- August 30, 2021
If you are unlucky while listening to NPR, you might encounter your local station’s quarterly pledge drive campaign. The host asks listeners to donate, often with a plea that sounds something like, “If you’re listening—and we know you are!—then call now.” This gets me every time. They’re right! I am listening! How did they know?
What about you? Are you reading me? You must be!
Who are you, though? Could you tell me? An architect? Of course. (Figures.)
Well, you’re here, Reader. Welcome. This is the introduction to a four-column series that will appear in this seventh volume of Paprika!. You are the audience. Perhaps you are the sole member of this audience. That’s okay. No one listens to me quite like you do.
Now that it’s just you and me, I need to admit something: I borrowed your language. I know, I’m sorry. But it fit so well and people looked at me with respect and they shared knowing glances as if to say, “Did she just validate our worldview?” “She did, indeed.” At first it was just one typology here and there, but recently it’s been morphology and I worry that modality is next. I’m on the proverbial edge of too far.
The thing is, I love your words. I don’t want to give them back. I love that the -tomy in dichotomy is the same as in tracheotomy (or name your favorite surgery!), meaning cutting or incision. I love that render descends from re- (“back”) dare (“give”)—that a rendering, as we understand it, is an image that gives us back, in a new way, the information we learned from orthographic line drawings. My brush with ecological, however, did leave something to be desired. Despite the fact that anything physical—even the most hellish concrete—is wildly interconnected with its environment, ecological has been hemmed in to mean, like…plants. Enough with the hemming! Ecology is not a miniskirt. It’s the whole damn wardrobe.
I promise, after four columns, I’ll give all these words back. (Although I’m not sure, Reader Architect, if you ever needed them in the first place.) But before I do, I need to know: “You who read me, are you certain you understand my language?”1
Use that white-knuckled grip on academia to help me open this jar of salsa, and let the discourse begin.
Do You Read Me is a recurring column that uses humor as a way of cutting through academic jargon while thoughtfully communicating something about the discipline of architecture. It is situated at the intersection of punditry, poetry, and absurdity.