Renaissance Are Us?

Fourteen months, four studios, twelve cuts to various fingers at various depths, 37 all-nighters and counting, and likely 120 times my body weight ago in coffee alone, a professor let a comment slip that pulled my head right back up from its new-to-school-but-already-sleep-deprived droop.  Architecture is the last degree for the renaissance man, was his propaganda, and I bought it.

I continue to buy it, at a cost that’s higher than I’m actually aware of and made even sweeter by student fees at least equal to – not in any way lesser than – the worth of my soul and mind.  (Although the worth of the latter plummets as I deprive it further of sleep – and fuel it further with cheap coffee cruder than any oil.)

The last degree for the renaissance man.  When those words somehow slip through layers of sawdust into the ear canals of a new recruit to architecture, they ring louder than the last trumpet of the Rapture.  At least, they would if that student has difficulty committing himself to any single or even seven separate disciplines.  If that student sees Renaissance Man as his only potential career path anymore…

I had taken a chance with architecture, uncertain if the field fit me – or I it – but those words alone gave me resolve.  I knew that they were propaganda, and there wasn’t a thing wrong with that.  Even after I started thinking that he was talking the field up (I no longer think he was exaggerating), even after I kept faith in those words anyways, I learned that they were, in all apparent fact, true.

Or, at least, that they could be.

Flash ahead a few months: the next semester, the next studio.  I sit, my head already drooping from sleep-deprivation on the first day of school as my new instructor introduces himself.  He asks for our backgrounds, our former courses of study.  I answer, Psychology, and he responds, I expect and hope that you’ll use that here.

My head perked up, my eyes open and alert.

Just a few months later, my shoulders sagged.  Never had I even had the chance to try and use that old knowledge of mine from what seemed an unfamiliar life – and a whole different series of all-nighters – ago.  What a waste of our skills and our hopes, it seemed.  Here we were – and are – with backgrounds as diverse as David Bowie’s discography, and we never are given chances to tie them into architecture.

(It would take me longer to understand that our backgrounds influence our educations, our projects, and our interactions in subtle ways that we don’t comprehend.)

But I can’t help but wonder – and neither can others, if a previous post is any indication – What else can architects offer to society?

How can our different backgrounds actually inform the practice and even education of architecture?

How much of a chance are we given to really explore that answer, and what can we do to effect change?

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