Design. To design is to create, to imagine something new, to reinvent an idea and translate it into our own work. No matter what a person may be designing, whether it be a layout of furniture for their new home or a more comfortable and affordable shoe, they undergo a process leading up to their final display of work. Process is the time we create from when we’re given a task to the final product. Defining this process depends on the field a designer works in and how they personally work through the stages. Yet when considering one’s process, the question here lies: Is the work every truly finished?
Marcel Duchamp, a modernist artist, created a work of art titled “The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass).” Duchamp worked on this piece from 1915 to 1923, yet never considered it fully finished until 1934, nine years later from when he first started. As design students, whether we finish a model within a week or spend our entire college career dedicated to one project, our work is often determined “complete” by us alone. Even though each person approaches given tasks and completes them at their own pace, how does one define the design process? Coming into the Architecture school here at the University of Virginia, we were never taught how to complete a project. Although we had teaching assistants to provide advice and feedback, and professors to clarify prompts, we were pushed to think creatively for ourselves. Translating these ideas into an actual process is driven by our own will to produce this creativity.
Many of the First Years, including myself, have developed our own collective understanding of the design process. For myself personally, I have established the process as three stages: Planning, Construction and Execution, and Presentation. Beginning with the first step, planning is the initial moment after I am given a topic and, often times I have no idea what it’s even asking for. But, the longer I sit with the topic in mind, I start to view it through a different lens, other than the one given by the words on the paper. Many of us use this time to produce sketches one after the other that fill up our sketchbooks, or to do research on anything and everything that relates to the task you received. As some, even all of you, have seen stacks of cardboard and bags full of plastic bottles lying around studio, First Years were working on the pod project for ARCH 1030, in which we had to design and construct a structure made out of recyclable materials and inhabit them for 24 hours. After talking with my fellow classmates, it was interesting to see how we approach each step of the design process, as it relates to this project. We often start by researching precedent studies that would help relate to the topic at hand. Others feel more comfortable with producing quick sketches or models to help circulate our ideas. For the pod project, I had very little understanding of what a joint truly was and in order to produce any of the deliverables, I delved deeper into understanding examples of joints and how they formed a structure. When going through the execution stage of the process, it felt as though this was the most constructive in helping us realize which ideas were realistic versus idealistic, which concepts would actually relate to our overall objectives, and so forth.
Interestingly enough, there never seems to be restrictive elements to each designer’s process. Aside from time constraints, we are free to move from planning to construction, and vice versa as often and for as long as we feel the need to. It is during this entire time, about six weeks, we encountered serendipitous moments and critiques from other students and faculty, in which we incorporated into our projects. When we reach the final steps of presenting our ideas to those who have no prior insights to them, we often experience an imbalance between the feelings of finished and unfinished. Even when we consider something to be finished since it met a deadline or the class itself was complete, there always lies room for ways to build upon the concepts we produce.
Now going back to the question from the beginning: is a work ever truly finished? It seems as though design itself is always changing and evolving. The process itself is what we experience as continually growing, as we ourselves grow and become exposed to the built environment around us. The new inspirations and perspectives we gather become a part of our individual design processes.