I Still Love Architecture
“What are you majoring in?”
“I hear that’s really hard!”
“Yeah. Yeah it is.”
I remember the first day of classes and the first time I attended my pre-architecture courses, the rush was exhilarating as I waded my way through a crowd of thousands of students under the scorching Arizona sun. I was fascinated by the beginnings of design theory as images of space, form and structure gracefully danced with each other on the projector’s aging screen. Something in me burned, eager to learn, to do and to be, even though I moved from uninspiring box to uninspiring box, sitting on flat cushions. The creative content was the water in my architecturally dry Tucson, and at least the box offered some shade. My professors spoke in a strange unbeknown language, but I was intrigued and determined to speak like them. I yearned to create and be a part of a career where one can design change for the better. To ultimately hold a position of power over the built environment, an aspect of society nearly swallowing us. I was so sure of my chosen path, hoping time would pass faster each day as I made my way through the program, one step closer to my licensure as an architect. I was pretty good at first. We were good.
Our confidence was nourished by our first studio professors as they directed our intuitive designs. However, the following semesters were filled with criticism, self-doubt, weeding, and massive architectural problems weighing on our shoulders as professors pushed for future architects stronger and smarter than the previous generation. The kind of architect who can do the impossible by going back in time and fixing what was done wrong. We’ll see how that goes when we graduate. The reality of the world began to set in: the state of the economy, the global warming crisis, affordable housing, borders, homelessness, imprisonment, mental health, and the explosive list goes on and on. All of a sudden, architecture school became intimidating like a wild beach trip gone wrong because of recklessness. We each enjoy ourselves as we swim out into the ocean (architecture school), past the shore line (the start of the semester), past the sand bar (three weeks in), past the buoys (six weeks in), and past the thought of fun (eight weeks in) all because of curiosity, passion and desire. Overwhelmed by the push and pull of the waves, we struggle to stay afloat, fighting with our feet as we try to kick the swells away, our arms endeavoring to part the waters. Some of us are able to successfully return to shore (the end of the semester) unscathed but tired while others, unfortunately, are claimed by the depths of the mysterious sea. And let’s not forget the occasional presence of a shark taunting us with its jaws or crocodile or killer whale or whatever other mystical creatures call the ocean home and block our path back to shore. The creatures represent obstacles our professors lay out on our drawing boards and say, “So how are you going to win this one?” with a project statement. But those are just the design trials, which by the way, in other people’s eyes look like a sandbox for us architecture students to play in. Albeit, I saw it that way too coming into the program. So I don’t blame those parents, brothers, sisters and long line of family members who tell me to suck it up because I’m not a doctor, or even an engineer, for thinking, or rather, seeing what I saw too, a bunch of adults coloring with expensive markers and toying with fancy cutting tools. Oh the joys of sacrificing food for the sake of purchasing materials to build what we’ve designed without a drop of rest.
Okay, sorry, I still love architecture. Love truly is a battlefield.
Going back to my point, our puny architectural minds have a lot to process as we weigh the future of the world in our hands, hoping the pencil doesn’t break as we draw or the computer’s mouse. Each click is a significant move towards destroying humanity or saving it, and the satisfaction which fills our souls after we’ve won the battle is sweeter than our favorite desert. So, you see, the pressure is on and it’s the pressure that brings students to the ship’s plank and, unfortunately, not everyone is a Wendy to be saved by a fluttering Peter Pan, aka the design hasn’t left a good taste in my studio professor’s mouth.
It all sounds quite dramatic but in all honesty it’s what makes or breaks us physically and emotionally. A bit of understanding from our family and friends will go great lengths in relieving stress as parents decide to be open minded and not disappointed in their children for scoring a fair graded C. To those who respond, “I hear that’s really hard” I’m sure its because you know or knew someone who didn’t make the cut or cried the whole way through. And to those who say, “It’s not like a life is on the line,” you are gravely mistaken. In fact there are billions of lives on our drawing tables, not to demean the hard work medical students stuff into their line of study. Case made in point: we’re all equals here. Lastly, they ask,
Why did you choose to major in architecture?”
This is the question all architecture students must continually answer to survive. I hope for my sake I can hold on to mine and you to yours.