The Integrated Path at SCAD: Year One!

by Cristina Gutierrez, SCAD IPAL Coordinator

Architecture firms look for great designers as well as great employees. Firms agree that, in addition to having design potential, students must successfully demonstrate “soft” skills to be successful in the work force. Early exposure to these skills allows interns to secure the best positions, and SCAD’s career-focused curriculum for an Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) balances both hard and soft skills with equal weight.

Students must be hardworking, effective communicators, punctual, and smart about time management to be a contributing member of a design team. We are in contact with over 60 firms across the U.S., the majority of the firms being medium in size. Over 60% of companies that hired our IPAL interns this summer were small firms, 25% were large firms, whereas only 15% were medium sized firms. Our research helps students target firms where they have better chances of being hired.

SCAD accepted our first group of students into the IPAL program for the 2017 academic year during which these select students have shown great promise as rising sophomores. The path is rigorous, so these students are high performers and focused on becoming architects. Thirteen of our seventeen IPAL freshman secured paid internships during the summer of 2017! These freshman students traveled to internship opportunities across the United States, accruing AXP hours recorded with NCARB. Some of the firms that hired our IPAL interns were Gensler in Atlanta, Georgia; HKS in Dallas, Texas; RS&H in Jacksonville, Florida; Jerde Construction in Venice, California; Cadmus Construction in Roswell, Georgia; and Pfluger Architects in Austin, Texas to name a few.

SCAD is leading the way for the next generation of architects. As our rising sophomore class moves forward on their journey toward licensure, SCAD has also now begun accepting graduate students into the IPAL program, with six students enrolled in Fall 2017. Students entering at the graduate level must have accrued at least 1,200 AXP hours and maintain a 3.5 GPA. The program continues to adjust to the demands of the industry and the aspirations of the Millennial and Gen Z generations.

SCAD’s IPAL program continues to forge mutually beneficial relationships with firms. We strive to increase a student’s value to a company by the end of their first academic year by ensuring they have a working knowledge of Revit and Adobe software. An internship allows students to experience the professional environment and hone in on real world design skills early in their career. This has a great impact on the student’s maturity in the professional work environment as they continue their academic coursework and prepare to be immediately productive as licensed professionals.

During internships, we closely monitor the student’s progress, and conduct bi-weekly workshops to ensure they have the support necessary to be successful. We also provide support to students regarding class schedules, job applications, resumes, portfolios, interview preparation, offer letters, NCARB profiles, AXP hour submissions, and A.R.E. exam preparation. SCAD’s IPAL students will begin to take the Architectural Registration Exam (A.R.E.) during their first year of the graduate portion of the IPAL program for which we will provide support through group study workshops, sample tests, and library resources.

The Integrated Path at SCAD adopts a holistic and fully integrated approach to architectural education by adapting to leading evolving technology, new industry demands, and the changing culture that we live and work in today.

Cristina Gutierrez is the Coordinator of the Integrated Path at SCAD. She supports IPAL students, provides mentorship for them during their academic career and as they seek internships with firms nationwide. She bridges the gap between a relatively inexperienced student and an employer’s perception of a successful internship. She is the liaison between the student and the employer, as well as being involved in facilitating the student’s recruitment and internship with the firm.

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Designing for a Cycling Community of Feedback Loops

By Paul de Pontbriand Vieira

Paul deVOne of my earliest childhood memories is arguing with my brother and cousins to be the one allowed to ride a faded old red kid’s car with metal pedals that use to hang around my grandfather’s backyard in the 80’s. Back in the days, yeah, I was just like any other kid craving that rush we would get by doing dangerous things like climbing on trees and riding environmentally friendly fast “cars” in any small paved area we could find (even though I had no idea what that was or what it represented). At one point during those early years that car became too small and not as fun as owning my own bike.

