Seeing Like an Architect

October 31, 2016

A student in Berkeley Connect Architecture shares her sketch.Exploring cities, whether as a resident or as a traveler, is an architect’s bread and butter. To an architect, wandering the city is akin to visiting a living museum where buildings are the exhibits and the people, cars, and greenery bring those exhibits to life. Last week, Berkeley Connect Architecture students discussed their philosophies for traveling in both familiar and unfamiliar places.

When it comes to traveling, it’s evident that the students in Berkeley Connect Architecture don’t mess around. Students keep travel diaries and make time to sketch wherever they go. If they don’t know how to sketch, they diagram. They take pictures of buildings, fashion, traffic. “I take photos of things that give me a sense of where I am. When I look through the camera, I’m learning,” was one student’s philosophy. Another student added that he “travels through [his] stomach,” using food to understand each new city.

Graduate mentor Amina Al-Kandari shared her own methodology for recording her travels in an unfamiliar place. She combines her love of maps with her love of movement and takes the time to trace wherever she has walked in a city on her tourist map (if she doesn’t have a map, she draws one!). By the end of her trip she sees how much of the city she has explored. While she passed around her maps of different cities, students also passed around meaningful objects from their own travels: sketchbooks, letters, wallets, oil paintings, poetry. The stories behind each object represented a special time and place for each student.

To finish the class, Amina asked the students to create illustrated postcards of significant cityscapes that they might send to a friend. After just a few minutes of concentrated silence, the students produced mini-masterpieces of iconic buildings. The Campanile was the subject in one postcard, featuring King Kong clutching Oski in his fists. Another student’s postcard featured a skyline of buildings from a selection of cities that reminded her of her home country. Through sharing stories, souvenirs, and sketches, the students didn’t just learn about interesting buildings around the world—they learned more about their classmates and even a little about themselves.

Posted by Victoria Jing

Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant