Category Archives: Design


I realized the other day (or perhaps “remembered” would be a better word) that the most efficient way to become good at something is not simply to do it, but to do it with intention and to study the greats. That seems obvious, but it’s a bit more subtle in its scope. I want to do architecture, and I have always felt like I can be my own source of inspiration, like I don’t need to know architectural history to be good. But that idea doesn’t square with studies that have been done. You could probably point to Renaissance painters or something like that to illustrate the importance of studying the greats, but I find that Malcolm Gladwell’s discussion of chess grand masters is much more insightful. He found a study that showed that the single factor most correlated with high level chess ability was not time spent playing, but rather time spent studying famous games. It is only by getting into the heads of the greats and seeing why they made the decisions they did that these modern players are able to excell and go beyond.

That’s what we should all be doing in whatever field we inhabit. In my case that means really studying the great works of architecture to find out what makes them so special. Because this may be a new time, and I may be a new designer, but what I am ultimately trying to cultivate is a creative process, and that’s something that we share.


Topography Over Time

Our last project for architecture was getting to know a particular site in depth so that we can later design a building for it.  My particular assignment was to research the history of the site, a small plot on Portage Bay in Seattle.  I decided that a cool way to go about it would be to create an infographic that showed the changes in topography over time.  I’m not sure if this is something that’s done regularly, but it seemed concise and informative.

I went with a simple, colorful graphic that actually has a fair bit of information in it.  I didn’t want to make it busier by adding dates, and since they aren’t as relevant as the changes that have happened, I didn’t think it was necessary.  There’s a section and a plan view that both show the transition from native to western dominance of the area, the cut of the first and second log channels, the digging of the ship canal, the deforestation that occurred, and the construction of both the University and I-5 bridges.  Obviously this didn’t all happen right at a specific point, but it reflects the important topographical changes that occurred around the site in question.  Hopefully it gets across what I want it to!