Translating Languages

I have always found language to be a beautiful thing. The idea that our modern languages have evolved over time and are even now a constantly changing body is amazing because it chronicles our history. Each culture has their own language; even those that technically speak the same tongue as another group of people have their own inflections, words, and meanings. One thing that architecture school has increasingly opened my eyes to is that design is just as much of a language as the written or spoken word. It doesn’t matter which branch or element or type of design you are talking about. Take graphic design for example, which is interesting because that branch of design is so often focused around typography and letters and words. However, what a graphic designer does with those words is design them so that they communicate in another dimension and layer beyond what they convey on there own. A well designed logo presents the words that make up a brand’s name or mission, but what really communicates the identity of the brand is it’s colors, composition, lines and curves, etc.

Design, like any other modern language, is constantly changing; constantly moving in new directions. Similar to how new words are added to English, new designs reflect modern trends. For example, back when Apple decided to put their desktop computers in translucent blue plastic cases with curves and soft edges, they were using industrial design to speak a language of futurism and change and the digital age. The diction of the Apple design language these days is unibody, it’s aluminum, it’s clean; in short, their language has constantly changed to be informed by the current times. But it is the same idea of the graphic designer using 96 point Futura and curved lines to communicate a brand or Ernest Hemingway choosing to write his novels in vernacular words that expressed the common man.

Architecture is no different from any of this. Our buildings are all not just speaking a language, but creating one. They create the identity of the place that they are in and create the face of the experiences that happen there. Zaha Hadid’s architecture has created a language of soft, fluid curves that, perhaps like Apple’s translucent blue desktops look toward the future. Recently, in studio we have been working on our individual designs and trying to develop our own pavilion and our own language for the identity of the site. This is no easy task, because you have to balance the idea of the vernacular with the contemporary as well as what is functional with what looks cool.

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I have been going back and forth with Professor Pastre in our series of desk crits trying to figure out how to take the ideas in my head (which tend to be more on the impractical side) and give them a format that could be built. One thing that has been interesting to me is the idea of translating the language of another building or design style and making it fit the site. One of the most interesting ways I explored doing this was through recycled or cheap materials that could be acquired locally. Basically what would happen would be that I would show Pastre some cool image that I found on the Internet and then we would have a dialogue about how to be inspired by the forms or ideas of another project but always look at it through the lens of how we could make it simpler and DIY. For example, once we looked at this:

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And ended up having a discussion about airplane hangars and how we could acquire siding similar to that used on airplane hangars and twist it to create the same effect.  It’s interesting because it is only in a Design Build studio that I would really have to think about these things. But it is really very cool having to figure out how to translate the language of some crazy outlandish building and make it into a pavilion in Charleston. It is a different way of thinking but I am excited to be challenged like this because it feels like I am learning a totally new skill set.

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