The Import of Experience
As Soren Kierkegaard once said, “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” As eager freshman entering a new and exciting world these words are most likely lost on us. After seven years in college, however, it would seem as if no truer words have never been spoken. Every course taken, homework assignment completed, grade received, mistake made, and friendship forged is a testament to the utter truth of this statement. The major we have chosen is challenging, so challenging at times that it can be difficult to discern the purpose of our efforts or force us to question if our efforts are being misplaced. We are challenged to work harder, think harder, and perform better than we perhaps ever have been before. At times fatigue and frustration can begin to cloud our vision and stunt our creativity or motivation. But as the fog of the undergraduate years begins to dissipate, it becomes abundantly clear that the keystone of our education is the experience with which we have been blessed.
If anyone knows the extreme value of experience its Thomas Edison. When questioned about his failures in developing the light bulb Edison is said to have responded, “…why would I ever feel like a failure? Why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” As students of architecture we are all too familiar with the feeling of trying over and over again to get something right, or as we like to call it: iterations. We rework floor plans, we rethink elevations, and we realize that our structural grid is physically impossible. Each iteration is teaching us how not to do things and bringing us that much closer to success. Every model we build is teaching us the importance of craft, precision, and tectonics. Each presentation we give is teaching us to be assertive, professional, and invested in the work that we produce. Every computer program we struggle to learn is teaching us to be patient, thoughtful, and prepared for the future. This process has been tried and tested, and patience and the acceptance of this process is truly of the utmost importance.
Experience in architecture is truly vital. But one cannot learn without first doing. Experience can, after all, be defined as the “conscious events that make up an individual life.” Though at times our work seems fruitless, the fact that we are working and exposing ourselves to different experiences is what is shaping our future. When we get to the end of our careers and are able to reflect on the entirety of our work may we all be able to say that we now understand, that we ran the race, and that -with experience- we have finished well.