Conception and accomplishment

Conception and accomplishment

Architects are addicted. Addicted to draw. Addicted to watch things they conceived to be built. It's an indescribable feeling to see appear out of nowhere and take shape a building that we designed.

Some say it "should be similar to having a son." It is not. I can safely say it since I have 3 children. The feeling of being a parent is incomparably stronger and more emotional than the relationship we have with the buildings we design. It doesn’t mean that there are no some similarities between the processes of constructing a building and of raising a child.

During the work, if things unfold as expected, we are consulted on all the doubts or at least on the most relevant. There are of course negative cases in which, for various reasons, the project is misinterpreted, and we aren’t able to avoid it. But there are also times when we managed to improve situations in which the project had been less well thought out. And throughout the enterprise we engage emotionally with our creation. We try everything to achieve the best possible outcome. We make all efforts to defend our project. We discuss, negotiate, get angry when someone makes mistakes or tampers with our ideas, and get thrilled for the small things that run really well. And we are always able to feel surprised when some detail results better than we imagined. When the work is finished and delivered to its owner we feel a mixture of pride in accomplishment and also longing for a time we know it's over. And in fact the work is no longer ours. Like a child who entered adulthood.

A few years ago a public building I designed was inaugurated with pomp and circumstance. In addition to the mayor and representatives of the region’s VIP’s, the President of the Portuguese Republic attended the ceremony, accompanied by a large entourage, and followed by most of the town’s population. After the speeches, cheers and customary musical moments, there was a dinner for everyone in the plaza in front of the building’s main entrance. Bread, regional dishes, and wine, with the President among the crowd, with a disarming simplicity, talking quietly with everyone. Democracy at its best.

For well over one year I traveled at least once a month about 600km from Lisbon to the site and back, leaving home before dawn and coming home late at night. Usually I returned tired but happy with the progress. And when the process ended, it made me lack the routine: The maturation process of the building, from a visit to another, the conversations with the diligent and skilled contractor’s engineer, who soon understood what I wanted for the building and did his best not to disappoint my expectations, the enthusiasm with which the mayor watched the building grow.

It is a very interesting experience, though somewhat strange, to walk among the crowd that appreciates and criticizes our work without having the slightest notion of who we are or the degree of involvement we have with what they observe. The immeasurable hours that we spent there, the challenges it provided and the joys and sorrows that we experienced. Ultimately that’s what architecture is all about and how an architect wants to be appreciated, by what he imagines, designs and builds.