Times were changing. And in fact they did. From a safe community where in the old days I would feel comfortable leaving my bike thrown on the ground in front of a neighbor’s front gate – just three blocks away from my house – while playing ball in his backyard (or Atari on a 13 inch TV), I was suddenly facing my parent’s anger and disappointed look for having my brother’s bike stolen in the few seconds I had left it unattended outside of my favorite video rental store. To make things worse, just a few months earlier the first adult sized mountain bike I owned had also been stolen. I lost the courage to ride or own another bike again (to be honest, I was also afraid of being bitten a second time by my other neighbor’s crazy old German Sheppard that use to think my leg, while riding my bike, was his own chewing bone).

While spending years suffering from that guilt I found pleasure walking and, when dealing with great distances – usually to my high school – the use of public transportation. At this point you might be asking yourself – Now, why is he telling me all this? Well, that’s because up until now I had no idea I was unconsciously making use of problem solving techniques that would help me overcome particular challenges.

In “Thinking in Systems”, by Donella Meadows, we are introduced to problem solving on different scales through the methodology of ‘system analysis’. From concepts such as “reinforcing feedback loops” to “stabilizing loops”, she shows how to develop systems-thinking skills and how to apply them in a broad variety of situations.

Our current society is facing great threats as it keeps exploring systems that are bound to fail. The challenge, according to Meadows, is being able to understand that these problems cannot be “solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others”, as even smallest details can have huge influence and power to “undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.”

To explore her methodology, one can look at bicycle commuting in Savannah, GA, as a feedback loop. But what is a feedback loop? According to the American Heritage Dictionary of English Language, it is “the section of a control system that allows for feedback and self-correction, and that adjusts its operation according to differences between the actual and the desired or optimal output.” In other words, it is a system that runs on a cycle comprised of decision-making, actions, reactions and some sort of induced internal change.

This diagram introduces the cycling community as the main stock and reaction of a feedback loop. That reaction influences a cloud of perception (noticed reactions) that is linked to the larger community of people (not only cyclists) and is influenced by the actions derived directly from that larger community. These actions, represented by a valve, define the amount of change expected within the cycling community – usually their number, as it is here the main goal.

Cycling Feedback LoopCycling Community Feedback Loop. VIEIRA (2016).

The way it works its rather simple: from a pre-existing group of cyclists, usually permanent (meaning they use their bicycle at least once every day), the general community gets feedback regarding the safety of the roads they use, the condition of bike lanes and the extent of those lanes – appropriate or not. It also brings attention to health benefits from such regular activity, and with such constant use of bicycles comes maintenance and/or used bikes for sale that create a bicycle economy. From that larger community, those in power of change decide how much to actually invest on what could end up being new bike lanes, maintenance of existing ones, public lighting, etc – or lack of it; usually looking at short term benefits. Aside from political actions, we also find measures that motivate a change in cycling education and general traffic behavior (a respect that cyclists expect from drivers when sharing space on roads), as well as a change in their own habits. This is a starting point for cycling community growth.

Behind the dilemma of constant population and, consequently, urban growth vs. sustainable development, we find a somewhat immature cycling system being explored in our cities (when even explored at all) and are reminded to “pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable” as the first step toward finding proactive and efficient results. Dave Horton and David Dansky (2013), in an article on “urban cycling”, agree that cities where walking and cycling are made easier, more enjoyable (and where driving is harder and less pleasant) are places where people wish to live, to spend time, to shop, to interact with other people. A quote from Kevin Lynch’s book “The image of the city” depicts the importance of spatial problem solving in the process of “wayfinding” when designing cities:

“Not only is the city an object which is perceived (and perhaps enjoyed) by millions of people of widely diverse class and character, but it is the product of many builders who are constantly modifying the structure for reasons of their own. While it may be stable in general outlines for some time, it is ever changing in detail. Only partial control can be exercised over its growth and form. There is no final result, only a continuous succession of phases.”

In Europe, cycling has moved up the agenda of town and city planners with a higher frequency in recent years, given its benefits as a healthy, highly sustainable form of transport. Old preconceptions about the importance of cars and roads for fast traffic directly related to economic development are being replaced by a more eco-friendly mindset allowing big changes in the way society works.

