Tuesday, April 17, 2007

building thoughts

Architecture is perhaps the most unexpectedly rewarding mistake I ever made.
I could imagine a life doing something else, struggling less, worrying less, panicking less. Perhaps I could. I could imagine a life where I entered college fresh from school to do something I actually had a chance of being good at - literature, mathematics, engineering, law, journalism. Perhaps I could.
People who knew T in school always said, architecture? in the tones of people watching chickens swimming. T was talented in school, yes. She was smart, and she loved to learn, and her English was the stuff of legend. But I preen, and I wanted to talk of architecture.

I could imagine some other field where I would learn more about life, and people, and words that sell ideas. I could imagine a field where I talk to a person in Hindi, another in Kannada and a third in English; all within the same four walls; as mediator and arbitrator and umpire. I could imagine some other world where I would be responsible to each and every one of those people, the one held accountable, the one in charge...and still, in all probability, the one who gets the least return for her investment.
Perhaps I could, but I doubt it.
I wonder how many other fields require you to be at once responsible to everybody. And I mean everybody. To the client - to get the job done on time, within budget, as per specification. To the contractor, the carpenter, the plumber, the electrician, the mason - to get them their drawings, their instructions, their money.
To yourself - because that's the point of design, isn't it?
I fear I will never be a great architect. I fear I lack the vision, the skill, the willingness to spend three days on a single room. I have dreams of buildings that I cannot draw and I talk about spaces that I cannot see, and it breaks my heart. I have ideas that I do not put down on paper because I am too lazy, too afraid of the work any design entails.
I see people around me who talk of architecture the way I talk of writing, and I wish for the least fraction of that passion.
If I could design the way I write, I'd be a happier architect. Not better, not necessarily. Just...happier. I'd be happy just to try.

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