Which software best suits to Architect?

Last week, while I was speaking with a group of architecture/interior design students, they randomly asked me which software should they learn and I was again reminded of my dilemma, the dilemma in which I had been while I started using software for design work. As everyone, I started my Computer aided design work on AutoCAD but then slowly moved on to Revit Architecture, from where I restarted using AutoCAD with a combination of SketchUP and Adobe Photoshop while I found my contemporaries graduating onto 3dsMAX, Blender, Rhino and other design software.

I believe each of them offer their unique advantages and have their own strengths. Therefore, like the stream an Architect needs to specialize in, be in Residences, Interiors, Urban design, Conservation, Energy Efficiency etc., an Architect also needs to know its own methodology of working and should strengthen that capability. In order to understand this, let us consider a few cases;

  1. The project is architectural design of a small residence in a city, wherein you have conceptualized things mostly in rectilinear format and you have been tasked with preparation of required working drawings also. This work can easily be managed singularly by AutoCAD.
  2. The project is a sizeable bungalow in a city and you have been tasked with preparation of required working drawings also. This work can easily be managed singularly by AutoCAD, however, Revit offers in this case more advantages since the scale is bit large and clients requirements would be demanding, which one can easily deal on Revit.
  • Project is a farm house/or a large residence in a village and you are exploring option in organic form while exploring innovative building systems, my vote here would go on SketchUP as it offers maximum flexibility and convenience of drafting.
  1. If you are designing a dynamic hotel with unique form, one can explore Rhino; coupled with Revit BIM works.
  2. In an urban design work, housing or large-scale projects, 3dsMAX has its very high potential which if utilized can lead to immediate success of project.

Hence, there can never be a single word answer to the question of which software, one should learn, it is totally dependent on style of designing and liking of projects. Therefore, one should first explore one’s inner self and then dedicate time on learning software accordingly. Till then, knowledge of AutoCAD with any basic 3D software can suffice your requirements.

<This post is addressing primarily to those people who have time to learn a software and only a software and are not sure what they want to do and how they want to be in future.>

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#SPADonFire SPA Delhi burning under lack of infrastructure

My college, the institute which practically shaped me who I am, gave me my identity, defined my professionally and shaped me personally is today burning in fires in all ways and here I am sitting helplessly seeing it burning. Due to unplanned growth in intake, both the social and physical infrastructure had got impacted greatly and today that untoward incident is taking place where there is no option for the students but to not stay in hostels.

The authorities’ have-not been to update the infrastructure to meet the needs of time and the students pursuing their course of planning and architecture couldn’t help but wonder the fate of their planning and architecture. It has been ages since the promise of new campus is being given to the entrants and there are now batches who are crumbling under the dead load of infrastructure which college and hostel structures can no more take.

There was a fire in a room in one of the hostels where if a student would have been present could have burned alive and administration has not only neglected the situation but has gone on to the extent of threatening the students who have been rightfully asking for an infrastructure where they can study without the fear of losing their life. Electricity cabling is age old, Fire safety and detection system is almost in absentia and water purifying system is not maintained, considering this state of the campus, expecting students to design the future of nation is unfair and unjustifiable.

As an alumnus, I am just wondering who is to be held responsible for this state of affairs; College administration, Ministry or students or is a multi-fold parenthesis where each holds their role. College administration has not been able to justify their role in meeting the demands of the students, ministry who never been able to understand the functioning of college and has increased the strength without equipping institute with resources or students who never been able to demand their rights properly and have adjusted with whatever was available. I have been through this phase and can completely understand the situation. What hurts most is the fact that this institute has the capability to produce world leaders but instead it traverses their energy in waste.

But, what is the way forward under the present situation? I recommend student community to start attending the classes but operate from college campus only, they should not be accepting to stay in a hostel where they can’t even be assured a safety of life. The campus has already been lacking modern facilities but accepting falling ceilings and short circuit fires is a big NO. I know that in an IIM when a student’s laptop has got partially damaged due to unexpected drop in voltage (since the campus is on DG with 24 hours backup), the complete amount was duly refunded and administration had apologized for mishap. Therefore, students should not accept anything but duly liveable facilities and work on their academics from college. I know it is a hard way out but I guess it’s the right time since this is the time when iron is hot and college admin can work on existing campus and plan on new campus.

Establishing my own (Architectural) practice

As we start practice, we always have the due sincerity to work intently on a project but what one lacks is the credibility/experience. The people might choose the young guy for fresh ideas and innovative designs but more often they simply dissuade from having them on board due to not knowing them. Therefore, what hurts the most as a young architect professional is the fact when you know you could have done a better, much better job, but only, if you would have been given a chance.

