This article is not about Architecture, but about the Architect. The question of identity is addressed starting from a deep look at the “self”, necessarily personal, and then go beyond the singular dimension and get to deal with the identity of the Architect. A two-piece text, each part with its own identity.
The following article, as predictable in the title is divided into two parts, in the first part is exposed the identity of a student of Architecture, the author of this article. A series of reflections and considerations strictly personal on the theme of identity, with the aim of presenting questions more or less shared by the reader and also understood as an introspective exercise to know better themselves. Knowing oneself by writing.
The first part is structured without plot and without ending, in a disorderly way, in short, a bit like the human mind.
The second half of the article, instead, in contrast to the first half, presents a more structured and reasoned speech, therefore more dense. The discourse develops around the theme of the identity of the Architect, in this sense will be taken into consideration some theorists to present and reason on the contemporary condition of the Architect.
Before I start treating my identity as a future architect/student-architect I would like to briefly introduce my personal-social identity. I find it rather difficult to find an exact answer to the question “Where are you from?” I don’t feel “Being” of a place. This ambiguous feeling certainly has to do with my biography, suspended between two cultures, I don’t think I have a single origin, but three. The first origin-birth as being-man in Turkey and the second origin-growth as being-person in Italy, here I would not like to enter into semantic discussions about being-man and being-person. These two cultures, to which I think I belong indistinctly, have converged to shape my identity as it presents itself today. I have not forgotten the third origin, this takes place in Venice, more precisely at the IUAV University of Venice, and it is that of being an architect that I will deal with now.
Until the end of the second year of my bachelor’s degree I was not yet totally convinced that this was my path, that is to be an Architect, But once I acquired a minimum of architectural cultural background and realizing the fundamental role that the Architect, with his work, plays in society I was determined to become one. I have always been fascinated, rather than by the results produced, by the process that is behind us, both from the point of view of construction and theoretical.
The academic and professional career, to say, that I have behind it is rather ambivalent, after graduating I have not always opted for what interests me most. Indeed, I consciously undertook experiences that conflict with my thinking, both with the choice of the Master’s degree, which I am completing, and some studies of Architecture in which I found myself for medium-short periods. The reason for all this, perhaps even the same that stimulates me to make experiences abroad, is the feeling of being able to have more control over Architecture and the craft, experimenting with different ways of thinking about Architecture. On the other hand, this feeling doesn’t seem to reach me. Over the years, instead of getting answers to questions, I find myself with more and more unresolved questions. This is also clearly visible in the two previous articles for Agorà Magazine, where I present some questions to which I have no precise answers. With regard to the profession of the Architect I began to learn, with difficulty, making it out of the academic sphere, I am of the idea that in the Universities of Architecture is taught to do Architecture, not to be an Architect, the two things do not necessarily coincide. Recently I was asked, on several occasions, the question of what I want to deal with after studies, well, I would like to be an Architect and do Architecture. Rather banal answer, but the only one I have. My main concern is to be able one day to create spaces both aesthetic (beautiful) and ethical (good) and this could very well be the theme of a future article.
Specializing in something specific seems to me a dead end, and I quote the words of Nicholas of the Baptist, in the editorial of Domus 1014, “Specialism forces us to look at detail, to consider the fruit of our work closed in on itself, to see it as an exclusively technical fact that we consider only for its being a useful means to realize some actions of our life, but nothing more.”¹
To conclude this first part, regarding these writing exercises that I am developing with this Magazione, I believe that they represent me no less than an architectural project.
