Let’s face it, the last few years have probably been the worst time in a century to be an architect, and I don’t need this installment of Side Yard to explain why. But as the holiday season emerges, remember that there is one small indulgence that life has afforded the architect. It is the cultural gala where the designer reigns supreme as the true leader of the civilized world. It is the one opportunity offering some sort of hope to a vast ego that is habitually starved for veneration…and cash.
It is: THE COCKTAIL PARTY.
Architects are all the rage at cocktail parties. People at cocktail parties love to talk to architects because partiers love to talk about themselves. This is primarily because everybody at a cocktail party has at one time in their life wanted to be an architect. And the more one has to drink, the closer he or she was in the past to becoming an architect.
I have never been to a cocktail party and talked to someone who hasn’t considered architecture as a profession. Now, why aren’t these people actually architects? Unscientific polls of the many cocktail parties I have been to show that the top six reasons are as follows:
1. I wasn’t good at math: 39%.
2. My parents wanted me to be a doctor/lawyer: 36%.
3. Outside of cocktail parties architects are losers: 24%.
4. I don’t look good in black: 19%.
5. I want to make a decent income: 7% (*1).
6. I have no real creative abilities: .5% (*2)
Please note: Though a valid reason until the mid-80s, “I am a woman” no longer registers a perceptible percentage among cocktail party participants. It is also apparent that the top six reasons add up to be 125.5%. That’s because people at cocktail parties usually have multiple reasons for not becoming architects.
In addition to having the past desire to be an architect, many people at cocktail parties have also “designed” their own house or cabin. National polls show that 47 percent of all people who attend at least one cocktail party a year say they have designed their own home (or are in the process), while over 50 percent of all cocktail parties are held in houses that were “designed” by the owner who originally wanted to become an architect (*3). Though it is difficult to obtain information about the overall quality of these designs, visual inventories by myself and other professionals suggest that they are proportional to the actual schooling these non-professional designers have had in architecture. It can be assumed that most never really had any.
The immense popularity of architects at cocktail parties allows the professional great latitude in conduct and appearance. The slightly tousled appearance (dressed in black, of course) is expected because it is assumed that the architect has been pondering great civil and artistic thoughts and has no time for personal pampering. His or her gorging on the hors d’oeurves and drinks is excused because of reasons already mentioned (see reasons 3 and 5 above). A very important factor at cocktail parties is the architect’s ability to listen, since, as implied previously, he or she really won’t actually be talking about his or her own work or education.
For those of you who are reading this analysis and have a holiday cocktail party plan in the making (and are not of the aforementioned vocation), I ask you to not do a “George Costanza,” taking on the persona of an architect at the gathering for reasons of personal vanity. This is not because it is difficult to imitate an architect, whose behavior is quite stereotypical. I rather appeal to your sense of charity since this is one of the few pleasures in life yet afforded those in the profession. Instead, hire an out-of-work architect to be a host at your party. All this architect needs to do is walk around looking for doctors and lawyers who appear to have consumed at least two cocktails and say, “Hi I’m an architect…”