The Second Studio Podcast on Why Architecture Is Necessary (but Also Unnecessary)

The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by Architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and personal discussions.

A variety of subjects are covered with honesty and humor: some episodes are interviews, while others are tips for fellow designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or casual explorations of everyday life and design. The Second Studio is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

This week David and Marina give an introduction to what architecture is, covering how architecture is different from ‘buildings’; the key aspects of a work of architecture (and what makes for good architecture); why architecture is necessary, but also unnecessary; the common belief that architecture only pertains to the exterior of buildings, the common focus on styles; whether or not architecture is subjective; and more.


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Highlights & Timestamps

Why the question, “What is Architecture?” is an important question to ask and distinguishing a building, from architecture, from Architecture. (03:11)

Not defining architecture by the type of structure or type of project, but by the structure’s intent, quality, and impact. (06:35)

Why we might need more architecture and less Architecture. (14:40)

In terms of the practice of architecture, it’s more about a mentality, a skillset, and a desire to execute things in a certain way, rather than it being a focus on a project type. (20:24)

The key aspects/terminology of a work of architecture:

Key aspects: Form and Space (21:41)

A lot of architects will say, “I create space. I design space.” And what they’re trying to say is, “I’m designing space as opposed to nice looking things that have a good shape to them.” Because ultimately, at the center of architecture in all ways, is people and people can’t exist in walls! (23:16)

Key aspects: Materiality (23:40), Tectonics (24:22), Program (25:50), Space-Planning (26:17), circulation (26:33), function (27:50), light (29:22)

[In architecture] light is considered a tool or a material to design with […] and I think that notion is a lot of times lost in architecture offices. The idea that you would design architecture based on the material of light is one of the points that makes really clear the difference between an architect versus a draftsman or a contractor who is pretending to be an architect. (31:24)

How the standardization of building components and materials can result in ‘buildings’ and not ‘architecture’. (31:45)

A lot of the physical structures that we create end up being buildings and not architecture because the buildings were not even designed, but let’s say they were […] put together or drafted based on the preconceptions of what they are going to be made of. Because a lot of components are standardized now. […] It doesn’t mean architecture cannot be created from that stuff, it’s just that with the standardization of the components […] that kind of thinking also extends to the design of the total building itself. (32:44)

Key aspects: Proportion and scale (34:24)

This gets to architecture as sculpture and the architect as the sculptor of space. The difference between a sculpture as an object that sits on a table versus architecture is that the success of the sculpture of architecture is dependent on how people feel. So when we’re talking about proportion and we’re talking about carving out space instead of just framing it with walls, it’s not just about it looking good, but how it feels. (37:17)

Key aspects: Clarity, integrity, and honesty (38:55)

Key aspects: Sustainability, structural integrity, site response (41:16)

Nothing that we create exists in a vacuum. No piece of architecture exists in a vacuum, even architecture that’s a chapel on a hillside still has context. It might not be other buildings, but it still has context. There are things and forces that you are responding to and how successful a piece of architecture is first dependent on how it replies to the givens that it is embedded within. (46:54)

Understanding architecture analogously to food and clothing and why the key aspects of a work of architecture are important regardless of the structure, user, client, and architect. (47:27)

The studying of architecture and its theory, criticism, discourse. (53:55)

Addressing the question of style in architecture. (55:53)

These styles came around at a certain period in time and in a certain place for certain people and for certain reasons and at some point, they were categorized as being X-style, but we’re no longer in that situation. This is also why in architecture school we don’t design classical buildings because we’re not in the era when this was the thing to do. Buildings are done in response to things… these could be specific problems or larger forces behind society such as economic or cultural issues. When you just transplant those styles to now, it’s like a dinosaur walking around. It doesn’t really belong. So the question for architects is and should be what is an appropriate architecture for the specific place, people, and time I’m designing and building within. (01:01:47)

Common misconceptions about architecture: Architecture is only about the exterior (01:09:15)

The delineation that architecture is only about the exterior and interiors are done by interior designers is almost like saying “I want one director to do the beginning of the movie and the end of the move and then I’ll hire a different director to do the middle.” (01:12:12)

Common misconceptions about architecture: Architecture is subjective (01:14:52)

Common misconceptions about architecture: Architecture is for the wealthy and hiring architects later in the building process (01:21:29)

Architecture can be done with a small budget. If you hire people who are creative, who are asking the right questions, who are seeking the best solutions, you’re not going to end up with a building, you’re going to end up with something more than that and you’re going to give back to the city that you’re in. (01:25:24)

Common misconceptions about architecture: Architecture’s value is primarily visual. (01:25:40)

Common misconceptions about architecture: Architecture is superfluous (01:28:42)

When shelter is thought about, designed, and created to meet some other set of criteria that is not about just survival, it’s no longer just shelter. […] To survive you do not need architecture, but if you are intending to be a human being and we’re talking  about society and culture at large, then architecture is, by definition part of what it means to be human. (01:31:15)

Shelter is all around us all the time. Even when we’re outside in cities, we are enclosed partial by architecture, by buildings. Even if we’re in a park, someone designed that park, [that’s] landscape architecture. Even if we’re in a big plaza, that plaza is manmade. All of that at a bigger scale is a collective expression of society. On an individual scale, a home is the expression of a person, or it could be and should be. This idea that of food, clothing, and shelter, most people are only able to express and think about their identity through clothing because it’s more accessible is to me quite sad. (01:37:54)

Check out The Second Studio Podcast’s previous editions.

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