Back during my school days at U.C. Berkeley's College of Environmental Design, one of our final class assignments was a project for a hypothetical cultural center. The program was elaborate, requiring dozens of spaces, large and small. I spent a good part of the allotted three weeks coming up with an unassailable floor plan before finally moving on to -- as architects like to put it -- expressing my solution in three dimensions. Yet when it came time for the faculty critique session that traditionally culminated these assignments, the professors spent virtually the entire time discussing the external appearance of each project -- its forms and their associations, its metaphorical symbolism, and so on. Few of them, including some well-known architects in their own right, even g...
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