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Traveling, Architect-Style

Some people perceive traveling as an extravagant expenditure of money; however, this activity is closely tied to work productivity. Traveling serves as a means to break free from routine and daily activities, providing a unique sense of pleasure and, more importantly, offering two-fold benefits—escaping work routines and refreshing the mind.


For architects, whose profession inherently demands the constant generation of new and captivating ideas for clients, it is not uncommon for inspiration to strike during their travels. Traveling becomes a necessity for architects, as previously discussed in my earlier post titled "Reasons Why Architects Need to Travel." Now, let's delve into how architects can approach their travels with a few tips to consider before embarking on a journey.

Traveling ala Arsitek
The intricate arrangement of bricks serves as the secondary facade for Lantern Hotel in KL. Image by Adityuwana.

Selecting Destinations

Begin by choosing destinations, whether they be within the country or abroad. Destinations may include cities, islands, countries, natural wonders, or urban attractions. Tailor your choices to your interests. Conduct thorough research on the chosen destination, exploring the available attractions, accessibility, accommodations, transportation options, required permits, and associated costs. Ideally, research two to three destinations, compare them, and then make a final decision.


Personal Approach: I enjoy exploring cities (urban traveling) and maintain a travel list featuring intriguing architectural sites in a city or country, compiled with the assistance of ArchDaily. They categorize architectural projects based on their locations. Typically, I revisit this travel list to determine my next destination. Subsequently, I conduct a bit of research regarding costs, facilities, and ways to reach the chosen city. Then, I determine the optimal timing for the visit and plan the itinerary. I prefer a backpacker-style of traveling for its cost-effectiveness and the chance to meet new people while experiencing public transportation facilities.

Traveling ala Arsitek
My travel list. Image by Adityuwana

Setting Time and Travel Route

Are there any specific events in your chosen destination during your visit? If so, adjust your travel plans accordingly. If you are a student or office worker, align your plans with academic breaks or office leave.


When planning your travel route, ensure it is realistic. Visit nearby attractions on the same day to optimize time. Avoid scheduling visits to distant attractions in a single day, as it may lead to time constraints. Estimate travel times to attractions and consider traffic conditions using tools like Google Maps.


Personal Approach: I am not an impulsive traveler. I always plan my trips in advance, find the best time to visit, and organize the travel route based on the accessibility of architectural sites (though not in extreme detail). In a day, I can visit two to a maximum of three nearby attractions. I also ensure that the sites are open and accessible on the day of my visit.


I usually arrange to arrive in the destination city in the morning or afternoon, allowing several hours to explore the city before nightfall. It feels like a missed opportunity to arrive in a city in the evening, as one would have to pay for accommodation upon arrival. If I have to visit multiple cities in a country that are somewhat distant from each other, I typically plan for overnight travel between cities to save on accommodation costs.

Activities During the Visit

Unlike typical tourists, architects prefer visiting architectural sites that are often overlooked by others. However, this does not rule out the possibility of visiting renowned tourist attractions, such as the ArtScience Museum in Singapore or the Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima.


When exploring a tourist site, take the time to enter and explore the area. As previously mentioned, there is much to be learned from visiting a place. Dedicate time to appreciate the site and immerse yourself in its atmosphere. Don't forget to capture the experience through photos or videos.


If you enjoy sketching, consider live sketching or sketching on the spot at the locations you visit. While this may consume more time, similar to writing, sketching on the spot is one of the most effective ways to learn. By sketching the details of a building, for instance, you automatically gain insights into those details. Live sketching also presents challenges, such as sudden weather changes or a bustling environment around you.

Traveling ala Arsitek
The amalgamation of three distinct materials in the construction of Innovation Tower. Image by Adityuwana.

What I Do: The places I visit can be either individual structures or entire areas. When exploring a building, I take the time to roam around, step inside, experience its spatial qualities, touch its materials, and meticulously observe its architectural details. Certain architectural works can evoke thoughts like "Oh... so it can be designed like this" or "This idea could be incorporated into the ongoing project." I document all these experiences through photography.


While I enjoy sketching, I refrain from live sketching during my travels. To save time, I prefer capturing objects or details of a building through photographs and later studying or sketching them.


The joy of independent travel, without joining organized tours, lies in the ability to independently plan the places to be visited, choose the mode of transportation, decide the timing of visits, and determine when to conclude the exploration. Imagine being on a guided tour, barely able to appreciate a masterpiece before being summoned to board a bus.


