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Architects as Saviors?

riko_rokin

Hello All,

I am a M_Arch student in a New York architecture program facing internal struggle about my direction in the profession.

I have a bachelors in Environmental sustainability; I chose to exit the field as I became increasingly cynical about humanity's prospect to escape serious climate change related catastrophe. I did not want every day of my life to be burdened by thoughts of impotence and futility. Instead I prayed brighter more robust minds could tackle these issues "in my stead". I hoped to pivot towards a filed imbued with creative freedom, a place to express myself while remaining economically competitive in the short run.

Thus I choose architecture. A noble field where beauty and function are prized. I could develop a sensibility for aesthetics, investigate the richness of space, shadows, and volume. Perhaps one day I could retire to the wilderness where I could build a home, away from the chaos of civilization, designing and thinking in harmony with nature. Thinkers and designers that inspire this future include Thoreau, Aalto, Johnson, Montaigne, Heidegger, Wright, Yutang, etc. All of these minds at some point in their lives retired away from the masses to create in solitude--a dream. 

I very much respect the work of Peter Zumpthor, I am sympathetic to his quote: “I've said goodbye to the overworked notion that architecture has to save the world.” He lives in stillness and  zen-like solitude in the Swiss mountains. I want this. I need to leave the neurosis of New York and live in the countryside, perhaps in the northeast or southern Europe. This is my pursuit. 

However school has a very different plan in store for the image of the architect. This is the source of my struggle. All pedagogy is geared towards resolving world problems. If we are not fighting racial injustice or climate change we are a disgrace. We are indoctrinated in Marxist theory and investigate domains that seem beyond the reach of the architectural discipline. Admittedly, such exploration may yield novel ideas and solutions, but it seems to me that Architecture is becoming diluted if not stretched to its limit. 

I accept Vitruvius' claims that a true architect must be well-rounded in various domains of knowledge. But, today's curriculum seems too inexact: race theory, political science, data science, history, anthropology, etc. I would not be so bothered if it wasn't for the fact that we have all but dispensed with learning how to design a building. We do not even have a course on structures or materials.

I feel like a phony agreeing with the calls to actions on justice. While I certainly support and appreciate those who are willing to fight for such values, I did not sign up for this. I can support movements in other ways, but not by entirely retrofitting the ambitions on my profession right?  I feel burdened with a responsibility few other profession are forced to endure. Why can't I learn how to design for designs sake? 

It seems to me schools has abandoned the architect. Low wages compared to other similarly trained professions and a high ranking on the occupational suicide index are problematic to say the least. Still, these problems are ignored as the architects hastens to become the savior of the world.

 Miles Davis brings me solace: "An artist's first duty is to himself".

I guess I wanted to hear some of your reactions and thoughts, is there any place in architecture for people like me? Can architecture ever be non-political? Can architecture be art for arts sake?      

 
Sep 4, 20 2:07 pm
Jay1122

Why do i feel like this guy is a dam troll here to flex his theoretical muscles.But i love to troll.

Trust me, architecture is art through and through. Even with a box, it is art depending on how you use the space,material,light,etc.

Anyway, I don't care about your freaking world crisis and stuff but I support LEED and sustainable design. Not just to solve climate crisis, it is just better than useless artistic form playing (parametricism, etc). It promotes comfort and health while reducing your bills. 

Man I just love architecture. I even got my custom house designed and ready to go. It features large glass storefront, double height living room, open tread glass railing stair. Low Slope Green roof. Rain screen Wood cladding panels super insulated. Triple pane high performance windows, skylights. Outdoor pool and garden. It is probably just a boring box to ignorant academic nerds. But man is it good looking. All i need is 2M dollars(not including land) to make it a reality. But with the wages i earn, let me go look at magazines and drool.

So i don't know WTH are you talking about here. Be selfish, but most importantly, be rich.That is how you enjoy architecture. But when architecture is reduced to the minimum in terms of financial restraint, it becomes an utilitarian box.Just sad.

Sep 4, 20 2:48 pm  · 
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riko_rokin

Thanks for your response. I am very serious indeed. Unfortunately, LEED and sustainable design is mostly all optics. Effects US economy will have on global metrics is marginal. LEED may be helpful in China and India, where whole cities are going to be built over the next 50 years. Sadly, until we disentangle from our linear economy and transition into steady state or a circular economy, our future remains under threat. What is a net zero carbon building to unfettered over-consumption of petroleum, or out of control agriculture, detrimental industry?

 · 
newbie.Phronesis

Bear in mind, you're encountering the academia side: just nod and smile along, the professional side usually has different mindset. At the least you can choose your thesis on something you're interested in, and if possible switch to a more technical school.

