Re: Re: Poll for Irish architects

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“While it has been very demotivating to finish college and not walk straight into an architecture job – as all of my friends did in previous years – it has also had some positive effects. I think if the economy hadn’t collapsed I would have started in an architecture job and never really considered any other options”.

I will be the very first one to stand up and criticize the profession of architecture and the institute. But allow me to balance that instinct of mine with something else. Speaking from my own personal experience, when you are still in your 20’s you think you are too old to start something else. Rubbish. That is a pure illusion. It is more like 30 years of age, when you really have to start thinking seriously about your situation. But until the 30 year benchmark, if there is something you would like to do, then I would say, go and do it. Even if it seems daft and strange. Go and do it anyway – you will only have better stories to tell.

To be honest, I thought those people who walked straight into a job after leaving college in Dublin during the Celtic Tiger turned into boring people. That is the trouble with becoming career orientated at a young age. You turn into a mini-version of some older consultant architect. Senior consultant architects are often slobs. They aren’t the best role models by any stretch of the imagination. I remember a couple of young Italian architects I hired some years back. They had come straight to Ireland after graduating. Both were damn good architects. But they appeared upset that as designers they didn’t enjoy the level of freedom they had hoped for. At one stage I said, get over it. You are a young architect and the world is your oyster. Anything should be possible.

“I was absolutely furious when I read Sean O’Laoire’s address to members in last June or July’s Irish architect – he seemed to think the impending recession was a time for amusement & his attitude summed up perfectly the RIAI”.

While Sean might have measured his audience wrong here, there is another aspect to it, which says that architects aught to be positive and ambitious. It is a wonderful qualification to have. I wish I could be so lucky myself. I believe that reading a lot of self help books, personal psychology etc, is an important part of an architect’s training. I know it would have helped me along the road. It isn’t emphasized enough in training for architects.

Pick out a really good role model. Someone from a completely different industry – an astronaut or something. Role models are important. Don’t choose another architect as your role model, at all costs. Think of when you were a kid, you had the best role models ever – be it a soccer player, the A-team, or Starsky and Hutch – who cares? That sense of wonder is what you have to re-capture in your life. (I am not a man, I am Cantona . . . ) That little bit of bravado and style is what makes you special.

They try to surgically remove it when you are going through architecture school. (Probably in order to get you to examine your own logic, and become a better architect) But having finished architecture school, you need to re-visit some of those old posters you tore off the bedroom wall, when you became ‘grown up’.

Don’t pay any attention to your colleagues, a lot of them could do with a bit of self help too. You will meet them ten years from now. Some of them will have gained a sense of their own ambition. Some will have gained other things in life that are as valuable, if not more. The next time you meet Sean O’ Laoire, tell him you are going to be ten times a better architect than he ever was. Now Sean, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

You are your own product as an architect. There isn’t a conveyor belt that churns out tins of something and puts them in a box. People are buying you. It isn’t about good looks, being tall or having magnificent stature. If you are the complete package, whatever shape it is, then people will notice and snap it off the shelf. That is essentially what those crits in the architecture school were about. I had some funny crits I can tell you. I didn’t know what kind of product I was trying to sell myself.

The real ‘micky award’ has to go to a friend of mine. He is one of those real skinny, pointy kind of people. A bit like a fishing rod. I recall his most important thesis crit. He wore skin tight drain pipe jeans and the whitest, cleanest pair of Adidas runners I have ever seen. I think, before the crit he consumed too much caffine. He was nervous in these situations. I was supposed to be taking notes. I had a hang over and I couldn’t take my eyes off the runners. I think I got a migraine looking at them. I didn’t hear a word. But in the end, he did fine. Everyone still remembers the runners more than the project.

Brian O’ Hanlon

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