Yes, today, when I have started my practice the biggest challenge I think I am facing is the race against the name and fame that the big shots have earned in their due course of professional life which would be definitely a hard earned accomplishment. Therefore, the big task that I have is gaining visibility and more visibility out in the competitive world, to let people know what I can do and what I am worth.

Therefore, what I plan to strive on is gaining credibility, getting testimonials from people and generating word of mouth that I am out there. I think I should start reaching out a few seniors (to start with those in the town) who can transfer a few clients whose projects they are not interested in. Also, I have to make use of my adeptness with social media and use it to market me well, explore new avenues where the contemporary/established architects have not looked at and offer my services in the segment.

People do suggest participating in competitions but the kind of investment good competitions seek is again challenging both in terms of time capital and financial capital as we would be fighting the odds against the established giants. Hence, I believe I have to take a well-thought of step before participating in a completion which could be done by identifying my strength and working towards those segments.

Setting up a fresh architectural practice has challenges of its own which become quite playful as we grow as the freedom of expression it offers is incredible and with it there is a unique satisfaction which one can feel. But off-course, it has to be a well thought of decision wherein we should be equipped in our own rights to establish ourselves in the challenging world we are entering in.

P.S. I have kept the Architectural in brackets, because I sense it would hold true to all new professionals and designers.

Good luck!

Crankiness – a trait inherited

via Daily Prompt: Cranky

Architects are born pleasant but developed cranky, partially because of the work stress and remuneration and partially because of the thought process. What they see all-around is nothing but the work, building and details all around are their case studies and natural landscapes are potential sites for upcoming projects. Moreover, the work they see all around is not up to the mark, and they can definitely do way better, but the work that they do is not often executed properly, or clients don’t agree to the solutions or sometimes doesn’t come out as expected. This all leads to stress and dissatisfaction, leading to a cranky being.

Being an architect myself, I believe they should take some time to cherish their life. It’s a wonderful life out there, sit back and relax. I know there is so much going on, and sitting back might lead to delay and eventual fatigue but relaxing does no harm. Details all around definitely need to be observed but it should be taking away the comfort; one should quickly register the same and get back to the normal societal mode. They should treasure and prize their work, they are the ones who are creating things out of nowhere. They are the one developing the world. They are creating a habitat, which becomes home for everyone. They play a very important role in the society, which they need to understand and prize.

At the same time, society also needs to cherish architects, its them who have created a beautiful world out there. They should make sure, they get their due and fair compensation. Otherwise, they would have a place devoid of satisfaction, and it would reflect in their lives; making even them cranky.

While, architects are working on their projects they should also understand that they are not the ultimate users, and therefore, it won’t be them who would be using the project. The project, has to meet the requirements, expectations of the client. It is definitely their duty to educate the client, but ultimately it should be the call of the client/user.

These minor changes in the working system would lead to happiness all around and crankiness would be done away with.

And it was Red Mandana!

Mandana is a quartzite stone used for flooring, cladding and similar stone finishing works. It is a chemical resistant hard stone, delivering rich dark red finish subsequent to multiple polishes and is opted for high maintenance luxury stockyards or factories. It is an expensive stone owing to the hard profile of stone making the cutting and stone processing work challenging.

Impressed with this luxurious finish, an architect proposed this stone as the final finish to an institute being built with taxpayer’s money. Being a dark coloured stone, it absorbs light and creates a dark and gloomy ambience in an otherwise lively space, sparkling with students and environment of growth knowledge dispersion.  It makes the space looks smaller and demands for a regular maintenance and in its absence, it starts looking dusky, spotted and tainted.  The strong and tough profile of the stone makes it a heavily demanding exercise to polish the flooring surface and in spite of more concentrated efforts, results in inferior outcomes.

The consultants involved in the project requested the client and architect to replace the Red mandana stone with an alternate finish considering the above listed points, but, under the gravity of the architect’s strong vision of a building jewelled with Red mandana, client shied away from getting involved in the design process and architect continued decorating the building with red mandana. This resulted in a discomforting situation wherein in spite of heavier usage of funds, the flooring finish achieved discomforted the users and added on to the plight of the project managers wherein the time required for finishing and polishing was high and results were a dark, gloomy space.

It leaves me pondering does an architect has a right to override the user comfort with a design idea, or a vision. Today the institute has finally decided to do away with the Red mandana and use an alternate finish in the remaining structure, wherein luckily lot of work pending, but is it how the fraternity functions. An architect is expected to shape the building which shapes the residents using it. Thus the responsibility of an architect is high prior to deciding or zeroing or forcing a design idea/vision onto the face of the client.

