Since the modernist movement in architecture in the early 1900s, building design has focused on expressing itself as a unique entity, becoming more expressive as art rather than architecture.
I believe everything has a responsibility to its context, especially art, and I have now concluded that all architects are ultimately artists. The same will probably not be said for artists in relation to architecture.
Art is a form of self-expression, with absolutely no responsibility to anyone or anything, while architecture is also a form of art but has a responsibility to people and its context.
To reach a reasonable but coherent conclusion on this topic, I sought to communicate with popular Bahamian architect, Patrick Rahming. He sealed the deal by saying: “Not only is architecture an art; it is called the Mother of the Arts because it gives all other forms their context. The appreciation of music, dance, painting, sculpture is all defined by their context, and their use to enrich human space is the story of civilisation”.
I probed a little more, and met with a young female artist who has not only deepened my insight, but unveiled a wisdom that made me more curious, and a coolness that made me comfortable.
This brilliantly smart but cool artist, who has chosen architecture as a career, is Pauline Hall-Sands. She admitted she has chosen this above her other artistic skills, which are drawing, painting and photography.
She is presently studying with Ashworth College, in Norcross, Georgia, however and shares her transition to this career path.
“Polly”, as she is affectionately called, also feels that architecture is an art form. She echoes the sentiments of Mr Rahming when it comes to architecture being the ‘Mother of Art’.
Question: What made you choose architecture as a career?
Answer: Owing to my passion and love for art, the encouragement and reassurance from my art teacher steered me to this area of art form.
I recall her saying to me: “You can be the first Bahamian woman in this field, which can open the doors to many other women, as this is a technical field dominated by men.” Thereafter, my focus was heightened.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your architectural career?
A: My drawing career spanned more than three decades; designing buildings for single families, multifamily, duplexes and commercial applications, which consisted of part-studies and practical training. It was paramount for me to remain up to date with the industry’s applications and materials, due to rapid changes. Hence I was able to advance constantly.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being an architect?
A: I truly enjoy the ability to work on my own initiative and being part of a team.
Q: How do you keep yourself stimulated?
A: Basically by remaining focused on the finished project.
Q: What extra steps do you take to make your clients happy?
A: My motto comprises of a passion that helps “make dreams a reality” through the use of architecture. This slogan aids my commitment of making my clients happy, and I truly stand by it as long as it doesn’t compromise the architect’s design.
Q: What are some struggles regarding female architects?
A: While it was apparent that the industry of architecture was a male-dominated turf, it has since reformed. Upon entering this field in the late 1980s, one of the biggest misconceptions was regarding ‘gender.’ I have suffered many criticisms, as several people felt I should seek a female career or be at home caring for a family.
With the passing of time, the preconceptions subsided, and the market is now appreciated, as it is accepted that women are just as competent as men or even better.
Q: How would people describe you?
A: Many would say on a professional level that I am a charismatic designer, and devoted, passionate and compelling.
Q: What are the three important elements to consider when choosing a design?
A: a) Discuss and balance a Budget beforehand, as this helps to avoid delays or confusion along the way. Confirm if he/she can work within particular constraints and be realistic about time expectations, and be certain about how the project will be financed.
b) It is imperative that you hire an architect you feel comfortable with, as you will be spending a good length of time together on the project.
c) Finally, it is wise to ask for references before hiring to ensure you are contracting an expert.
Q: How do you cope with criticism?
A: I welcome constructive criticisms and use them as a constructive tool for enhancement. However, I create from an honest place, and if I am honest during my process then my final piece will resonate with others.
Q: What are your strong and weak points?
A: My strength is designing and developing drawings from scratch. And my weakness is being sympathetic to clients who are financially challenged.
Q: What are the easiest processes in architecture and why?
A: The easiest process in architecture is ‘The Completion’ of the design phase, because everything else that follows thereafter regards budget and time-line. And through my work I want to share my vision of a universe where I am the designer at play.
Q: What do you love about your career?
A: I am overjoyed to see my project at the completion stage
Q: What do you dislike about your career?
A: It is demoralising when a client decides to continue the project with another expert.
Q: Where do you look for inspiration?
A: Inspiration is everywhere. I usually observe different aspects of architecture on other buildings, the environment, or seek mentorship from experts in the industry. Because architecture is responsible for so much of the built environment around us, I often use it as a source of inspiration as well.
Q: Finally, what advice would you give to students, particularly women, thinking about architecture as a career?
A: Always endeavour to be the best in the field, and always strive to make a difference. Disregard negative criticisms, and learn from them by upgrading your skills periodically. Respect other experts. Last but not least, remember your career is only one part of what defines you.
Until we meet again, fill your life with memories as opposed to regrets. Enjoy life and stay on top of your game.
• NB: The columnist welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST: Deidre Marie Bastian is a professionally trained graphic designer/marketing co-ordinator with qualifications of M.Sc., B.Sc., A.Sc. She has trained at institutions such as: Miami Lakes Technical Centre, Success Training College, College of the Bahamas, Nova South Eastern University, Learning Tree International, Langevine International and Synergy Bahamas.