Thinking & Making


Discourse, 5 June 2021

A photograph of my experience involved in the construction of an exhibiting pavilion project.

I believe every architecture starts from constructing a mental image in one’s mind- whatever the design approach or embodied ideology might be. The architecture is not likely to get built if you can’t imagine it in your head. Thinking + Making is what it is all about. And we as designers usually anatomize this topic into almost contrary and isolated branches, which are the concept or the philosophy behind the design, against the underlying technicality or resolutions to realize it. We often debate whether which has the higher difficulty in the whole process of realizing an architecture, and sometimes we even champion one over another.

However, I don’t really perceive them as complete opposition or distinct phases. In fact, there is always a degree of technicality in architectural theory to shape a concept; and there are always some notions relating back to the concept from the technical construction of architecture. Most of the time, we go back and forth in the cycle of thinking + making, that the process is never linear, and become almost seamless sometimes. The act of thinking is the making itself, while the process of making is the thinking as well.

This leads to another discourse that concerned me a lot since I delved into the architecture field. What is the difference between a building and architecture? Whenever I review a building closely from an architectural viewpoint, there is always a sense of slightly off for me to consider it as a ‘building’ or ‘architecture’. I’ve kept wonder what ‘line’ draws the discrepancy between them. Up to this day, I perhaps, consider the ‘line’ as the disjunction between thinking and making- some buildings are made with an ambitiously sounded idea without carrying it down to various levels of technicality to actually let the idea grounded; while some buildings are constructed beautifully but hollow without a conceptual proposition or the theoretical prefiguration.

Whether it comes from an intellectually focused direction or a layman’s approach, architecture should always bridge both thinking + making, within and beyond a seamless body. It should concern less about how things are made or thought differently. Instead, focus more on the latent yet intimate relationship which ties them together. I would love to refer to one simple analogy made by the local designer, WHBC Architects:

“The plywood is one really well-designed product. The use of very thin fragile veneer, laid together in layers of alternating direction of its grain. All glued together, forming a strong, stable piece of product.
Architecture is not the plywood. It is the glue.”

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