In terms of accommodation, I occasionally opt for independent hotels with intriguing concepts. Some of these hotels are also featured on architecture websites, both domestic and international. Upon entering the room, I pay attention to the arrangement of furniture, ensuring it doesn't feel cramped, the layout of the bathroom, and at times, measuring the distance between the bed and the table, the size of the bathroom, to ascertain whether these dimensions are comfortable for me as a guest.

Traveling ala Arsitek
The pendant light adorned with a bottle segment at Mezanine Cafe in Yogyakarta. Image by Adityuwana.
Traveling ala Arsitek
Bathroom features transparent elements, industrial-style sinks at the Hart Hotel, Hong Kong. Image by Adityuwana.

Essentials

In addition to clothing and toiletries, here are some essentials I typically bring and recommend for traveling:

Traveling ala Arsitek
Architect's traveling kit.

  1. Smartphone. A must-have item for traveling, serving not only as a communication device but also housing several travel-supporting applications such as weather, maps, destination information, and productivity apps for occasional work tasks like reviews and design corrections. The smartphone's camera also doubles as a documentation tool if a dedicated camera is not brought along.

  2. Acome Powerbank. Pay attention to the power bank's capacity, as some airlines have restrictions on carrying large-capacity power banks.

  3. Tronsmart Travel Adapter. Always carry a travel adapter, especially when traveling abroad. I've faced difficulties in this regard and had to share with friends.

  4. Fujifilm X-A10. If you're not into photography, a smartphone camera is usually sufficient for traveling, especially if it has a wide lens. However, for certain architectural conditions, a mirrorless camera comes in handy. I personally always carry one during my travels. For architecture photography tips, you can read them here.

  5. Airpods. An essential device for me to listen to podcasts and music while waiting at the airport or elsewhere.

  6. Waterplus+ Bottle. When abroad, instead of buying expensive bottled water, I prefer refilling a reusable bottle from tap water available everywhere. It's more environmentally friendly and looks cooler than a plastic bottle.

  7. Pen. A writing tool used for filling out immigration cards, signing documents, and other writing needs. I carry more than one, just in case.

  8. Notebook/Buku Sketsa A6. Prepare a notebook for recording expenses, route sequences, and other notes. If you enjoy live sketching, have a sketchbook ready. Opt for A6 size for easy portability.

  9. Payung. Having been caught in the rain during travels, forcing me to seek shelter and restricting movement, I've learned to carry a raincoat and a compact umbrella. Look for one that doesn't take up much space in your bag.

  10. Consina Storm Breaker Raincoat. A foldable raincoat for compactness.

  11. Ugreen Storage Bag. For storing small items and charger cables.

  12. Eiger X Steripac. Given the ongoing pandemic at the time of writing this article, these items are a must. It includes masks, hand sanitizer, and paper soap.

  13. Hamlin Adnya Passport Holder. For added safety and organization. It has ample compartments for storing travel documents.

Beyond the mentioned essentials, you can explore additional items on this page that may be suitable for your travels.


Being Attuned to the Surroundings

Apart from serving as a means of relaxation and unwinding, traveling also offers an opportunity to broaden one's horizons. As architects, we are naturally inclined to pay closer attention to our surroundings—patterns, forms, textures, colors, shadows, the junction of different materials, and small details consistently catch the eye of an architect, even if they go unnoticed by others. This sensitivity can be honed over time. When in a new place, try to observe the environment around you.


What I Do: I always have a camera (whether a smartphone or mirrorless) at hand to easily capture images when encountering objects that I find interesting, as seen in the photos below. For the layperson, these may seem ordinary occurrences, but for us architects, they represent the outcomes of careful design, each with its own reasons and considerations.

From top left clockwise: (1) Hotel Hart's metal signage in Hong Kong, seamlessly blending with exposed concrete walls. (2) The convergence of various materials and elements in a garden in Brass Basah, Singapore. (3) Furniture crafted from reclaimed wood complementing the Greenhost Hotel concept in Yogyakarta. (4) A captivating interplay of colors in a residence in Venice, Italy. (All images by Adityuwana)


Due to my love for photography, traveling has also become a means for me to expand my collection of photographic works. I have previously written an article on architectural photography tips.


Through travel, we gain experiences, open our minds and perspectives, and take a break from daily routines, recharging our minds with new ideas in the hope of being more productive afterward. I hope this post proves beneficial. Bye!

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