Monday, February 19, 2007

An Open Letter to Adobe

Dear Adobe,

My, oh my. What can I say about the growing ubiquity of your products? When I was but a wee freshman, learning your infamous Photoshop interface was revolutionary. We were on the cutting edge, with a skill that set us apart from so many other architecture students.

Now, knowledge of your programs is considered a basic requirement, as one would expect knowledge of AutoCAD and free-hand drawing. No more are your programs for graphic artists, loaded on specialty machines inside a firm. With computing power running cheap and fast, your programs can be placed on every computer, for all interns to enjoy.

And believe you me, in the past week, I have thoroughly delved into your joys. I developed a great fondness for your erase tool, as well as the amazingly cool clone tool. I admit that I still struggle with the polygon tool, but only because I can’t seem to get the exact shape that I wish, and unlike an AutoCAD polyline, you can't undo a selection once it has been made. And then there is the always useful ability to undo. Well, except for the small fact that you can only go so far, and then you find yourself back to square one.

I have worked with many of your products, including Acrobat and Illustrator, InDesign too. The CS2 suite was, yes, something I knew of immediately upon its release. And having worked on the various software programs that fall under your broad wings, my only question is this. Adobe, why must you mock me with similar, yet different, interfaces? Why can I accomplish one thing in Illustrator, and yet not in Photoshop. Why can’t it all be in one master program, which could collate multiple pages, manipulate images, deal with both vector-based and pixel based files and print fast and easy? Must I always take a file from one to another to another? Yes, I’ve heard about the Adobe Bridge. And I am sure I could learn a more effective way to manage my file links. But, well, you see, I just don’t have the time to figure it out.

That’s the catch-22 of your growing popularity. Having seen the possibilities provided by your wonderful programs, everyone now expects them. For better and worse, your programs have changed the way we architects present our work to clients. The montages of computer renders over real photographs, the interior renderings with realistic materials and those crazy scale of people representing a broad range of ages, genders and ethnicities. Once too time consuming and expensive to use for anything other than extravagant public presentations, nowadays a standard design review meeting requires at least some type of “spatial” image. And, when you are thrown into a world where production schedules are tight, you do anything you can to get the product people expect, process be damned.

You see, most of the time we learn just enough about a software program to get by. And once we know what we need to know, we move on, because, well, we have to. So while I can do some very fun things with Photoshop, for example, I have no idea what those funny channels are for, or why you have an action tab. And because I haven’t found a need to find out, I probably won’t. At least for now.

So perhaps my question is already answered. Perhaps your programs can all do everything I want them to without needing to go from one to another. And perhaps, there are very good reasons why they are separated out into discreet programs, that, ultimately, still want to be bundled together. But, I admit that it bugs me that I have no idea.

No matter. Despite my frustrations, my moments of cursing, my declarations of forsaking any more days working under your tyranny, I know this much. Having learned how to use your programs, I just can’t go back. I guess that says a lot.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dying young

They say that Architecture is an old man’s profession; your peak comes late in life, as you are beginning to see shades of gray. They say that success in this profession requires patience, persistence, and a good deal of time.

But, sometimes, time runs out. And you are left to wonder about what might have been; what accomplishments, innovations, might have been achieved had someone been given the opportunity.

In a startling piece of news, a classmate of mine passed away last weekend. In a small class like ours, we all knew each other fairly well, though we each had our particularly close friends. And thought he and I were not close, the news of his passing strikes me; knowing that one member of our band will never again join us seems utterly surreal. It is just too early.

My memories of him will always include his unrelenting need to examine and question; he took it upon himself to uncover the way things work, nothing taken at face value. He was dogged in his dedication to discovery, often ignoring class deadlines to pursue personal questions. And the results - beautiful, elaborate models that would always leave you just a bit in awe.

Though I did not know him as well as others did, I do know this: given time, great things would have emerged from his inquisitive mind. But time was something taken away from him, and so, as with so many others that we lose, we can only imagine what might have been. How might the profession benefited from his ideas, his talents, his passions? And how might we have grown by having him here with us?