I believe before finalising any finish in the building, users’ opinion must be taken while educating them rightly with the characteristics of the finish involved and not decorate the building with red mandana as a personal vendetta of creating a jewel in mandana, as it is not a showpiece but a functional building we are creating.

Designing lives, Designing Classrooms

Teaching as a medium to transmit knowledge has always existed since the dawn of civilization. As read in our scriptures, the system of teaching surpasses the time immemorial, be it listed in legendary texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata or in the ancient texts of Panini and Kalpasutra. Though very different from the current mode of education, the system of Ashrama shiksha (apprentice training) had created its own share of legends in the history.

This mode of teaching revolved around an intense system of togetherness wherein students lived with their mentor, the teacher, the rishi which became their family. Classes there used to conduct under a tree wherein the sage or the teacher would deliver his lesson/lecture to the group of students directly. These classes used to happen under a tree or a courtyard in an informal seating but ensuring a lot of interaction of the students with teachers.

This was surpassed then by the classroom teaching which started in confined setting. There the format of a teacher teaching a group of students sustained but the seating got formalized to an arrayed arrangement, wherein the focus is not on teacher but board, which promotes the significance of board than teacher and hence influences students to memorize than learn.  This simple example demonstrates the importance of classroom layout in teaching.

In order to substantiate the argument if we consider different classroom layouts and their impacts, we can consider an engineering college, an architecture school and a management institute. Engineering and management institutes requires formal classroom setups whereas architecture schools can manage in unceremonious settings also. Engineering schools mostly have a seating layout (either semi-circular or arrayed) with focus at board wherein students directly concentrate at board. A substantial component of the teaching in these schools also happens in the laboratories and thus those who manage to see and observe details, hear and listen lecture and grasp and do experiments continue as engineers post-graduation and rest leave it for other studies. These trends clearly demonstrate how classroom layouts can influence the learning and interest mechanism of students.

The management schools successfully have disclosed a classroom layout which leads to successful teaching making it the most effective and priced education course. They have a horse-shoe type of an arrangement wherein focus is solely on the interaction. All the students are enabled to look at each other leading to enhanced interaction and thus improved learning wherein they are able to discuss their cases, interpretations and discourses.

This analysis helps us establish the importance of a classroom layout for different teaching techniques and courses. Unlike a standardized arrangement for all the classes, effective systems and layouts need to be explored for fruitful teaching and learning alike, and it can be very well said that a while designing a sustainable institute, layouts of classroom play a very important role as otherwise they wont be able to deliver the purpose they are built for.

‘Designing Lives, Designing Classrooms’

 

How can we develop urban zones through sustainability?

Since centuries, civilizations have thrived besides nature, symbiotically, where development was a holistic function taking into account the surrounding environment and natural habitat. The settlements encouraged interaction of humans with biodiversity and it never became a point of conflict for anyone be it humans, animals or plants. However, the callous development took precedence over societal and humane norms and then preferential allotment to space, funds, and sensitivity was given up by urban gigantic corporations. What they didn’t realised that these buildings meant for human occupation need to establish a bond with its surroundings, as human life cannot be contained in those containers called as buildings. Thus the development today has a constricted approach wherein environment is not considered.

The present development has not been able to sustain the expedient practice of survival and living from the past. Thus, urban planning should take into account that the infringement is happening in the name of metropolitan expansion at the cost of natural regression and biodiversity degradation. It should be perceived that the land prior to human intrusion is host to a number of species and has a unique biodiversity of its own. There is a dire need of an urban design which takes into account the importance of biodiversity.

Moreover, simple interventions such as having water pot for birds at homes, dedicated cattle sheds in clusters, vibrant landscape including native trees and shrubs should be an inherent characteristic of designs. Urban planning should include green spaces which could be in the form of mini-forests within the city fabric which will lead to a holistic urban environment having a rich urban matrix comprising of varied biodiversity. Interventions such as public spaces like bus stops having solar panels over roof for decentralised energy production reducing the grid loads and thus reducing pollution in a manner should become general practice. The natural slopes and gradients should be retained for drainage and thus enhanced water flow which won’t impact the catchment of local flora and fauna. Waste management should be integrated in the design to minimize the impact over environment, as plastic and metal in toxic and noxious for environment.

The existing natural heritage in the form of old trees, native herbs and shrubs, vivacious rocks and natural structures should be preserved and urban development should happen while coexisting with it. Prior to the development inventories should be prepared to record the species of animals, birds, trees etc. present in the area and it should be mandatory to preserve all of them while developing. There zone to definite zones demarcated for the existing natural residents where no negative impact should be allowed. Human with their minds should bring happiness for other organism when they start living with them instead of snatching their habitat from them. Urban development cannot happen at the cost of nature degradation and has to be transformed into all-inclusive conscious environment regeneration. Architects, Ecologists and Biodiversity scientists have this responsibility and unique opportunity of converting this decade into the decade of urban biodiversity development.