Up to this point, a good number of cities with historic downtowns have managed to reduce traffic or even make a car free zone, allowing safer bike lanes to be developed along with walkable areas and connected green spaces.  In the Netherlands, 27 percent of all trips and 25 percent of trips to work are made by bike, with an average distance cycled per person per day of 2.5 km. Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world with more than 400 km of bike lanes. In the city of Krommenie, Holland, a solar path was recently inaugurated and has been generating a growing positive response from their cycling community. It has been said that the Dutch solar bike path is generating more electricity than originally planned, which is excellent news as it can make this pioneering innovation in the field of energy harvesting to be copied in other cities. These are all strategies that prove to have a positive impact not only in people’s health and well being but overall economy profitability as well.

In 2013, the city of Savannah, GA, achieved designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community, but according to John Bennett, in his article Bicycle Friendly, Officially, there is still an absence of a comprehensive bicycle infrastructure network, and the presence of drivers who “may not yet be aware that they need to share the road with cyclists” still make up for a good share on the general insecurity felt on the streets.

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) plays a major role in today’s cyclist community with a large number of students opting for a bike as their primary means of transportation – usually from home to campus and vice-versa. At the moment, the most common excuses given by students who don’t own a bicycle are the lack of public lighting for their night time ride back from campus (making a few of the ones that do possess a bike to use the bus on the way back), the lack of safety in particular communities, and a disrespect from drivers when sharing street space with cyclists.

The following is a summary of the basic strategies that could help grow Savannah’s cyclist community as well as allowing the city to achieve a true status of sustainable city and cyclist friendly:

  1. Develop the city’s infrastructure by creating more bike-share stations
  2. Create a full network of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways throughout the historic downtown.
  3. Dramatically reducing car access on specific streets to property owners (residential and commercial) only.
  4. Identify separate individual central bike lanes with public lighting reinforced by solar paths.

Savannah is privileged to have an amazing urban grid that allows a relatively easy flow of cars in and out of its downtown area. A few streets already share space with bike lanes but the overall feeling is of insecurity. By taking advantage of the short distance between parallel streets, it shouldn’t be hard to simply limit access while connecting to squares and parks. A public pathway would be available for locals and tourists to wander around and help improve safety conditions for both walking users and cyclists.

Savannah and other similar cities have tremendous potential for a vibrant bike community if biking is treated as system of many parts. Understanding that system as a reinforcing feedback loop, whether contracting or growing, is the key to thoughtful urban design and effective alternative transportation planning within an interconnected community of cultural influences.

Paul de Pontbriand Vieira is a SCAD Architecture student from Brazil. 


A Thousand Miles: For the Seeing, Nomadic Folk

by Alexis X.A. Roberts

IMG_6340“I think that a strong sense of identity is like an ideology: You anchor something, when you’re feeling slightly at sea, by coming back to that place.” – Penny Martin

8,212 miles away from his homeland of Taiwan, Hsu-Jen Huang has chosen Savannah, Georgia as his anchor, but those who know him understand that he remains on the go. The words on this screen aren’t the only evidence, for Hsu-Jen has the passport stamps, photographs and FB posts to prove it. Beyond his love of architecture and photography, the ever smiling but seriously gifted guru is able to hang with the best of urban storytellers. A Thousand Miles is his visual curation of landmarks from his wanderings.

IMG_6341Stories bring meaning into our lives. They indicate how and why we understand ourselves in the manner that we do. It matters not whether these tales are scripted, drawn or spoken in nature, the true significance is found when we pass them on. In light of this, it stands to reason that we constantly add to and share our stories with others. Fastened to the walls of Eichberg Hall’s second floor hallway are fragments of such stories. They are pieces of Hsu-Jen’s history. Many of us seek to make the world a more beautiful place but few of us actually stop to record the beauty that already exists within it. Makers like Hsu-Jen, however, though in motion, often take time to document both natural and urban worlds.

