8. Being Critical

There is a process that leads one to become an architect, and ultimately, to being overly critical of everything around them.  Begin with the adolescence of an aspiring architect, if you will.  The young man or woman says, “the world around me is interesting, I think I should like to make a mark on this world for the better.”

This young man or woman grows up and goes off to college where they start out with a bright and cheery outlook on life and all that it has to offer.  They are idealists and naive in their belief that there is room enough for everyone’s ideas.  College then breaks them of their naivety, showing them that the world isn’t so interesting, there isn’t enough room for everyone’s ideas, and quite frankly, most ideas suck.

The young man or woman is now the proud recipient of a degree which says to the world, “I can’t actually make the world a better place, so instead I shall point out how others have made it worse.”  So the young aspiring architect continues on his or her journey unassumingly, thinking all along that their ideals are the same as when they first desired to become an architect.

However, there is a stark contrast between the younger version and the present version of themselves.  If we took the younger aspiring architect and showed him a strip shopping center, he would have said, “yes, it isn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve seen, but I understand that it is functional and they did a nice job with their gutters and brick work.”  However, when you put the older, jaded aspiring architect in front of that same shopping center, they will exclaim, “my word! What sort of bastardization is this!? BRICK!?! and those gutters…someone should have told the poor man that gutters are a heinous crime against architecture and all that is good in the world!”

The architect does not stop here, though.  One might think that an architect has some sort of right to criticize the built environment, to which I will concede that, yes, they know a good deal more about design and construction than the average citizen.  However, this newly empowered architect understands design.  All things, both living and inanimate, are designed.  Thus, they feel they have the right to criticize all things.

Your house? Incorrect details for the period, and much too quaint for the scale of the yard.  Your car? The lines just don’t evoke a feeling of speed.  Your haircut?  It doesn’t frame your face in a flattering way.  Your music choice?  Such posers – why not listen to the original artists.  Your food? It could really use some salt, or perhaps another of the dozen spices I’m about to rattle off.  Your art?  It may be visually appealing, but it doesn’t mean anything.  Your statement?  It didn’t have purpose, so I don’t have to listen.  Wait, you said I’m critical?  What, ME? Oh darling, no.  It’s simply the way of the architect to help another designer improve. You’re not a designer? Oh.  Well, that’s for certain, or else neither of us would be listening to the other and we’d both be content in thinking we out critiqued the other.

Don’t you agree?

For more shocking truths about architecture, you should consider 101 Things I didn’t learn in Architecture School. And for the slightly less cynical people out there, you can get a copy of the 101 Things I learned in Architecture School from the Swag Store.



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