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The emphasis for communication and authenticity in architecture

OSU Research Matters is a look inside the work of Oklahoma State University faculty, staff and students.

In this episode, Dr. Kenneth Sewell — the school's Vice President of Research — talks with Dr. Moh'd Bilbeisi about architectural illustration and authenticity. Bilbeisi's research focuses on the philosophy between theory and ideals in contemporary architectural illustration. He hopes to offer ways to determine authenticity of a graphic message in terms of authorship, truthfulness and intent of purpose.


BILBESI: In architectural illustration, there are two things that are relevant. And in my opinion, they are actually authorship and authenticity. The authorship is about actually how true it is to its inception. And the second thing is authenticity, which is a ratio of how close it is to its intent. It's fascinating, but just like text is that you need to actually be able to look at the architectural illustration, and then find out if what is being proposed to you, as a building as a space, actually matches what the architect told you, you're going to get in terms of quality and authenticity.

SEWELL: I read somewhere where some architects think of their architecture as solving a problem. Do you think of it that way, or do you have a different opinion?

BILBESI: No, not at all, Dr. Sewell. I'm so glad you asked. And I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be offending some. However, there is no problems in architecture — problems by connotation means negative. No, architecture is always positive. For example, we are expanding our research agenda — we need more facilities. That's not a problem, that's an opportunity.

I tend to look at it as answering questions. Because all of a sudden, the client is asking the architect, well, I need a facility that needs to do this, this and this. And there's a reason behind using the word facility because you want the architect to facilitate the work of that particular user. So it is a question actually, and the architect needs to answer it. But that answer comes in the form of visuals. And these visuals will ultimately be translated by the receiving end into quantitative and qualitative information.

SEWELL: Fantastic. How do you bring your students along in this because I'm sure some of your students don't come to OSU thinking of themselves as graphic artists.

BILBESI: What it is, is that I totally don't believe in the notion of talent. Talent does not exist. I think what happens is that humans become talented, and I give a definition it's whenever what you aspire to do, or to become matches your abilities.

So what it is, is that just like everything else, is that the students being willing and open to change and being able to actually just tolerate some tedious and time-consuming exercises that will ultimately produce them as good communicators. Every time you do any kind of an illustration, you learn from it — certain parts work, certain parts don't work. And just like everything else is that to become a good writer is that you need to be a good reader, and it's the same thing being able to recognize that this illustration is good, this one is better, this one is best and ultimately, you will be able to do it yourself.

SEWELL: This is Kenneth Sewell, the vice-president for research at OSU with OSU Research Matters.

Dr. Sewell and Dr. Bilbesi will be speaking more in depth on architectural illustration at 'Research On Tap' — Monday, November 15th at Iron Monk Brewery in Stillwater. The informal discussion is open to the public and starts at 5:30 p.m. More information can be found at research.okstate.edu/rot.

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