After a semester of graduate school and a case studies course that critically examined the current state of architectural practice, I have learned that to be an architect is to be a leader of teams. From the get go, it was made clear by our instructor Daniel Hewett that Case Studies was not actually about specific buildings or details of design, but entirely devoted to how architecture is realized as actual built form, the delivery of designs today and throughout history.
To better understand the professional atmosphere into which we are about to enter, the course initially focused on individual horror stories from professional practice. Many of these tales of frustrated principals, unmet deadlines and late night CAD binges cite the lack of effective communication as the main reason for office hiccups. A group case study presentation on a series of canonical works of architecture followed these early conversations, and laid the groundwork for a more ambitious project for the rest of the semester, a proposal for revamping the current AIA Case Study format into an online database called Nucase.
The Nucase project ultimately stems from the need for architecture as a global practice to adapt to a new age of energy limits. Thinking beyond the operational energy of an actual building, the logistics of project delivery represent a substantial consumption of resources. To streamline the process of building delivery by reducing wasted fuel, raw materials, money, or personal design talent are implicit but vital means of making the construction of buildings a less environmentally destructive endeavor.
The purpose of Nucase is not only to provide the professional design community with a global forum for architecture case studies, but to address the wider implications of building and urban design in greater society, emphasizing the leadership role that architects play in complex collaborative endeavors.
To someone considering architecture as a high school graduate, as I did, I would say that you have to love a good challenge to make it through an architecture program. Rigorous surveys of architectural history, the physical and spatial complexities of structural design, the creation of clearly understood two and three dimensional representations, the ability to reconcile two opposing goals in your head at once, the exact amount of time it takes for the elmer glued joint of a model to dry. These are all challenges that you will confront in architecture school projects, but the reward for getting through them (and yes, missing out on some nights of sleep) in terms of new knowledge and skills is well worth the struggles it takes to realize them.