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Rants and Wisdom



In Rants and Wisdom

By lthomas

You must be good at Math!

On 06, Jul 2015 | In Rants and Wisdom | By lthomas


Of all the misperceptions that somehow continue in the profession of architecture, this is one that bewilders me the most.

Engineering, perhaps. Architecture, no. Or at least, not necessarily. As I love to say, “But I do own a calculator!”

I think that the person, child or teenager that might enjoy or have an innate talent for architecture isn’t the one who necessarily loves algebra or calculus. He or she is one who likes to make things, to create, whether it is in two dimensions or three. This person looks for order. Perhaps this is where the misperception began. Yes, mathematics is a type of orderly study, as are many sciences. But the skill set does not begin or end there, indeed, a great architect might not be good at “math” at all, yet is a visually adept and orderly person.

I was never a great math student, although I enjoyed the order of it, the rationality, the puzzle-like solutions. Actually, geometry and trigonometry were my favorites of the bunch.  However, I also loved drawing and sewing. Now I see the similarities between sewing and architecture…going from two dimensions to three, creating beautiful details, the craft involved in selecting the best materials and producing the final product. Early in my education I excelled at those aptitude tests where you had to figure out what shape a two dimensional pattern would take. However, those on alphabetizing or spelling: epic fail! Good thing SAT scores were less important in my day. In my university architecture studies (I chose a five year professional program) I became aware of DESIGN (in all capital letters!) of all things, not just structures. From washing machines to buildings, from handbags to chairs, we studied what made that thing good. Math, no, but I did have a calculator to figure out trigonometry for roof angles long before the computer did it for us.

Yes, I search for order, balance and beauty. I strive for the best functional solution in my designs. But “good at math?”

Not really.