Sensory Overload: Effects on the Built Environment

by: Constantine Ronquillo, uap, Assoc. AIA

The era of digital lifestyle has escalated exponentially. This is the era of catchphrase, elevator-pitch and low attention span. Attention indeed, has become the most expensive commodity. As I'm typing at this point, I'd say 75% of the readers will veer away and move on to do other things. It is the age of the spin (quoting Dave Chapelle)- people can't afford to stop and think, we can't think anymore because we know a lot and we expect information to be readily available to be consumed. Kids don't read anymore; they google, youtube. We grew numb and emotionless. We move on faster than ever. Being idle has become a luxury. 

Architecture in this era, as a profession, as an approach has not given an answer, yet. Everything evolves quickly. While the fashion industry had made good strides in keeping up, architects are left to rot. Is the once celebrated profession bound to die at the mercy of the fast-paced era set by technology and capitalist greed? Is this the end? 

To stay relevant, we have to stay current. An evolution of the mind and mindset has to happen... now. Rem Koolhaas, one of the living (and might be the only) legend of this time, has made a bold statement about the failures of the profession- we are just too damn slow and self-centered. 

An overhaul of greater proportion, a redesign of our regulation and policies will allow us to be relevant again. How? My solution is to embrace those that we are afraid of:

a. Technology- Software, 3d printers, 3d builders. Allow them to evolve. learn to code. We will all be coders in the near future anyways. Our authoring of design will drastically change- There will be a paradigm shift on workflow, office setting and running its business. because if we snooze we lose. 

b. The public- we need to be socially driven and have the occupants design the building, we guide and control. My recent experience conducting social experiments and workshops to clients have shown how crowdsourcing make a long-lasting impact on projects. 

c. Design- design responds to innovation, innovation is the mother of necessity. We have to design based on what is available, not what we think should be there for us. And we have to do it quick. The garment industry has been setting trends faster than ever before. So should Architecture.

Last, and I have been vocal of this eversince, we will evolve on becoming social scientists.This will expand our relevance as technology will start taking over our day to day chores. I see that 'architect' will once again turn into something more appropriate to the period, as how it did  during the time when it was synonymous to 'master carpenter' during the 1800's. 

One Year After: Zaha Hadid- Patrik Conundrum

by: CT Ronquillo    

Zaha Hadid's unexpected demise have left a huge void not only to the aspiring but everyone else in the architecture world. It's been little over a year since her death; but the more you go through news about the latest creations of the emerging and current architects, you'd inevitably realize a bit of emptiness. She was a trailblazer and was consistently on fire all throughout till the end. 

This is maybe because she consistently brought in the bravado, sharp intellect and perseverance no one has seen these days. This amidst the oddities that surround her: despite being a woman in a male dominated arena, despite being an Arab in a very white demographic London and despite starting out on her own at the young age of 29 with no clients. Armed with nothing but self-determination and faith, she came through the door, in fact, crushed it and dominated. Zaha has provided everyone a good goal to pursue; as with me, also dealing some odds of my own as an aspiring architect in the U.S. trying to break through the industry with a Filipino face.  

At present, her protege' and closest ally, current Director of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)- Patrik Schumacher, intends to put the direction of the firm further through full blown Parametricism, an idealogy he has championed through the years. His controversial views on housing and urbanism has attracted several misinterpretations and negative reviews from all over the profession, even from his own firm which distanced itself (not totally) apart from his philosophies. This negative light have associated Zaha's creation with Patrik as the same, and judged her works accordingly. The ones who makes this basic mistake and spews more uneducated and lazy opinions are often the misinformed and those who do not know Zaha, or Patrik the way they should. Little known fact is, contrary to her very calculated complex architecture, she adheres to human imperfection and craft- Patrik's extremist views are always kept in check and often bitch-slapped by Zaha- but all of which is love and mutual respect. This dynamism and necessary balance, I personally believe is the most essential ingredient in cooking the right architecture only ZHA could deliver. Without Zaha, I'm nervously optimistic how the direction would turn out. 

 A theoretical talk of the two is shown on the clip from a lecture taken at the AA  School of Architecture


Musings in Architecture (and other aspects in life)

1. Do not overanalyze, overrate or be stuck on a single project, a building has a moment to shine on its own; if that  window passes and nothing happens, chances are that the audience didn't buy your shit. Move on.

2. Learn to be methodological: Conceptualize, Draw, Build, Coordinate, Bill. Repeat.

3. There are no friends in the architectural business. Each has to be his own businessman. If you feel the need to have one,then  go to church.

4. We have not moved on from Modernism. 

5. Take criticisms like a grain of salt, that also goes with commendations.

6. Master the art of shelving previous tasks and moving on to the next. 

7. There's a thin line between vanity and efficiency in Architecture.

8.  .. and also, we shouldn't be stuck on the Conceptual Phase too long to the point that we have deluded ourselves thinking that were saving the world

9. At the end of the day, the one who builds gets the money.