Army of Anonymity

I leave our college many times on a daily basis, almost always with an empty coffee cup in promise of being filled. I see many faces as I throw myself down the stairs in excitement for upcoming caffeination, and I recognize most of them as being fellow architecture students. We seem to have taken over the three floors allotted to us in that (barely) renovated office building, perhaps greater in number than all planners, urban designers, and landscape architects together.

In my second studio, my instructor mentioned that we should incorporate our distinct backgrounds – we were mainly all from non-architecture programs – into our practices. I started jittering, the shakes not even from coffee this time – after a several-year hiatus, I could finally explore psychology again! We would be a studio of little architects-to-be with our own specialized (and maybe even marketable) skills!

Or so I thought, until the pace of the studio quickly stole from us any chance of this. Next time, I told myself.

Studio after studio, review after review, that hope of merging my two fields went as stale as a pot of cheap coffee left on a cold burner for a week. I’ll just have to wait until after I’m done with school, I began promising myself.

Upon hearing so many interns and younger architects speak of their experiences, though, I knew that this hope would fade, too.

I started thinking about the rigorous hazing that schools of architecture appear to buy into. No longer does it seem to me that our grueling first year was about testing and challenging us, or that it was meant to weed out the ‘unfaithful’. Instead, I feel that – in spite of my studio instructor’s encouraging words – the process was meant to condition all of us, to turn us all into good little worker monkeys.

To turn us into a faceless mass that will be thrown into cubicles to spend thirty hours a day coordinating door details, burnt out of – or no longer even aware of – our original desires that brought us into architecture.

I continue to wonder why there are so many of us, too, when there is no place for us. Will there be, once the economy recovers? Or will that recovery take so long that schools will have continued to churn out ‘us little grunts’ to the point of over-saturation where, regardless of any upturn in building, there continues to be no place for us?

I sit here writing in an apartment not my own, taking a break from moving into mine – one that I might not be able to afford in three months – and thinking about coffee. I can’t make any here. Should I go buy a cup? I look at my bank statement and see lots of numbers. Another faceless horde, this one of credit debt. I wish it was deposits, instead.

Three bucks for a cup of coffee… I’ll have to pass.

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