Blog 048 What is Architecture – Part Two 

By Mana Williams.  20 Minutes.

It’s such a massive topic. The idea of architecture is a really broadly described term that so often people really wonder what an architect does and what architecture is. Usually, the perception is that architecture is a building and an architect is somebody who designs the thing. But today’s chat we’ll look at how it is so much more than just a sketchbook and a few clunky computer programs, in the hopes that it clarifies to potential architecture students to be aware of what it is and know the road they’re going down, in a non-university like propagandised way.

Let’s get a few things sorted. The first blog chat around architecture (Part One) talks about architecture being a place custom made for a particular circumstance. Designed as a space that could be reflected in its owner or at the very least is tailored to represent a large brand or family name. We also discussed how significant it is that we understand the idea of Turangawaewae or a place where I stand. Architecture could be a place that holds memories for you. Somewhere you could consider as being a special place, a place you go to when you need some reassurances.

So clearly there’s a lot of answers and not a lot of explaining going on, right?

In today’s talk, I’ll narrow it down to how architecture is used as a vehicle for companies to shine out and the similarities between individual ownership and how people act in not many different ways from these corporate entities. In the hopes that a student is very clear about what they are studying and how they understand their market so that they go in with their eyes wide open.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 3.24.38 PM.png

Above fig.  WHATMANASEES Instagram

My Story.

But to do that we will need a bit of context because everyone loves to facts check. Well first and foremost. I am a second-year landscape architecture student looking at double majoring in both architecture and public policy. It’s quite an odd mixture, but that’s because I’m not your usual lolly. Last year I battled with the thought that maybe all of this architecture work doesn’t really do much in terms of focusing on what matters, like people, family and friends and some of the wider impacts that policy creates.

So that’s me… A self-fueled rocket ship here to take you up and away from the rubbish that other students and the university bubble will tell you.

Money and power are very correlated. Architecture is a way for businesses to showcase the magnificent power that they have in a physical model, in a functioning eco-system of staff, clients and their brand. To create a space that identifies their values and markets their business.

There is also a niche market for people to design homes around the basis of creating structures that they might be able to love. They can also use architecture to refurbish a space and mould it in a way that maintains the existing structure. To be fair, this was my childhood dream. To become an architect and design my own home. I even knew what it was going to look like.

While it’s really cool to aspire to have that sort of dream, to dream in those sorts of ways. There is more to life than a lust for a well-sketched wall bounded mortgage. My challenge to you is to think downgrade. Think about becoming a person who understands and is actively aware on the small details such as there is a massive social decline in the number of homes actually available.

Architecture is historically a profession that benefits privileged people. People with a lot of money to accommodate their grand ideas and their huge aspirations, not dissimilar to the likes of mine and yours. But does that really warrant a three storied house with five bedrooms and three garages at the top of a lofty mountain? Not really…

Architecture is a process designed to benefit people with a lot of money to do frivolous tasks like design massive outdoor water features, a mezzanine floor, a granite entranceway. I’m happy that you want to be an architect, go you. But I employ you to see a better use for that money. To make a change in the way your client thinks, after all, that is your job.

Above fig.  WHATMANASEES Instagram

A quick crash course on the Architectural process.

An architect starts by meeting the client, finding out what they like, what they want, how much money they have to complete their desired project etc.

You then, as an architect, take that idea away into your little vault called a studio and come up with a million creative ingredients and produce a couple of iterations.

You go back to the client and discuss the concepts you’ve come up with. They tell you to make it better by pouring more and more money into it. They encourage development and refinement.

You go away and think hard about how to make the concepts better so you develop the ideas into a refined module. You then go back to the client again with a module in the hopes that they might buy the idea off of you.

Basically, the client has you by the short and curlies through the entire process. Or do they? In University they tell you not to stop at a basic concept but to think outside of the box. They imply that it’s significant for you to be using ideas that nobody has ever done before.

How many people downgrade and make the call to say that a building doesn’t need to exist but that this money is better spent on helping world vision extend their help of the billions of people living below the poverty line?


Above Source: Change, World Vision, 2017.

What I’m getting at here is that there are more important issues that need solving before we come up with an attractive solution to beautify an ugly building or idealise a brand or family home. 

the numbers don’t lie. Society is honestly doing piss all to make any tremendous change in how poverty affects the world’s kids. We can quite easily convince ourselves that it isn’t our problem, that it’s not our concern. But can you stop being so self-centered?

The truth is that architects have become passive authors who are content being somebodies bitch. Instead of standing up for themselves and those around them. They allow the client to rule the way they operate and rule the decisions they make because they are afraid to be put out of work. That’s the price of change, its a call to arms to look through the various social expectations and lay down the ethics that a person doesn’t need a ten thousand dollar Eames chair in their unused living room, or they don’t need a two-meter extension to their cantilevered bedroom balcony.

IT IS THE BIGGEST FORM OF MATERIALISM  IMAGINABLE. This is not dissimilar from most other professions, and although it’s cool that some people really do take a genuine interest in the various advocacies of major community led projects. It’s just not enough.


Above is the branding for the new advocacy service, VOYCE, which speaks out for the 36000 children in New Zealand who are in the process of or have already been taken away from their families. So it’s not impossible. To actually be a part of any change you do need money, true, but you also need a strategy. Something that can be utilised in order to be functional. VOYCE is mostly led by people who have been in the care system and who have experience rather than qualifications. This makes their cause better managed and more prepared for whatever shit storm unfolds over the period of time that it is operational. VOYCE in itself will grow to be the largest advocacy service specifically designed to speak out for children who are displaced simply so that they can feel the basic rights of care and protection, something that most of us have had or at the very least experienced.

This is an example of people who have taken action to make the change, and it’s being released this Saturday. The reason why I exemplify it here is because this advocacy service is led by people and organisations such as VODAFONE. These entities set a good example by doing this sort of work because they identify the elephant in the room which is that there are always bigger problems that we are failing to solve.

What is the one thing that sets any Architect apart from the rest? 

In a business or a design firm, what makes an architect shine is their experience. Because experience provides creative opportunity. If you had all of the tools in the world like every other architect, the only variation is creativity. When you mix two experiences to fix a certain situation, you are being creative. The better you are and the more hard work you apply, the better the result and the better the solution.

The challenge I’m setting is to use your wealth of experiences to create a solution that fixes the problem of social inequality. To build your designs with the pre-determination that you’re not going to design something that benefits the whims of an every day A-list celebrity. That you won’t buy into these fancy concepts which shit on the everyday person. That you won’t build a solution for a business just to show off how much money they have. But instead will take a cause, and literally pour the inspiration into fixing that problem in a spacial dimension. Then present that to your client, and give them a lecture on how fucking disgusting they are for implicating a material lifestyle just to accomplish domination over a neighbourhood.

“When you take a Trump sign and slap it onto a building, it becomes a Trump tower.”
– Me.


At the end of the day, it’s your career, I can respect that. I hope this blog has changed your perspective of Architecture and that you re-evaluate the robotic nature of answering to a set eco-system. And as always!

Thanks for checking in…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s