2020年12月16日  |  Column

How I quit architectural design pt.1

Growing up, I enjoyed a lot of American cartoon as well as Japanese animation, comic and manga, as well as games. I especially enjoyed role-playing games and fantasy stories, thus at one point in my life I thought I would like to draw comic/manga or to become an illustrator when I grew up. However, in Indonesia where I was born and raised, such industry are not yet developed and there is no much future for career like that (remember, it was the time before Social Media that allows many creators to self-publish and gain tractions easier), thus my mother advised me to try to go to architecture instead, where it is still considered as “practical” career where you can still “draw” something, or more specifically in this case: design.


After finishing high school, I left Indonesia to take an architectural degree in Malaysia, where I discovered that the University that I enrolled is the only one that received Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) accreditation at that time. From  my limited understanding, it is quite a prestigious accreditation if one would want to have an architectural career in the British Commonwealth realms, a great thing to acquire for someone who wanted to see and live in different parts of the world like me.


Initially, I enjoyed doing architecture with such a rigorous fervor, my design approach is to shake things off, change what is considered to be normal or ordinary and introduce something that is brand new or even out-of-this world, almost a polar opposite of my current approach in design, and also perhaps in life. I remember when I first had to create a non-architectural model as the first few initial assignments we had, I made one inspired on hell, purgatory, and heaven based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. When I presented it to the lecturers, they laughed and the most senior professor (whom I respect) compared my imagination like a balloon that’s out there flying while the lecturers and professors must teach you how to ground you back to reality, because this is not imaginative drawing or art, this is design, and practical design no matter how creative it might be must have some ground in reality.


I understood what the professor said, and moreover I believe that I had quite a logical thinking that I might know how to balance between the purely imaginative and the grounded-in-reality solution to design something, but then again, maybe I am not as smart as I thought I was. I continue my design approach by employing cutting-edge design solution, and although I tried my best to put everything under consideration; the local influences, user experience, and many other important elements to consider, but perhaps I execute my design in a way that it almost feel like it force the user to adapt to my design that I believe is the better solution without considering things like acceptance to change, habitual practices, and actual practicality of such changes made by design.


Nevertheless, that time I had a great confidence in my design and vision, that no matter how many times the professors tried to ground me down, I tried the fly as high as I could. Even when they gave me low scores for my design result semester after semester; where other students did cry when they received such low scores, I didn’t cry because I believe they just can’t understand my genius…or so I thought.


I continue my design approach, and present it more aggressively over time, until I finally realized that not only I failed to recognize that I can’t expect the user to always adapt to my design no matter how huge impact it will be to their existing experience, but also on the dealing process with the clients (in this case the lecturers and the professors), and personal things like power-balance, reputation, political and cultural factors that may influence the probability of the said design being considered as a “good design” or not. Because as we all should accept, though design generally considered to be more rational, practical and objective than say pure art; but it also partially remain as an art form where subjectivity is also at play.


My position as a foreign student there, no matter how close the two countries are geographically and culturally, but there are still a huge gap that I didn’t realize were there in the first place, that eventually lead to my design being deemed rather unfavorable. To my discontent, I found that some of my design ideas, approach and execution that was considered to be “unfit” by some of the lecturers and professors; some practically same or similar ideas, approach, and execution were carried out by other students and they received the lecturers and professors approval.


Such outcome of course made you review yourself. I would admit perhaps that even with the same ideas, approach and execution, my design might lack some things that the other students instead had solved better than what I did; but I also noticed that due to my aggressive approach in the past, I have made several negative reputations that, as I had previously mentioned, would also influence the acceptance of the design. However, the only thing that I could do now is move forward and prove to them that my design approach would eventually gained traction and acceptance as the better solution than the “pragmatic” solution that my school tends to advocate.


Upon graduating from the University, I decided that I would like to continue to pursue a master degree. Not on the same country because I would like to find out whether my design approach could be applicable in other places that would welcome my “cutting-edge” approach, or to finally realize that maybe my design approach is actually really “unfit” as my lecturers and professors did say. I wanted to prove them wrong.


Unfortunately, as I couldn’t secure an immediate place to study my master, I had to return back to Indonesia to rethink my architectural career plan. Back in Indonesia, I discovered that as the Architectural Association in Indonesia and Malaysia are practically different, and they did completely recognize my university degree, and the Royal Institute of British Architects accreditation is not recognized in Indonesia. This situation in turn strengthen my conviction that I indeed had to continue pursuing a master degree. But I won’t do it on the same country again because I wanted to test my idea and approach somewhere else. Finally I decided that I would like to go to Germany, to the Bauhaus design school.



To be continued to How I quit architectural design pt.2….