implemented.

Upgradation of teachers is a very important factor for any education setup. I am aware that many institutes  take steps to ensure the upgradation of teachers and these encourage teachers to participate in conferences, indulge in research and writing and improve upon communication skills.

Concluding, Design Education in India is still at the nascent stage. With the latest announcement from the newly elected Government about NID, there is tremendous hope among design fraternity. Nevertheless, depending completely on the Government is not advisable, institutes individually shall take major steps to create awareness about Design Education in India.

Why should architecture be restricted to “Architects”?

Tags

I recently heard one of my architect friend saying: “We shall first fix Architect’s Act 1972. It only restricts the use of title “Architect” and doesn’t say anything about who can and cannot practise architecture..”

My immediate reaction was, “Do we ever question millions of people in villages who design and build their own houses? Why do we object only to those non-architects, who practise in urban areas?”*

*Here by ‘non-architects’, I mean those who are not registered with the CoA.

Rural architecture

Billions of people create their own habitat, they do not consult “Architects”. Their habitats are highly responsive to the local environment and their immediate needs. They build with the locally available material, labour and skill. Who teaches them all this?All this learning comes from their experience, by doing and being sensitive towards everything in nature. They don’t go to schools of architecture. They don’t register with the CoA. They are not even aware of the existence of the Act. But, they make great architects.

Architects must stop going around in circles

Tags

, ,

The recent ruling by Madhya Pradesh High Court has left many indian architects in a shocking state. And this fight between architects and engineers is not new. And, I am of the opinion that no one else but we architects are solely responsible for this state of affairs.

Architects in India is an inward looking community which has miserably failed to reach out to the bottom of the pyramid. it is a notion that architectural services are for elite layer of the society and this makes architects even more unapproachable. Secondly, awareness about architects and architecture among laymen seems to have bettered, but in so many years many many people still do not understand the difference between an engineer and an architect. Reason, we talk architecture with architects, architects socialise with architects, architects follow architects, and so on..

Till the time architects continue to live in an inward looking environment situation will not improve. Architects must break this circle and reach out to the real beneficiary, the end user.

Which architect?

Tags

, ,

Many students these days are looking for employment post their graduation or for internship. One common question that is faced from students is, “which architect or which firm should I join?” Frankly, it is student who should decide this depending upon his/ her interests and liking. But, to make it easier for students, I have laid down some factors, along with pros and cons below:

1. Change the question.

You are not looking for an architect to work with, you are looking to work on projects of your liking. Right? Somebody has said, “Love your work and not the company. “

Decide, what kind of work you like, or what kind of approach. Architects belong to diverse schools of thoughts, from “Form Follows Function” to “Function Follows Form” and more. There are firms who religiously practice and follow ‘sustainability’ in their works. there are firms which firmly believe in deconstructivism. You will come across all kinds of firms. Look back and see what has been your liking. Make a list of firms who work in the areas of your liking. Following two links may be help to you:

1. List of Indian Architects’ Websites: http://www.posts.architecturelive.in/indian-architects-websites/
2. Projects by Indian Architects: www.architecturelive.in

2. Size does matter.

Small firm, medium firm or large firm? Unfortunately the size of firm is decided by the number of employees and the annual turn over. It should be the size of work. Quality of work is subjective and debatable, so I am not delving into it.

Smaller firms, with lesser number of employees and flexible working pattern give you more chances to interact with the principals, whereas in large firms you may only get to interact with your immediate seniors. Smaller firms let you take more responsibilities and at times also allow you to interact with the people on site and owners, whereas in large firms, your focus is majorly on drawings (not design), and you may get to visit sites. It may sound like as if I am favouring small firms, but large firms have their advantages. The biggest is the kind of clientele you deal with, you learn office management skills, you get to participate in events and also get an opportunity of networking with the influential people in the industry. Larger firms deal with bigger problems, and so it is a bigger learning.

3. City.

If you thought you will slog in some architect’s office for 16 hours a day, and you will learn architecture. You have misunderstood it. Architecture cannot be learned only by working in office. Knowing your city, culture and people around you, is must. If this is first time you will be employed, I strongly suggest go work in a city you have never been before. Architecture in any city is very much influenced by local culture and lifestyle. This is one place where I am against globalisation, and where every building has started looking the same. When in new city, explore local places of interest, like art galleries, temples, museums, food joints etc. Carry your camera along.

4. Keep away from family and friends.

Do not work in your uncle’s firm or family friend’s firm. Chances are high that you will be taken for granted and you will take the work for granted. Working in new firms could bring in sense of discipline and responsibility in you.

Make new friends in the new city. Keep the old ones too. But nothing like turning a stranger into a friend in a new city. Better, if the friend is local. He/ She will help you explore the city and with learning a new language too.

5. Research and learning should never stop.

Architecture is a lifestyle, not a job. Work with a firm which gives you enough room to indulge in some research, learn new things and allows you to hone your skills. Every project is a new experience and a new learning. Document and record your experiences in a diary. *Look who is talking* 🙂

5. DO NOT WORK FOR FREE.

Never work for free. Money is important, as important as learning. You will need money to be able to sustain yourself in the new city. Respect yourself and your time, and ask for what you deserve. Also, overtime at times is okay, but do not make it a habit. Avoid any kind of exploitation by your employer.

