Memories from Architecture Studio

Does anybody remember “mixtapes”? For those of you born after 1995, mixtapes were traditionally self-assembled arrangements of songs onto cassette tapes. I had hundreds of them and armed with my Sony Walkman, I would sit and work at my drafting table for hours on end. In this regard, I was not unique – everybody in studio had music playing in one form or another.

Instagram Photo

When I was in college, mixtapes played a role in my daily life up at studio – I listened to them constantly and for hours on end. I suppose I technically still have my mix tapes except now they are simply called “playlists” and with the availability of digital music, the feeling of listening to your favorite songs just isn’t as thrilling as it used to be. Yes, I am aware that I am currently suffering from good ol’ days syndrome, but I did just turn 50 and along with my AARP membership, I am entitled to certain privileges.

As the end of the collegiate school year approaches, semester-long studio projects and end-of-the-year studio jury’s have been taking place. Luckily, I still get to participate in these as a guest juror and I have found myself back in the architecture studio feeling a little melancholy for my youth … and my mixtapes.

Instagram Photo

Last week I took part in a panel discussion at the University of Texas at Arlington where I presented my American Institute of Architects Fellowship application … but of course, since I am me, I didn’t do what anybody else did (maybe there were instructions …). Four of the Five panelists ran through their applications before an audience mostly made up of current architecture students. Considering that the application process is extremely formulaic, I chose to ignore 75% of my submittal and just focus on a handful of pages within my application, while talking about how this process will most likely be unrecognizable by the time the 20-somethings sitting in the audience have their turn to apply for Fellowship.

Bob Borson and Texas Society of Architects 2018 President Mike McGlone

I have also been taking part in a handful of architecture school jury panels lately. These are typically a lot of fun, despite the bumps along the way (for the students, not me) and I think spending some time in a college studio is good for me. I am reminded of how important first impressions are and how no amount of talking can make up for a lack of work. Not too unlike my time in college, you can pretty much tell a lot about a student just by looking at what they pin up on the wall, coupled with how they choose to explain their work (or lack thereof). It reminds me that architecture students at this stage can pretty much be categorized into one of the following categories:

  • Good Idea and Good Drawings
  • Bad Idea and Good Drawings
  • Good Idea and Bad Drawings
  • Bad Idea and Bad Drawings

Everyone can tell which student falls into which category … and that includes the student. Regardless of age or experience, people have a pretty solid understanding of when they have done the work and whether or not they have a good idea. As a juror sitting in on these presentations, the interesting part comes when someone tries to talk their way around the evidence that is currently pinned up on the wall.  It is pretty typical that every class will have about 10% in the first category, 10% in the last category, and the rest falling somewhere in between.

I will confess that I fell into the bottom 10% the first year I was in architecture school – a painful introduction for me into an environment where I learned that no amount of smooth talking was going to keep me from having “my work” ridiculed. It was actually so bad that I ended up taking a year off from studio (not college) to figure out if this was something I was supposed to be doing. (For the full story, check out: The College Years). When I finally figured things out, I moved through the ranks and I’d like to think I made my way to the top. I am a little vain as a designer but not oblivious to the fact that I recognize that there were one or two other classmates of mine that have turned out to be the proverbial rockstar designer.

Thinking about how things were is typically not a productive use of one’s time – and I rarely advocate someone spending the time to look backward instead of focusing all their attention on what lies ahead. About the only time I think reminiscing is a productive use of your time, is when it is used as fuel to focus your efforts and hone your attention in on your goals. From time to time you need to reevaluate what your goals actually are so that you can make any necessary course corrections. I know that I currently have one fairly large course correction in front of me and for the time being, I am currently choosing to ignore it.

Seize the day and have a great week – there are obstacles and challenges before us all but we will be the better for taking the more interesting path.


Bob signature FAIA

Source: Life of an Architect