Quality architecture usually does have some kind of higher goal with it though, other than providing shelter to occupants and making the developer rich...

Sep 4, 20 3:58 pm  · 
1  · 
Jay1122

I do kinda feel like he is fishing for some research stuff for thesis/research paper. Why else would you really care about those stuff unless you are the successor of some dictators ready to derive the best plan for humanity.

Quality architecture is about the extra stuff outside of basic utility. Whether it be aesthetic or performance, it often requires extra budget to realize. If you can achieve extra with little money, you will be bigger than Corb. Then i realized through practice, cheap and good does not really exist.

 · 
riko_rokin

Cheap and good is indeed the secret. I minored in real estate development and learned a few things by working on very small development projects in New York. We strove for excellent use of materials and craftsmanship. This is now biting us in the rear, with 3-4% equity return in one project. Profits have not been great; I will continue to learn the art of balancing a proforma with dignified design. Very difficult indeed.

The idea is to establish profit making mechanism through real estate that can afford a lifestyle away from authority so that I can pursue what I want, freedom of design and solitude.  

Academia wants me to save the world first, I just want to tend to my own garden.

1  · 
DTL.DWG

you can only save the world if you make money. so make money first.

 · 
Non Sequitur

The worst of academia tells you that you can cure cancer using shipping containers. 

The worst of the working world tells you you’re useless because you forgot to check the gypsum board thickness while reviewing door frame throat sizes. 

It’s up to you to find a happy middle. 

Sep 4, 20 4:26 pm  · 
9  · 
riko_rokin

"The worst of academia tells you that you can cure cancer using shipping containers." May have to quote this in the future! hahaha thanks!

1  · 
Non Sequitur

^I started saying this over 14y ago during my m.arch peer review discussions. Too many folks trying to solve non-architecture problems with simple things without making the slightest effort at connecting them. 

 Solve poverty/homelessness? why not add street furniture that doubles up as surfaces for projecting indy movies?

1  · 
DTL.DWG

Jesus H Christ NS this is brilliant - The worst of academia tells you that you can cure cancer using shipping containers.

1  · 
Almosthip

I f**King hate shipping container in architecture!

 · 
tduds

Echoing what most people have said - this type of problem solving thinking is largely confined to the academia bubble, and you're almost definitely not going to encounter it in the real world unless you seek it out.

Sep 4, 20 4:44 pm  · 
3  · 
riko_rokin

Thanks for your response. I wonder if I should nod and smile, or contradict the establishment? I will no doubt come off a crude, lowbrow, etc.

 · 
tduds

Something I ran into way too often with classmates, and then later while attending student reviews as a professional, is, as I came to describe it, not understanding the difference between solving a problem with architecture and simply creating a space with architecture where other people can go to work on the problem. I've seen way too many thesis proposals with high and mighty social aims that wound up as "Community Centers" or "Interpretive Exhibits", where non-architect visitors could learn about what non-architects are doing to address non-architectural problems. I think this might be a similar frustration to what you're experiencing.

I'm not saying this is good advice I'm just saying this is what I did (or tried to do) - in some cases it was well-received, in others, less so... see where you can push on the boundaries of the status quo. What are the edge cases? What are the exceptions? How can you work to re-frame a non-architectural social philosophy into something that is actually architectural and/or spatial? What are the problems that can *actually* be tackled with architecture? I, for example, focused on the history of social & environmental controls in Shanghai, and how housing & public space can shape or subvert authoritarian control. Spatial problem, spatial solution.

But I'm a rule-bender by nature. There's nothing wrong with keeping your head down and getting by, you'll get the same degree and maybe end up with a few more happy contacts in your network than I did. 

1  · 
riko_rokin

Oh man; thank your time responding. I think you really got where I am coming from. Appreciate your input.

 · 
randomised

Reads like the application essay of someone trying way too hard...

Sep 4, 20 4:52 pm  · 
 · 
riko_rokin

Can you say more about this? Thanks!

 · 
Jay1122

Actually yeah, it does sound like an essay of personal statement for Grad school explaining why you want to pursue architecture. But if he really submits this as his essay, i would say it will not look good. Too diverse and phony with these famous people quotes, references and stuff. It won't touch those academic reviewers unless he gets so lucky that the reviewers are also phony and superficial, but i seriously doubt it. If he is trying to get critic for personal statement, that thing won't likely to work if i am the reviewer. Personal statements have to be personal, shows the passion, dedication and reason, not fancy random mumbling of world issues, architecture movements, trends and famous people references.

 · 
riko_rokin

This is not a personal statement. It something I literally wrote this morning because I have no one to talk to in school. I also don't want to zoom a classmate about struggles. Was expecting some charitable contributions from other members of the community who may feel this way.