Perhaps he is a true nomad. During studio hours you’d have better luck finding Hsu-Jen wandering between studios dropping small gems of knowledge than inside the partitioned walls of his own studio space. For those more familiar with his role as professor of architecture, it may be surprising to learn that it is outside the walls of the institution that he is most creative. The wanderer’s path is his true makerspace. It is a studio in nonstop transformation. Ever-changing cityscapes provide the perfect backdrops and focal points for his work. Despite a seemingly essentialist approach, his sketches continue to move and inspire both students and colleagues alike. Although they may feature intentional markings, Hsu-Jen’s work never lacks personality or feeling; an accurate reflection of the man behind the brush and pen.

For the most creative individuals among us- meaning those who’ve discovered and developed their craft- life must remain an adventure; almost decidedly so.  Growth in an ingenious field requires quite a bit of exploration, spontaneity and in some cases bravery. The same rings loud and true for Hsu-Jen. Anyone who has taken Hybrid Media or has been on the Hong Kong Immersion Trip with Hsu-Jen can attest to that. Working under Hsu-Jen is a collaborative experience that stresses the importance of seeking new techniques and experimental modes of visual communication. This is how we expand and thus refine our toolkit; how we gauge who we are. The result of such exploration is evidenced in A Thousand Miles.

“Sometimes the ones who have sight are the blindest.” R. Fenty

Many moments are featured here and countless others line Hsu-Jen’s sketchbooks. However, he shows few signs of slowing his travels or artistic output. In an increasingly technological field governed by deadlines, there are those who argue against the significance of this art form. The sheer craftsmanship and skill needed for such work is not the only justification for graphic recording, but it should serve to remind us to look up. It is never too early to see the world around us. We may all view it from our own perspectives but, we can express this through a common language if we choose to do so. Having the ability to see cannot not rival the gift of sight beyond the surface, but pausing to sketch forces us to engage our senses. It allows us to introduce ourselves to local and foreign characters; to interpret living environments at work. Some creatives search their memories and souls to reflect the happenings of their past but this immediate confrontation changes one’s output and perspective in a contrasting way.

Nature is a life-changing concept. Learning places and more importantly people, is something different altogether. Artists of the urban landscape give insight into the worlds and systems they capture; making for some incredible ethnographic offerings. A Thousand Miles is a visual journal but conversations with the artist reveal it to be something far greater than a collection of building perspectives and hours of mark making. Hsu-Jen sketches to check in with his extra-sensory self. Our resident urban explorer doesn’t simply hop from region to region. By truly immersing himself within new surroundings, he experiences the raw nature of place. There are layers of complexity to the built world and those who remain solely transient don’t allow themselves to consider the work before and around them. If you take one thing away with you after viewing Miles, let it be the admonition to pause, look, listen, smell and when appropriate, touch. This exhibition and conversations around it indicate that some of us are paying attention.

We have all heard the arguments over the death of hand work within the current world of architecture. Has it lost its value in favour of the modern machine? Will the young be given the opportunity to appreciate it?  What of the relationship between artist and his toolkit; mankind and his built works? Sketching as a way of seeing has shifted over time but, its ability to inspire remains constant. There are many reasons to believe that its prominence will return. Many of us continue our personal search for the meaning in our lives. Life is indeed a process; the journey we take to do great things, to settle down and eventually to die. For the creative, this journey is one of continued change. Never complete or officially mastered, each experience darkens or lightens the overall image. What stories will we leave behind?

Pinned to these walls are captured moments, pieces of time and parts of Hsu-Jen’s own personal journey; parts of him but apart from him. Unafraid of a little grit or colour, each stroke emits a wild but somehow experienced measure. They possess a certain structure yet own their ghostlike rhythm. Though confined to the surface of the canvas, it seems this is where Hsu-Jen is most free. This is work for the seeing, nomadic folk but, also for those who aspire to be.

Alexis X.A. Roberts is a currently pursuing his M.F.A in Design for Sustainability at SCAD and recently graduated with his M.Arch in 2015 from SCAD’s School of Architecture.

