Sitting in front of my computer, remembering my University years, I was invaded by a host of emotions. I remember feeling big, adult, with a purpose in life, but above all, I remember the anxiety; the one that came from not knowing what might happen after the presentation of any project in design classes. The intense anguish and emptiness in the stomach product of not having a rule to follow, a list of steps to let me know when my hard work would bear good fruit. It was not the same for students of other careers. Engineering students, for instance, knew that if they learned the formulas, they would do well on tests; but it was different for us, everything was subjective and confusing.
Every time our teachers gave us a new assignment, a new project to be designed, we ran to the library (yes, library, we did not use the internet as often as now) to get as much information as the limited free time we had allowed us. We filled our minds with snapshots that our eyes took; straight lines, curved lines, double heights, fullness and void; everything that had worked for others in the past, with the intention of making ourselves believe that we had hope of doing it well.
It was so clear to us that this was the path to follow, that it was almost starting to become THE rule, the rule we did not have but we desperately needed. Even teachers supported it, it was the way in which, they said, we could jump-start the creative process.
I always remember that in design classes, teachers would listen one by one, to our long and intricate explanations about the project we were working on, and most of the time, at the end of our explanation, they recommended we seek information about an architect they had associated with our design. Once, when the teacher was almost finished with his round, he met one of my classmates and, after hearing his description of the project, he said: “Look no further information, you have too many references in mind, and the project does not seem yours.”
This story became an awakening moment in my career and helped my open my eyes. Right there, standing, as against a movie screen watching a thriller, I understood for the first time, that it was not about becoming a walking-talking library that was able to recite one by one the projects carried out by the great architects; that we should be able to believe in ourselves and make the world believe in us.
I understood that we must avoid to follow the common path, the one taken by most people, the one that, during our years of study, part of the uncertainty of not knowing what we are doing, and that leads us to focusing too much on what others do, what the great and famous do.
It is not about (re)inventing the wheel, and this is why it is important to analyze what others have done in similar situations, but it is very important to discover who we are to achieve success. We should always leave our mark, our label, a little detail that sets us apart and makes us special. I know it takes time, but when we finally get the confidence to know what we can do, we really begin to enjoy our career.
Architecture is a beautiful profession, capable of making us leave a mark on the world, but only when we acquire the confidence to move forward, to leave behind the insecurities, the references, we can accomplish great things.
A little confidence and a few hours of study and research can take us as far as we dream…