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Open letter to Architects from an Architect

I don’t know how high I was when I decided to become an architect. There could have been numerous other less painful ways to fuck myself but I chose architecture. For today’s discourse, I could have picked any other dilemma of life, something that is important and actually matters, but since I am an architect and I didn’t; I will write on architecture only.

It is about 3 am, and any normal person would have been sleeping and dreaming; but not I, because I am not normal. I am an architect and I love boasting about sleepless nights. In all these years of architecture, I’ve been transmogrified from a warmhearted, adaptable, broad-minded Bryan Adams fan, into an overcritical, dogmatic, hippie Pink Floyd fan. What I lost as ignorance, I gained as ignorance.

Pause.

Why do architects have such large egos? Why are they always the ‘Chef’s Specialty’ and never the ‘Sub of the day’? What have architects achieved that makes them feel superior to any other profession in the world? Or rather, what is wrong with them?

Architects design residences; they make for us a cozy place to live. They design workplaces and make for us a comfortable place to work. Ergo it is a noble profession. Or is it?

Attend any Architectural Conference and you will find architects of almost every age group, from the hip, hot and happening youth to the crazy old fuckers in funny hats, all thinking they are celebrities. And most of them wearing black. Why? Because Daniel Libeskind wears black, Zaha Hadid wears black, Rem Koolhaas wears black and Bjarke Ingels wears black. Is this a fucking Lemming Syndrome!

Somewhere in this crowd you will find an alpha architect standing on a podium, who has designed a building that looks like a thumb impression or a dildo glass housing, talking about how his building is responding to the urban fabric of the city and how his work is going to transform society. And how everyone right from the contractor to the engineer, the vendor to the masons, and the client who is paying for the project is nothing but a fool. And how much he has struggled to implement his concept into reality – a concept that only he can understand and which doesn’t really matter to the end user.

He will wax poetic on how his revolutionary projects can bring about the required change in society, how society is incomplete without his ideas and how he is playing an important role in the evolution of society. And how every one of you architects, feels the same way?

But wait, you have just designed a building. Right!

You are not part of the government, you are not the ones who make our economic policies, you are not involved in our education system, you are not into politics, and you don’t even run markets. So stop fucking acting like the ones who transform society. You never even interact with society.

Usually, nobody other than architects are part of your conferences. Architects come and show their work, appreciate each other, get drunk and head back to their homes, or to the office to finish drawings to meet an approaching submission deadline. Just stop buffing each other’s ass. Nobody gives a shit what architects think. You are no different from the computer programmers who meet and greet in their own language, crack their own jokes in java, think the world is stupid and spend their whole lives designing a virtual world with little connection to reality.

I feel sorry for those who feel architecture to their bones and yet design shitty houses. I feel sorry for those who are busy putting WC cad blocks on their drawings and shifting grids and walls by 5mm, while people are exploring the world and jumping off airplanes through the stratosphere. I feel sorry for those who are working under the world’s best architects and yet earning less than their drivers. I feel sorry for those whose best works are never built. I feel sorry for those who were born with three lines in their hand for life, luck and brains and which have now turned into CAD, Photoshop and Sketch-Up.

I feel sorry for those who have designed numerous projects for the victims of natural calamities and yet were not part of either Uttarakhand or Haiti or any other disaster like that. When people were homeless after these natural disasters, where were these architects? Did any architectural organization work for them? Did they build temporary shelters for them? Did they even visit any of these sites?

Oh yes I know! They participated in design competitions organized for them, held after everything was settled and a competition brief was prepared to spoon feed them every single bit of relevant information. I feel sorry for those who participate in almost every fucking design competition and never win. ‘Architecture for Humanity’ was working for the Haitian people, and the organization has now been disbanded. I feel sorry that they have to live with this guilt and yet act like they’re doing what they really want to. That needs a lot of courage.

Maybe you should think about what you do and what you speak. A little introspection is what is needed at the moment. Or maybe, I should stop writing this letter, and get back to work designing Mr. Sharma’s office building. That’s surely going to change the world.

Author: Vikas Pawar

Graduate of the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India.

 

 

2 comments

  1. Every architect should work for Goliath National Bank once, if you know what I mean 😀

  2. As one architect to another. I could not agree more!!

    I always vowed at University that I would not get drawn into the pretentious, arrogance I had experienced working in a large architectural practice. However, I was drawn and spent many years up my own ass designing buildings that would never be built!

    Back in 2008 I saw the light. I started designing real buildings for real people and trying as near as possible to meet the clients brief rather than my own ego. These buildings are now being built rather than being shelved due to a lack of budget or them being too technically challenging.

    Up the revolution!!!

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