I told him how my dad had informed me that he would never take a subjective major only an objective major in college. So I pointed out that a subjective project is never really finished. I asked the doctor when he thought an architectural project was finished and he responded “when it is done?”. I told him I had learned, in about my fourth or fifth year of college, a project is done when you quit working on it. In reality there are really two answers. When you quit working on it or when the deadline hits. I informed him that we are typically task oriented, not time oriented. The doctor said he was time oriented and that there was only so much time allotted per patient and then he had to move on. I told him that when you’re designing and you think you’re finished, you have a tendency to sit back to look at your product and start thinking, “What if”. So you start rethinking about certain details. This goes on until you finally pull the plug on your self. This process happens no matter what creative discipline you are in. If you are a writer and you finish your paper, you go back and read it again always thinking about how to reword something. If you are a photographer how many times to you post process and image until you get just the right picture you wanted?
When we design buildings everything in interactive, so everything we adjust affects something else in the design. As you get your plan laid out to a point where you think everything flows and works well, you get one of those “what if” ideas and change something. If you like the internal change you made then you have to change the exterior to make sure it is coordinated. The exterior change may not be anything major, but as you look at the new elevation and see the configuration and spacing, you get another one of those “what if” thoughts, so you change the windows spacing and then you have to go back and see how it affects the interior. This process goes on and on until finally you stop. Many times we just step away from it to give our poor brains a rest, but eventually you have to let it go. Time may have run out or there is a new project requiring your attention.
When in college we had design labs. Each year the starting time changed, but the format did not. We had three, four-hour labs three times a week. An example is my freshman year, we had design lab Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8am till noon. You soon learned that you would also be spending Monday through Friday evenings there too! Sometimes Saturdays snuck in and soon Sunday evenings became a regular. People couldn’t understand why we were there all the time. I could only imagine what is was like being able to come back to my dorm room in the evening, do a specific number of math problems, read a certain chapter, and answer some questions then being done for the evening. If all we had to do in architecture was design a square box 3” x 3” x 3” we architecture students could have been done for the night too. When you are given a project, like my first project “Design a beautiful cube” it makes it a whole other story. It is one thing to design something, it is another to try to figure out what you are suppose to design. So that is where the process started. We all designed something within those first four hours of design lab, but our project wasn’t due until 8 AM the next morning. Being more scared than curious, we all showed up that night trying to refine our designs. It started that way and then continued through five years of college. By the time we got to fifth year, we weren’t so scared anymore, but had the desire to make the best project we could. “Think out side the box” they would tell us, so after your initial design you started that “what if”process. Some of those alternate idea would lead you to a dead end. Some of those solutions would lead you to a place that was worse than where you had started. Every now and then you hit a home run. For every problem there are multiple solutions and that is why the design process is ever so long. There is only one solution to 2 + 2 as my father, the engineering graduate, use to point out. Maybe he was right about those objective majors, but for some of us it just wasn’t the way to go.