First. A true story- The director of a global, multidisciplinary design firm based in London was asked, "What do you look for in a new employee?". His reply, "Perhaps a sense of humor?"
Graduating students take note.
His reply seems flippant and perhaps irresponsible. Having taught at SAIC, a private art and design school for over 12 years, that was certainly my first reaction. Out of curiosity, I Googled "Why a sense of humor is important?" and found 288 direct links out of 113,000,000 results (in 0.45 seconds). The positive impact of humor on personal relationships, emotional wellbeing, in the workplace, and in businesses is astonishing and offers a moment of reflection for me. It parallels the debate between the two central characters over laughter in the novel "The Name of the Rose," by Umberto Eco. Set in the Middle Ages, William of Baskerville, a Franciscan monk argues for careful deliberation and interpretation while Jorge de Burgos, the elderly and blind monk from the abbey harbors deep suspicions about laughter. To him, laughter is diabolical, subversive. It reduces the serious learning of the monks to triviality and farce. Laughter destabilizes and erodes the status quo. Jorge de Burgos, therefore, sees it as his sacred duty, to the point of committing murders and burning the library (apologies for the spoiler) to protect the established, divine order before it descends into anarchy.
We are witnessing a profound shift at all levels of society that will significantly impact lives on the planet, and a new order is taking shape. Received notions of identity, belonging, ownership, access, and control are questioned and subjected to a re-examination in our current social, political and technological milieu. Architecture as built culture is not immune to scrutiny. The thesis projects of the Class of 2019 bear testament to such scrutiny. The students know where they stand in the debate between William of Baskerville and Jorge de Burgos. They are not cowed by fear or anxiety, nor are they resigned to the present state of affairs. Their projects offer a glimpse of certain possibilities at a time of transition and uncertainty; personal declarations forged and materialized over two semesters of conversation, debate, research, drawing, testing, and making. They invite us to share their defiance, hope, ambition, curiosity, imagination, and resilience.
I would add a sense of humor to the mix.
Unlike the misplaced aversion to laughter by the zealot Jorge de Burgos, it is an invaluable tool that builds conviviality, breaks down tribal instincts, crushes the climate of fear, disarms a tense situation and bridges differences. Or as the irrepressible John Cleese, one of the founding members of the Monty Python comedy group once said, "Laughter is the force of democracy."
May the graduating 2019 class of the Master of Architecture and the Master of Architecture (With an Emphasis in Interior Architecture) finds fulfillment, success, and brings forth joy and laughter through their work.