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floor plan, DIY Like an Architect

Architecture class at ArtCenter’s Saturday High: week four. My creative teens are practicing how to think like an architect — ready to tackle step 8 of DIY Like an Architect: 11-step method — zeroing in on a floor plan.

We are learning how to orchestrate experience. My goal is to add yet another layer, to broaden understanding of the design process for each of my students. Aaron Betsky said: “Design should do the same thing in everyday life that art does when encountered: amaze us, scare us or delight us, but certainly open us to new worlds within our existence.”

To warm up, my creative teens mind map. After printing in bold letters on the board: WHERE DO I BEGIN? and volunteering the first answer — “anywhere” — I leave for five minutes and they proceed by nominating Tyler to jot down what comes to mind. When I get back, he is finishing up and apologizing for spelling mistakes — radiating from the main topic are the following key associations:

  • purpose
  • inspiration
  • comfort zone
  • unexplored ideas
  • theme
  • details / small things
  • location
  • application of skills

We go over what they have collectively generated; I ask for their clarifications, interjecting a few of my own thoughts. I want to stress the importance of sketching as a way to freeform exploration, entice my creative teens to venture far and wide in their thinking, encourage to rely on and follow their instinct.

Charles Eames defined design as “a plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose.” To illustrate architectural floor plan conventions and to introduce the lesson’s vocabulary we talk about the Pantheon.

beauty – the aggregate of qualities that gives intense pleasure to the senses or deep satisfaction to the mind or spirit. It is due more to the harmonious relationships among the elements of a composition than to the elements themselves.

composition – the arranging of parts or elements into proper proportion or relation so as to form a unified whole.

balance – the pleasing or harmonious arrangement of elements in a design composition.

Floor Plan

floor plan – is a view from above drawn as if an imaginary horizontal plane cuts through a section being drawn so as to remove a part above the cutting plane. A plan is represented best if the horizontal cut is taken through all openings (such as doors and windows) as well as all structural elements (such as columns). When solid mass is cut through, it is shown with heavier line weight or is shaded in. Thinner lines indicate objects below the cutting plane. Dashed lines indicate objects above.

I share with my creative teens how when dealing with a frustrating situation beyond my control I imagine being inside the Pantheon to calm myself down. I am not embarrassed. Exposing own vulnerability, I teach them how to think like an architect.

Recalling the building’s sheer strength translated into the most engagingly balanced Room — magnificently forceful and soothing at the same time — I think of its underlying core design principles, its all-embracing idea brought to life with a circle that defines the space both in plan and three-dimensionally.

I evoke the oculus in the coffered dome, an engineering feat as well as a symbolic gesture of colossal proportions. In my mind’s eye I admire its marble floor, a gorgeous representation of vast Roman colonies, yet another element working toward the goal of showcasing the all-inclusive concept of the structure. As my thoughts highlight these beloved details, I am able to distance myself from an unnerving problem at hand. Conjuring up images of the Pantheon provides much needed perspective, a plan of attack.

floor plan, DIY Like an Architect

floor plan

Speaking of the plan! Finally, it’s time to apply what they’ve learned and I postulate: “When you begin working on your floor plan, the first thing to do is to determine the scale based on how big your person is.” This is something I tirelessly remind them of while walking around the classroom and talking to each one of them individually.

Ten minutes before the class is over, everyone pins up their work. John’s parti is FOLLOWING THE SUN. He talks about sun’s vitality that necessitates an “open plan” allowing sun to be seen from anywhere. Martin has taken his concept of the PERIMETER to the next level of delineation quite nicely.

After all of them present, I notice that one girl is trying to avoid attention. I turn to her: “Sophia, what about you?” She replies: “I don’t have anything to show.” Very gently I insist. Sophia’s is about ACCESSIBILITY — her floor plan accounts for future needs, not yet anticipated. She says that she does not know how to show a sliding door. I promise to explain it next time.


  • October 4, 2015

    You are making a claim that one can master architectural design in 11 easy steps, by just following your book. How can you make such a claim?

    • October 4, 2015

      Karl, what makes you question & doubt Alla’s method? Based on her articles, she has a lot of experience. Maybe you had a chance to deal with her directly? I really enjoy reading Alla’s blog posts. I love the way she perceives things. I’ve never come across anything that testifies against her method of teaching her students and DIYers. I suggest you read her comments and posts to cure your own skepticism.

      • October 4, 2015

        Diana, believe it or not, I followed your advice and spent time reading both blog posts and comments. Fine. If people like the method, I suppose it’s working for them. However, she is positioning herself as a professional with more than 20 years of experience offering online architectural services. Who is she kidding? She doesn’t even have a portfolio!!! I am not convinced of her expertise.

    • October 5, 2015

      Thank you, Karl. It’s a great question. I’ve been applying this method for five years while teaching high school students. It works exceptionally well as an introduction to a creative process.

  • October 4, 2015

    Karl, why are you so adamant? How can you say that she does not have a portfolio without even trying to search for one? Alla has a personal site, you can just Google her name; it’s where you can view her work spanning years of professional practice as a registered architect.

    • October 4, 2015

      Roar, you beat me to the punch! Thanks for replying to Karl.

  • October 5, 2015

    Karl, I usually don’t bother to comment, but this time I feel compelled. I found this site by shear lucky coincidence while searching for online architectural services. My home is sacred, that’s why it was critical to find an architect that would satisfy my sometimes eccentric demands. Obviously, before hiring Alla, I carefully studied her work and looked up quite a few coffee table books where her work is published. I also read testimonials and reviews. BTW, it was all very positive and convincing. Moreover, her design aesthetic resonated with my sensibilities and lifestyle. As a result, I consulted with Alla and am thrilled. I can assure you that Alla is a true professional who knows how to balance clients’ needs with practicalities of bringing a project to completion.

  • October 5, 2015

    I would also like to address Karl’s comments. I want to say that I love this blog and have been following it regularly. I think that only a person really UNDERSTANDS her subject matter can present a teaching method with such ease. I’ve not worked with Alla, but I have no doubt about her expertise and professionalism.

  • October 5, 2015

    Ladies, Ladies! You have managed to convert me. I am sorry for judging so hastily. I looked up Alla Kazovsky Went back to the articles as well. Yes, after carefully reading her blog posts, I get why you are all on her side.

  • October 5, 2015

    Wow, Diana, Cobie, and Leena! You are my advocates! I really appreciate your conviction! Karl, thank you so very much for taking the time and digging deep. I am truly honored!!! Thank you again for reading and being so passionate! You made my week!

  • October 7, 2015

    Your way of explaining the whole thing in this post is genuinely fastidious, every one be capable of easily understand it, Thanks a lot

  • May 25, 2016

    Everyone loves it when folks come together and share opinions.
    Great blog, keep it up!

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