God is in the details. - Mies van der Rohe
I have always found this quote about architecture interesting, and in many ways, I can identify with and relate to it. Far too often, architecture is focused and obsessed with the grand gesture or only the exterior form of a design. When having the chance to experience and observe really great architecture, I find it to be successful at all scales. From a distance, the building intrigues with a unique profile or powerful forms revealing themselves in a landscape.
From a closer viewpoint, the building reveals dynamic spaces, a sense of materiality, craft, texture, and pattern that heighten the experience as well as change perception and awareness as one occupies and moves through it.
Finally, as the building envelops us with its forms and surfaces, we are allowed the delight of discovering the small details. These are the moments where, if you are paying close attention, greatness happens. Here, we see the architect's focus on the smallest elements of a building, giving them the same care and diligence that we saw as we approached the building. In the details, we can see the same ideas and thoughts the architect laid out for us as we entered a room or turned a corner outside. The details give architects the opportunity for surprise -- the unexpected moment where we encounter something new or so well crafted we do a double-take and say, "Wow!".
In the architecture studio, with the time we have allotted for students to work in a semester, it's always very difficult to get down to the level of the detail. A typical project in our studios lasts six to nine weeks. With all that has to be learned in order to conceptualize, rationalize, develop, and describe a design, we have to focus much of our energy on the big idea -- the building from a distance. So how do we help students understand the details of architecture? Field trips...
Fortunately, Fort Worth and Dallas are home to a wide array of world-class architecture within easy reach during a school day. With fantastic organizations like the Dallas Architecture and Design Exchange and renown local architects like Mark Gunderson, students have the opportunity each semester to get expert guidance in understanding architecture created by the significant and influential architects they have studied in class. Here, students can see first-hand, architecture working at a variety of scales. Here, the details can be seen and appreciated in context.
In studio, we strive to build a foundation of design thinking and creative vision that provides students with skills to start their journey in architecture. In our regular pilgrimages to the significant architecture around us, students have an experience that helps them see how a truly great building brings it all together and offers a transcendent experience.