 · 
Jay1122

Ah ok, so you are nuts by nature. Not phony by choice. That is great. Ya i remember those days, where i think about how to improve the world with architecture. But now? I just want to make big bucks and build the 2M custom house i designed.Having built work is way more important than those bullsht.

1  ·  1
x-jla

Art and Design isn’t about saving life, it’s about enhancing the experience of life.  

Sep 4, 20 4:53 pm  · 
6  · 
natematt

It's interesting to think, that not all things are focused on saving life, in fact few things are. In many ways, medicine is also just about enhancing the experience of life.

 · 
curtkram

schopenhauer's thing was a little along the lines that we're motivated by a 'will to live.' freud updated this a bit along the lines of 'will to pleasure.' Nietzsche's later contribution was 'will to power.' i guess you get to decide for yourself what drives you. you can probably evolve past 'just life,'

2  · 
riko_rokin

I might add Frankl, who extolled the will to meaning. Out of all of these, I find Schopenhauer's pessimism to be most rewarding. Thanks for your response.

 · 
midlander

op, you are one of the enlightened few. hold your nose, get through school with the minimal involvement necessary to pass, and start working. you will be happily surprised how much no one cares about academia in practice and you'll probably do very well.


don't make tending the garden your career goal; first you've got to run the empire.

Sep 4, 20 7:35 pm  · 
1  · 
midlander

totally agree w you on despair about solving climate change. people are going to need to adopt a different paradigm that accommodates life in a warm flooding world. it's doable.

1  · 
sameolddoctor

Wax poetic as much as you want, but PAYING architecture is basically to draft your client's wishes, and do a good job while doing it. If you can make it aesthetically pleasing, thats a bonus. Most of the community engagement crap people do is to make themselves feel good, and it doesnt pay the bills.

Sep 4, 20 7:38 pm  · 
3  · 
DTL.DWG

yes, but can you do a door schedule and a partition detail?

ok...let's start at the top.

1.  Thoreau, Aalto, Johnson, Montaigne, Heidegger, Wright, Yutang - strange combo of thinkers, mainly a strange mix of western and the Chinese.

2. a few spelling and grammer issues, but most notably - Zumthor was spelled incorrectly.

3. leave NYC for solitude, literally drive 2 hours north or west and you are there, no need to go to Europe.  So culture is just something you gloss over, so most likely not into it.

4. social justice and Marxist, yada yada...so you're still in school and you're professors are mainly idiots, you did say you're in school.  Architecture was solved in modernism academically, everything after that was fluff, imaginary topics to address.  its fantasy to think you can solve political issues as a legal "registered architect".  Also, I think your language is a bit much - Marxist? really?

5. no young student accepts anything Vitruvius says and what shit school you're going to with no Structures?  Do you know the difference between B.Arch and B.A. in Architecture?

6. architects can't solve world problems, only ignorant professors in academia think and believe that.  news flash, academia is a "safe space" one with little to NO influence on reality, only MEDIA.  so, you're tired of the bullshit by cowards who are elitist enough to attend universities in NYC?  great, go work for a contractor.

7. Miles Davis. - Yes

Place - yes, screw academia, they're all morons anyway (and cowards, and everything else pathetic that comes to mind) show me an academic who actually changed the world from academia...


with that said, either - a) good trolling, b) you're Asian and don't understand the USA's weird obsession with race and justice, c) you'll be a great architect, just get through the irrelevance.

Sep 4, 20 8:41 pm  · 
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riko_rokin

2. Will run this by my editor next time! 

3. Yes, I've considered the Berkshires and California redwoods, (ala Charles Bello) as the stability of the US is alluring. However, the richness of culture and good weather of southern Europe is also attractive. I speak Spanish and Italian so I would not mind retrofitting abandoned structures in the countrysides of Catalonia or outskirts of Florence, living la dolce vita, only a couple hours away from the most spectacular architectural wonders of the Muslim and Christian world. 

Yes, I am not looking for fame or great wealth. I just want to learn to build and design well, and enjoy the rest, unbothered by the folly or vice of others. 

Sep 4, 20 9:41 pm  · 
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x-jla

There are rural towns in Italy that are losing population. Some will pay you to live there if you agree to fix up a distressed property.

1  · 
riko_rokin

Absolutely, the fabled 1 euro homes. Certainly an option. Thanks.

 · 
DTL.DWG

ok, kill yourself while you have a chance -

Kurt Cobain's family wants death-scene photos kept sealed - Entertainment -  Athens Banner-Herald - Athens, GA

 · 
DTL.DWG

or date a white blonde bitch, you're that dumb.

 · 
newbie.Phronesis

... need to stop drinking those triplings DTL

1  · 
DTL.DWG

that tripling included nirvana, haha. and I think this is troll (just saying).

