Have you ever looked at a building and thought, “Wow, what a cool building”?
I bet you have. Despite the building you like undergoing construction, it had to go through the process of planning and designing first.
We refer to this above-mentioned intricate process as Architecture; the art and technique of designing and building, as distinguished from the skills associated with construction.
Someone who took an interest in architecture is none other than Darren Franciscus. He is a 22-year-old Junior Architectural Technologist and a Bachelor of Architecture graduate from the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). I thought it would be a good idea to ask him some questions regarding his field of study, and Darren was more than willing to humour me.
Did you always know you wanted to study Architecture, and why did you choose this field of study?
I always had a passion for anything artistic when I was younger. I wanted to be director and soon took a liking to design. Specifically, fashion design, but looking at my options after high school, I chose Architecture because it was the most versatile and practical option. I was heavily influenced by looking at idols such as Virgil Abloh who was the owner and creative force behind Off White. He began his career in architecture and he spoke so highly of the profession.
What are the misconceptions that people have regarding this field of study?
I think many people believe that it is incredibly lucrative, but to make serious money, you must be a good business person, not only a good designer. Along with that, I’d say many people believe you need to be able to draw. While this helps, drawing is a tool that aids in communicating ideas and even the roughest of sketches can show far more than crisp detailed ones. It is all about the communication of ideas.
What qualifications does one need to study Architecture at NUST?
“It has been a while since I applied so I’m not super familiar with the new requirements since the education system has changed, but at the time I needed at least 38 points across Mathematics, English and 3 science subjects.”
According to the NUST website, you need at least 30 points in 5 subjects of which 12 points must be in English and Mathematics, and 18 points for any three subjects out of the following: Technical Drawing, Physical Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Fine Art, Arts and Crafts, Literature, Carpentry and Economics on NSSC Higher or Ordinary Level. No symbol must be lower than a C.
What are three things that you have learned while studying to be an architect ?
I learnt that every detail matters. With your work you should aim for perfection while also knowing when to stop. Of course, I have learned simple design principles and guidelines, but what is tricky is learning how to critique your own work. As a designer, it’s difficult to agree or disagree with your own ideas, but more often than not, the answer lies in the process itself.
When working on something creative, it can be easy to lose confidence and every idea can fall short of expectation. Our brains don’t give us a standing ovation when we suddenly think up a masterpiece. It is up to us to give ourselves the word of approval knowing that what we did is good enough.
What projects wouldn’t you mind designing and working on since you are a NUST graduate now?
I only have my bachelor’s degree so I can’t take up on my own projects yet. However, I’d love to take part in some design competitions in the meantime while working at a firm here in Windhoek before I leave the country to finish my postgraduate studies either in Germany or South Africa.
Since you are of Namibian/South African nationality and you’ve traveled your fair share, what would you say is the difference between architectural designs in Namibia and abroad?
I believe that Namibia’s architecture is still heavily influenced by western culture. We also still trail far behind places like Europe and South Africa when it comes to the technological advancements in the industry. While those places have a distinct architectural style of their own, we are still very much finding ours.
What has kept you motivated throughout your academic journey?
Honestly, I am not one to give up. I told myself I will stick to it and finish this degree. I believe that I can accomplish anything that I put my my mind to. A challenge like architecture showed me that I can hold up my part of the deal to myself, which is important. That is usually all the motivation I need. If we can’t keep promises to ourselves, we can’t expect to help anyone else.
As an architect, what are the three things you should always have with you in regard to a way of thinking or physical objects?
Design is important in every aspect of our lives, and everything in this world has been designed for a purpose. Architecture has changed the way I see the world. Our job is making the everyday experience better, and each object that we surround ourselves with is a part of that.
What advice would you give an aspiring Architecture student?
Design freely and express yourself. Just have fun with it.
There you have it, everyone! Everything is not as it seems, and this applies to Architecture as well. It isn’t just about constructing aesthetically-pleasing houses and buildings; it’s way more than that.
Architecture can be considered as art, because it is a medium for creative expression in a utilitarian manner.
So, next time you are admiring a really cool structure, don’t forget that an architect is behind its design.