The Lifestyle of an Architect

I've been blogging for almost two years now about how architecture and design affects the lives of people. Yet so few truly understand what goes on in the lives of these design creators. I speak solely on the basis of experience as my lifestyle manifests the ups and downs, including joys of being an architect. I am truly passionate about what I do and I believe in what I do. Architecture is a way of life, an attitude towards appreciating art and culture.

Let's begin by identifying trade marks of the quirky things architects do when subjected to a new environment. You may have architect-friends of your own. Observe one common gesture that these aesthetically-enlightened individuals do upon entering a space---they look up at the ceiling. They observe the light fixtures, the contours, the finish-treatments, and the colors.

A friend recently took me to a Poetry Slam at The Green Mill in Uptown Chicago one Sunday evening. I can't help but notice issues about adjacency at the stage. It was bothering to see that the restrooms are located next to the stage----when all eyes and ears of the audience are directed in the same line of sight for the restroom and that of the performance venue.

I immediately told my drink-companion (To my friend: If you're reading this, you didn't think I was serious about blogging this, huh?) that I will have to blog about this. The two rectangular doors at the right side of the image above are the entrance doors to the Ladies and Men's restrooms. I couldn't believe that the designer of this former Al-Capone-speakeasy from the Prohibition era missed an essential element of design---adjacency. Or was this the intent so as to attract mobster patrons?

Another common trait among architects is the so-called "long hours". These professionals are notorious for working late nights and sometimes even pulling all-nighters. We had our very own architecture schools/studio as training ground in this department. Notice how some of your architect-friends pull one of those "disappearing acts" on you when it comes to social calendars. You'd consider yourself lucky if you actually see these nocturnal artists four weekends in a row! It's just the nature of the beast.

Sometimes this work ethic is misunderstood as "becoming a slave to work" instead of using work in order to live. But what if what you do for a living is what you are passionate about? Then the line is blurred between what is work and what you enjoy doing. The result is that work becomes "not work" anymore. I for one happen to love what I do. I've always dreamed of becoming an architect since first grade. Right now, I am living this dream. To deny me of my passion in architecture is like denying me my right to dream---and dream big.

Next characteristic is that architects love well-designed objects and spaces. I don't care if it's just a pen, a toothbrush, or a soap dispenser---I try to buy these objects based on their aesthetics. Furniture tops this list too. Last night as I was having dinner with friends at the N9NE Steakhouse in the West Loop, the unique stair railings made of flat metal caught my attention. One of the primary reasons why I wanted to check out this place was because of the photos I saw of its interiors including their "Ghost Bar", very modern, very stylish.



I was so focused on the well-designed bar stools, salad plates, bowls, and glasses that I almost missed how excellent the steak was. Culinary Art is yet another form of aesthetics that I have yet to explore on. I'm really not big on "eating" however I do love the presentation aspect of food.
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Design the World, Change the World

I've always danced to the beat of a different drummer, so my family and friends often told me. I somehow derive enormous energy from defying convention. Creative individuals have that secret longing to change the world, perhaps through design.

In one of my architectural adventures, I heard and saw this deafening reality while visiting the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe.

This house was a result of an innovative client-architect pairing between Edith Farnsworth and Mies Van Der Rohe. Dr Farnsworth was a prominent Chicago-based kidney specialist in the 1940's---a time when it was unpopular for women to work, let alone have a successful career.

In the book "Women and the Making of the Modern House" by Alice T. Friendman, it chronicles the attitudes and lifestyles of architectural patrons who defy convention. What better way to build their houses than to engage architects who truly understand unconventional thinking while bringing to the project extreme talent and creativity?

In some way, shape or form, these type of clients like Edith Farnsworth, paved the way for innovation in residential and architectural thinking.

Without Ms. Hollyhock, Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic "Hollyhock House" in California would not have become a reality. I believe it takes an extra ordinary kind of client to be able to build extra ordinary buildings that would become a catalyst for changing the world.

I already know I want to dance to the beat of a different drummer. What are the odds of having the clients I work/will work with who are willing to dance to that beat with me? Each one, whether in architecture or in a different line of business has that lingering hope that one will find clients with whom everything just clicks...
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