Message - Reply to frustrated student

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Posted by  BruJenn on January 25, 2004 at 23:13:58:

To a young woman who is frustrated with her uninspired and incompetent teachers in her first year of Architecture at Palermo Italy.

Not cool that you are frustrated at school...You know that you can pursue your education on your own? Even while in a bad class, you can study in the area that is most interesting to you. I have just read Vitruvius' The 10 books on Architecture you probably already know about him eh? Very interesting. Another thing that I love to do is walk around downtown Portland and just look at buildings. I will sit on a bench and study every detail of one of our "old" buildings. The historical style and the old culture of building and design are most interesting to me. I love that they used to spend a lot of money on the exterior of every building, and that it was just normal to do so. You have such a great opportunity to soak up Italian architectural history and culture. You will see (maybe you do already) that every really cool building has a personality all it's own and you can tell by looking how that building will feel inside.

Today, most things are built as cheaply as possible and architects have to battle the accountants and clients to build anything more interesting than a warehouse. Partly because of this, there are a lot of architects who go through serious depression over thier lost dreams of a creative career (you can see this in the postings on web architectural forums). There is a lot of validity to their feelings, but also I think that many of them are just not very good designers who try to dress up a design with expensive appointments or some silly or expensive gimmick. Some think that if they spend a lot of money, the project will be a great one. For one reason or another, a lot of people who have little aesthetic sense go into architecture. People who should be engineers or managers are drawn to a career that they think is more glamorous or exciting and end up in a bad situation. There is a characteristic of engineers that I see in some architects: they will get an idea, and even though the idea is obviously very bad, they are determined to prove it is correct. Maybe it is because they are not naturally creative and have so few original ideas that when they get one, they fight to protect it, no matter what it is. Engineers who design, build some of the worst things.

What makes a good architect is the sense of art in nature and the sense of personality in a structure. You get the sense that a building "wants to be" a certain way as you are developing a design and sorting out the details. The design of a building to meet a clients needs has to be a collabarition and the art is in using your interpretation of the clients desires to "discover" the design that is waiting to be born, like Michaelangelo said about sculpture - that he only releases the piece that is already within the stone block. The architect has to release the art that is in empty space and is defined by the wishes of the client and the knowledge, experience and creativity of the artist. The study to discover the ability to do this is an individual one, and while you gain some practical knowledge in school toward that end, the real jouorney continues at all times in your soul. Pursue learning to speak the language of design by listening to your architectural history and you will be fluent in the traits that will make you a star. Regardless of your teachers.

There is creative satisfaction in building even simple structures. You may have to strip all of the polish and adornments off of your preconcieved notions about what a nice building is, but when you find it and help it emerge, that building will reward you like a child rewards it's parents - by being it's own person. Maybe not the tallest, best looking or most talented, but true to itself, and ready to make you proud of it. Set your own course of study to learn this language.


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