On the Importance of Reading Architecture Plans

For the first article in our 'Learn' section, we asked architects Anita Panov and Andrew Scott to comment on the importance of clients being able to read architecture plans. Their response was thoughtful, complex and mature.

19 Feb 2013

You asked us why it is important for a client to read plans. Our response is to say it is vital to be able to read for your own edification, but oh how wonderful it is to be read to…

 

The plan, along with the section is a privileged view, being an orthogonal projection of a three-dimensional object made specifically to define with exactitude the physical nature of an object.

In our mutable world this makes the plan as ambiguous a form of communication as a poem, and perhaps therein lies its beauty.

Consider for a moment the internal footprint of the church of St Petri in Klippan, Sweden. Simply a square in plan it would not differ substantially from the courtyard of a small Caravanserais in Iran but how different an experience of the space contained.

 

What use then is a line on a plan to describe tonight’s early evening casuarina howl echoing off a polished concrete wall?

The act of reading the plan is as imaginative a task as the making of the drawing in the first place. For this reason we like to read the plan to our clients, and to those who promise to build from it. 

This consideration of the plan and our clients made us recall an experience:

A few years ago whilst serving out our architectural apprenticeships we had the privilege of working with a marvelous client to extend a small but culturally important house at the tip of the Balmain peninsula. At the same time we were working with another very particular client who had spent many hours learning the idiosyncrasies of construction industry communication so that he could control exactly the outcome of his Paddington terrace renovation.

Both experiences being contiguous the juxtaposition became startling. With the first client the resolution of the details, the material junctions, the appliance selections, the pool marble colour were left largely to our discernment. Amazingly to us at the time he showed complete indifference to our painstakingly crafted drawings. Instead he led frequent discussions with us on the imagined experiences within his future house. Clearly defining and then leveraging the structure to bring about these moments became our work.

In contrast all of our time with the second client was spent in determining the likes of the best possible joinery hinge, or the exact setout and alignment of the stainless steel waste inside the laundry cabinet. So directed, we became consumed by the detailed recording of the construction components in again painstaking plans and specifications. The result of which was that little time was spent engaging with those transient moments that elevate life above the mundane, those moments that great buildings so happily facilitate.

Dwelling is more than the physical act of inhabitation in a similar manner to architecture being more than the simple making of an object. For someone thinking to engage an architect a basic understanding of the language of communication used within the building industry is invaluable, but not essential. Of far greater importance is an openness to the potential of architecture.

Anita Panov & Andrew Scott

panovscott.com.au