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DIY Like an Architect: Designing with Models

DIY Like an Architect: Designing with Models

Architecture class at Art Center’s Saturday High: week five. Last week my creative teens started scaled drawings — step 8 in the DIY Like an Architect: 11-step method. Some of the kids are eager to build already; they are moving right along to step 9, a scaled model.

Ninth step focuses on orchestrating experience as well as structural implications — how what you are designing will stand up if it’s mainly glass, for example? Designing with models allows my creative teens to explore and reconcile conflicting ideas, to think across boundaries — to think like an architect. The idea is to concentrate on the design process, not the end result!

Peter Lawrence said: “Design is the term we use to describe both the process and the result of giving tangible form to human ideas. Design doesn’t just contribute to the quality of life; design in many ways, now constitutes the quality of life.”

Our vocabulary for today is as follows:

ambiguity – the anxiety that comes from not knowing what to do, vagueness or uncertainty of meaning.

continuity – a state or quality of being continuous.

attunement – a state or quality of achieving a harmonious or responsive relationship.

structure – the organization of elements or parts in a complex system as dominated by the general character of the whole.

Today’s lecture is quite simple. I unroll a set of architectural drawings for a house to point out various details and invite questions. The sheer volume of documentation is fascinating to them. They are very engaged.

DIY Like an Architect: Designing with Models
Referring to the floor plan

Sam’s parti is FLOW. She is in the process of designing a study full of books and light. Considering the nature of books and their accessibility, she is realizing that having bookshelves above a full-height window might not be an ideal approach. This can be easily resolved with a model. In fact, in the spirit of flow, she decides to let the window rush to the ceiling and become a skylight. To further enhance her concept, Sam is doing away with a door, as it is something to stop you. An arched opening will mark the entry well.

John’s parti is FOLLOW THE SUN. He is proposing a structure that is ¾ of a circle and has a continuous balcony. Ground floor glazing is translucent to “protect privacy,” whereas the upper floor has transparent fenestration, inviting the view.

Martin is addressing the concept of hierarchy in the model form. Even though all the rooms appear the same, position of a door suggests differentiation.

Shawn’s original bold gesture is getting diluted with functional considerations. His challenge is not to compromise, not to abandon initial clarity and simplicity. Part of his design process is going back.

Sophia’s project takes a very different approach from everyone else’s. She is manipulating the ground plane to delineate separate areas; she is defining space with levels, not walls.

DIY Like an Architect: Designing with Models
All you need is foamcore and an x-acto knife

As I go from desk to desk, I stress the idea of the process, of going back and forth. It pleases me that my creative teens take my words to heart. I sense that I earned their respect. Good thing, I have something encouraging to say to all of them individually!

In the last 15 minutes we look at everyone’s progress as I continue to emphasize the importance of taking human scale into consideration. Next week my creative teens will continue orchestrating experience.

I end the class with a quote from Virginia Woolf: “The success of the masterpieces seems to lie not so much in their freedom from faults… but in the immense persuasiveness of a mind which has completely mastered its perspective.” Designing with models is one more way of “mastering perspective” of their masterpieces.

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7 Comments

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  1. Jeremy says:

    What are the architectural model materials you use for your architecture classes?

    1. Jeremy, please take a look at the list in the body of the post. It’s mostly foamcore.

  2. Jeremy says:

    How do you get a lazy or disinterested student involved? I understand that to become an architect is a very involved process. It takes 8 years, doesn’t it?

    1. Well, if someone is bored, he or she is not interested enough. So, in my opinion, there is no point in forcing yourself.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Thank you for your reply. How long is your class diy like an architect at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena?

    1. How long? It’s only two 3-hour sessions.

  4. Don Quixote says:

    Good way of describing, and nice piece of writing to take facts on the topic of my presentation focus, which i am going to present in school.

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