Clarity in Design

By Alexander R. Eng

Martial arts have and continues to be a great influence in many aspects of my life. Throughout my childhood to now, I have been a student of various systems.  My interest is in both the physicality of self-defense, as well as the mental and spiritual discipline.  For myself as a martial artist and an architect I see the parallels between the two disciplines.

Alex Eng practicing Martial Arts

As a martial artist the honing of one’s technique is attained by the visualization of one’s opponent and environment.  There is a constant repetition of both mental and physical processes. Once these are second nature and muscle memory is achieved, your next objective is the fine-tuning of your skill.  This is an integral part of the martial artist’s development.  The ability to visualize your opponent(s) within your environment brings about intent, this is the moment when the execution of your technique brings about an outcome.

As an architect the process of design is very much akin to the training of a martial artist.  The conception of a fluid design to create movement from one space to another, the visualization of oneself in said spaces that are not yet in the physical dimension but exist within one’s mind.  Intent is achieved by the translation from one’s mind through ink to paper.

Different types of pens

Practitioners of martial arts train their bodies to utilize their hands, feet, staff and blades to be their tools of choice.  In architecture, the architect’s arsenal is comprised of computers, models, renderings and my personal favorite, a good fountain pen and trace paper.

Hand drawing of a proposed design

My approach to design begins with the calming of one’s mind.  This calmness facilitates in the development of the vision I have of the design.  As in martial arts when confronted with an opponent, maintaining clarity allows for the awareness of one’s surroundings, to maneuver around the opponent, which is at times more advantageous than rushing head on or pushing harder.  The same applies in design. Knowing site limitations allows for the utilization of resources to facilitate a resolution that will satisfy both the client and creativity of the architect.

Hand drawing of the front of a house