Professionally, there exists a constant cycle of translation from the virtual to the real and back. The life of an architect is embedded in this circularity of shifting perspectives and viewpoints. Peter Zumthor describes this process as “a radial system of approach that enables us to see the work of architecture as a focal point from different angles simultaneously” while Renzo Piano argues that when designing you must “start by sketching, then you do a drawing, then you make a model, and then you go to reality – you go to the site – and then you go back to drawing. You build up a kind of circularity between drawing and making and then back again.”
In academia, students must become adept at the practice of translation. This process may take the form of the graphic translation of an idea into a diagram. Or it could involve much larger systems of translation such as from a drawing to a built work; understanding the meaning of lines drawn on paper. The inclusion of exercises in translation is critical throughout an architectural curriculum, but is decidedly important in the first few years of the undergraduate studies. It is at these early stages, that students need to be taught not about the development of a product, but about the development of a strong working process that centers on the translation of ideas.