1  · 
riko_rokin

I'm sorry you feel this way. Be well buddy.

 · 
Koww

internal struggle is the best kind of struggle

Sep 4, 20 10:53 pm  · 
1  · 
midlander

only if there's a decisive victory.

 · 
DTL.DWG

the struggle never ends (as an architect).

 · 
archi_dude

What's the name of the university? Personally curious about government funded institutions that advocate tearing down their own government.

Sep 4, 20 11:55 pm  · 
1  · 
DTL.DWG

let's see if the fake account can answer this? Haven't decided, bad bot or good troll.

 · 
randomised

What I meant was, to just let it go...relax a little. You can still use your skills for the greater good, for something more than just your clients wishes, architecture is not an inward looking profession, you always have a responsibility towards society. I am in my work as an architect actually working on a daily basis towards saving the world, more or less, working on topics such as climate mitigation and resilience, the energy transition towards a carbon neutral system, bio based materialisation or the food transition towards plant based. I work on those topics as an architect, from a design perspective, sometimes this results in pretty cool buildings  if I may say, or urban strategies, sometimes a roadmap for governmental agencies, etc. So, it’s not like Zumthor said at all, that’s just an old man’s excuse to simply stop trying and keep on doing what he’s always done...the typical boomer ;-) So, can you cure cancer with shipping containers? No, but the person coming up with the cure might be living in one during their studies...so just put them to good use if you really really have to.

Sep 5, 20 9:54 am  · 
3  · 
riko_rokin

Thanks for your response. The last bit was particularly thought provoking. Cheers.

1  · 
x-jla

I view the built environment as the stage set where the drama of life plays out. That set is deeply embedded in our memory and daily lives. Once you stop thinking about architecture as the main character, your purpose starts to make sense.

1  · 
riko_rokin

.

Sep 6, 20 12:16 am  · 
 · 
DTL.DWG

explain - Thoreau, Aalto, Johnson, Montaigne, Heidegger, Wright, Yutang, etc..

Sep 6, 20 10:03 am  · 
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DTL.DWG

I seriously want to under these connections, the rest, like I said, option #3 (assuming not a bot or a troll) - academia has little to no relevance to the profession...but to be so academic in your thinking, I'm trying to draw the line between these thinkers and architects. interested.

 · 
JawkneeMusic

hey, dont insult rodeo clowns, there's nothing lower except meatpackers

Sep 15, 20 6:47 pm  · 
 ·  1
arch76

the 'rodeo clown to meat packer' portion of the overall bovine facing job market spectrum is interesting to contemplate in this context

 · 
riko_rokin

Please say more about this. Thanks!

2  · 
Non Sequitur

Jawknee, there is nothing lower than a shitty musician/building designer with a unhealthy obsession with a particular Olympic gymnast.

 · 
x-jla

gymnast?

 · 
Non Sequitur

Jawknee is a serious stalker with real problems with McKayla Maroney. His twitter is now closed, but before it was... what he posted is fucked up. I just keep bringing this up incase someone accidentally takes this wanker seriously.

 · 
x-jla

Sounds Creepy.

 · 
x-jla

I always thought “jaw knee music” was a reference to the NOFX song...

1  · 
Non Sequitur

I see you're a man with refined tastes. I also made the same assumption a long time ago.

1  · 
apscoradiales

riko_rokin , why do you feel you have to carry all the World's problems on your shoulders?

Nobody has ever done that, why should you?

"Perhaps one day I could retire to the wilderness where I could build a home, away from the chaos of civilization, designing and thinking in harmony with nature.", LOL, we have all been there.

Sep 16, 20 2:54 pm  · 
 · 
x-jla

I pitch something like that to my wife once in a while...she just says rolls her eyes and says “pendejo”

 · 

Architecture is all about solving a problem(s) not just about making a beautiful building sized object or images of building sized objects.  

Architecture schools are notorious for distorting the reality of the profession and giving folks the wrong impression, sometime by accident sometimes intentionally.  Before giving up on this career or getting to a point where you want to run away from it all and abscond to some secluded cabin in the woods try to reach out to some folks working in the field and grab a coffee and ask them what it is like day to day.

My day to day is nothing like design school, I have to design buildings for other people with their money and then that design has to get built by craftspeople who have their ideas on how to do it as well.  There is no architect in a studio alone designing a building (unless you are doing custom residential) design and construction is a collaborative process. Every day I have to "design" a solution to a myriad of problems, some are seem small like the door threshold detail so the class room we are renovating is accessible for kids in a wheelchair, others are more grand like the facade design for a new building, all are important and deserving of our highest standard of professional care.

Hope this helps.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Sep 17, 20 8:24 pm  · 
 · 

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