Monday, October 23, 2006


Lately, I've been a pretty sad blogger, if I say so myself. A reflection of my current state, which is best describe as limbo. So much for the return on my educational investment.

I need a reminder, a reason to push forward. And, ironically, my rationale for going to graduate school is, perhaps, the best reminder why I can't give up just yet.

While teaching a group of high school students the fundamentals of Architecture, I faced an unexpected challenge – explaining the concept of a concept. Five years of academic emersion had made the exercise of concept development rudimentary to my design process; to the dozen or so high school juniors and seniors surrounding me, I was speaking a foreign language. To them, Architecture meant designing buildings to perform functions – to have walls, windows, stairs, floors and rooms to be labeled with various activities and attributes. To imagine a building in terms of such abstract notions as rhythm and movement, expression and emotion, placed the students in new, unfamiliar, and slightly confusing territory.

That look of uncertainty I saw cross many of their faces was something I easily recognized; I had that look etched onto my face for much of my first year. When I entered school, my understanding of Architecture was much like these students: I associated Architecture with floor plans and drafted drawings, of scaled models and watercolor renderings. I had never imagined what the process of design entailed, had never thought about the steps required to create the blueprints I flipped through when I wandered onto construction sites.

Through trial and error and five years of exploring various ways to approach the design process, I have come to see Architecture as, above all, a three-dimensional argument. A design project is, in essence, the physical representation of an individual’s, or group of individuals’, values, ideas, and perceptions of a distinct place and time. Like reading a well-written essay, an individual discerns, through his or her experience of Architecture, a cohesive line of reasoning that, at its best, is persuasive, insightful, and inspiring. Architecture enters into a dialogue with everything that surrounds it, the individuals who occupy it, and the land that it has been placed upon. Carefully considered, the dialogue is complex yet accessible, allowing varying levels of depth and meaning, like an intimate and extended conversation between two close friends.

While working concurrently for a bachelor’s degree in English, I learned that, above all, success is achieved when a writer discovers his or her own voice – that style and manner of expression that captures his or her ideas in a unique and decisive way. That voice carries the writing, defining the attitude of the writer towards the subject matter; a writer’s voice infers additional meaning to his or her audience that extends beyond the letters of the printed page. When that voice is found, the writer fully realizes his or her position on the debate at hand, fully understands the strengths and weaknesses of the argument made. My most persuasive papers contained this voice; it was a voice that felt completely natural to me – a voice that I could imagine using in day to day life. When I found my voice, I knew two things: 1) I understood the material I had read and researched, and 2) I had come to conclusions I could consider my own.

This is my goal for the practice of Architecture and the reason behind my pursuit of a Master’s degree; I want to develop my own architectural voice. My undergraduate education provided me with a solid base, a working vocabulary from which I can communicate and compose. However, my expression cannot equal the sophistication of someone truly fluent in the language of Architectural design – someone who can manipulate the vocabulary and language of Architecture to create poetry and challenge the status quo.

My expression is limited by experience and exposure; as with any language, fluency requires time and constant implementation. The solution to this is simple: patience and dedication will expose me to the working knowledge needed to contribute to the profession. However, to find a unique voice, to create a lyrical and poetic expression truly my own, requires more than just experience. It requires an understanding of the intellectual debates being explored by those wishing to challenge the standard parameters, who explore the connections of Architecture to those of other academic disciplines, who readily draw out the metaphorical relationships linking the real with the imaginary....

While school may be officially over, my education isn't, not by a long shot. Some say it never ends. And they are likely right. I just have to just take a step back, and tell myself that my goals require a lot more investment, a lot more time.

I still lack the experience and exposure, keys towards reaching my own goals. I knew that, even then, as I sat down to tell those admissions boards why I deserved a chance. And, while graduate school helped me move a step closer, it didn't fully addressed the deficiencies that I outlined. Only time in the profession can. And that's why I can't give up yet.

Maybe, in a year or two, I'll re-evaluate. But, for now, I have to stick to it. Because, even now, I still believe in what I wrote. I still want a voice of my own.


Blogger archaalto said...

i appreciate your post on professional self-evaluation, and definitely an example set for all of us young architects. graduating can be very unsettling, and the huge transition into practice can be harrowing. but, once you recognize it for what it is-just another version of education, appreciation for what it is comes quickly. the same cycle of 5 years applies, and then it feels like time to make a practice for oneself. it all gets familiar, but in a differnt way. best of luck finding gainful employment.

12:21 PM  

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