One of the most common interactions I have with people that I meet for the first time goes something like this:
Me: “Hey, how’s it going? I’m Jeremiah.”
Stranger: “Hey. It’s going good, thank you. I’m John/Jane Smith.”
Me: “It’s great to meet you.” – followed by general chit chat, the weather, state of the union, will the Cubs win this year (not really).
John/Jane: “So, what kind of work do you do?”
Me: “I’m an Architect.” (going into the long winded discussion of licensed versus unlicensed is too tiresome for general conversation and most people don’t get it anyway, so I don’t bother anymore)
At this point I always feel as if I’m in a support group meeting. “Hello, my name is Jeremiah and I’m an Architect.” From the crowd a monotone: “Hi, Jeremiah.” But what does that mean, the term and title Architect? To most people the image that comes to mind is a guy in a suite with a roll of drawings under one arm and a hard hat in the other. Or even an older gray haired guy dressed all in black, with black glasses brooding moodily in a corner of some social function, martini in one hand and sharpy in the other. Or perhaps Gary Cooper playing the part of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead (best architecture movie of all time – just sayin). But these are just images, stereotypes and archetypes that come to mind thanks to movies and media.
But what does it mean to be an Architect?
Architecture is an unforgiving and unrelenting profession. It is not for the faint of heart, or the squeamish, or the undedicated. You must have a thick skin, and an even more robust constitution in order to stay the course of architecture. You have to be equal parts engineer, artist, statistician, anthropologist, psychologist, lawyer, bouncer and referee. It also helps to have a healthy mastery of vulgarity and innuendo for trips to the construction site. Added to all of this you have to cultivate the ability to put yourself in your client’s shoes – you have to be able to create real solutions for their building program as if they themselves came up with those solutions.
Architects do not just draw pretty pictures, or just add unnecessary cost to a construction project, or just design kitschy coffee makers and toasters for Target. Architects do all of those things (not really), but more than that we create space and to a larger extent we create the experience of space in homes, offices, shopping malls, government buildings, communities and entire cities. Since the time of Imhotep in ancient Egypt until the present day and for the rest of time, Architects have helped, do help, and will help to create the society we live, work and play in every single day. Architects are not a necessary evil, we’re just necessary.