TWO HUNDRED FIFTY THINGS AN ARCHITECT SHOULD KNOW
by Michael Sorkin (2014)
1.The feel of cool marble under bare feet. 2.How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months. 3.With the same strangers in a lifeboat for one week. 4.The modulus of rupture. 5.The distance a shout carries in the city. 6.The distance of a whisper. 7.Everything possible about Hatshepsut’s temple (try not to see it as “modernist” avant la lettre). 8.The number of people with rent subsidies in New York City. 9.In your town (include the rich). 10.The flowering season for azaleas. 11.The insulating properties of glass. 12.The history of its production and use. 13.And of its meaning. 14.How to lay bricks. 15.What Victor Hugo really meant by “this will kill that.” 16.The rate at which the seas are rising. 17.Building information modeling (BIM). 18.How to unclog a Rapidograph. 19.The Gini coefficient. 20.A comfortable tread-to-riser ratio for a six-year-old. 21.In a wheelchair. 22.The energy embodied in aluminum. 23.How to turn a corner. 24.How to design a corner. 25.How to sit in a corner. 26.How Antoni Gaudí modeled the Sagrada Família and calculated its structure. 27.The proportioning system for the Villa Rotonda. 28.The rate at which that carpet you specified off-gasses. 29.The relevant sections of the Code of Hammurabi.” 30.The migratory patterns of warblers and other seasonal travelers. 31.The basics of mud construction. 32.The direction of prevailing winds. 33.Hydrology is destiny. 34.Jane Jacobs in and out. 35.Something about Feng Shui. 36.Something about Vastu Shilpa. 37.Elementary ergonomics. 38.The color wheel. 39.What the client wants. 40.What the client thinks it wants. 41.What the client needs. 42.What the client can afford. 43.What the planet can afford. 44.The theoretical bases for modernity and a great deal about its factions and inflections. 45.What post-Fordism means for the mode of production of building. 46.Another language. 47.What the brick really wants. 48.The difference between Winchester Cathedral and a bicycle shed. 49.What went wrong in Fatehpur Sikri. 50.What went wrong in Pruitt-Igoe. 51.What went wrong with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. 52.Where the CCTV cameras are. 53.Why Mies really left Germany. 54.How people lived in Catal Huyuk. 55.The structural properties of tufa. 56.How to calculate the dimensions of brise-soleil. 57.The kilowatt costs of photovoltaic cells. 58.Vitruvius. 59.Walter Benjamin. 60.Marshall Berman. 61.The secrets of the success of Robert Moses. 62.How the dome on the Duomo in Florence was built. 63.The reciprocal influences of Chinese and Japanese building. 64.The cycle of the Ise Shrine. 65.Entasis. 66.The history of Soweto. 67.What it’s like to walk down Las Ramblas. 68.Backup. 69.The proper proportions of a gin martini. 70.Shear and moment. 71.Shakespeare, et cetera 72.How the crow flies. 73.The difference between a ghetto and a neighborhood. 74.How the pyramids were built. 75.Why. 76.The pleasures of the suburbs. 77.The horrors. 78.The quality of light passing through ice. 79.The meaninglessness of borders. 80.The reasons for their tenacity. 81.The creativity of the ecotone. 82.The need for freaks. 83.Accidents must happen. 84.It is possible to begin designing anywhere. 85.The smell of concrete after rain. 86.The angle of the sun at the equinox. 87.How to ride a bicycle. 88.The depth of the aquifer beneath you. 89.The slope of a handicapped ramp. 90.The wages of construction workers. 91.Perspective by hand. 92.Sentence structure. 93.The pleasure of a spritz at sunset at a table by the Grand Canal. 94.The thrill of the ride. 95.Where materials come from. 96.How to get lost. 97.The pattern of artificial light at night, seen from space. 98.What human differences are defensible in practice. 99.Creation is a patient search. 100.The debate between Otto Wagner and Camillo Sitte. 101.The reasons for the split between architecture and engineering. 102.Many ideas about what constitutes utopia. 103.The social and formal organization of the villages of the Dogon. 104.Brutalism, Bowellism and the Baroque. 105.How to dérive. 106.Woodshop safety. 107.A great deal about the Gothic. 108.The architectural impact of colonialism on the cities of North Africa. 109.A distaste for imperialism. 110.The history of Beijing. 111.Dutch domestic architecture in the seventeenth century. 112.Aristotle’s Politics. 113.His Poetics. 114.The basics of wattle and daub. 115.The origins of the balloon frame. 116.The rate at which copper acquires its patina. 117.The levels of particulates in the air of Tianjin. 118.The capacity of white pine trees to sequester carbon. 