Last, have fun. Love your work.

Architectural Case Studies – Why and How.

Tags

, , ,

New sessions have begun at architecture schools, at many Universities. At architecture schools, by now, new design briefs must have been prepared and introduced. Students must be going through phase I of any design process, that is understanding design brief. Next, soon, they will move to the next phase, case studies. Case studies are an important and integral part of any design process. These delve into the depth of problem solving methodologies already adopted in past by designers. Case studies make it easier for students  to take some decisions and refer to some precedent.

Architectural Case Study

Photograph: Siddharth Kulkarni

Why Case Study?

I am yet to come across a design problem which is not based on the building type that doesn’t already exist. There could be some universities focussing on such problems or exercises. In such cases, there wouldn’t be any case studies. Of course, a different kind of investigation, research and survey will be required. For the exercises, where similar or same building types already exist, it is fairly easy to find and do case studies. Why case study? The problems that you are yet to solve or face, may have been already solved or attempted by somebody in past. Case study involves an in depth investigation of the approach towards solving these problems. I am being specific here, it is not the study of the final product, it is also the study of approach towards solving certain problems.

Importantly, case study shall not be only restricted to successful and popular buildings. One must also investigate and analyse some failures to ensure that these do not get repeated when you are set to design something.

How?

Students, even before you set yourself out for any case study, ensure that you have correctly read and understood the design brief. You have a clear idea of requirements of the spaces, users, location and even submission schedule. This will help you in shortlisting appropriate case studies. Like I have said earlier, case studies shall not be only of the successful examples, but also of some failures.

A single case study is always a big NO NO. Case studies shall be done for buildings set in different environments and climate, of different scales and by different architects preferably. Students must personally do at least two case studies of different nature in addition to some book case studies.

Now, assuming that you have understood the brief clearly, shortlisted the case studies you would like to do, finalise two case studies keeping following things in mind:

1. Schedule, lesser the travel time better for case study. At least one case study must be approachable easily and located as near as possible. The other one could be little far in different climatic condition.

2. You will be able to talk to the architect, click photographs, measure and sketch on site. On some sites, specially protected monuments, public spaces or government buildings photography, sketching and measuring may not be allowed. you may have to seek permissions from appropriate authorities. Seek permissions much in advance.

3. Local weather and situation must be analysed before you finalise the case studies. Heavy rains, summer heat may land you in a great disappointment at times. In India, strikes and protests are common scenes these days. Ensure that such  events do not affect your study and schedule both.

In my personal opinion, teachers must accompany students for case studies. Whether these are first year students of final year students. Students are too young and untrained to analyse and investigate many aspects of architectural spaces, which teachers can easily do and guide students. Also, many finer details may go overlooked, neglected or unnoticed by young untrained minds. Assistance from teachers would be of great help. 

Safely assuming that case studies have been finalised and following things are on your carry-along list:

Camera, sketching and drawing material, measuring tape, drawings of building that you are going to study, voice recorder in case you are going to interview the architect and clothing suitable for local weather.

On Site:

If you are a part of a group, ensure that you know your responsibilities and tasks very well. DO NOT start clicking as soon as you have landed on the site. Go around the building, around every space with a notebook and a pen. Ensure you have been through every corridor and passage, every room, toilets, canteen, leisure areas and any other spaces. Talk to users, visitors, owners of the building. Take notes and list down important observations.

Do not only visit the spaces that you are assigned as a group member, but also other spaces that you may not have to study or document. At this point you may decide to take your camera out and start clicking. Ensure every minute detail is recorded either by way of photographs or sketches.

Case studies in architecture are not only about the study of the final resultant, but also, study of methods and approach involved in solving certain problems specific to the building or campus. These could be related to the local weather, limitation with respect to the site, location, approach, size, shape or topography and others.

Talk with the users about the use of spaces by them, comfort levels, problems they might be facing and solutions according to them.

Before you think that you are done with the case study, check. Check twice that you have all the information that will help you analyse the building and also give you the whole picture. Check if you have touched upon all important aspects of the building / campus. Some of these are listed below, in no particular order:

1. Site (Location, topography, access and shape)
2. Climate (Micro and macro both)
3. List of various activities being performed.
4. Form
5. Colour, texture (finishes) and light
6. Circulation / movement patterns, for both vehicles and pedestrians
7. Articulation of spaces and forms
8. Orientation w.r.t climate, function, view, access or any other
9. User details (demographics of active users and passive users)
10. Approach to site / building
11. Zoning (primary spaces, secondary spaces, tertiary spaces, connections like passages, corridors, transition spaces)
12. Structure, materials used
13. technologies involved in construction
14. Services (Plumbing, lighting, HVAC etc.)
15. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic

Once you have verified and ensured that the required information has been collected, move to the analysis part. Which focuses on answering many WHYs and finding out reasons for some design decisions. Ask as many questions as possible, even basic ones and write down the answers. Support answers with photographs or sketches if necessary.

There you start with your design exercise, which has to be one step ahead of case study you have just finished.