Teaching Architecture

I realised that it has come to a full circle.

After being educated to be an architect, with the full works, Part 1 and Part 2 (I actually did it in 8 years!) and practising thereafter, you built the foundation to be an architect. Not necessarily the Part 3 variety, but as someone who has picked up the skills for life.

Depending on circumstances, desire and will, you could be an architect for life, even without practising much. What would help is the desire to continue with design.

The sabbatical experience was ‘nothing’ if seen from the outside, but it was everything to me. From the inside, something was bursting forth.

It was at first a stirring of the designer inside of me. When I started teaching again (after the sabbatical leave), it was with a freshness, a reviving sense of adventure into architecture.

After one semester, I realised that you cannot go into teaching (if you want to do it properly) without being an architect first. I was trying to find that architect in me. To make my teaching more indelible, the teaching of design needed to come forth from the designer, not a pseudo-one.

Of course, now everything comes together, teaching, practising and research.

It all made sense to see from just one way of looking at it. From the architect’s mind and eyes.

More on this later, I hope.


Finishing means Visualising

Sometime back while doing my practical training during the sabbatical leave, I noted this entry in my notebook dated 28/02/12.

REQUIREMENTS (C&S; M&E) >>> FIXING JOINTS (Structure; Dimensions) >>> FINISHES (Visualisation; Aesthetics)

Finishing means visualising.

How to make it look good.

We are constantly learning. Training ourselves to be better at it. To be the complete designer, meaning ‘to go through all the process from conceptualising the ideas, putting together a scheme, developing the ideas and details of the project’. Of course, how serious our work is depends on how serious we are to make those ideas come to being real and built.

We need to take time to develop our work and we need to work fast enough, so that the processes that need developing is given its reasonable time, rather than rushed.

In visualising the end product or how it will look in the end, we track back from the finished product, rewinding and unravelling, dis-assembling what we had assembled to see how it actually works. The reversing approach will test our thought process whether we had been thorough enough or meticulously mindful of how we designed the joints, ie how we thought all those elements are fixed together.

Back and forth, we go from assembly to dis-assembly and back again.

The problem has always been the ┬áSEDUCTION of using computer graphics, but not being “intricate enough” even using AutoCAD or Vectorworks for Mac users, we get tired of thinking. Manually, we can draw and redraw endlessly. But do we have the time to think through carefully.

We always have to push the level of scales from large to small, from 1:50 to 1:20 and 1:10. By right we should work in 1:5 or better still 1:1.

Bigger view; smaller view. Vice versa.

Until we are satisfied that our design does the job, in all aspects.

Functionally; Constructionally; Visually

Add maintenance-free to that and you get a very good design.


This is not sexy architecture…

…but it is very necessary.

I don’t work in architectural practice, I mean, the commonly perceived one, but sometimes I have to work out the design.

In disability activism, there exist design activism, to be proactive and implement universal design.

Design for all. Inclusivity.

From about 3 pm to 5:30 pm we had a meeting going through the access audit or to be more precise design and services appraisal of PKS OKU Marang, a one stop centre for disabled persons services in the state of Trengganu.

We worked together, architects and service providers to produce a document and report that would be useful to upgrade the services and design of this one stop centre.

The following is a sketch on the existing drawing of the surau. We tried to figure out as many users as possible with the different conditions and impairments and how they would take their ablutions for prayers.


There was a funny glassed up area at the lobby / foyer area where we need to create a main reception counter to process all means of inquiry in this very busy place.

Sketched up drawing still to be developed:


Site Visit

It was really great to visit the site and see the constructed site, its progress and to hear Zek teaching me again. This time its with my UM colleagues and the students from first year until fourth year (all represented).

I drew up the bridges earlier.

See post: https://contextura1design.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/bridges-finished/

The photo shows the bridge according to the contractor’s shop drawings but my drawings has not been approved yet.

I just did what I had to do and Zhaf and all will have to take over and correct the drawings or do them in vectorworks etc.

Anyway I really hope that the finish is not too far from what I had drawn.

It is not easy to do those details. I haven’t had that much experience and you know its really down to the nuts and bolts and I am not precise in that way. A lot of UM work has come my way so I have been taken away from doing this detailing work which I really love to do.

