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Creative vs logical or Creative and Logical

One of the things I like about being an architect is that every day is quite different. This is in part because the projects are always changing, and even within the same project, the stages through the life of the project are very different. Preliminary design tends to involve a lot of loose drawings, sketching, and models (actual models and computer models) while the building permit document stage involves a lot of drafting, document checking, coordination of consultants, researching materials, etc.

This division of labour is one of the hallmarks of being an architect. It involves working both sides of the brain: the intuitive, loose, creative side, as well as the rigorous, analytical, technical side. There are of course many architects who specialize in one area or another to suit their natural tendencies. But generally, architects do need to be more versatile than most professionals. And this characteristic can cause some conflict with other professionals (I am thinking of engineers in particular) and contractors/subtrades, who are likely to be more linear/logical in their way of thinking and working. But I can assure you, the best buildings on the planet, and the best art/literature/film/music did not start with putting together a good spreadsheet.

I recall being in one meeting with a project manager and structural engineer at the design stage of a mixed use project. They were very much in synch with respect to ripping the building down to a very ‘logical’ and ‘efficient’ (as they described it) structure. Unfortunately, the building would have ended up being a brutally ugly box as a result. It would never have made it through the development permit stage. And even if it did, it likely would not have garnered much interest from buyers, and the neighbours would have been outraged. Later in the project when we got further into the design, the same engineer proposed placing a large concrete column directly in the middle of a stairway. Perhaps this was an efficient structural response, but it took a 20 minute long phone call to convince him that we had to find a alternate solution.

North America cities are full of buildings that appear to have been designed by spreadsheet, and unfortunately, most of them are awful and we are now stuck with them for the next 50-100 years. Good buildings require a team with creative abilities and technical abilities. And it definitely helps if the technical/logical team members have some respect for the creative types and vice versa.

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