Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Revisiting 9/11

What is now a tradition for me, I re-post this every September 11th. Hopefully, when the WTC area is complete, I'll be able to visit, and reflect on what the area has become. 

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Power of a Symbol

Five years ago, today, I sat in class, structures class if I remember correctly, trying to stay awake. After all, it was an 8:30 lecture. The moment class ended, a student stood up and said, simply, “The World Trade Center was just attacked.” It was 9:25 am.
The student walked out without saying another word, and for a moment, I thought it was some weird practical joke. I would find out, five minutes later, eyes riveted to a television set in the department office, that it was not. It’s been said over and over again, the world changed that day. It’s not an exaggeration.
I watched, on television, as the World Trade Center crumbled down, floor by floor, until it was lost in the cloud of its own dust. I remember our academic advisor bursting out into tears, as we stared on in disbelief. I remember walking home, after school officially closed, thinking, how could the weather be so perfect, the day so unbelievably beautiful, when, elsewhere, chaos was erupting.
As we would learn, the targets were specific. The buildings were chosen for the special meanings they embodied. They were symbols, markers. It was meant to be as significant a psychological blow as it was a physical catastrophe.
As we look on, five years later, so much has yet to be done. The wound is still open, the healing not really begun. In the wake of 9/11, a call went out, a challenge made, one which some considered the opportunity for architects to reassert the value of their work. Rebuild on suddenly sacred ground, and create something that respected the past while inspiring the future. It was a wish for remembrance. It was a cry for defiance.
I fear for the success. I feel deflated by the solution. And perhaps, more than anything else, I am disappointed by the process. Politics, egos, personal interests – they dominate the rebuilding process. They are the stories to arise from the rubble of that day.
Three years ago, during a scholarship interview, I was asked the question on everyone’s mind, “What do you think should be done at the World Trade Center site?” A loaded question. I faced four strangers who looked on expectantly.
I told them that what I hoped for. I hoped for a place that would remember the significance of the event while engendering new life, new activity, a new spirit. I hoped that, in the process of reconstruction, disparate parties might unite under a common goal, a vision that could encapsulate the hopes, memories, desires of the expectant millions watching. I told them that the challenge, above anything else, would be reconciling the desires of those who saw the site as a massive graveyard and those who saw the site as an opportunity for massive redevelopment. I told them that any solution would have to successfully address both. That life and death, happiness and sadness, would need to exist, side by side. I told them that I believed architecture had the power to reach such greatness.
I still believe in that greatness. I still believe that architecture can take on such weight, such responsibility. It is the power of a symbol – this ability for concrete objects to illicit abstract emotions. I just don’t know, given the process so far, if the results will ever meet the heavy expectations. Some might say nothing would. And perhaps they are right. But, perhaps, if the process hadn’t been derailed the way it has, there might have been a better chance for success.

Monday, October 01, 2012

And More on the Fall Out

Two of my most popular posts are: So you want to be an Architect? and the Fall Out. It is amazing and disheartening to think that, two years later, we are still wondering whether we've hit bottom. This just popped in my inbox, sent by a fellow architecture friend, and it calls to mind much of what those two entries focused on. The author speaks eloquently about the multifaceted problem that is the professional world that we through ourselves into.

As I teach, I sometimes wonder why the schism between the culture of school and the culture of practice exists. If we are a professional degree, should we not be preparing students to practice? And if we truly feel that the education we currently provide is important, is it time to expand the education track rather than, as NAAB has set forth, limited it even more? If our students do not feel prepared or supported, than will we, as the article hypothesizes, lose a generation? And what happens then?

If anything, I hope that this Fall Out has forced our profession, and those within it, to take a serious look at the fundamental structure of how we teach, develop and practice. If anything, the last two or three years of my own professional life, has confirmed that, if I wish to pursue this, it will be a road of detours and pitfalls. I hope that, in time, I'll find a more direct path. Or, perhaps, I'll just look back at this time and realize it was necessary. Whatever the case may be, I'm just glad I'm not alone. And I am glad we're talking about it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Revisiting 9/11

I wrote this years ago, but as we remember the events of today, 11 years ago, I thought I'd re-post my thoughts.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Power of a Symbol

