Lucky Uncertainty

With such a large proportion of architecture’s labor pool either unemployed or working back at their college coffee shops (as our teachers occasionally joke), we’re told that it’s a great time to be a student. I can’t even get a job at a coffee shop anymore, so I must be in the right place! Jokes aside, I love being in school and I feel that luck shined on me with this opportunity – karma for all of those bum coin tosses or moments when I picked rock instead of scissors, perhaps?

And I know that a lot of us feel lucky for it. Even when we would rather superglue our eyes closed than pull a third or fourth consecutive all-nighter gluing models together.

My entering class of sixty or so (minus two or three dropouts – all time low, we heard) found within itself a great variety of kindred spirits, and we let school consume us. Spending all night cracking jokes as we accidentally crack freshly glued basswood joints turned out to be fun after all, from the jokes as well as the sheer caffeine-driven delirium we reveled in. Fun times. As long as it wasn’t a week’s worth of sleep deprivation.

Our studios progressed, our classes continued. Whispers began to sound in various corners from time to time, speaking of doubts and concerns, of grievances and frustrations. Increasingly, I began to hear classmates of mine criticize the applicability of our hard work. Increasingly, at the same time, I began to feel this same frustration. Studio started becoming some abstract chore – “What the hell,” please tell me, “was the point of toiling so damned hard on a conceptual language that we never used again?” we thought. (It took me awhile to realize the abstract language was an exercise in formulating and organizing one’s thoughts.)

Or, “Where is the real world in any of this?”

Some of us ached to make a difference in the world, whatever that even means – although, I suppose if we’d had better ideas of what that meant, we’d already be out there doing it. The more hours we spent confined in our open cubicles, tanning in the flickering fluorescent glow above us while drinking our third cup of coffee before the night is half over, the more we felt locked in a tower of ivory on high, as the saying goes.

We sought exposure to the outside world in a context that we weren’t getting, to know that even if we weren’t making a difference at the moment we’ll at least be able to once we leave. We’re labeled as emerging professionals, but how many of us even know what we’re emerging into, or what to do once we get there? I am in my second year and, unless I prolong this campaign that often seems military, I have one more to go after this.

As soon as I got the hang of architecture school and didn’t feel (as) lost anymore, I started feeling lost just thinking about the world beyond the strip windows in front of me. That’s not air beyond the glass, it’s openness and uncertainty.

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