Why Architects Suck

By Luke Kreul (Arch ’17) 

We are in crisis. The students at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture have given up any boldness for the sake of inter-scholastic diplomacy. The artistic voice of my colleagues is lost in the fog of computation and aesthetics. And critical discussion, in total, is lost due to energy being dedicated to being fashionable; Trends are not going to give your practice integrity!

“Trends are not going to give your practice integrity!”

Earnest communication and criticism will give your work the integrity it needs. The work we produce cannot be cryptic or without position. Take authorship over your work; it’s the surest way that you are personally invested to what you’re dedicating your time. An earnest approach to architecture is also the surest way that we’re invested in the work of each other. When you’re racing towards the decision that you need to make, you’re in conflict and competition with the arguments of those around you. The argument towards the creation of an atmosphere of active debate is, within itself, what we should be responsible for constructing school-wide.

We architecture students are known for our lack of existence outside of the foundation building, which results from our commitment to our work. The stereotype of the sleepless architect is something to embrace. Be proud of being tired! It means that you’re working hard, you’re experiencing New York, and, ultimately, you’re being consumed by architecture, the noblest monster. We are being lazy, however. We students, myself included, have not put adequate effort towards having an architect-trustee. Our representation in JSC meetings is also terrible. Do we have our tails tucked between our legs because we lost the tuition battle?

“We’re recovering from the tuition battle poorly and there are losses to other battles imminent.”

We’re recovering from the tuition battle poorly and there are losses to other battles imminent. We use our minority status, our acceptance rate (now blown), and our workload as excuses not to fight for our place in student governance. There should be an architect-trustee. It has been said, there should not be another engineering student represented to the board of trustees, and it’s not appropriate for the next representative to be an artist.

“There should not be another engineering-trustee.”

It’s the time for an architect! Architects are responsible for coordinating structure and culture. Why not the same for our beloved institution? Friday night at a post-lecture dinner, I probed two second-year students and one freshman about the position of an architect. I asked them to consider the position of the artist, who sits from afar observing, reflecting, and reacting to society. In addition to these activities one cannot ignore the role of the architect-professional, who is responsible for articulating spatial concepts and schmoozing with potential clients. Reminding them of the architecture of our studio, the architect-artist, and the architect-professional, I received an interesting collection of three responses. One, given by a student who is a native New Yorker, was that all the distance is good in providing an enclave, a safe place where ideas can grow. The second response was that the distance between the studio and society is not especially true and the architecture students are connected. And the third response, from a first-year student, emphasized the distance between years within the architecture school and avoided the problem of the studio’s interiority.

Architects are creatures of multiple lives. Since we’re responsible for communicating both in drawings within the practice and with words and images to those outside, we have an instinctive approach that is suited for institutional problems. Structural considerations require two key skills: the analytic eye and the conceptual hand, which is the physiological composition of an architect. Artists are not of the same physiognomy, because their practice requires distancing oneself from society.

The recent evolution of the institutional status has come to a place where an engineer-trustee is irrelevant. Consider the example of the Rubix cube as demonstrative of design thinking. Many feel pride in ‘solving’ a Rubix cube, organizing the squares so that each face is singular in color. However at this moment, the only thing that can happen to the object is repeated disorganization. In then end, the Rubix cube always embodies the same problems it had before, because its operation anticipates problems. For the engineer, fixing the problem requires that the end product is a static object. Institutions—their structures, cultures, and corruptions—are ever changing. Architects are trained to work with time and space as both a parameter and an artistic medium. Rational thought mandates an architect-trustee.

We have an interim president, a new dean, and are just as capable at rising against as we were five years ago; it’s the perfect time to manifest. We are so “busy” with work and trends that we are approaching a banal status; the studio is becoming a non-place. It was glorious for architecture students to be in the news on a regular basis. I implore you to use both your anger and your virtú to make this school present!

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