I Am Not Going To Be An Architect.

by Ragon DickardArchitect Student

I have spent the past three years of my life studying architecture. Three years of pretending that “I’m definitely not going to need to pull an all-nighter tonight.” Three years of gluing tiny paper columns to tiny paper buildings, clicking through Archdaily articles, and wondering how many imaginary people should realistically be hanging out in imaginary gathering spaces. Three years of hard work, hard study, and wait-I-forgot-my-physical models, and I am not going to be an Architect.

That’s right, I will be getting my undergraduate degree in architecture and, unless something drastic happens, am not going to be an architect… or an interior designer, an urban planner, or a sustainability consultant. During the long schooling process, I made the very important discovery that I am not interested in pursuing a career in this field. The building arts field just doesn’t light my fire, and it hasn’t from the start. And that’s okay, I desperately tell myself as I hear students anxiously comparing internship applications and grad school plans. It’s okay if at any point, now or in the future, you find that you are straying from the path of the building arts, because you’ve collected some pretty valuable tools along the way. An architecture education provides much deeper skills than just designing and presenting buildings.

Less is more,” is one of the first architectural concepts taught in Intro to Architecture, and is one of the furthest reaching. The phrase has grown so well known that it precedes even the person who uttered it. Recognizing the value of minimalism allows us to design buildings that are more practical, economical, and (at least right now) more stylish. Beyond design, the concept of minimalism can be applied to how we work, by teaching us to put more effort into fewer concepts. It is the idea of quality over quantity, which is easily translatable to a variety of fields of work. It is also a lesson in how to live our lives. Fewer distractions mean greater speed, concentration, and quality of work. Fewer, more significant possessions means less room needed to store them, less money going to corporate giants, less items filling landfills in the future, and greater appreciation of what possessions remain. Minimalism stems from design and feeds into allowing us to be better, faster, and happier contributors to the world.

We do not design in a vacuum” has been constantly reiterated throughout my architectural education. I have learned through the process of designing buildings and spaces that there are forces beyond myself that effect me and that I am in turn affecting. Not only do we need to be aware of ways that we can manipulate design to serve a purpose of whatever kind, but we learn to be aware of our unintended consequences on the world through design, art, and action. We need to be aware that our courtyard designs could discourage crime, strengthen a community and get people to stop and smell the roses, but they can also direct polluted water to the ocean, encourage social stratifications, or eliminate an animal’s habitat. This lesson stretches beyond architectural design to our everyday lives, we find that everything we do has an immediate and not-so-immediate effect on other people, other animals, and becomes a part of history. Architectural design has taught me to educate myself on my effect on the world so that I can strive for as positive an impact as possible.

Nothing you do should be arbitrary,” is told to architecture students constantly through their schooling. Their instructors are repeatedly asking “Why?” Why is your building shaped that way? Why is it facing that way? Why did you choose that material? If the answer is “I don’t know,” or “I didn’t really think about it,” then you’ve done yourself and your design a disservice. Every choice made in architecture is a very expensive, and potentially dangerous, choice. So building arts students are pushed to consider every facet of their designs and to be able to manipulate those facets to create a comprehensive whole. Even outside of the field, the ability to objectively question your choices and analyze their impact on the whole work is indispensible. It’s what makes great works of literature so successful; every detail serves a greater purpose in the story. It’s a skill used in business, painting, songwriting, branding, and editing. If the details are sloppy and inconsistent, the whole does not have the desired effect. Learning to design a successful building is learning to create a relatable overall experience through manipulation of details.

Do more than just architecture,” does not mean to me to do “architecture with a capital A” or include elements of other building arts fields in my design work. Doing more than just architecture means that all art forms are linked. It means that architecture becomes a space to highlight the sound of music, to make a painting shine, or to frame a dancer’s gliding pirouette. It means that powerful films like Metropolis look to monumentality in architecture as a means of representing the social striations of the imagined future. It means that Frank Lloyd Wright did not just design homes and office buildings but also chairs, door knobs, and patterns. To study architecture is to learn a multi-purpose design process that can apply to any creative field, art or otherwise.

