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)

Rachel Peterson, Bronze Medal Nominee (2017)

Reflection on “Intervention”

To attend college is to take part in an intervention. As an intervention is an event or interruption that takes place with the intent of changing or improving an outcome, so is college a time in which one changes the course of his or her life with the intent of improving his or herself. College intervenes between the years of childhood and adulthood with the purpose of modifying one’s behavior. Judson has the goal of “shaping lives that shape the world.” Studying architecture at Judson can be described as an intervention. The students’ learning is enriched and their perspectives are broadened, and then they later go on to intervene in the world.

A liberal arts college is an intervention by nature; it requires that one consider their topic of study in the wider context of other fields. At Judson we study architecture, but other areas of study intervene and influence our perspective. In this way, the study of architecture at Judson is not limited to thoughts about just architecture. We are taught and challenged to consider a broader context and, as a result, significant questions intervene in our work: what is our purpose on earth? What is my purpose? How can architecture represent and become a part of the kingdom of God? Liberal arts study is intervention, and so is studying liberal arts and architecture from a Christian perspective.

Exploring the study of architecture through a Christian lens has the effect of an intervention on architecture; it changes how and why we design, with the intent of improving design. There are good reasons to design sustainable buildings that encourage human flourishing, but the intervention of the Christian perspective and mission adds to architectural thought. We are called to be good stewards of God’s earth and to love our neighbor. These ideas greatly impact architecture. Christian life is an intervention. Being a Christian is a way of life that should intervene in all that we do and say, especially in our life’s work and the study of architecture.

My time at Judson has certainly been an intervention not only academically, but also regarding personal growth. I have met friends who have intervened in my life. They have taught me what love is and they inspire me to be a better person. I see God’s love through the way that they live. I have met professors who have intervened in my life by challenging me to be my best self and to use my talents in the best way. I did not know what to expect when I enrolled at Judson and started my college journey. In that way, this journey has been even more like an intervention. I did not know that I had so much learning and growing to do until now, four years later, I see the positive change that has occurred in my life as a result of my time at Judson.


Exhibits of Coursework (click to expand)