Architalks: Why I am an Architect

This month, when Bob Borson (Life of an Architect) sent the Architalks topic, the seemingly simple question had me stumped for answers.

“Why am I am Architect” – to be a Starchitect and be an award winning queen of curves.  

If I were to answer this question just stepping out of teenage, in Architecture school, that would have been my answer. But, twenty years in education and in the industry, my life as an architect is that of a melting pot. Instead of being that Starchitect that my education prepared me for (or spend my life drawing toilet partitions for a Starchitect), I have become a jack of many trades, hacker of many tools- from lifting weights so that I don’t shy away from dragging 150 lbs of drawings to the City office, to finding the best coffee that doesn’t give me acne while stay up the night- architecture thankfully hasn’t merely been a means to pay mortgage. The point being, you don’t be an architect because you love to draw or you love buildings. Those are precisely why I wanted to be an Architect according to my college essay, but frankly no, that shouldn’t be the reason- architects draw to convey a readable idea to the contractor, much like a doctor scribbles code to the pharmacist. Ours look beautiful and presentable, that’s all. So twenty years after that college essay, how do I answer the same question in another continent?

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who want change, and those who want to be the change. Those who want change identify what needs to be changed, and convey it to the world standing on a podium, driving the idea into the minds and hearts of their audience – they stage protests- they create awareness. Then there are others, who put efforts into understanding what’s wrong, and then dedicate every little step of theirs thereafter towards the change they want to bring. I am the second type of activist. The participant activist. In the past twenty years, the focus of my attention in a building has shifted from “Oh, pretty” to “Oh, Sustainable!” But, that doesn’t mean I have a list of net zero projects under my kitty, or I have patents of sustainable building systems.

Sustainability can’t be like some sort of a moral sacrifice or political dilemma or a philanthropical cause. It has to be a design challenge – Bjarke Ingels

Buildings. From the moment you were born to that moment they hold your wake, your life is boxed in buildings yet you don’t realize how much thought and how many efforts go behind the planning and execution of these buildings so that you, the user, are comfortable. Buildings also contribute to 39% of the carbon emissions, and 72% of the total electricity consumptions. If I am designing four buildings a year, each one roughly a hundred thousand square feet, I will be responsible for two hundred buildings, and a total of at least twenty million square feet of changed space in my career. If I don’t care about the ways that project can be executed, and if I don’t talk to my client about being environmentally friendly and ethically responsible while building what he wants to build, no one else will. “Business as usual” will always be the client’s motto, and “business as usual in a safe and healthy environment” is mine.

I am an Architect (NotLY) to save the world, one building system at a time.

Saving the world is a doctor’s job, or a politicians. Not an Architect’s – right? At least as shown in media we are quirky-romantic-beautiful-slightly smitten by the dark side superheroes always working on a sky scraper and alternating between death wish coffee and something on the rocks. Selfless doctors save the third world. Ethical lawyers take on conniving corporations. Teachers bring a change in the world. What about us Architects? According to the media, our profession is not about saving the world- it’s about romance, grandeur. It’s about Ted Mosby in How I met your Mother. Unless it’s a Ted talk, or documentary, no one talks about how an Architect saves the world – or for that matter that polar ice cap from melting or the seasons from changing- or designs your buildings to be resilient against the changing seasons.

So, when I say that I want to change the world through my design, it comes as an overstatement when it’s truly not.

Architecture perhaps is the only profession that brings a positive change to the world while it takes care of life and safety- so next time you walk in a bar and have a gala time, thank an architect when you reach home safely.. without the roof collapsing on your head. Next time you have a productive day, know that your architect has designed your light, your HVAC and your surrounding spaces so well that you could focus on your job. Next time when your child comes home sharing stories of what happened in school, know that we contributed by designing a space conducive for learning. And most importantly, when you come home and relax, don’t forget to thank us- even if you bought a cookie cutter, there is someone who designed it, and signed on that design owning the idea. Media hasn’t shown you our cape yet, but we do have one – and that exactly is the reason why I am an Architect. Architecture really is more about your life and safety, and your well being than the pantone color board for your interiors.

Not every green revolution will be about minimalist off the grid shipping container and no architect will ever leave this world without being the change or bringing the change.

-Meghana Joshi

Why am I am Architect- here is a list of other Architalks blogs. Each one of our responses are unique like our practices. Please visit them to know why people become Architects:


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