pay the price 


It’s not meant to be a sermon or a lecture. I’m just sharing what I’ve been thinking. You’ve heard this before; this is not a new topic, but…you’re going to hear it again. If you want to be good – you have to pay the price.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my roots and how things were “when I was a kid” or “when I was growing up.” I know that can be a put-off or at least an eye-roller to use those phrases. I’d like to think I’m still young (very young for an architect). If you want to know, I was born between the releases of the Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts album and the Magical Mystery Tour album. The number one Billboard Single the day after I was born was “Light my Fire” by the Doors (the previous week’s song wasn’t as cool). That sets the date for some of you.

The era of my childhood was a time of proud ethnic heritage and many of us grew up around our extended family who taught us a solid work ethic. We learned our values from our parents, grandparents, uncle and aunts.

As we advance as a culture, the challenges that made our ancestors thrive or survive are no longer necessary (seemingly) and so we slowly lose the understanding that success comes from work, sweat and sometimes blood. There are simply no shortcuts. Technology shouldn’t erase that part of our heritage. If you don’t know what it’s like to work hard at something for a long time before finding success, you’ll never know real satisfaction.

If you want to be an architect, it’s difficult. The path to get here, despite a plethora of opinions on the matter, is long, difficult and expensive in many ways. In my narrow mind, I believe it should be. I have such a high respect for this profession and such a high expectation of what an architect is and can do, it needs to be difficult or this profession will atrophy, architecture will suffer and those whom we are licensed to protect will be at risk.

I’ve been thinking about this within my own family. I don’t want the path to success for my son to be easy – I just want it to be possible. It does him no good to succeed at something without understanding what it took to get there.

Let’s look at a sports analogy because they’re so easy for most of us to relate to quickly. Pick a professional sport – any one, go ahead. Find the top athlete and I bet you they started out playing that sport as a small child. Most likely they played it in some fashion from early morning until it was too dark to see outside. I can imagine them carrying around the ball or other piece of equipment everywhere they went.

If you don’t like sports, let’s choose music. I am so impressed with musicians because it is so difficult to get your hands and mind to coordinate that quickly. I can watch almost any type of musician play any type of instrument and my mind can’t fathom how much time went into practice over and over again. By the time this musician has had any kind of success, they’ve put in years if not decades of time practicing. Not only do they have to be technically correct, it must make something beautiful – sound familiar?

Who are we kidding; you’ve heard all of this before.

So we come back to discuss the women and men who conceive and create the physical world in which we live, work and play. We understand the path of the pro-athlete and musician, yet we lose track of the architect?

Without the tough love and endless speeches from the old-school Italians that surrounded me in my childhood, I don’t think I’d have ever made it this far. I can’t pinpoint a moment or a specific person, but I know I’ve heard the comment “how about a little bit more work and a lot less talking.” If I may quote Mies, “I don’t want to be interesting, I want to be good.”

I’m willing to pay the price so one day I’ll be good. Now back to work and a “little less talking.”


photos are from danjaeger’s stock photo galleries on – (used under the Standard Restrictions)…and thanks to the men and women working in that mill.

pay the price 

10 thoughts on “pay the price 

  1. I have long known that some of the best architecture, ie my favorite architecture, has been designed by people over 70. It takes time to truly understand all the pieces, the choices, the whys.

  2. Larry Wolff says:

    “If you don’t know what it’s like to work hard at something for a long time before finding success, you’ll never know real satisfaction.” Well said, Lee.

    Architects will have all kinds of trouble in this world, whether sole practitioner, small office, or large firm. Having problems, making mistakes, and even failure are not so much at issue; what matters most are the responsible actions which are undertaken to remedy adverse situations, combined with the will to persevere. From experience, the only thing people ultimately remember and value, regardless of what events may transpire, is what an architect leaves behind – a competent building. Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he delivered his famous “Citizenship In A Republic” address Sorbonne, in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. No, I am not that old to have been there, but Le Corbusier might have been. His more famous “Man In the Arena” quotation comes from that speech.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” (Roosevelt, 1910).

    I like to think the “Man In the Arena” is an architect, male or female, as may be the case.

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