STEP Reflection

My name is Nicholas Spoelker and for my STEP project, I participated in an architectural study in Europe. For one month, I travelled through numerous cities and countries in western Europe and experienced various architectural sites. My fellow students and I learned about the history and architectural styles of each of these locations while making notes and sketches of our own.

Before I went on this trip, I already had a few preconceived notions about architecture. My understanding was that architecture took many of the concepts and ideas that my area of study, engineering, dealt with and applied them to art and aesthetics through building design. My visit to older locations upheld this preconceived notion; for example, in many of the gothic cathedrals that I visited, the flying buttresses served to hold the building together while also adding to the aesthetic of the church.

My preconceived ideas of architecture did transform when I began experiencing the more modern locations. Many of these building seemed to adhere more to the idea of “form following function.” Initially, I thought this style was taking the creativity out of architecture and disliked the works that followed this mantra. However, as the trip continued, I realized that there was indeed artistic expression in these works, albeit subtler. My view of architecture changed after this realization; one can make the function of the building into the aesthetic itself.

My view of architecture has changed due to many of my experiences in Europe. As the only non-architecture student on the trip, I was initially out of my element. Many of my peers were far more comfortable with the subject matter, but they welcomed me with open arms and began to open my eyes to the complexities of the various architectural schools. Modern architects such as Le Corbusier were initially enigmas to me, as I failed to see the appeal of his seemingly bland style. Now, while I still dislike the modern art style, I can understand its appeal to many of my colleagues.

One of the key activities that changed my view of architecture were the sketch activities. During many times of the trip, we were told to sit down and sketch the buildings that we saw before us. This activity forced me to engage with my surroundings on a deeper level and compelled me to see the true complexity and meaning in seemingly basic structures. I was able to grasp the subtler nuances of the modern style buildings and see their relationship with the structural makeup of the buildings.

I think that my newfound appreciation for the subtler modern buildings will help me greatly in my future studies. While as an engineer, I am not primarily concerned with the appearances of my work, I will be able to see what I create in a different light; I believe that viewing my own work from different perspectives will allow me to maximize not only the efficiency of my work, but its appeal to others as well.

Overall, I look forward to applying my new outlook in my field. I feel that I will now be able to bring to the table an outlook that many of my engineering peers lack: an understanding of the aesthetics of functionality and their appeal to others.

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