February 2017, Communication in Practice

February 14th Marks 3 months working at Design Engine. My 3 month review was a great chance to review the work I’ve done work at my new practice and consider what I want to accomplish in the coming months with the directors. It was also a great opportunity to hold a discussion one on one with the directors. During the review I received some very positive feedback. I have been told that my work has been exceptional so far and that my work ethic has been a real asset to the practice. Obviously I am very happy with this and personally I feel I have reached the work standards I have set myself. However, the review was also a great opportunity to make a request to shadow a site visit and perhaps work on further stages on a project. This is an area I have mentioned before that I am lacking in. The directors were very helpful and have told me to organize a site visit to an Oxford University project next month. I would like to be able to write about the coming experience in my next journal entry.

During the course of this month I have continued work on the Salisbury Cathedral School masterplan competition. I worked on modelling numerous design options for part of our bid and developed them with the help of the directors. This work was presented in an interview document which was to be presented on the 21st of February. I was also tasked with making the site model and design options for this interview in order to communicate our ideas physically. During the course of the next couple weeks I printed all the local site context on the 3D printer, continually developing my knowledge of what the printer could achieve and how it works. For the first time I have started to explore the nature of using models to communicate ideas in practice. It has been extremely refreshing being involved in model making environment as my previous practice didn’t make models. Interestingly, even though I’ve heard making models is considered to be a typical part one job, the directors are often found at the model making tables. They find models to be one of the most important methods to communicate their ideas and make up a lot of the design process for Design Engine buildings. I have been impressed by the effectiveness of the models I’ve seen around the office and agree that Design Engine use them to full potential. I have found that I am enjoying making models here a lot more than I have done in University. I have even started to apply this to my design project for Cardiff and to great effect.

Before the interview for the Salisbury project I sat down with 4 of the directors and 2 senior associates where the tactical approach to delivering the project was discussed. This was an interesting meeting which was comparatively similar to a critique in University. I was intrigued particularly at the language aspects of our approach. Small communicative nuances can make a large difference in architecture depending on who you are speaking to. For example, when the question was raised that the client might ask what sort of architecture we deliver, the directors agreed that ‘contemporary modernism’ wasn’t suitable terminology for such a conservative client and rather ‘contextual modernism’ might be more appropriate. However, this phrasing still have negative connotations in the eyes of the client. Even though architects aren’t trained to be business professionals or communication experts, I think it’s still crucial to start developing these communication skills early.

As a follow up from this session, the whole practice was involved in a feedback session were a professor of linguistics and English from Lancaster University come to talk about ways how we approach discussion in more depth. This was to inform younger and perhaps foreign members of the practice on how to engage in architectural conversation with all people involved in the architectural process.


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