I majored in architecture, and now I can feel my life drifting down a different path. But I’m not a failure, and I haven’t wasted four years. Yes, I was obviously taught very building arts specific skills and knowledge, like how HVAC systems work, the nominal and actual sizes of lumber, and which way egress doors should definitely not be drawn (swinging in.) Maybe this information will be useful outside of the field, or maybe not. But an architectural education also teaches more unique skills than just general art and design, although I have learned InDesign, hand sketching, and the value of craftsmanship. More general than just buildings, more specific than just art, getting a degree in Architecture has provided me with a unique understanding of the world around me and how I affect it. So don’t be disappointed or afraid if you feel yourself desiring to become an entrepreneur, filmmaker, politician, or dog/emu trainer. It’s all a part of the journey.

And you’ll definitely never forget to draw your north arrow.

Ragon Dickard is a terrific Senior at the SCAD School of Architecture. (Architecture lost her, but the world wins her. SCAD says, “You’re welcome, World.”)

A Hitchhikers Guide To High Water

by Alice Guess

High WaterThe conversation around resiliency in the built environment in the face of Sea Level rise and climate change has reached a fevered pitch. Maybe it is because in the last month the southeast has seen a thousand year flood event and record setting high tides in the past week. Maybe it is because of devastating drought in California and the mudslides that followed the rains when they finally came. Maybe it was the threat of a super storm on the west coast of Mexico, that thankfully was not as catastrophic as predicted. But people everywhere are talking about what we can do now to prepare ourselves for extreme weather calamities and gradual rising temperatures and rising water. And most of the talk isn’t pretty, because the facts aren’t pretty. It is indeed sobering to think about familiar places, that we have invested our professional and personal lives in, becoming uninhabitable for our children or grandchildren.  Imagery on websites like NOAA’s coastal flood exposure website contribute to this bleak outlook as we see a familiar coastline engulfed in shades of red and orange. It is enough to make us throw up our hands, move inland and leave our coastal cities to become tomorrow’s Atlantis.

Or not…

Maybe we should fall back on the wise words etched on the cover of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “DON’T PANIC.”

Maybe we need to look at this issue another way. Maybe we all need to meet these problems like architects and designers would meet them. Think about it. Good architects take challenges and turn them into opportunities. Since we first started making buildings, settlements, and cites we have taken the vulnerabilities of humans persisting on this planet amongst the elements and turned them into opportunities to elevate that experience into something greater than the sum of the limitations themselves. An architect knows that a roof can be more than shelter; a wall can be more than just a screen from the wind. Good architecture responds to the particular challenges of that roof and that wall in that place at that time. No matter how high the water gets, that same thinking still applies.

So architects need to take the lead on this conversation. For the most part, we have been doing that at the level of individual projects that anticipate disruptive changes in given environments. Now that the conversation is reaching the level of municipalities and regions, we need to raise our voices to address resiliency at a much larger scale. As daunting as the challenges facing our current infrastructure seem, we need to remember that one hundred years ago much of those systems didn’t exist. The projected consequences of sea level rise and climate change over the next century are pretty clear at this point, so now we need to start imagining what our new infrastructure needs will be and how they will change how we live in the places we love.

Architects are, by the very nature of what we do, best positioned to lead the response to these challenges in a way that not only insures we can persist but that persisting can be beautiful and comfortable and safe and functional. So architects need to step up and take our seat at the table and start leading the way. We need to reclaim the conversation from the insurance industry and statisticians who focus on “hazard” and “risk”. Let’s start talking about possibilities and opportunities, to start designing our future. And remember to bring your towel.

Alice Guess is a professor of Architecture & Urban Design at SCAD.

Critical-thinking, Design, and Representation… Not Necessarily in that Order

by Sarah Felippe
Graduate Urban Design Student at SCAD

A critical exercise for any designer is the study of representation beyond its simplistic aspect of turning drawings into appealing pieces of art. We choose different representation techniques not only because of their visual impact, but because they are the visual content of an architectural speech and the architect’s own worldview. Taking the examples of three offices- Atelier Bow Wow, Dogma and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) – we can see how the way they represent their projects suggests the ways they understand cities.

