An Architecture Education changes you. You become a night person. You use words you’ve never heard before – maybe never even existed. You speak in code. You become opinionated. And, worst of all – the thing that haunts me day in and day out – you become insanely particular.
After the years of editing, criticism, analysis, I find myself incapable of looking at the world without evaluating it. Now, a walk down the street is a bombardment of delight and distain, a cornucopia of information to dissect. Big things – the aesthetics of that facade, the sequence of arrival and departure, traffic flows, the damn absence of clear crossing signals to warn me of oncoming traffic. Small things – details of the assembly of a chair, the intricate way that floating door opens, the hinges used, the curvature of the handle, the weight of the knob. Everything teases me, taunts me; some of it inspires me, some of it repulses me, all of it makes me wonder if I might, well, just maybe, come up with something better.
It is the hidden burden of our education, this enlightenment, this revelation of the world through a highly selective lens. You grow increasingly fastidious, finicky. You become sensitive to that way things are put together, function, operate. You appreciate the tiny, consciously-implemented minutiae that you once overlooked. And you find yourself reacting in visceral ways to those few objects that meet your ever more discerning standards. You find yourself thinking “Damn…that’s sexy.”
I’ve never, ever, in my life, referred to any member of the human race as sexy, but I’ve found many objects that have merited the accolade. Sexy, for me, is an attraction that is physical, intellectual, emotional. All together, all at once. It strikes you instantly. You want to touch it, feel it, understand it, analyze it, possess it. It’s beguiling, intriguing, a bit mysterious…it makes you pay attention, and you aren’t quite sure why.
Sexy objects play with my head, make me rationalize in ways that are illogical. It’s the reason I found myself, one day, dropping more money than probably sensible for four dining room chairs and an armless, upholstered side chair. But, I couldn’t walk away. Couldn’t stop thinking about them.
The dining room chairs were black, bent-wood seats atop thin chrome legs. The shape was abstract and organic, with a seamless curve from back to seat. Comfortable, supportive, simple. And four were available, perfect for my table. Within five minutes they had been set aside, my name scrawled across the small hold tag.
The side chair was microsuede, in a cool blue-grey, like steel. Square, thick, with strong lines from its tailored upholstery, it was surprisingly soft. I sat down, and in seconds, I had transported myself and the chair into its perfect location in my living room, with me enjoying a good book. But, this was a harder sell. I mean, I didn’t need it. And I was fresh out of school, with no steady job. Could I really spend the money. I mean, should I? Probably not…
But, damn…it really was sexy.
An hour later, I was still there. And constantly going back, looking, leaving patterns on the grain of the fabric as I ran my hand back and forth. So I bit the bullet, told myself to screw logic, found myself handing over my credit card for a whopper of a bill. All because I couldn’t let go, couldn’t imagine not having these things in my life.
So there they are, maybe my first loves. And, to be honest, I don’t think I know of anyone, who’s been through an architecture education, that doesn’t find themselves being a bit more appreciative of well-designed, well-crafted things. And, among them, there are more than a few who are willing to drop a bit more dough to have them.
I want to be clear. I am not saying that architecture ultimately leads you to a life of constant consumerism. That architects are materialistic snobs. But, at the same time, an architect’s life revolves around commodities, materials, objects. And, if you think about it, we are contracted by others, in part, for our ability to pare down, edit, refine. In a world of millions of options, we are looked to for our ability to be selective. And, let’s just say that, in that regard, my Architecture education has had a profound influence. Just ask my family. I’m a royal pain to buy a gift for.
And is it wrong that I miss my furniture?