Grounded Theory Research

One of the four core approaches of qualitative research is grounded theory. I believe that the practical experiences I had working as a designer in the two companies, one is a design and build contractor’s company and another is an architectural practice had emerged some concepts based on the participant observation technique employed.

I was the observer and the designer involved and I identified some ideas regarding the control of the “design” in the design development processes found in these two design practice. These ideas will then be validated with the stakeholders of the companies’ design process.

I hope to basically identify what are the concerns by the stakeholders in achieving “good design” throughout the phases and stages of design with the intention to build and having a client.

Then, I will search for identifiable concepts that fit the ideas and concerns and perhaps explore a hypothesis.


End of May 2012

The end of May 2012 marks the end of my sabbatical leave (officially) though I shall continue with my forays in architectural design and practice and see how things will work out.

This blog will specifically be about “design research” and I hope to somehow get other designers to be involved, by posting their work later on, either on another specific blog or using this one.

But for the mean time, I will continue with my observations and diary of my journey as a designer in practice or a contractor’s company.

A Lesson in Design

I have always been more of a conceptual architect than a builder. The biggest and only relevant challenge is to make a concept buildable. The ability to make it simple and easy to construct is paramount.

Having said all that, it is of course, easier said than done.

How do you teach yourself quickly and effectively the approach and skills needed to get this done.

I always have the bad habit of getting really worked up if I did not prepare well enough or did not anticipate or did not work out the problem thoroughly enough. In the end wasting my time and wasting other people’s time. Ego is one thing but the sheer lack of attention to detail is unacceptable. I feel I am my greatest critic and like any of my sort, we grieve too long over the spilled milk!

I don’t blame anyone but myself. So I need to quickly get on with it.



Bridges Finished



It has been a pleasure to redesign the bridges. My job is to interpret the designers’ requirements.

On top of the pecking order is the Director of Team 7 at GDP, two associates, where one is the designer and another on the technical side gave input, and then there is the interior designer.

So I got input from all of them and also got opinion from the Part 2 graduate architect. The more input, the better, so that you have a more informed decision to make and you actually consulted everyone so that there will not be late changes made. Because it’s a business, the last say is by the Director as he will need to answer to the other directors and he will have his way with the client.

For the bridges, the main decisions were made by the associates rather than the director as it’s fairly simple and less controversial than some other architectural features.

I had not the experience to design with steel components much so it was a very welcomed opportunity to redesign the bridges to issue to the contractor for the shop drawings.

I need to revise again the contractual documents to brush up on my learning.

Practice and Research

I will need to complete my practical training at GDP by June and start writing full time for a couple of months. And then it will be back to the university.

During my sabbatical, I managed to gain my confidence in design and doing details. I have to keep at it. So most probably I will continue to do so with Juteras and also try to take a lead role in creating a learning and challenging atmosphere this time. I will be teaching as well and managing research projects. Writing will be my bread and butter.

Finishing the Bridges

“Taking the best of this opportunity”, hence this is my attitude during my sabbatical. Alas, due to some policy change, I might not get my three months research leave extension. So, I may only have 1 1/2 months left.

Just finished the majority of the drawings needed to issue to the contractors for shop drawings of the internal bridges.

Compared to other detail design, I had the help of assistants to do the setting out drawings, plan, section and elevation, but for the three internal bridges, I did it all myself, manually.

The office 3D whiz-kid came round my table, remarked nonchalantly “eh, drawing masa sekolah dulu!” “Kindergarten?” I retorted disgustingly. Then added, “Bila? Setahun yang lalu?” “Er, lima tahun…” he said. I don’t think he knew I was being sarcastic.

However interesting enough, today, about three guys dropped by to ‘appreciate’ the manual technical drawings. One actually said it was drawn well. These are all twenty something guys, about five years experience. Not the newbies though. They probably thought I am an ancient ‘dinosaur’ (word borrowed from a guy about my age) grazing over yellow paper, peppering tipp-ex or liquid paper over the errors made.

Such joy doing details. Just that my neck and shoulders hurt because the equipment are never proper aren’t they, for us manual workers unlike those huge Macs on their desks.