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Reasons Why Architects Need to Travel

Learning by traveling.

Whether acknowledged or not, the architect is a profession closely associated with the activities of traveling and exploration. One need only glance at the Instagram feeds of Indonesian architects to observe that, in addition to showcasing their creations, they predominantly feature objects or architectural works, both domestic and international. Why do architects engage in this practice? Why do they travel?

Traveling to explore architectural works is a necessity for architects (and architecture students alike). Traveling serves as an excellent learning medium. For students, architecture is not confined to activities within the studio or classroom but extends to experiences beyond the campus. Some coursework requires students to survey buildings, and as they approach the final semester, Field Work Lectures involve direct examinations of architectural study objects, both domestically and abroad. Even after graduation and becoming architects, the act of traveling remains inseparable from the profession. Some architectural firms even incorporate annual travel agendas for their employees.

Alasan Arsitek Traveling
Alila Uluwatu, designed by WOHA, features a prominent orientation towards the coastline. Image by Adityuwana.

To produce a masterpiece, architects must continuously develop their insights, knowledge, and perspectives. In the context of the Indonesian Institute of Architects (IAI), this ongoing professional development is referred to as Continuous Professional Development (PKB). One aspect of PKB is architectural pilgrimage. An architect needs to comprehend the intricacies of a work. Every architectural creation possesses spatial essences that can be truly felt by experiencing them firsthand in their physical location.

Through travel, architects can directly sense spatial experiences, such as understanding transitions between spaces (from dark to light, low to high, narrow to wide), how one space integrates with another, feeling and touching the textures of different materials, observing details, and understanding their resolutions – elements that cannot be adequately substituted through secondary means such as photos or videos.

Alasan Arsitek Traveling
Parkroyal Pickering, Singapore. The pedestrian pathway seamlessly integrates with the building's courtyard. Image by Adityuwana.
Alasan Arsitek Traveling
The Potato Head artwork by Andra Matin requires visitors to traverse through a dimly lit corridor before reaching its main space. Image by Adityuwana.

It's not only contemporary structures that offer valuable lessons; there is much to be learned from historical human creations as well. Indonesia's temples, forts, and palaces, the row of buildings in Old Town Jakarta, or the patterns and spatial arrangements of a city – visiting places like Old Town Jakarta or Old City Semarang provides opportunities to learn things different from what one observes in present-day architectural works.

Alasan Arsitek Traveling
One of the corners of the old town of Salzburg, Austria. Image by Adityuwana.
Alasan Arsitek Traveling
The inverted pyramid of the Louvre Museum, featured in Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code". Image by Adityuwana.

Traveling also serves to heighten an architect's sensory awareness of humanity and the surrounding environment. During their journeys, architects interact with various individuals, especially local residents, learning the stories behind a place, its strengths and weaknesses, and gaining a wealth of knowledge. Through travel, architects gain insights into the lifestyles of diverse people, contributing to the creation of works that are oriented toward both humanity and nature. Simultaneously, it stimulates thoughts on how to innovate current designs for the future. The more one knows, the more experimentation becomes possible in the creative process.

Alasan Arsitek Traveling
Al-Irsyad mosque, Kota Baru Parahyangan and designed by Urbane, features an open mihrab surrounded by a reflective pool. Image by Adityuwana.


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