Let’s end 2014 and start 2015 on a fun note. I have realized recently that I know many people who studied architecture and changed career paths. I wonder whether the curriculum that those people share with me has had any influence on their alternative career. My friend George Costanza likes to say, “Nothing is higher than architect”. I wondered if that was true…
Was it the curriculum that made them decided to change their careers? Or had their career been augmented by the architectural curriculum? I have compiled a list of famous people who have in one way or another studied architecture prior to embarking on an alternative career path. Some of these I had heard about, others were a surprise. What would have happened to some of these people had they stayed in this/my profession?
1.Weird Al Yankovic. The “Amish Paradise” guy has a degree from Cal Polytechnic State. He had a job in the mail room of a radio station after school and then somehow got to be really famous.
2. Jimmy Stewart. Graduated from Princeton in 1932. His thesis was on an airport, but he joined an acting troupe rather than an architect’s firm. Oh, he was also a Major General in the Air Force and a combat pilot in WWII. Boy do I feel like an underachiever.
3. Saul Steinberg. A cartoonist for the New Yorker, he has had his degree from Politecnico di Milano. He was born in Italy and left right before WWII.
4. John Denver. Rocky Mountain High singer dropped out of architecture school at Texas Tech.
5. Roger Waters and Nick Mason. Neither of these founding members of Pink Floyd could read music. They had their own technique that was more of an “architectural diagram” than traditional notes. Before dropping out to form the band, they had composed music in conjunction with studio projects. Nick Mason received an honorary degree 50 years later from London Polytechnic.
6. Chris Lowe. Another Londoner drop out, this time from University of Liverpool. This Pet Shop Boys singer had stage design for the group done by Zaha Hadid in 2000.
7. Jeff Carlisi. Another musician; he earned his degree during a recession. He took some time to “hang out” with .38 Special. He continues to Hold On Loosely.
8. Aishwarya Rai. This Miss World 1994 winner is a Bollywood actress as well. She gave up architectural pursuits and dropped out of Raheja College of Arts to pursue her modeling career.
9. Art Garfunkel. The harmonizing half of Simon and Garfunkel changed his major at Columbia. He has a B.A. in Art History, not music, and a Masters in Mathematics. He was married briefly to an architect in the 1970’s.
10. Anthony Quinn. This two time Oscar winner dropped out of a Taliesin Fellowship after winning a contest to study there after high school. On FLW’s recommendation, he enrolled in speech therapy, attended acting school and the rest is history.
11. David Byrne. My generation of architecture students loved to play this one up. He left a Bauhaus program at RISD and went on to the University of CBGB. I don’t know if that is technically architecture school, but it is my list and I am keeping him. He has done a Ted Talk about how architecture has helped music evolve.
12. Seal. The guy who married Heidi Klum has an Associate’s Degree and worked in London for a time in the business.
13. Lisa Halaby. Better known as Queen Noor of Jordan. Not sure if anyone trumps that career upgrade. She had quite an architectural resume and was the Director of Facilities and Design for Jordanian Airlines when she met King Hussein of Jordan.
14. Thomas Jefferson. Architecture was always part of his life and study. He had a pretty good run in politics though.
15. George Takei. Yeeeeeessss. Sulu had 2 years at U of Cal, Berkeley in architecture before changing to theater.
So there you have it. The result of far too many hours of research tied up in a list of 15 names. What if Weird Al had stayed with architecture? Would he have gotten the Guggenheim work?
Did I miss any good ones? Please comment with any adds!