119.Where else to sink it. 120.The fire code. 121.The seismic code. 122.The health code. 123.The Romantics, throughout the arts and philosophy. 124.How to listen closely. 125.That there is a big danger in working in a single medium: the logjam you don’t even know you’re stuck in will be broken by a shift in representation. 126.The exquisite corpse. 127.Scissors, stone, paper. 128.Good Bordeaux. 129.Good beer. 130.How to escape a maze. 131.QWRTY. 132.Fear. 133.Finding your way around Prague, Fez, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Kyoto, Rio, Mexico City, Solo, Benares, Bangkok, Leningrad, Isfahan. 134.The proper way to behave with interns. 135.Maya, Revit, CATIA, whatever. 136.The history of big machines, including those that can fly. 137.How to calculate ecological footprints. 138.Three good lunch spots within walking distance. 139.The value of human life. 140.Who pays. 141.Who profits. 142.The Venturi effect. 143.How people pee. 144.What to refuse to do, even for the money. 145.The fine print in the contract. 146.A smattering of naval architecture. 147.The idea of too far. 148.The idea of too close. 149.Burial practices in a wide range of cultures. 150.The density needed to support a pharmacy. 151.The density needed to support a subway. 152.The effect of the design of your city on food miles for fresh produce. 153.Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes. 154.Capability Brown, André Le Nôtre, Frederick Law Olmsted, Muso Soseki, Ji Cheng, and Roberto Burle Marx. 155.Constructivism, in and out. 156.Sinan. 157.Squatter settlements via visits and conversations with residents. 158.The history and techniques of architectural representation across cultures. 159.Several other artistic media. 160.A bit of chemistry and physics. 161.Geodesics. 162.Geodetics. 163.Geomorphology. 164.Geography. 165.The law of the Andes. 166.Cappadocia firsthand. 167.The importance of the Amazon. 168.How to patch leaks. 169.What makes you happy. 170.The components of a comfortable environment for sleep. 171.The view from the Acropolis. 172.The way to Santa Fe. 173.The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. 174.Where to eat in Brooklyn. 175.Half as much as a London cabbie. 176.The Nolli Plan. 177.The Cerdà Plan. 178.The Haussmann Plan. 179.Slope analysis. 180.Darkroom procedures and Photoshop. 181.Dawn breaking after a bender. 182.Styles of genealogy and taxonomy. 183.Betty Friedan. 184.Guy Debord. 185.Ant Farm. 186.Archigram. 187.Club Med. 188.Crepuscule in Dharamshala. 189.Solid geometry. 190.Strengths of materials (if only intuitively). 191.Halong Bay. 192.What’s been accomplished in Medellín. 193.In Rio. 194.In Calcutta. 195.In Curitiba. 196.In Mumbai. 197.Who practices? (It is your duty to secure this space for all who want to.) 198.Why you think architecture does any good. 199.The depreciation cycle. 200.What rusts. 201.Good model-making techniques in wood and cardboard. 202.How to play a musical instrument. 203.Which way the wind blows. 204.The acoustical properties of trees and shrubs. 205.How to guard a house from floods. 206.The connection between the Suprematists and Zaha. 207.The connection between Oscar Niemeyer and Zaha. 208.Where north (or south) is. 209.How to give directions, efficiently and courteously. 210.Stadtluft macht frei. 211.Underneath the pavement the beach. 212.Underneath the beach the pavement. 213.The germ theory of disease. 214.The importance of vitamin D. 215.How close is too close. 216.The capacity of a bioswale to recharge the aquifer. 217.The draught of ferries. 218.Bicycle safety and etiquette. 219.The difference between gabions and riprap. 220.The acoustic performance of Boston’s Symphony Hall. 221.How to open the window. 222.The diameter of the earth. 223.The number of gallons of water used in a shower. 224.The distance at which you can recognize faces.” 225.How and when to bribe public officials (for the greater good). 226.Concrete finishes.227.Brick bonds. 228.The Housing Question by Friedrich Engels. 229.The prismatic charms of Greek island towns. 230.The energy potential of the wind. 231.The cooling potential of the wind, including the use of chimneys and the stack effect. 232.Paestum. 233.Straw-bale building technology. 234.Rachel Carson. 235.Freud. 236.The excellence of Michel de Klerk. 237.Of Alvar Aalto. 238.Of Lina Bo Bardi. 239.The non-pharmacological components of a good club. 240.Mesa Verde. 241.Chichen Itza. 242.Your neighbors. 243.The dimensions and proper orientation of sports fields. 244.The remediation capacity of wetlands. 245.The capacity of wetlands to attenuate storm surges. 246.How to cut a truly elegant section. 247.The depths of desire. 248.The heights of folly. 249.Low tide. 250.The Golden and other ratios.
