Thursday, August 07, 2008


I still haven’t learned my lesson. And it leaves me heartbroken once again.

The call you never want. The client. And it’s halfway through construction. They want changes. And you wait – wait for the shoe to drop.

It wouldn’t hurt so much if it had been a budget problem, maybe a complication in fabrication, or some problem with the design or detailing. But samples had been made and approved. The shop drawings had been reviewed and signed off. Everything was a go. And then the client, or rather someone within the client’s organization decided, despite having had drawings for months, the design secured, the documents completed, that they’d like to use the space differently – or rather, very much like one of our very first proposals, which they had, at the time, written off.

So the work, the effort, is erased. A simple click of the delete button, and it is as though it never existed. Creative imagination, on the verge of becoming something tangible, left stillborn.

It hurts. Even if I don’t want it to. Even though I know better. What’s that motto? Until it is built, it isn’t guaranteed. That’s it.

A month or so ago, I was catching up with a friend, both of us venting our frustrations with this profession, I joked that I was the kind-hearted pushover in a dysfunctional relationship. Optimism, hope, idealism, kept alive a small belief that, in time, things would get better – that, perhaps, in time, the profession would reveal to me those qualities that first were so tantalizing. That in time, it might be kinder, perhaps spacing out the blows it too at my increasingly shattered heart. I’ve rebuilt the pieces again and again. But there comes a point when you have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

Perhaps I’m a traitor. That I’ve asked the question must mean I am not a true artist. After all, true artists are ready to sacrifice for the art, no? Our passion for what we do is supposed to be enough. Right? Maybe the fact that I question, that I wonder, means I will never be the great architect. That I lack the passion to overlook the problems must mean something.

But passion itself may also be a fallacy – an excuse to rationalize the things that really bother us. Like the low pay – a concession for doing something you love. How many times have you heard that? One too many times from my employer, thank you very much.

I’ll admit it. Right now, each day I wake up and ask myself, do I have to go to work today? That is a plight I am not supposed to face – at least according to everyone who hears I work as an architect. Wow, they say, what is it like to love your work? It must be so cool to do something you love, they enthusiastically conclude. But rarely do they listen to my answer, enamored by the idea of being around someone who chose a “creative” profession. Rarely to they wait to hear about the projects cast aside, the energy expended on fruitless proposals, all for clients who, in control of the purse strings, control your life.

So forgive me for a moment, but I have a deep wound that needs to heal. Yes, it is a wound that has healed before. I’m just not sure if I want it to heal again.


Blogger Graeme said...

Don't worry my friend, you are overlooking the fact that when all is said and done the owner will say "I think I screwed up, the architect was right". And isn't that the most important thing?

But just for the record, I hate when owners request design changes. They are rarely necessary, add little to the project, and can easily derail a well-managed project. It is always better to work with a committed group that understands what "design development" and "construction documents" mean. If you aren't committed, don't sign off on it.

But don't take it personally, some people are just crazy.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is far better to have passion and be heartbroken once in a while than to be like so many other architects out there who have completely lost their passion and see themselves as merely draftsmen for their clients.
And remember, if you're not willing to be heartbroken you'll never get the opposite extreme of a built work you love.
That being said, the idea of passion should not be an excuse for the treatment that architects often receive. Whether you're passionate or not you are a professional who performs a service others can't and should be treated with the respect that entails. In your metaphor architecture isn't the one abusing you; its your bosses and your clients. Sometimes it may be worth the risk to remind them of why they came to you in the first place.

1:47 PM  
Blogger shubh cheema said...

so true!...i have felt that so many times...and when you talk to other architects who are same challenges and frustration ....u hear the same stories....we are hanging between two worlds....creative/artist's world ad other is real world....and sometime or the other one of them takes the beat....take care ..

5:03 AM  

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