À la vie et la mort


Our notion of work is, to say the least, clouded. We live in confusing times. There’s a disconnect between the public’s view of our work and the way we perceive it ourselves. Ask any person on the street what architects do you’re likely to get the answer that they build things. The word build is significant. It implies that we still carry out the same work as did the master-builder in a bygone era. Our profession has since parceled into a complex web of labor division.

The reality is that we no longer build. The actual act of building has now transferred to contractors. Never mind building, we don’t even design anymore. Design is too charged a word. It hints at something divine and sinister at the same time. It recalls la Bastille, the Reich Chancellery, and Brasilia. We are now beholden to public opinion. Thus we’ve become friendlier and softer, convinced that we mean no harm; we are but one of many stakeholders in the integrated design process. Isn’t that a grotesque enough evasion for you? We used to be involved in all stages of a building, now we have become pawns subservient to the capitalist system, spending much of our time filling paperwork and attending meetings rather than doing what we are trained for. We’ve allowed ourselves to be bullshitted by the system into thinking that if we change our job description, we can increase our agency, that somehow we can be more than what we used to be.

We are in denial. Unlike our fellow engineers, we cannot cower behind the veil of scientific rationality. No. We are storytellers. And as storytellers, we’ve fabricated stories to reassure ourselves that we have yet to be vanquished by the current paradigm. But that’s okay, because we live in interesting times. We can satisfy ourselves by reminiscing on Claire Weisz’s thoughts on the nature of our work in her recent lecture:

“No architectural project is transformational. The most architecture can do is that it changes us.” 
So like amused little boys and girls on the beach, let’s celebrate in our confusion and cherish the moment. At least, we can live knowing that we laughed about it.