How to be an Architect - Part 5
Learn how Doug tried to get a job by designing a spaceship house on the side of a cliff. Using four simple words and asking the questions who, what, where and why a designer can create just about anything. See how Doug did it for a Star Trek legend!
Hi. I’m Doug Patt and this is so you want to be an architect part five. What does an architect ask? I’m frequently asked, ‘Where do I start when I design something.’ I think the answer lies in four simple words, Who, What, Where & Why. The answers to these simple word questions give us parameters - those parameters create a framework for design. A number of years ago I had a good friend who worked for the production designer of Star Trek, The next generation, Herman Zimmerman. I thought it be amazing to work anywhere near that project so I decided to try and get Mr. Zimmermans attention. The way I thought of doing this was to design a house for Mr. Zimmerman and get him the design through my friend. Now, I thought the house I designed might be fun to look at in terms of our fours simple word questions. The first question I asked was Who? That who was Mr. Zimmerman and who Mr. Zimmerman is would affect my design for him. Now he was obviously way ahead of his time in terms of technological thinking, aesthetics, materials, & space travel for that matter, after all, he & his team were, in a way, setting precedents for the future of mankind. So, the Who in this case informed the futuristic look and feel of the building? The next question I asked was what? That is, what am I designing? The What in this case was a house because that’s what I thought would be the most compelling way to get Mr. Zimmermans attention. A house no matter who its for has many of the same rooms and requirements. But since Mr. Zimmerman world was all about people living on space ships my design would take its cue from this typology. I decided it should appear like its flying, be streamlined, & composed of many parts like the ships seen on TV & film from Battlestar Galactica, star wars, starblazers or star trek. The next question is Where? Now, most people don’t have the luxury of picking a site - but, because this was fiction I did. The site can tell you a lot about what you should be building there, from the suns location to the prominent winds, the foliage and the topography. Now I’m fascinated by cliff houses, as you can see in my video, how to design a cliff house. So I set the house on a cliff and to that end set the entire house on a single steel I-beam that cantilevered out from the sheer face of the cliff. The design had to be extremely dramatic and therefore fitting for the imagination and vision of such a person. And the last question one might ask is, Why? I think of this question as more of a subjective intangible. That is, why does the design look and feel like it does? Everybody has opinions and methods that make a design unique to them. That’s why they’re subjective and that’s why they’re a bit intangible - because it’s not always easy to explain why we all do things the way we do. At the end of the day the why, in this case, was really answered by asking the first three questions. In my mind only a house that looks like a spaceship, acts like a spaceship and feels like a spaceship could be good enough for someone whose life revolves around space. So there you have it, a framework for design. If you want to design anything, from a product to a house to who knows what, you can start by asking yourself who, what, where and why. And that concludes; so you want to be an architect, part five. I’m Doug Patt. See you next time.