The Ontology of the New Architect: Is Fate Visceral or Parasitic?
Throughout the history of human intellectual life has remained the question of fate and who controls it. Fate becomes either a romanticized idea or a parasitic one, all having to do with how the person interprets their level of control over their destinies. A person can romanticize fate if they adhere to the notion that there is a visceral, natural will over their lives that inevitably yields the best results, often explained by Abrahamic (or Christian) ideologists. However, there is an equally valid, opposing ideology that fate is parasitic, where the person fears having to relinquish partial or entire control over the outcome of their lives. To regain that sense of control, we impose time and place to attribute a specificity and positioning. Additionally, our social construct yields us an identity that affords us a sense of purpose. Today, I identify myself as an architecture student, a black woman, a hispanic woman, a daughter and a thinker, in no particular order. All of these identities compound or intrude on one another under the societal social construct I was born into, sometimes making me feel untrue to one identity or the other given that all of these social constructs bear different responsibilities. I think this phenomena occurs for many other marginalized people in architecture. So I am advocating and proposing for a “New Architect”, whose identity isn’t compromised by the past, but re-positions itself to endure and design a New Fate.
Fate and architecture are married by concepts of control. Theologians attribute a God or gods to explain the global concepts of fate, time and place, some even referring to God as “The Great Architect”. The architect, as we’ve come to know him or her, has fused the ontological with the profane, experimenting with the relationship between the user, identity and space, always playing closely to this analogy of having both godly and earthly faculties. For instance, Palladio is often referenced and heralded as a paragon of architecture, for his canons of architecture, churches, alongside his non-religious architecture. To dub the designation of religious designs, activities and rituals as completely removed and secular would be incomplete and untrue. Palladio, and many centuries of architects to follow and precede him, had a role in the fate of the people who enjoyed his design. Likewise, the nameless and faceless builders of the Pyramids of Giza have an unearthly jurisdiction over the centuries of users and visitors of those works. Today, the New Architect faces new canons of social equity, access as well as always returning to beauty, in addition to the avoidance of exploitation and typological issues, all to yield a better fate for the users. These paradigms come from broader schools of thought, expanding beyond the breadth of Rome’s wonders, and venturing home, to the equally valid architecture of Phil Freelon, Zaha Hadid or Eduardo Neira.
I suppose I fall under the category of an architect, or at least an architectural thinker. I used to agree with the theological notion that I had complete will over my life, and viscerally still agree. But I was born with traits and constructs which are unchanging — my location at birth, my heritage and instincts. I think it would be irresponsible (and ironic) to discard the opportunity to be the “architect” of my own life. Although my circumstances could’ve precluded me from being at Yale University, I am here now not solely because of my efforts. Without my Grandma admiring my Grandpa’s paisley tie at a party in Haiti; without a young, Catholic school-primed Abuela hot-wiring a car to reach Abuelo in Cuba, I wouldn’t have arrived two generations later to my humanity, at my here and now. A here and now of perpetual homeostatic self-repair and self-discovery; grasping for identity equilibrium in the generational seas of my abstruse, ancestral narratives. All the while, trying to rise and identify a reality for others when I still am designing who I am, bearing the burden of crafting and defining a post-ontological New Architect.