Many Happy Returns

Today marks the one-year anniversary of In DePth. Allow me the self-indulgence of a little reflection.

As of this writing, I’ve published 40 individual posts — well over my initial estimate of two each month — and sent nearly 600 tweets since my introductory post one year ago. When I decided to take on something like this, I was only hoping to offer a little bit of advice and guidance (and maybe a little bit of entertainment) in the interests of providing some online mentorship to emergent professionals in Pennsylvania… but the reach has surprisingly been much broader than that. The blog has received over 2,700 views, which is about 2,699 more than I had expected. Most of the traffic has been from the United States, of course, but people from countries as far away as the Philippines and the Republic of Korea (including a place called Azerbaijan, which I didn’t even know existed) have viewed this site, which I find incredibly humbling.

Managing a blog has been a huge learning experience for me — hammering out a few hundred words each week has been a discipline, to say the least. Auto-scheduling has proven to be both a blessing and a curse; it’s allowed me to publish while sitting in the beach, but also led to more than a few misfires (I really didn’t mean to publish a nuts-and-bolts essay on Easter Sunday, if anyone was wondering…). While I’ve always been incredibly critical of my writing, this format has only intensified that feeling — some posts sit as drafts for weeks, while I meticulously tweak grammar and sentence structure; strangely enough, in spite of that, my most popular post ever was written in under an hour (while nursing a mild hangover, to boot). Some of my more recent entries, about the Blackout and the transition to ARE 5.0, have also gotten a lot of exposure (thanks in no small part to NCARB’s help in sharing them), meaning that I am indeed reaching my target audience. The blog format has also allowed me the freedom to develop ideas, some of which have then been considered fit to be included in local, state, and national online publications. Again, for a guy that sometimes feels like he’s punishing his keyboard for wrongs done in a past life, this is quite humbling.

Lastly, I wanted to give a huge shout-out to someone that has really provided a lot of support for the blog in its first year — my main man, Ted Mosby. Earlier this year, I wrote about Ted’s presence as one of the few architects in prime-time television, and as part of my New Year’s Resolution to include more images in the blog, I uploaded a photo. Those references to our favorite fictional architect led to anywhere between 10 to 15 unique hits on the blog, per day, for a series of months. I have no idea if any of those people that stumbled upon this site actually read anything that I wrote, but I’m grateful to Mr. Mosby for the exposure.

Thanks to everyone who has visited this page, read these words, left your own comments, and shared these random thoughts of mine — it’s appreciated more than you know. Anything you want to see me cover in the coming months? Leave me comments below (bonus points if it involves a mention of Ted). On to year two!

Youth Looks Forward, Age Looks Back: A Love-letter to Internship (part two)

Note: the following post was originally written in 2004, as my entry for the ArchVoices Essay Competition. This was at the completion of my IDP requirements, a time in my life where I found myself feeling somewhat disenfranchised with the profession, as I’m sure many interns do. Some of my thoughts hold up pretty well, while I can’t help but shake my head at the naivete of some of the others… but seeing as this blog is devoted to internship, I figured it was worth sharing. Part one was published last month; part three will be published in a later post.

Previous — Part One: Tabula Rasa

PrisonerI read once that Michelangelo considered his greatest works to be acts of liberation more than of creation; that his most notable sculptures — David, Moses, the Pieta — already existed, trapped in the marble, and all the master had to do was remove the unnecessary pieces in order to bring them to light. His metaphor takes on even more depth of meaning when one considers some of Michelangelo’s lesser-known works, The Prisoners. This series of sculptures looks largely unfinished, the human figures remaining mostly trapped in rough blocks of stone. Their posture is labored, tortured. By comparison, David’s pose is serene, content. At the Galleria della Accademia in Florence, these works stand in juxtaposition to one another, and the contrast between them becomes stark reality. How many patrons of the museum, interested in seeing a master work up close, flock to the David, and in doing so breeze right past the Prisoners without even noticing? That which Michelangelo chose to liberate becomes a masterpiece; those that he left imprisoned, and seemingly unfinished, remain in relative obscurity.

The idea that the role of the artist is not to create so much as it is to reveal is, to me, very beautiful in its simplicity and nobility, and is certainly one that is at odds with the infamous egos of our much-celebrated star architects. It implies that there is so much more to a given thing that what can be seen on the surface. That under the care of a master, the potential work of art within virtually anything can be released.

When I have the chance to get together with my close friends from the studio, we inevitably talk at length about work. Those conversations make us seem like the proverbial blind men, trying to describe the elephant of the profession to each other. To the friend who has spent the last two years doing PlanCon reviews for elementary school clients, the elephant is like a snake. The young architect who writes one marketing proposal after another sees the elephant as a tree. The intern who draws countless iterations of the same elevation? To him, the elephant resembles a wall. Our perception of the true scale of the world encompassed by the enigmatic term “architecture” becomes limited by our daily tasks, and what we can see in our 15″ diagonal flatscreen monitors. In a profession that is populated by those who consider themselves to be artists, sculptors, and creators, perception should be everything. And yet, it is perception that seems to be lacking from the internship experiences of most young architects: perception of our true potential by the very people who we should be looking to for guidance and advice. Have they lost the ability to see the potential for creation in such a blank slate? Even more dangerously, will those young architects begin to lose that perception in themselves?

In architecture school, we are taught a passion for design, and made to believe that the sky is the limit. That we should make no small plans, for they have no magic to stir men’s blood. That God is in the details. That less can sometimes be more. Or something like that.

In architectural practice, we are forced to learn that the budget is the limit. That a good design solution is often considered an additional service. That our creative vision is more often that not subject to value engineering, and will then be made reality by the lowest bidder. That architecture has to fit into little boxes on a timesheet, always balancing to 40.

Next — Part Three: Inspiration.

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July from all of us here at InDePth! Okay, well, it’s really only me here, but if I had a staff, I’m sure they’d wish you the same.

To paraphrase Zac Brown, I hope that at some point this summer, you find your toes in the water, tail in the sand, without a worry in the world except the cold drink in your hand (which, by the way, is exactly what I’m doing right now). New posts will be published on a weekly basis, so keep checking back for more of my thoughts on the internship and licensure process.

Here’s to a safe and healthy summer, and a productive Blackout.