While setting up new development, a minimum of the following few points should be mandatorily considered:

  • Built environment and urban green spaces

While building, the importance and relevance of figure ground pattern is often missed, this leads to morphed space arrangement. The breathing spaces are lacking which affects the natural ecosystem which used to exist at the location earlier. Hence prior to any urban development and design, careful study, analysis and assessment of the existing conditions (flora, fauna, temperature, RH, wind direction etc.) should be made.

The design should be then done considering these conditions so as to avoid any interference with the existing ecological infrastructure. The documented conditions should be cross reference post occupancy and any change (if not an improvement) should be rectified and corrected on immediate basis. The stress should be laid on using native species for landscaping.

  • Urban forest

Cities, Townships and Urban design besides inculcating the importance of functional landscape should also ensure that urban forests are incorporated within, since it is a mandatory requirement now, for survival of human race. They not only provide an appropriate home to the biodiversity but also ensure the preservation of oxygen levels and ecological conditions. Cities like Bangalore and Pune have survived the population explosion solely because of the thrust on dense tree network within the populated zones of the city. This has also helped in maintaining pleasing weather conditions in spite of dense traffic conditions.

There should be small pockets within the city with dense forestation and minimal mechanical interference. These zones will help the areas combat the population explosion, traffic and interference in climatic patterns. Moreover, they will also support in maintaining the required biodiversity proportion.

  • Regular air and water quality monitoring

Human activities and inconsiderate arrogance of development impact the air and water quality in the places. In fact, at a number of locations this progress and made the land, air and water toxic for survival of any species; such areas can be found in any locality/city in the forms of landfills, industrial zones, CBDs etc. This affect happens owing to uncontrolled and careless discharge of garbage, affluent and pollution.

Therefore, in order to control this negligence, frequent monitoring of air and water (including Particulate matter, Nitrous oxides, halides etc.) should happen in different zones and results should be displayed at prominent locations.

  • Public Transport

Commuting is biggest contributor to the emission of Green house and polluting gases in the inhabited area. Therefore innovative public transport systems based on clean energy should be explored, for eg. In New Zealand, the scientists have developed public bus which runs on excreta and in Sweden, they have developed the public tram which uses energy generated by the waste of the city.

Public transport systems should be integrated within the urban design fabric so as to boost their usage by having accessible and user friendly stops which can be the nodes in the settlement carrying interesting and desirable activities.

  • Waste disposal system

Waste handling and management has emerged as the biggest challenge for the settlements. Effective waste management strategies should be explored and imbibed since the design phase as otherwise they come out as standalone feature which at times is seen as an eyesore. Hence landscape, building and interior design at their own scales and levels should include design of dustbins and they should become a part of furniture. Moreover, segregation at source should be the principle governing the waste management strategy. Duly colour coded dustbins should be installed at appropriate locations blending with the setting; the segregated waste becomes a resource which has the harnessing potential.

The sewerage should be scientifically treated either through STP or DEWATS system and compost pits/bins/systems should be installed at the community/cluster levels.

  • Renewable energy and Smart metering

The urban design should include the design for the renewable and clean energy systems. A few suggestions on the same are following:

  • The solar water heaters should be installed on rooftops.
  • Decentralized Grid connected solar energy systems should be installed on available surfaces (rooftops/parking stops/bus stops etc.)
  • Shaded terraces should be landscaped for horticulture, agriculture, medicinal plants etc.
  • Community bio-gas/vermi-compost plants should be installed
  • Energy efficient fixtures like LED lights and superfans should be used
  • Smart meters should be installed which have effective tariffing and help in allowing customers make informed decisions by providing highly detailed information and also helps the environment by making users lower their electric demand
  • Subsequent to feasibility analysis, micro-wind turbines should be installed for sectoral/community usage.
  • Walls should be adequately insulated to avoid surplus cooling/heating.
  • District cooling centre

The air-conditioning has risen from a luxury to a necessity lately. The individual air-conditioning units uses high energy and still release environmentally hazardous materials. However, this can be met with effective centralised air conditioning systems which can be further improved with district cooling centres. There are centrally managed and pipelines can be developed with the allied infrastructure. The not only reduce the energy consumption per capita vis-à-vis individual air conditioning units but also in comparison are environment friendly, wherein city level water reservoirs/waste etc. can be used to drive the system making it superior and more energy efficient.

These points if considered can lead us to better designed, adaptable and effective urban spaces where biodiversity can co-exist and sustainability becomes an imbibed system.