I’ll leave with a tribute written by a fellow classmate; we can only hope to have such great words spoken about us.

Hi everyone,

I am writing to let you all know that my great friend Jarek has passed away. He froze to death hiking in the
Andes, in Argentina on Sunday, February 4. I don't know the details. His mother is taking him back to Poland and he will be buried sometime next week.

I don't know what he would want me to say, but as one of his closest friends, I'll tell you what I thought of him. He was a genius. He was loyal. He was honest. He wanted to know everything, and made a point to find everything out for himself. He tried everything. He imagined, created and destroyed daily. He was well read and well spoken, his opinions were obvious. He was naive and genuine, and a beautiful soul. His death is a loss for all of us, in one way or another, and a loss for humanity or at least architecture. His work has been progressing, and his ideas about construction and detail were intriguing and never ending. He inspired me and was one of the few people who's opinion I really valued. I believed in him, and that's why the news of his death is so shocking to me, I thought he could do anything. I spent a good amount of time with him, I wish more, and I will miss him for the rest of my life.

Love those that are close to you.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hearing the Call

Is it a calling? Is a person born to be an architect? And if so, was I? I don’t think so. And that might the problem.

Ideally, we choose the careers we pursue. Our careers are an extension of who we think we are, or want to be. The life we wish to live, how we imagine we want others to view us. It all influences how we choose the paths we follow.

Everyone assumes that I always wanted to be an Architect. That, some defining moment when I was young lead me to where I currently am. Personally, I am not quite sure.

I think about this a lot at work. Around me, a hive of activity, people on the go, always working, always absorbed, always invested in the tasks at hand. They are creative, thoughtful, exciting. I feel rather sloth-like in comparison, like I am constantly moving at three-quarters speed. Will it always be like this?

When I was a second year, I found myself never far from studio. At least during the day. I survived one year of student housing, escaping to an off-campus studio the first chance I got. I just needed my own space, and more importantly, the ability to cook for myself. But, moving off campus had a trade-off. I had to be disciplined about how I worked.

I arrived on campus early, usually before 8:00 am. I went straight to studio on the days I didn’t have a morning class, which meant that, every Tuesday and Thursday, I had four glorious hours to myself to pick away at whatever challenge lay before me. And as the time flew by, so did my mind, my hands. Nothing existed but me and the things before me. And I found out how much I could accomplish in a short amount of time.

These mornings were my most productive. I could complete a set of drawings, a couple of good study models, all while selfishly playing the music of my choice as loudly as I wished. But, more than just the ability to work the way I wished, was a sense of, I guess I would call it, pure stimulation, which seemed to course through me. It wasn't an effort to be in studio, to focus on a drawing, to wait patiently for glue to dry. It was a fever, a need to accomplish something, to see an idea realized. It wasn’t work then. It was something altogether different. And I had hoped, then, that my life in the architecture profession would carry some of that magic.

Sometimes, the hours at work pass quickly. But something is still missing. Perhaps it is because so much of the time is spent clicking a mouse, hitting a space bar, typing “CO” over and over again. The variety of studio life, the move from paper, to wood, to computer, and back, made the process of creating so much more tactile, physical. And, hopefully, time will come to call upon those skills. At least my sketching abilities have been called upon, although it will be crunched between preparing reflected ceiling plans and window details.

Don’t get me wrong. I am learning a lot, and being challenged in very different ways. But, I’ll admit, a small part of me dreamed of being so invigorating by what I did, that I would wake up excited to be headed off to the office. After all, how many times have you heard, if you don’t love it, then why do it? Now, don’t mistake me. I don’t think everyone loves what they do, and even those who do, don’t love it one hundred percent of the time. But, I do hope that, once again, I’ll feel the way I felt back then, when in the quiet hours of the morning, I felt truly moved by the possibilities of architecture.