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Telling A Story

Scott Vrooman - Sunday, January 25, 2015

Most people think that architects draw and crunch numbers. I have heard from people the phrase “I wanted to be an architect but I was never good at math” at least two dozen times. While it’s true that there are benefits to being able to draw and to be able to do complex math on the fly, it is certainly not a requirement for the job. Technology has taken care of those gaps between inherent skills and enhanced skills.

 

Architecture is one of maybe 5 or 6 commonly identified “professional” occupations. Doctors, attorneys, accountants, engineers, and a few others are in that same category. Of those, architecture paints itself as the intersection between art and science. We deal with life safety issues in the built environment. So some of the reputation of “drawing and crunching is warranted.”

 

But there’s another side of architecture that is much more exciting to me. You see, architecture tells a story. Sure, the building can tell a story about the concept and symbolism behind it. But I’m talking about the story of the people that occupy the building.

 

We design a lot of schools and churches at our firm. While there are always opportunities to express abstract emotion in the architecture, I am always amazed at the amount of passion in the people that work in these building environments. They know that what they do has a purpose—that they make a difference in people’s lives.

 

They have a story to tell.

 

At a school, most everyone who works there believes at their core that education can change lives and they want desperately to influence their students with their story. For the students, they have a story, too. Sometimes it doesn’t include education. Sometimes it involves a broken family or frivolous focus.

Architecture gets to design spaces for the intersection of those stories. Does education change lives, or does a student’s apathy or disinterest keep their stories apart? A lot of that is up to the teacher and the student. But architecture’s role is to provide a space that those stories can play out without distraction and without barriers.

 

Architecture tells a story. But I believe architecture plays a bigger role when it facilitates the intersection of two or more stories. That is where the magic happens.

 

We may draw and we may crunch, but our greatest contribution is that we can weave.

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