“Architects, I will not lie, you confuse me. You work sixty, eighty hours a week and yet you are always poor… Architects love to discuss how long they’ve slept.”² with these words the writer Annie Choi defines architects in the open letter entitled “Dear Architects, I am sick of your sh*t” published initially in 2006 in Pidgin Magazine (publication of graduate students at the Princeton University School of Architecture); although the Identity of the Architect is a probable description, it is not possible to reduce it to this.
The question already mentioned in the first part, the distinction between Architecture and Architect is apparently obvious, but presents ambiguities. Bernard Rudofsky concretizes his 1941 proposal at the MOMA in New York with the exhibition entitled “Architecture without Architects”, where spontaneous/vernacular architectures are the focus of attention. Rudofsky’s work implies in a certain sense the non-essentiality of the figure of the Architect, counterbalanced “by the spontaneous and continuous activity of an entire people with a common heritage, acting within a community of experiences.”³ So we can understand Architecture as a phenomenon that precedes the Architect. According to the etymological dictionary, the term Architecture derives from the word Architect (Architéktōn in Greek and Architectus in Latin).
Let’s leave aside Architecture and focus on the identity of the Architect. The latter from its origins is manifesting a continuous mutation. Yona Friedman’s work in Toward a Scientific Architecture leads to a critique of the definition of the Architect “mediator of the wishes of the future user who ends up having little or no final decision-making power”⁴. Friedman anticipates a model of network organization for design processes, opening them to decentralized control systems, constantly in transformation. Giancarlo de Carlo instead focuses on the meaning and implications of participation. De Carlo’s work insists on a continuous restoration of the Architect’s craft: it serves to think critically about the role avoiding clichés.
The evolution of the role of the architect is a topic more and more questioned, the authors of the book Consensus Design⁵, reconfigure the position of the Architect, that instead of acting as a mediator between Client and User, these three roles concur equally to define the project, So the architect presents himself as a facilitator.
On the other hand, the theorists Markus Breitschmid and Valerio Olgiati believe that to give meaning to a building is “exclusively the idea of the architect”⁶; to emphasize also the context of this reflection for which “In the current non-referential world, social objectives differ according to the myriad of individuals and groups whose interests are so different that they are impossible to merge”⁶.
To influence the identity of the architect there is another aspect, that of digitalization. The third wave, where the first two are the birth of the CAD and the transition to BIM, is that of the AI. It is speculated that “thanks to artificial intelligence, humans are increasingly guaranteed the ability to create and design the world in which they want to live and leave dirty work to machines”⁷, it will be time to say if this “dirty work” is a quintessential element of the Architect’s identity.
Translated into English by Berk Ozturk.
Cover: Berk Ozturk, Fake cover, Milan, 2021.
¹ Nicola di Battista, DELLA LIBERTÀ, Domus n. 1014, Milano, Giugno-2017.
² Annie Choi, Dear Architects, I am sick of your sh*t, Pidgin Magazine, Princeton 2006.
³ Bernard Rudofsky, Architecture Without Architects, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1964.
⁴ Yona Friedman, Toward a Scientific Architecture, Cambridge, The MIT Press, 1975.
⁵ Christopher Day, Rosie Parnell, Consensus Design, Oxford, Architectural Press, 2003.
⁶ Valerio Olgiati, Markus Breitschmid, Non-referential Architecture, Zurigo, Park Books, 2018.
⁷ Wasim Muklashy, How Machine Learning in Architecture Is Liberating the Role of the Designer, from www.redshift.autodesk.com, last modification 05/2018, date of consultation 04/2021.