Amanda Zylstra, Bronze Medal Nominee (2017)

Reflection on “Intervention”


Intervention hits home for some and is a foreign ideal for others. Whether we admit it or not, we have all faced interventions, not small encounters, but defining shifts when realization penetrates our thinking. So much so that it is enough to change us. We also have to potential to intervene in dramatic ways. As architects we have opportunities to “venire” in Latin, meaning that you cause to come. What we make, the cause, will inevitably have an effect. This is a heavy task. Our purpose, however, is not to make a difference. Wise intervention is seeing something hurting and broken, something malfunctioning and in need of immediate care. The desire to make a difference is flippant egotism. Instead, intervention requires a deep longing to remedy an urgent necessity.

If intervention is to be worthwhile, it must be severed from self-fulfillment, and detached from superiority. It is careless to think one who causes something to come is the hero. The immediate care required for intervention is more like tending to a garden; when we find disorder, we simply want to love it back to order. Because we can see how our work directly impacts others, it is easy to become pretentious. It is important to value what our work can do, but we are only a player in intervention. There is a relational learning that takes place during intervention. The affected company is empowered with the opportunity to change as a result of an intervention. Their change is what inspires. A gardener can assume no real credit for a flower’s inherent beauty. When we see something hurting and long to fix it, there is no glory in the resolution. Perhaps, then, the word “intervention” is more powerful as a verb. It is not about an act that may elevate us, nor is it about the solution that fixes someone else. Intervention is learning to understand a deep need, seeing a situation you are close to and affected by and knowing enough to love it back to what it should be. Intervention is about restoration.

With this insight, instead, intervention changes us. When we intervene, we gain profoundly new insights about the persons, or places with which we intervene. When we water the flowers we bear none of the glory, but all of the joy. The Latin prefix “Inter” fulfills not only its meaning to come “between,” but also to come “among,” “in the midst of,” “mutually,” and “reciprocally.” Intervention should always have a mutually positive affect. By designing good buildings we should inspire restoration of others back to God, and through the process we are similarly restored. We are not helping more than we are being helped. We as architects are not to shape so much as we are to be shaped by caring, learning, and tending. We are not completing intellectual or social projects, shaping lives and intervening to make our mark on the world. We are to come alongside others, during and in the midst of present struggles to tend to the garden with whatever tools we are given. Without a doubt, intervention will cause something to come, but we must remember we are not the cause. What will come about as a result of intervention is much bigger than our own vision.


Exhibits of Coursework (click to expand)


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