ABOUT ZESSN

There are so many reasons why I started this blog, but the main one is that
I want to start conversations about architecture.

"Normal" People 

I want to open discussions with everyday people about our built environment, and how to see it through the eyes of an architect. A inordinate number of people I meet for the first time say, "when I was a kid, I wanted to be an architect, but I wasn't good at math," or "but, I couldn't afford the lengthy schooling*," or something similar. And to the first one I think WHAT? basic math and physics are part of the required education, but all the complex math gets outsourced to engineers. But to the second, I just nod my head & say YEAH.
Thomas Jefferson
by Rembrant Peale (1803)
Reproduction courtesy of the
New York Historical Society

Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. 90%!
That does not include the time spent outdoors in the built environment (as contrasted with the natural environment). Of course, there have been scientific studies to show that we SHOULD spend more time in nature; that it would be good for us physically, mentally, creatively... But that's a different story.

The truth remains that we will likely spend the great majority of our time surrounded by stuff that man has made. And that STUFF affects us all, for good and otherwise.

American architects like to think that one of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, was an architect. Even though the rules were different back then, it's fairly certain that he did not consider himself as such. He was a planter/lawyer/politician who dabbled in architecture. Wouldn't it be wonderful to dabble like Jefferson? 

Myself 

I loved the academic experience as it relates to architecture. It is philosophical, with high ideals. It focuses on all the wonderful (exalted and humble) examples of building throughout the world. I miss it. I was blessed with exposure to some of the greatest architectural minds of our time in school, and it was inspiring.

Clients 

When I got a paying job, it was a lot of fun at first trying to bring some of that inspiration to the projects we worked on. But then the business of running a business seemed to get in the way of creating the really good stuff. There are so many other people to please, from the beaureaucracy of the building code (can a building be TOO SAFE?) to the (forgive me for saying so, but architecturally uneducated) preferences of the (often very educated in other ways) client: the one paying for it all.

Wouldn't it be delightful to work with clients who
 a) understood something of the complexity of architectural design... enough to let us do the job we were hired to do; and,
 b) understood something of the subtlety of design choices, so that we could be in agreement that the integrity of the whole is more important than a laundry list of elements.

Fellow Architects 

Is it possible that other architects have difficulty finding time & energy to stay inspired? When I was working, I wished I had enough time to research more, to be better prepared for the specifics of each project. I'm now in the 7th year of my totally unplanned maternity "sabbatical" and my littlest angel is almost five years old. And I have time. Well, I have time when the little ones are in bed!  The most intellectual aspect of my day so far has been how to teach respect & manners to a five year old. I also have some distance from architectural practice. By not being caught up in the day-to-day fire extinguishing that many projects turn into, I've been blessed with enough perspective to see the proverbial forest: the wide-angle version of what we as architects are doing and whether it meets the criteria we say we believe in. 

Speaking of Perspective 

I know that architecture is not the most important thing in the world. Love, happiness, generosity, humility, family, kindness... these things are the trumps. But I also know that we each have different "talents"/passions and can serve our God and our fellow man within that limited scope. I certainly don't pretend to know everything about architecture. But what I know I want to share.

Thank you for reading,

ally

* the required education for a professional degree (a degree that you can use to become a licensed architect) is either a five year bachelor of architecture or a two year master of achitecture following a bacheor in another subject. Following this is a lengthy internship and a series of exams, which can take years. The subjects taught range from basic engineering (structural, electrical, mechanical, civic) to high art and include a heavy emphasis on architectural problem solving, visual communication, and history. Very little is typically taught on estimates & budgeting, business management, hands-on craftsmanship or the building code. But maybe that is changing. 
 The architectural career is a long one, though. Architects in their 40s are generally just getting their own start, like starving artists. The small percentage of architects who are doing well are often in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

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2 comments:

  1. As a new subscriber, but an old friend, I'm so glad to have found your blog. Great to see where life has taken you.

    Dan (Communication Camp, 1987)

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    1. Dan! It's been too, too long. Please leave another comment (which I promise not to publish) with your contact info. I would love to be in touch again!

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