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.


Blogger eMpTy said...

I feel the same way about architecture. I am not in love with the practical and technical aspects of building, but I really love the design process. I like problem solving and making things with my hands. Maybe this is why I am drawn to academia... I can live in this dream world for a bit longer...

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have experienced the exact same thing.

What I have found is that although Architecture is the mother art, it is very well rooted in the practical. Maybe even more than I realized. For all other arts, you spend the majority of your time in your left brain, dreaming and creating. Unfortunately, for architecture, the left brain time is maybe 20% for the whole project and the latter 80% is spent in the right brain. I enjoy the 1% inspiration, but it is the 99% persperation that is the problem...

There is a falsehood in the bldgs we see today, too. Most are highly graphical creations. The image has superceded every other function of the building. Unlike the craftsman who adds his "character" to the structural neccessities the building requires, modern bldgs glory in the sculpture, the art, the imagery. So when we embark as junior architects "behind the scenes" it is much uglier than we first imagined. To get from point A to point B is really a long, long, way.

It is something that you really don't begin to see until you enter the office. I suppose it is when you realize that "the honeymoon is over".

But such is the nature of architecture, most noble of arts...

4:00 PM  
Blogger Norman Blogster said...

You're not alone, amigo. Must be 90% of my contemporaries felt the same (probably still do). They really should tell you this shit when you're studying. You don't get to do any of that design stuff until you're the boss, which may be what, 10, 20 years away? And even then it's only 5-10% of the job. It's all a myth! I really don't understand why it comprises 90% of the academic studio. It's irresponsible. Someone should say something and warn all those poor souls blindly wasting 7 years of their life! You may as well study English or Philosophy or something - they're just as related to practice as Architecture.
I'm currently reading Dana Cuff's "The story of practice" from '92. Doesn't explain anything really, but you realise you're not alone and it's always been this way.
Good luck finding another career! I hear dentistry is well paid. Oh shoot - I guess you can't afford to spend another 6 years studying now? Darn it - there's another life wasted!

11:42 AM  
Blogger Michelle Linden said...

I couldn't say it better. I, like so many of my peers am currently disillusioned with the sate of my life. I love 'architecture', the idea of space... but I really don't enjoy the practical nearly as much as I could/should. Come on, who wouldn’t really love to delegate the coordination of mep systems to someone else, who hopefully cares?

What we all study in school is a fallacy... I can't think of any other profession in which the school and practical worlds are so dissimilar. If only someone had truly explained this to me when I was a student... I probably would not have changed my course, but I could have been more prepared for the reality of architecture the profession.

Unlike the silent observer, I have always wanted to be an architect. I can't remember a time when that wasn't my mission in life. And I think that's what makes the disillusionment even greater. If this is what I'm meant to be... then why do I dislike it half of the time?

11:40 PM  

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