Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Cardboard Portal

In third year of college, our class was given the task of recreating the Laurentian Library portal, designed by Michelangelo, in corrugated cardboard.  For about a month we stole boxes from dumpsters of all the local businesses in the area under cover of darkness.  Looking back, that wasn't really responsible of the professors, assigning us petty larceny.  However, we did and just stacked an entire corridor full of the broken down boxes, like five feet high.  Another good example of careless instruction from professors – go store hundreds of pounds of combustible materials in this egress component. But Frank Gehry was making furniture out of cardboard at the time so it had to be okay.

The construction was a huge task and we were given just a weekend to complete it.  Friday afternoon we began by laminating layers of boxes with wood glue and creating templates.  Once our building blocks had dried, we cut them in the model shop on band saws and table saws.  There was so much to do (the thing was full scale and ended up being sixteen feet tall) that we started off scheduling four hours of sleep per person per day.  That sleep quickly evaporated as the work consumed us.

People were half dead by Sunday, using power tools on University property on a class assignment.  We were lucky no one lost a finger or worse.  I carry a scar on my forearm from that weekend as a result of a run in with a hot glue gun.  The end result was utterly amazing when I think about it.  About thirty kids accomplished quite a feat in a single weekend.  None of my friends in other majors could believe the kind of boot camp us architecture students went through.  On the weekends, they had fraternity parties and bar hopping.  I think it may have even been Homecoming Weekend.  Meanwhile, we were fabricating full scale buildings out of refrigerator boxes.  The only regret I have is that it was almost impossible to photograph due to the location we were instructed to install it.

For some reason, the classes after ours did not participate in such a cardboard charette.  There was never any formal explanation, but my assumption is that some faculty member gave a second thought to the liability.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Poor-trayal

It is some sort of conspiracy.  I blame the media.  This job, the profession I've chosen, has a serious public relations problem.

Again, some guy wrote an overly complicated law, fessed up and said it was intended to fool us, and instead of calling him an ECONOMIST or a POLITICIAN, they called him (what?) an ARCHITECT.  Why, why, why???

So Called Obamacare Architect:  Jonathan Gruber

You cannot, by PA State law, call yourself an architect if you do not meet a certain set of predetermined requirements.  This is a good thing as the main responsibility of an architect is to defend the health, safety and welfare of those that are served.  So why is it that anytime someone gets their hand caught in the cookie jar, the press renames the scoundrel “the architect of greed”.  You remember Enron, don’t you?  Or do you remember them simply as “the architects of fraud”?  Or Adolf Eichmann, who is often referred to as the “architect of the Holocaust”?  Even Adolf Hitler’s real architect, Albert Speer, went to jail for twenty years charged with war crimes.  Where the heck are the architects of good things?  Where is my Mahatma Gandhi, the “architect of peace”?  At this point I am looking for anything; Mother Theresa, “the architect of empathy”?
The Quintessential Image of the Architect

It doesn't stop there, of course.  It bleeds into popular literature and film.  Most architects are portrayed as fiercely egocentric figures, like Howard Roark (The Fountainhead) and Stanley Kracklite (The Belly of an Architect).  If architects are not portrayed as tragically self-absorbed characters, they are shown to be buffoons.  Certainly some sitcom writer dropped out of architecture school after about six weeks, went into writing and made some real money.  Early on in the television rendition of Dagwood Bumstead in Blondie, Dagwood is a bumbling architect, working for the overbearing J.C. Dithers.  Move to more recent presentations in According to Jim, Jim Belushi (a contractor) rides roughshod over his brother-in-law, Andy (the inept architect).  Think about syrupy sweet Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch), desperate romantic Ted (How I Met Your Mother), or sorry Woody Harrelson as David Murphy, who couldn't keep Robert Redford’s character from scoring on his wife in Indecent Proposal.  Even the forlorn yet lovable character from “Sleepless in Seattle” (Tom Hanks) gets outsmarted by his nine year old son multiple times throughout the movie (and he lives on a boat).

Sappy Tom Hanks Architect

With every rule, however, there are exceptions.  For some reason, those in the information technology industry have taken to the term of “architecture” as the series of complex systems that runs their digital landscape.  I get this from one point of view, but they should really have their own title.  This concept of architect as creator was complete, when Bill Gates donned the title of Chief Software Architect.  It must be like a Medical Physician when he or she sees "Dr. Rooter, The Plumber" advertised on TV.  To me, it is a little unnerving.  I think of when Neo of the Matrix movies meet his landscape’s creator, The Architect (as he is known) explains away his lack of compassion by simply stating, “What do you think I am – Human?”

The Architect who Messes with Neo

As a postscript, another alarming fact is that all of the characters mentioned above, real or otherwise, are exclusively Caucasian and male.  This shall provide fodder for a future lesson learned.  One notable exception is Wesley Snipe’s character in “Jungle Fever”.