Dogma - Magnet Bienne; Atelier Bow Wow - Miyashita Park, Tokyo; BIG - Europa City, Paris

Dogma – Magnet Bienne; Atelier Bow Wow – Miyashita Park, Tokyo; BIG – Europa City, Paris

BIG’s well known practice of explaining every concept with a sequence of self-explanatory diagrams and infographics – a practice borrowed from Ingel’s alma mater, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture that has influenced student work worldwide and can be observed in many architectural boards – satisfies in selling an idea. BIG is successful with this technique, but its continuous use becomes a trope that easily, in absence of critical thinking, avoids the complexity of an urban context or architectural program and reduces it to the simplistic symbolism of a diagram. Each architect or office must determine its own practice, but, as a close analysis of BIG’s Europa City project reveals, the excessive use of diagrams falls into the mistake of understanding cities as a collage of different functions, connected by a transportation axis. Cities go beyond diagrams, and BIG may argue that Europa City is not a random overlapping of functions and programs, but that is what their diagrams show.

Atelier Bow Wow’s famous perspective drawings, here illustrated in the Miyashita Park project, have a different representation approach, almost resembling “Where’s Waldo?”, where the complexity of urban context is illustrated with a multiplicity of activities happening, people walking in all directions and performing different actions. And exactly because of this apparent chaotic environment, the eye is not driven to a particular focal point, and it is the viewer’s job to decide where to look, and therefore, how to look to cities. The beauty of those drawings is exactly the creation of a multiple storytelling, in which your own eyes guide you. It is a technique that although may seem confusing for our lazy brains, accustomed to absorbing images without processing them, is a very powerful example of representing with one single picture many different aspects of urban life.

Dogma also developed a very unique technique; to start, the projects on their website are presented in a continuous slideshow, as if they were connected by the same principle, and, more importantly, the understanding of one is not possible without the other. If plans and isometric perspectives are always black and white and use mainly linework, it is because their intent is to observe spatial organization and insertion in urban context; drawings of the front views (vertical plan) are predominantly one-point perspectives that emphasize the relationship of the built form with landscape. Not by chance in their front view representations, paintings if you will, the view of the sky, as if one was standing at street level, prevails over everything else. This type of representation is by no means accidental, it is a rigorous choice to show the office’s continuity of speech about architecture and the city.

Those three examples show that the way we represent cities highly influences the way we think of cities, and no matter how hard we try to make them realistic and comprehensive, representation will always lack something – the lack of truth. The question though is not if we should put so much effort in making hyper-realistic representations of projects that do not yet exist, because it should already be understood by architects and other designers that realistic renderings only fulfill commercial wishes and not much more. The art of applying material, lighting and placing jumping people all over can make your project more desirable maybe to an investor, but we should be able to differentiate imagery for commercial appeal from imagery that helps us to understand and solve the technical resolution that urban design requires. One thing is to have a goal, an idea, a proposal investigated through built form and using different representation techniques to accomplish these goals; the other is to confuse design with representation itself. Representation is a tool that can add glamour to a project, but as a primordial condition it should be a tool that informs your project and adds content to it.

(SCAD School of Building Arts is proud to have our students appear as guest bloggers. Visit our site often to see what our students are thinking about!)

Art of the Next City

by Christian Sottile, AIA, NCARB

This is the century of the city. Globally, across numerous cultures and contexts, people are rediscovering and reshaping the city — the greatest of all human inventions. New, unconventional ideas are expanding our perception of the possibilities. I am ever more convinced that the next global future lies in the space of the city. The city is the place where each artist and each discipline come together. It is the greatest expression of our very humanity. And at its best, it is art.Art of the Next City

As designers, when we work in this context, we are at our best. Our ideas are at their most visible, most provocative and most impactful. This seems to be true at all the scales of design encompassed in the SCAD School of Building Arts, from interior design, furniture design, architecture, historic preservation, architectural history and urban design.

