ARCHITECTURE vs. ENTERTAINMENT

Originally published in OAA Perspectives Fall 2016 on page 8.

AS ALWAYS, IT SEEMS THAT the deadline for submission of this quarterly message comes tight to another project deadline. In addition to the never-ending tasks and seemingly endless conference calls, running a full-time practice is, as many of you know, at least a full-time job. When I look back on a week, a month or a quarter, and calculate the amount of so-called overtime, it seems that there is never a moment when I’m not working at something. It is no surprise then that entertainment, the subject of this issue, is in my immediate fantasy present and the furthest from my reality.

As architects we are trained to view our profession as a calling. We consider our beautiful blending of art and science to be almost unique in the working world. We can fully immerse ourselves, even wallow, in the work ethic that the university “studio” culture builds into our characters. We pride ourselves on our ability to juggle multiple, multi-million dollar projects, like those featured in this issue, with artistic grace and technical success. But, we’re only human.

We (very occasionally) make mistakes. These can be driven by many things but sometimes are driven by—gasp—exhaustion. By seeing our work as a calling, we may be making it difficult to take a break “just” for the purposes of entertainment. Rest is a hot topic of conversation lately. Resting our bodies and minds helps support our ability to be creative. Rest is not just sleep; sometimes it’s making sure to take a lunch break. Acknowledging our need to rest means that we acknowledge we are more than architects; we are human.

As humans we are part of the ecosystem of the planet. Sitting in front of a computer for hours, meeting in offices and walking through construction sites may be an intrinsic need for the architect, but it is not enough for the human. The human has a higher calling to connect with other humans and with the Earth. Throughout history, entertainment has been a part of the way we connect with other humans: from the stories in oral cultures to the stories online.

There is increasing pushback on this. In 2013, GALDSU1 reported2 that students of architecture, landscape and design lead unhealthy lives due to irregular sleep, missed meals and lack of exercise, which, added to a relentless work schedule, especially around deadlines, has a negative impact on mental health. This can’t be good for us, or the future of the profession.

So whether your form of entertainment is, in the immortal words of Timothy Leary, to “turn on, tune in, drop out,” or to go for a nice walk in the wilderness, remember to make time to turn off your phone and tune into your friends and family. Get off your phone, climb onto a bike, strap on a pair of runners and hit the road. Go sailing, go fly a kite. Be entertained by the world around us.

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