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Connecting writing to architecture, design and building

August 24, 2021 By Ar. Apurva Bose Dutta Editing Skills

The disciplines of writing and architectural design share an inherent bond. Both have narratives created by familiar elements of function, form, and style, interpreted as per the disciplines. Every writing is a story in itself, as every design is one too. Through unique narratives, both fields communicate their stories.

This link between architecture, design, and writing suggests that integrating words into architecture and design is imperative for those connected to the building profession. Writing should be an essential part of an architect or designer’s tool kit. In fact, many people choose to pursue a career in architectural design writing or communications. Writing helps practising professionals and firms document their designs for their archives and communicate their design ideologies. The documentation can focus on project and design details, specifications, and research reports. Whether one is a student, researcher, or academic, writing remains an essential skill for academic pursuits in architecture. Through numerous multimedia publications, it can also become a source of conversation within the industry. Writing can be used to deliberate on issues and can give rise to meaningful discourses. 

Firms that provide supplies and services associated with design, such as art, materials, construction systems, and other products, will also need to embrace writing as their mode of communication whenever they want to talk about their products in terms of design. The power of writing holds value for those who wish to address issues and initiate discussions in architecture while being equally useful for those who want to do research in the field. Writing is also essential to help society comprehend the built environment and to impact their thinking on the development of cities. For the city builders and the government to know what good design is and deliver in those terms, writing becomes a tool to inform, educate, and stimulate them.

The simple point is that everyone should know how to write. The ability to express oneself with clarity is necessary for all professions—especially in creative fields, such as architecture and design, with languages that might not be largely comprehensible beyond their industry. Writing might seemingly begin from the words on the paper or the desktop, but it starts from the mind. It scans the mind and enables clarity; it helps to think clearly and critically. It evaluates different facets of an idea while cultivating an analytic approach to understand, articulate, and communicate them. It initiates research and raises questions. All these skills are relevant to every individual for their personal development, irrespective of their profession.

Much like mainstream writing, architectural and design writing also follows a methodology, dabbles in various styles and genres, follows ethics and codes of conduct, and operates through multimedia channels. Whether one writes about stand-alone buildings, cities, professionals, interiors, industry events; or one writes about the resources and critical challenges of the profession, the most critical aspect is to gauge your readers and connect with them.  

While there can be different tones in architectural design writing, such as conversational, persuasive, humorous, or provocative, everyone must decide their tone of voice. It is crucial for architectural design writing to be balanced; excessive ridicule or mundane descriptive text are both problems. The issue is not to have a provocative tone. Some writers end up being disrespectful and condemn the designer and their intentions, but it is essential to realize that any architect or designer does not have evil intent and often spends many years on a project. While this has been found to be more rampant, overseas; in contrast, in India and a few developing countries, the text is focused more on appreciating and acknowledging the design and the architect. However, when writing focuses on eulogizing the designer and not analyzing the design, it is a matter of concern.

Responsible, ethical writing and writing with integrity are what is most needed. Any text should reflect the writer’s ability to analyze. Writers should not restrict architectural design writing to seeing and writing; they should see, evaluate, think critically, question, and then write. 

Architectural writing opens many avenues for architectural journalists, critics, theoreticians, historians, and documentarians. For fields like architecture and design that stay less discussed and hence less understood, architectural design writing can emerge as the language used to interpret, identify, and celebrate the built environment, and provide a vision to create better design, leading to better societies and enhanced livability. 

Developing countries should consider integrating writing into architecture and design pedagogy and curriculum. Educators and institutions should consider making it mandatory in the curriculum and ensure the fundamental skills of writing become a default skill of every architect or designer. Considering everyone gets affected by architecture and the built environment, mainstream media should include it in tabloids and magazines. 

Architecture and design discussions should occur daily. The more discussions that occur, the greater people’s awareness of architecture will be. Greater awareness leads to a better understanding of how much spaces, architecture, and cities can improve lives. In conclusion, writing on architecture and design can impact how we use architecture and building to enhance the quality of our lives. 

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