Five years ago, today, I sat in class, structures class if I remember correctly, trying to stay awake. After all, it was an 8:30 lecture. The moment class ended, a student stood up and said, simply, “The World Trade Center was just attacked.” It was 9:25 am.
The student walked out without saying another word, and for a moment, I thought it was some weird practical joke. I would find out, five minutes later, eyes riveted to a television set in the department office, that it was not. It’s been said over and over again, the world changed that day. It’s not an exaggeration.
I watched, on television, as the World Trade Center crumbled down, floor by floor, until it was lost in the cloud of its own dust. I remember our academic advisor bursting out into tears, as we stared on in disbelief. I remember walking home, after school officially closed, thinking, how could the weather be so perfect, the day so unbelievably beautiful, when, elsewhere, chaos was erupting.
As we would learn, the targets were specific. The buildings were chosen for the special meanings they embodied. They were symbols, markers. It was meant to be as significant a psychological blow as it was a physical catastrophe.
As we look on, five years later, so much has yet to be done. The wound is still open, the healing not really begun. In the wake of 9/11, a call went out, a challenge made, one which some considered the opportunity for architects to reassert the value of their work. Rebuild on suddenly sacred ground, and create something that respected the past while inspiring the future. It was a wish for remembrance. It was a cry for defiance.
I fear for the success. I feel deflated by the solution. And perhaps, more than anything else, I am disappointed by the process. Politics, egos, personal interests – they dominate the rebuilding process. They are the stories to arise from the rubble of that day.
Three years ago, during a scholarship interview, I was asked the question on everyone’s mind, “What do you think should be done at the World Trade Center site?” A loaded question. I faced four strangers who looked on expectantly.
I told them that what I hoped for. I hoped for a place that would remember the significance of the event while engendering new life, new activity, a new spirit. I hoped that, in the process of reconstruction, disparate parties might unite under a common goal, a vision that could encapsulate the hopes, memories, desires of the expectant millions watching. I told them that the challenge, above anything else, would be reconciling the desires of those who saw the site as a massive graveyard and those who saw the site as an opportunity for massive redevelopment. I told them that any solution would have to successfully address both. That life and death, happiness and sadness, would need to exist, side by side. I told them that I believed architecture had the power to reach such greatness.
I still believe in that greatness. I still believe that architecture can take on such weight, such responsibility. It is the power of a symbol – this ability for concrete objects to illicit abstract emotions. I just don’t know, given the process so far, if the results will ever meet the heavy expectations. Some might say nothing would. And perhaps they are right. But, perhaps, if the process hadn’t been derailed the way it has, there might have been a better chance for success.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Calling all Architects!

Perhaps all buildings must face this Fate. But, let's hope that, in this case, someone can come through to save it from the hands of a bulldozer.

I can't help but ask myself, why can't someone understand the beauty of this place?



Read the full story below:


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Dating an Architect

A, sadly accurate, summary of the trials and tribulations of dating an Architect. It's probably why I am single. Thanks to www.howaboutwe.com for the list below:




“Architects make a lot of money.”


This is not true. (But people assume it is.)



Architects are used to late nights.


In theory, it shouldn’t be a problem to stay up all night for sexytime. But in reality, they probably pulled an all-nighter last night and are ready to crash at 8 tonight.



There is no such thing as a fat architect.


For some reason. I have no idea.



Things you never even knew existed are now the most important. thing. ever.


“That is the ugliest fucking radiator ever”, “How did they not align the light switch with the outlet?” “What’s your favorite kind of hinge?” “What’s your favorite CAD command?”



They’re probably anal.


They probably have one of three “systems” for organizing their bookshelves: by color, by size (largest to smallest), by publisher. None of these make any sense and ironically provide the very opposite of “order”, but it doesn’t matter, because it looks better. In fact, they will have a “system” for everything, including organizing the fridge and how to put their clothes away. You might think it’s cute at first, an endearing quirk – until you realize how much of their precious little free time is consumed by obsessing over things that a) no one cares about and b) does not enhance their lives in any way.



After a while, you will only hang out with architects.


This happens. Hope you don’t just love your architect, but that you love ALL architects.



Architects handle relationship/life stress well.


Because anything is less stressful than a deadline.



You won’t get studio.


Prepare yourself for constant references to this mysterious place called “studio” that they spent every waking moment of their college lives in, and never being let on on the inside jokes, with explanations like “you had to be there” or “it was a lot funnier at four in the morning.”



They will be coffee snobs.


If it’s not organically grown, economically sustainable and socially consciously harvested, and brewed in a vintage French Press OR a Chemex, chances are, they might politely decline your coffee. Until, four minutes later, they realize they’re caffeine deprived and, ethics be damned, this presentation needs to get to Dubai by 1AM…


Architects are passionate, dedicated people.


They didn’t get through 5 years of architectural school by being lazy, indifferent and stupid. (Need a first date conversation starter? Ask them about how many people dropped out of their program freshman year – they’ll be all too proud to tell you that “they were one of the few” who made it out unscathed.”) They know just enough about every culturally relevant artist, philosopher, composer etc to make them seem exceptionally worldly and cultured – your parents should love them. Keep in mind that it’s all a facade (no pun intended!) and that if you were to press them on any one of those topics, they’ll find a way to skillfully manipulate the conversation into some abstract “concept” and avoid being called out on not knowing shit.

 

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