Nerd alert: I mentioned before that my academic background prior to officially embedding myself in architecture is in anthropology, which definitely informs the shape of what I’m interested in when it comes to design. I predominantly studied cultural anthropology, with some forks into the biological and evolutionary branches.
A lot of people (like seriously, a LOT) have asked me how architecture makes sense in this context – how in the world could I abandon the precedents set by that education, and head for design, of all things?
I think what those querents have missed is that I haven’t left anthropology behind at all. If the particulars of my studies were cultural…doesn’t that pertain to how we express our cultures through our built environments? And if culture is the agglomeration of all the human phenomena that isn’t the result of genetic pre-disposition, how could we argue that it doesn’t affect the way we think about space, from what we think is attractive or ugly to how we use and move through it? How do we know what a space’s intended use is, without reading signs? What cultural cues tell us the difference between a church and a school, or a home and an office? If someone changes what it means to have “home” space, if concepts like the third place are invading our collective consciousness without us even noticing…doesn’t that have dialogue with culture?
And if you take all of these questions, and compare them across populations, you begin to realize that what you’re parsing is what that means for American architecture. Or Italian architecture. Or Japanese architecture. You can go more micro or more macro – the character of a specific building, of a city, of a suburb, of a state, of a country…it’s the where-have-we-been, where-are-we-going, where-do-we-wanna-go of it all that’s the compelling part.
There are so many questions to explore, and so many things to wonder about that occasionally, my nerdery in this regard totally gets the better of me. So, while I can’t yet be certain whether I’m talented enough to be a designer or perfectionistic enough to be a project manager, I am certain of my interest in what architecture means to the people who occupy and use it without having to fuss about how the details hold together.
I guess what I’m saying is: I want to know what design means beyond form + function, and beyond that, I want to use what I learn to make things better. I’m not sure what yet, but ultimately, I’m hoping that discussing these ideas with my colleagues in both the firm and the industry, with clients and consultants, and with just people who give a damn about meaning will help me begin to form the framework for this discussion. Because I’m pretty sure finding the answers to all of the questions is going to take me the rest of my life.