What do you think if the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt that you wish you knew earlier?

The first question of the Q+A comes from Steph, where she wants to know what the most valuable lesson I’ve learnt, that I wish I knew earlier. For me looking back on my architectural education I learnt you can’t solve / know / do everything. In my earlier projects I had all these ideas and wanted to incorporate them into my design. I wanted to do this, but also that, but also this, and also that… However sometimes trying to do everything means you don’t do anything. What I mean by that is if you’re trying to cram 8 ideas into one project, it muddles the water and none of your ideas are clear, resulting in no ideas. Instead try to focus on solving the problem with one or two ideas, because that is what studio is about, solving a problem.

It is that Less is More approach, or Keep It Simple Stupid idea that can make for a great project. As students we almost feel compelled to do highly complex forms and have layers of ideas as it’s a sign of how good of an architecture student we are. My last three studio projects had simple ideas and approaches, and they remain my favourite works. I wasn’t trying to do everything, I wasn’t trying to work in 4 different and opposing ideas. Instead I looked at the problem, and proceeded with one or two design ideas to try and find a solution. Yes I did question if my design was ‘too simple’ and there wasn’t enough complexity, but looking back I’m glad I didn’t try to be complex and fancy for the sake of being complex and fancy.

Where I like to build on to this is you can’t possibly know everything, for example not many of us will know just how deep our suspended concrete slabs should be, or the detail for a drain. However too many of us try to solve every detail which then results in a project that lacks substance. And it lacks the substance because you’re too busy trying to work out the concrete slab depth and neglect to focus on what’s more important. Instead going with a classic 200-250mm slab, acknowledge you don’t know engineering, and focus on what you do know which is design and space. My very first design studio in architecture school I racked my brain trying to calculate the weight of the sliding metal boxes, including the beams, and finding rollers that could handle the weight and then calculating…. It went on, instead, I should have focused on what the studio was about, tectonics, and focus on a more elegant construction method/detail.

And that’s my answer, I was fortunate to have realised this lesson during my studies, even if it was towards the end. I hope that helps you, Steph. If you would like to also share with the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt since leaving architecture school, leave them in the comments down below!

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