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Let your fingers do the talking! – Mikkel Frost

Let your fingers do the talking! TEDxAarhus

 I’m sure some of you guys play music that you play an instrument maybe in your spare time you know just for fun but even if you do play music you may not play it from notes I know I don’t I do play an instrument not very well and definitely not from notes I just never could get the hang of that but if you’re a trained musician or a composer you might simply look at the notes and then hear the music inside of your head if you think about building plans you might actually say that they are the musical score of architecture that too is an instruction and if you follow the instruction you’ll end up with will not music of course with a building and the carpenters and the bricklayers would be equivalent to the musicians whereas I on the other hand would be equivalent to the composer because I’m an architect so when I look at these rather flat drawings I basically see the three-dimensional spaces before my inner eyes but I’ve also learned that a lot of people outside of the building industry do not fully read these drawings it makes perfect sense it’s just like the notes it takes training and practice and I guess that’s why architects including myself do these photorealistic computer renderings basically saying to people that if you decide to build this proposal it’s just a proposal at this point you should be able to go to the site and shoot a photograph looking roughly like this when the building is done and if you compare these computer renderings with the actual finished buildings that we do I think it’s fair to say that the resemblance is pretty good most of the time anyway so the renderings definitely serve a purpose they tell people what their building is going to look like which is pretty nice to know but they do not say anything about why their building should look certain ways I mean what is the idea behind the design and to explain that I have developed a drawing typology inspired by comic books and cartoons visual languages that people should already be familiar with and the idea is that if you cannot explain an architectural within a single sheet of a4 paper you’re either saying too much or too complicated things I’m sure in this case you’ve already figured out that this building facade is inspired by Francis from trees makes a lot of sense the building itself is an Information Center where people can go and educate themselves in a very special part of the Danish nature before they actually go and experience it by themselves and obviously we couldn’t build architecture in nature so we built nature into the architecture another example might be an office building that we did for a local tech company friends of ours and since they deal with data and software we thought it would be really fun to take the oldest building component in history the brick and treat it like a digital pixel creating this kind of Minecraft inspired architecture now these watercolours knife done lots of those are in a way perfectly finished little pieces of art I mean they’re not spontaneous and there are definitely not sketches they’re done after the architectural concept has been conceived in that sense they serve as what you might call conceptual full stops so on a daily basis during the actual design phase I leave out color and I do numerous faster sketches in my sketchbooks either in the office or on the go and then I scan them or simply photograph them of the phone and sent them off to builders and client staff I mean whoever needs them and unlike the watercolors these drawings can go a number of different different ways sometimes they’re just questions really or answers to questions posed by for instance officials from the municipality who recently asked where people can sit in this street that we’re designing and instead of writing half a page of text I simply did this sketch and send it off and it totally does the trick then at other times I’m just doodling away on my own thinking out loud onto the paper trying to figure out for instance how I can reinterpret something like a traditional roof or you know stuff like that or I might stumble upon something that I find inspiring like like a date palm tree and to make sure that I don’t forget about this great architectural potential I simply draw and add a few notes now these drawings the watercolors and the black-and-whites I think they’re pretty easy to read and I guess most people should appreciate them but the best way to explain an architectural idea is to really talk and draw at the same time it means that people do not have to search for information within a drawing they just need to follow the pen and it forces me to make drawings that are really simple I mean almost primitive because I cannot really allow myself to add little details for funny faces or whatever I do I just have to kind of stay focused right but the best thing about this that watching and drawing come to life seems to be almost hypnotizing for people I mean this for me I need to see where the lines go and what it all turns into so we thought that I should just demonstrate for you how that might actually work by telling you about a housing scheme that we did for the office harbor development roughly 10 years ago and the master-planned is signed by another architect suggested a perimeter block looking roughly like this and it makes sense I mean the perimeter block is a very successful typology that’s been around well forever really but we soon found out that we had a water canal running along the north side of the site and another canal running along the south side and on top of that our plot was facing the Aarhus Bay so with water on no less than three sites is pretty unusual right we knew that we have to kind of open up this rather introvert perimeter block so somebody at the office came up with the idea of parallel l-shaped wings sort of spooning towards the corner of the site like this and with that simply move we managed to open up the plot and connect with the water and the surroundings we also eliminated draught problems and with all of the corners pointing almost straight to the north the wings seemed to almost embrace the daylight as the Sun moves from the east to the west it still didn’t do the trick though I mean we didn’t create enough views for the future residents so we began pulling up points and pushing down others transforming these wings into six sagging lines or chains of gable houses if you may as you can see it’s pretty systematic it’s just going up and down like a roller coaster and there you go let me just finish here with the canals and the bay I think you get it by now now the master plan allowed us to build a maximum of six floors so we dive down to one back up to twelve and down to one again ending on an average of six yeah that’s clever too to this day I still can’t believe that the municipality actually fell for that but I mean [Music] but anyway I mean the reason why it works so well is that from each of these Peaks the residents overlook the bay between other peaks because the peaks are constantly shifting it’s so funny because going through these steps I mean pretty irrational steps focusing on views and daylight we ended up with this funky volume just kind of shooting out of the water and it was really surprising and mostly it was surprising because it kind of looked like something we’d seen before we thought it looked like an iceberg yeah we never intended to actually design an iceberg it just kind of happened it was never the inspiration but once we gave it that name it became really easy to also decide on colors and materials obviously it had to be white and then we started adding ice blue balconies to just stay loyal to that metaphor and to connected with the water in the sky but what I wanted to say today is that the people who hire architects are usually not architects themselves I mean they can be they can be and sometimes there are but mostly they’re not but they do Commission the work and they do pay for the music so to speak so it’s only fair and understandable that they want to know what they’re billing is going to look like but more importantly they need to know I mean they must understand why it’s a great idea to build an iceberg instead of the good old trusted perimeter block and that is why I draw to make sure that everybody is on the same page and because I’ve learned that the best way to share an abstract architectural idea is with simple hand drawings I often suggest my staff or students to carry a pen with them at all times and to use it whenever they get a chance I know you might be thinking well yeah fine I’m not an architect I’m not even going to hire one why would I care but just think about it because the idea of supporting the spoken word it’s simple I mean primitive hand drawings is something that can be applied to any professional field or situation so if you’re a lawyer or a doctor or maybe a schoolteacher you should give drawing a chance and you might find that people would understand you just a little better now this whole talk my entire talk here today can be boiled down into one simple sentence going roughly like this if you have something to share that your fingers do the talking thank you

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