The Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society is an organization established to award students of scholastic merit in Architecture and Allied Arts of Design. The motto of the Society, “technitai, sophoikai, dexioti,” means “Craftsmen, skilled and trained.” This motto is a description of what comprises a great designer. The title of craftsman is achieved through being both skilled and trained. These two components are integral to the characterization of a craftsman.
A craftsman is an individual who is skilled in a particular craft or art. Being skilled is part of the definition of being a craftsman. To be skilled is to have or show knowledge, ability and training to perform a certain activity to its highest quality. In the field of architecture, skills are learned and attained through schooling and experience. Skills range from technical drawing, computer software program proficiency, model building, and verbal presentation. Though skills are an important part of becoming a craftsman, they are not the sole element.
Training is the other essential component of what makes a craftsman. To be trained is to be taught in such a way that a skill or behavior is achieved through practice and instruction over a period of time. Training involves integrating the skills of the craft into the design process. Designers are trained to think divergently, develop a concept, iterate several solutions, and evaluate and refine designs.
Architects are given a problem and must use their various skills, and a process, to come up with a solution. For example, one may be skilled in using a digital representation program, such as Revit. However, simply knowing how to represent a structure in a computer program does not equate to creating one that is necessarily well planned and designed. There is so much more to being a craftsman than simply having a set of tools! Using these tools in the context of a disciplined design process is what makes a craftsman.
Training in Design also develops discipline. Discipline involves the behaviors of listening, questioning, processing and physically representing solutions. Architects and designers often have to deduce what their clients desire and need by exercising this discipline. Sometimes clients may not know exactly what their vision is for a project. An architect or designer must listen and ask questions to evoke and understand their clients needs and wants in order to create a design that is both functional and pleasing to the client.
The Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society motto, “Craftsmen, skilled and trained,” reveals that skills and training go hand in hand. Skills are critical pieces of being a craftsman because they involve knowledge of how to utilize tools that aide in the completion of a project. Training is the other essential part of being a craftsman because it comprises the process and discipline required to complete a great project. To be identified as a craftsman in architecture and design is to be recognized as having both the skills associated with the trade, as well as being trained to create effective and pleasing design.
The book, “The Eyes of the Skin,” by Juhani Pallasmaa, focuses on the idea that architecture is perceived and understood through the senses. Pallasmaa dedicates a great deal of the book to his argument that architecture today is primarily concentrated on the visual, and neglects to incorporate the other human senses. Architecture is the designing of structures that people are meant to experience whilst carrying out their functions within or around a building. Experiencing something is not accomplished solely by the act of seeing through the eye. To experience something is to wholly engage each of the five senses in order to gain understanding. It is for this reason that I agree with Pallasmaa that architecture today has become focused primarily on sight. However, this does not make the sense of sight arbitrary.
Pallasmaa’s argument that sight has separated us from the world whereas the other senses unite us with it is true. However, I believe his argument is true only to an extent. Sight can positively contribute to the experiencing of architecture. For the average person, sight is the first sense to be utilized. It is still important that people can see a building with their eyes. The eyes can see color and they allow a person to view ornamental details and overall compositions of buildings. Sight is not a sense that stands alone either. Perceiving through the eyes impacts the other senses as well. The downside to the sense of sight is that it has the tendency to isolate itself from the other senses, like Pallasmaa describes in “The Eyes of the Skin.” But this does not mean that sight should be completely disregarded from the other senses. As with many other things in life, a balance should be reached between each of the senses. A successful piece of architecture will achieve this balance and will provide a captivating experience for people.
It is a thought-provoking idea to consider whether a blind, dumb, or deaf person has a better experience of the world than a person fully equipped with each of their senses. I have had experiences where at least one of my senses was momentarily taken away from me. A common experience that many people have had is walking through an enclosed area when all of the lights have been turned out at night. I have noticed that it is during these occurrences that my remaining senses become heightened and I am forced to use them in order to navigate and get a sense of the space. My hands feel the walls and define the solid and voids of the space. My ears are also highly engaged, listening for cues of where I am in the context of the dark room. When multiple senses are engaged while experiencing a space, a person gains a more physical, tactile understanding of the space, not relying on the purely visual understanding. This is how blind people live their lives. Blind people are probably more united with the world than people who have fully functioning senses.
Pallasmaa clearly establishes his belief that vision is a separating factor when trying to unite the senses in order to experience the world. His argument leads me to believe that architecture should be designed in such a way that all of the senses become employed. His criticisms of today’s architecture naturally lead one to consider what the task of architecture entails. To this thought, Pallasmaa states, “It is evident that ‘life-enhancing’ architecture has to address all the senses simultaneously and fuse our image of self with our experience of the world” (11). I take this statement to be a clue to the idea that architecture should be an enhancer of peoples’ lives, hence ‘life-enhancing.’ Architecture should leave an impact on a person’s life in some way, shape, or form and possess an inherent memory. The design of architecture should result in a thought-provoking experience that ultimately gets people to understand something about their selves.