Landscape Insight December 2017 - Page 50

THE LAST WORD MATTHEW AUSTIN Virtual versus Reality In this digital era are we holding on to the craft of designing and making, and does real experience outweigh the value of the virtual? By MATTHEW AUSTIN, director, Austin Design Works esign process is a big part of what we do at Austin Design Works. By this we mean not only the consideration of place, setting, vernacular, weather and so on, but of the way in which the materials of our projects are brought together, and by whom. For us the creative process often begins with the imagination processed through pen on paper. As a third generation architect I was brought up to appreciate the craft of architecture, the reality of what materials can do; how they look, feel and go together. My sister Rachael and I run our landscape and architecture practice in Gloucestershire with this background in the craft of designing buildings and landscapes, and as pre-Millennials we are the generation to have trained through the transition from drawing board to computer. Growing up on a nearly perpetual building site as a child meant that by the age of about 12 I was fully au fait with the world of construction. Rachael and I would often be collected from school with our father’s familiar request: “Jjust need to pop by this site on the way home, do you mind holding the end of the tape?” This gave us an inherent – inherited – language in the way of building, and of the people who build. In recent years I have had the opportunity to interview many potential post graduate architectural recruits, and I have noticed that with many, the practical skills and ability to think about scale, materials and how things go together is becoming less evident. Whilst the ability to create 3D models is highly valuable as a tool, this should not be at the detriment of logical and creative thinking, and holds an inherent risk of copy-and- paste abridgement of due process. The issue, as I see it, is that the wish to evolve a design project at speed into a virtual model, relying on object D 50 Landscape Insight | December 2017 libraries and pre-packaged products, produces a sameness that is evident in current design practice and is perhaps missing out the thinking and rationalising part of the design process. As a relatively small design practice ofering the combination of architecture and landscape architecture, we have a cross-over and hybridisation of skills, which means a deeper than usual understanding of each other’s disciplines. For us it’s clear that buildings are not isolated objects, placed onto a site, but an important part of the landscape they inhabit and this integration ofers wonderful opportunity. From a design sense we’re dealing in the same essentials – light, shade, volume, enclosure, threshold, touch, view, connection, smell etc. We are just using diferent tools and operating to diferent necessities. As consultants we are entrusted by our clients to assimilate their requirements, their wishes and aspirations, and lead them through the journey of cr