Sep '09 - Aug '10
Orientation is officially over for the here at the AA and the beginning of classes looms large as Monday approaches. Through lectures, orientations, speeches, boat tours, office tours, exhibition tours, picnics, gallery shows, symposiums, parties on the terrace and a lot of waiting in line, the AA has done an excellent job of revealing a glimpse of the world we are about to enter. Conclusion: AA-Land is an infinitely foreign place where the best projects from last year could eat you but in all other regards defy explanation. Almost everyone I have met so far who will be studying in the DRL has chosen this program because it represents the antithesis of their experiences so far. They too desire to be exposed to a whole new way of thinking with different values and different goals.
While watching a symposium of AA FAB winners present their research it became clear to me how different that thought process and value system was. Hearing them explain how their process evolved, I couldn’t help but think that they were forecasting the radical conceptual and cognitive adjustments that we would all undergo if we fully surrendered to the program. It’s a little bit like realizing that to succeed you have to allow yourself to be completely brain washed if only for 16 months. To test out this thesis, I questioned a number of current DRL students as they popped on and off the terrace for a quick brake from their work.
They covered the whole spectrum from those who were vital, healthy, impassioned and regretting that their time in the DRL was coming to a close to those who were much nearer to death in appearance and spirit. Over drinks, in the cool night air I learned from them that their previous experiences before the DRL had very little to do with how successful they felt in the program. I had thought that the ones with stararchitect backgrounds would be the happy, healthy stars but what emerged from our conversations was the word “surrender.” It turns out that even stararchitect firms make buildings and so the DRL process was equally foreign to everyone. What separated those on life support from those with a spring in their step was the ability to dive wholly into this new process and suspend all sense of expectation or reality. One vibrant woman told me about how upon returning home on brake her friends and co-workers accused her of being brain washed. She had to admit that it was true and with a smile she said ‘yeah, you just have to try it.’
It’s a funny proposition for someone who is used to making reality they way we want it to be to go the opposite direction and give up all control. Becoming instead the thing that is changed. We pride ourselves on questioning the norms around us so this notion of surrender came as a bit of a shock to me but, it is beginning to make a lot of sense. This is a long way to come and a lot of money to pay just to fight a system. Just to hold onto your perceptions and leave with the same architectural process that you came in with.