I had no idea what a life in architecture meant when I decided to start learning for the admittance exam. I actually think it somewhat felt exotic. It was this exciting out of reach fascinating world.
I was extremely lucky to have a great first teacher as I started architecture classes. He has (he still teaches) this way of telling the story of a house through the way it works and through the actions people take that would make us absorb the information just like children absorb bed time stories.
I remember once when we had to design a layout for a house to be used for the entire length of a street. I thought I was embracing a modern trend and designed the street facade as one block of glass. His reaction was funny and real. He did not talk about structure or budget. He smiled and said: “Imagine how the street will look at night with everybody having the lights on.”. … And the young ambitious and fearless me instantly got stopped in her tracks thinking :”F***, that did not cross my mind!”.
His way of looking at things is one of the greatest lessons we have received. It helped us understand people and spaces and design further than theory. However, the very first thing in the very fist class he asked us was “Why do you want to be architects?”. We brought the usual answers “We want to build.”, “We want to make great things.”, “We, we, we…”. His reply confused us and we refused to believe him. He told us that the path we were choosing was hard, that our spirits will be crushed, that the clients will kill our energy and patience and that the need to survive will make us make compromises for which we will hate ourselves. And he was right. He did not try to hide how much he loved this profession, he did not try to make us give up. He just wanted us to understand.
We didn’t, we were far to young.
Looking back, university was blissful. Every project was a game, a puzzle with fantastic results. Idealism was our religion and we were invincible. Every one of my colleagues had idols, architects that they worshiped to the sky and back. They ate their designs for breakfast and fell asleep with their quotes in mind.
I didn’t have an idol and for that I felt faulty. I couldn’t understand myself and I couldn’t make sense of all this. I learned years later that what I felt was my instinct telling me to take what is best from all of them. To take what architectural view they might have expressed or used that fits best with my view over the world, architecture and with what I want to further create.
And after that I met the job market, the economy, work ethic in the office and I got my spirit crushed. I moved forward out of inertia, but my heart was not in it. I worked on projects that never stood a chance, I was taken advantage of as the economy started to crash, I was told I wasn’t the right way because my view didn’t fit in a particular box and I was made to feel that I was the wrong piece of the puzzle.
One of the projects I was most proud of at my beginnings in the field was presented by my boss (a lovely one if I may say) to the client. I was so nervous, I could’t breathe waiting to hear the results. He told me the client loved it, however the budget was tight so could I make it cheaper? I said sure and replaced some of the elements with cheaper materials while trying to maintain the view and story of the space. After the second presentation to the client my boss told “They love the idea, but it is still more than they want to spend. Can you work on it and make it cheaper?”. And I did it again. Third time my heart sunk as I said “Sure, no problem!”. I then moved to replace even more elements with cheaper materials. By then I had replaced every single natural element with “symbolized” elements that would be easy to find, place and maintain. Now the water was made of plastic, the tree was made of metal, the grass was represented by artificial bits and pieces and the whole space needed an user manual to get anywhere close to the feeling I had aimed for.
I remember looking at it and wondering what was the purpose of all that work I had done? Why raise my hopes and tell me to create something special when the client knew from the start they were unwilling to give the residents anything but cheap standard stuff. What was the purpose of that?
I can’t tell you “Don’t give up! Fight and stick to your guns!” because one has to learn, has to understand, has to go through all these messy, crappy steps to find one self. I like to joke that part of my life experience resembles some of the episodes from “Dharma and Greg“. At some point Greg looses himself and starts to search for a new purpose and meaning. He goes full circle and ends right back to being a lawyer again.
It took me time to understand that the puzzle of architecture is what I like, what I am good at and more importantly where I want to create something. I learned that I have a view, a story to tell and that if I don’t do it now, I’ll most likely never do it. I realized that waiting for someone to allow me to create my view though their platform was the wrong way to go at it and that I have to create my own platform. I have to create my own place where to learn about my own view on architecture and where to further develop it.
I could do it at home, by myself, stacking up files of designs and ideas. Sure, but then I would lose all the benefits of brainstorming with other people, of interacting, of learning, of growing, of sticking to my guns, of so much more.
That being said, I don’t plan going massive on social media. This is not my first rodeo. I had other blogs and platforms before. I went through the whole Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the works, and I hated it. It took an insane amount of energy to maintain all the platforms, to find the right words, to entice people, to convince them. Instead I could have used that energy in creating the content I dreamed of.
Archi-Re is about architecture. This is why for now, you will not be able to find any social media on the matter. If you want to read about it, come and visit me here. If you want to talk about it, take the effort of coming here and leaving a comment. I believe in what I say, however if I have to convince you to try to read it, then it probably means you are not open to listen. And that is OK. You’ll talk to me when you are ready. And when you’re ready, we’ll productively talk and build further.
Review, redefine, redesign is about accepting and understanding that we evolve, that we constantly move. The people we are today are different that the people we were yesterday. We learned stuff in the process, we have an extra day of experience. The same thing is valid for our society and implicitly about our architecture. The core rules of how spaces function do not change, however the way we define and use space is in a constant flux. We need to look at who we are, at what we want and what we do in order to understand what we need from architecture. And that is the reason why psychology and history are essential factors in the design process. It all breaks down to understanding ourselves with all our biological and spiritual needs.
I know that the world as we know it states that it all revolves around economy, however that is not really the case. The economy is a human creation. This means that as we have created it, we have the ability to change it. It is us who control the economy and not the way around.
Architecture is not an side effect of economy. It is the environment. It is there in the same category with biological food and fresh air. The power it has to influence life, biology, creativity and society is quite immense and unfortunately somewhat ignored.
I am no longer an idealist. I’ve done my share of pessimism. And despite being strongly grounded, I am no longer defined by realism. I hunt for the positive and aim to discover my own creativity!