So how will we build? SCAD students are unique among emerging professionals in this era. They have a comprehensive grasp of the most advanced digital tools and an intuitive and fluid capability to use the hand and the eye, the pencil and paintbrush, and the tools of the building trades. They are uniquely capable in deploying these seemingly disparate skills in the development of a synthesized and unified whole.

The blending of art and design along with technology and innovation allows us to forge the next generation of cities. We must reject the soulless, placeless urbanism that characterized city centers that were created or recreated in the 20th century and instead imagine places that come alive with a synthesis of art, humanism and delight.

We need our architects and urbanists to create buildings that nurture humanity, we need more complete interior environments and outdoor spaces as new understandings of behaviors emerge, we need the expertise of furniture designers in this new compact city as we reimagine every single element, we need preservationists as we move ahead with the fabric of our past and we need our historians to frame the progress of these disciplines and to avail us of the full discourse of ideas.

At SCAD these ideals have been reinforced recently by projects that we’ve engaged in, from super-collaborations such as SCADpad to projects like LiveSavannah and the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab. New technologies and new art forms overlaying the physical proximity and humanistic geography of traditional cities are evolving and illuminating new possibilities.

In this urban century, I encourage our next generation of designers to guide, develop and shine their own bright lights to lead the way forward.

As each city is defined by its citizens, so our school is defined by our individual talents. The city is the place of discourse and debate, delight and diversion, discovery and dreams. There is ample room in the city’s unlimited space of ideas. As we engage in this discourse at SCAD, our shared language is art, and we are the building artists.

Indeed, the SCAD School of Building Arts is both a school of building and a school of art.

Christian Sottile, AIA, NCARB, is Dean of the School of Building Arts at SCAD.

Practice, Practice, Practice! … Architecture and Music

by Thomas Hoffman, PE


It was suggested that I write something about the similarities between music and engineering/architecture. At first I was going to write about rhythm, intervals, phrasing and mathematical similarities. However, that has all been done before. That led me to the old question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. Getting to Carnegie Hall represents the pinnacle of a career in the music profession. Same with architects and engineers – how do you get to the pinnacle of your profession? Practice, practice, practice. Do you get it right the first time? No. Do you get it right the 100th time? Perhaps not. But after you do get it right, do you stop practicing? No. That’s when you REALLY have to practice. So here is my completely different list of similarities between music and engineering/architecture:

Performance. Image is everything. When you meet a client, you don’t go in cold. You must warm up and have practiced what you are going to do and say. Everything you present has to be first class — it has to look as good as it sounds, just like a live musical performance. As with any live performance, it doesn’t always go as planned. Being proficient with your skills allows you to improvise through those unexpected times until it all gets back on track.

Practice. Don’t just practice until you get it right — practice DOING it right. Don’t stop after you do something correctly the first time. You don’t just go on stage and play; you have to practice. It’s the same with a presentation to a client to get that big job or when designing a building. You have to practice. You may spend weeks or months practicing and fine tuning a 30-minute presentation. When you finally give that perfect presentation to the client, that feeling is almost reward enough.

Focus, Concentration and Planning. Even as things are happening around you, you need to maintain your concentration and stay focused on the task at hand. This does not mean you should do only one thing at a time; just don’t get distracted. Keep everything moving — don’t stop playing because you dropped a drumstick. Have another one ready, pick it up and keep on going; plan for it. People are depending on you. If you stop, it will have a chain reaction and everything else will come to a stop.

Harmony. Work together, in harmony, like an orchestra or band. The architect is usually the leader of the design process — the front man, everyone else plays a supporting role, but make sure you don’t play through their solos. Sometimes it is not how well you play, but how well you play with others. Working well with other is the key to the longevity of your career.

Stay away from long, complex, incomprehensible or overly intricate words or phrases. You can get an amazing solo from just one note; it just depends on how you play it.

And in closing, another old saying: “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it”.  It is not easy!

Tom Hoffman, PE  is a professor of architecture at SCAD [] and a rockin’ drummer.