Friday, October 19, 2007

Sometimes I wish I had a job where I knew what I had to do

In my second year of architecture school, I had a building technology professor that spoke to a class of aspiring designers and architects about how he often envied and one day longed to retire as a mason. This seemed crazy at the time - why would you want to do manual labor and be forced to execute someone else's design? But the more I work in the design field the more I understand exactly what he meant. You get up and go to work knowing exactly what you need to do that day. And at day's end, you can step back and see precisely what you accomplished. It is measurable progress and physical accomplishment. When you put the trowel down, you leave it all behind because when you get up to go to work the next day you know exactly what you will need to do.

Teaching constantly forces me to reflect on what I know and the lessons I have learned in my short design career. My students are being exposed to the idea of design for the first time. I am always telling them that there are no right answers in design; there are appropriate solutions, thoughtful answers and defendable ideas, but never a finite solution. What is "right" for some may be completely wrong for others. I know, as a teacher, my job is to challenge the students, to look at their work from directions they have not thought of in order to stimulate them into being more critical and thoughtful. If all I can teach them is how to be self-aware and self-critical then I think I have succeeded.

Being self-critical and thoughtful all while trying to design a building or a book is exhausting. Though I love it and would not change it for the world, I do sometimes wish I could wake up in the morning and paint a fence, mow a lawn or stack a pile of wood. But I fear it's too late for me - I would question the quality of my brush strokes, the directional pattern of the cut grass and the aesthetic intention of variation in the stacked wood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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