Carlos Romo-Melgar
Aug 4, 2018 · 5 min read

by Carlos Romo-Melgar. Originally published in Pli Revue

Graphic design, after having slept with architecture, gets punished by the gods and reduced to sub-microscopic dimensions. (Daniel Van der Velden from Metahaven. Typo Berlin 2012)

TThis article does not intend to achieve a systematic distinction of the status quo in which Architecture and Design find themselves today; on the contrary, it seeks to highlight and encourage all those professionals who work between different academic qualifications. It’s a call to empower all de facto professionals, and to reconstitute a lost rationality, which derives from the automatism of the bureaucratic structures in which we find ourselves immersed.

This text’s words find themselves conditioned by the vital, academic, local and professional experiences of the undersigned, who nowadays tries to establish the development of his career somewhere between architecture and design. Tomorrow, maybe he will not.

Architecture and the architect

What is architecture? It only takes a small search on the Internet to realize that there is no consensus for defining it. It also takes a small look into any writer’s background for their definition on architecture, to notice that their text is a mirror of their own experience. Architecture is a concept that generates insecurity for those who exercise it; it’s so complex that it needs to be redefined every once in a while.

One might conclude, by integrating all the opinions on the field, that architecture is a discipline that encompasses a set of logical, practical and technical knowledge, as well as traditions and intentions. Also, that it is usually closely linked to construction. However, due to various circumstances (economic crisis, migration, generational changes) it is also linked to management, lifestyles, process definitions, etc.

Architecture also exists without necessary assistance from an architect; and architects sometimes create buildings which are not architecture. (Norval White).

We work hard in categorizing people, and professionals –in an obsessive way– with the idea in mind of creating more productive professional profiles. This capitalist perspective for worker production has resulted in a hierarchy of professional homologation systems, and has created barriers between professionals who have much more in common than their teachers lead them to believe. Let’s discuss designers and architects.

The public realm is defined as much by graphic designers, as it is by architects.(David Heathcote. Eye Magazine, ‘Growing up in Public’, page 4)

In Spain, professional education on architecture has existed since 1845. For 170 years the architect factory went from experiential learning in small workshops, to a big industry of graduate production. These are trained to be architecture operators. However, almost none of them reach the societal archetype of the architect: powerful, wealthy, contemplative, hedonistic, a demigod, an alpha male. Why is it then, that despite the clear lack of definition for this discipline, we still impose a solid and unique collective image? Furthermore, focusing on the productive tools and processes used by architects on a daily basis, are these really exclusive to a professional architect?

If there’s something in architecture that has always stopped me, it’s the way of teaching it at schools. I have problems with its teaching. I think the desire of the ignorant to know about science is worth more than the intellectual’s desire to transmit knowledge to the ignorant.—Eduardo Chillida

Educational systems strive to shape and define the mold in which all their graduates are formed, without considering the intersecting knowledge they share with many adjacent disciplines. By leaving no room for professional permeability and by punishing it under the name of intrusion, professional breaches are generated in the lines of thought.

From a general point of view, there are many creative careers that would have a curriculum that fits in the following list:

Materials
Applicable law
History and Theory
Practice
Technology

Five points that depend on their historical time and geographical location. Their contents are dynamic, and many of them could be obsolete in the following 10 years. What will remain from all that effort? Will we stop being who we are? What would then be the true essence that allows us to define ourselves as professionals? There are two tools that originate from the above: creativity and the project-wise/resolving thinking.

What if we apply these tools into another knowledge domain?

We have to define the hyperlinks between different creative disciplines as a sixth knowledge topic. We could call this hyperlink “TRANSLATION”. With time and continued learning, “knowledge cells” of a discipline, can shift and become a different one. An architect can become a chef, a composer can be a graphic designer, a photographer can be a writer. The fields change, not the tools. Time is the limit.

The right to change. Towards reversible decisions.

The differences between design and architecture are obvious, and these are intensified to deter members of each field from crossing the border. The scale, the responsibility on human lives, the product’s permanence and the duration of the processes, are points of divergence between the two domains.

Similarities are also evident: design and architecture are based on intentions.

The connection […] is that they both provoke interpretation, to create meaning and response, they both encourage interaction and use. Both graphic design and architecture communicate information, they each have a designated purpose, a function to interact and entertain […]. Throughout this ‘observation’ of both disciplines, keywords have been repeated, on purpose, so that as you read them you recall them, you initiate a link, a record of words that combine together to form a contextual connection between the disciplines of architecture and graphic design. Words such as: meaning, function, form, movement, information, dominating, decoration and construction. (Steven Price. Visualising the Boundaries of Architecture and Graphic Design. Central St Martins 2000).

The sum of multiple voices enriches the results and insights on the creative professionals’ work.

Innovative narratives and platforms that differ from academic conventionalities can be accomplished by not falling under the professional deformations and vices acquired during traditional education.

Integrated newcomers allow an accelerated evolution of design and architecture. They also allow different professionals to commune with greater fluidity, adding both ethical and transparent assessments of the work of others. Nonetheless, mutable professional competence is not a path that everyone can follow, given that many institutions (universities, professional associations, governments) indoctrinate their professionals; to change this, myths have to be demystified in order to introduce new approaches and values.

In today’s rapidly changing time, it’s important to have the tools and support to adjust the way of working and to take advantage of numerous professional skills. It’s also essential to take steps towards reversing professional decisions.

Carlos Romo-Melgar

Written by

Creative Director based in London. Published on Gestalten and Princeton Architectural Press. Currently exhibiting in the 2018 Venice Biennale. c31913.com

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