Minor Grumbles: “Architects” all about us…

“The 25 best jobs for today!” trumpets some click bait in my social media feeds and email newsletters. Falling for the siren song of the listicle, I found a lot of the expected tech jobs, but also came face to face with just how far the tech world has colonized the once distinctive term “architect.” There are “software architects” (#1 on one list). Networks need “architects” too, and then there is the “security architect,” concerning neither moats nor drawbridges and crenellations, presumably. And my favorite, the “solutions architect.” “Solution” is an approach to some business computing need. It always seemed slightly euphemistic, and a little over eager, “Hi, I’m the cloud-provisioned email services and I’ll be your solution today” it coos with a bright smile. I’m betting it was coined about the time of the advent of that scary yellow smiley.

“Solution” did ‘solve’ a terminology problem at least: what do you call software, hardware, maintenance, training etc. “Package” might have worked, but was too tangible. “Approach” was too vague. In any case “IT solutions” however much an oxymoron have escaped into the wild, kind of like starlings, and now is here to stay. “Software Architect” seems more of problem. I get that networks have an architecture, at least in the metaphorical sense. They do require design and structure, and they are intended to fulfill a ‘program’ in at least a couple of ways. You lay out and design an architecture, and that tells you how to build the infrastructure for the network. But does having architecture really instantiate an architect.?

Maybe it’s Miesonly used figuratively. “Kitchener: Architect of Victory” comes up on Google Scholar with a quick search, and that’s meant as a sort of an upmarket synonym for “planner.” I admit “planner of Victory” would be a pretty feeble squib. The figurative use seems most plausible with some kind of tangible effort, usually of historical significance. Perhaps the first person who makes a completely digital brain deserves the term cogno-neuro-science architect, but figuring out where the routers go or which firewall to buy?

If the ‘architects’ of the virtual are here to stay, and they probably are, then it does raise the question what to call architects of the real? “Architecture architect”? “Building architect”? “IRL architect”? “Architect of atoms (not bits).” “Architect: The Original™–accept no substitute? Now I’m off to be breakfast architect.

Beautiful Picture: Toyo Ito wins the Pritzker

Japanese architect Toyo Ito garnered the field’s highest honor this week, which sent me looking for some of his buildings online.

A couple of finds:

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The Tama Art University Library. (Heavy materials used lightly, and evoking that other great library, subject of an exhibit at MOMA up now, the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris. )

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I’m naturally interested in how an iconoclast takes on a commission of an opera house, and here is a photo of a model of Ito’s Taichung Metropolitan Opera House in Taiwan (now under construction).

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Hard to get my head around where the theater itself will be and how will it will work, but fascinating in itself that this isn’t obvious.

Some nice words from the Pritzker jury in Ito’s citation:

Although Mr. Ito has built a great number of buildings in his career, in my view, he has been working on one project all along, — to push the boundaries of architecture. And to achieve that goal, he is not afraid of letting go what he has accomplished before.” — Yung Ho Chang, Member of the Pritzker Jury for 2013

A Beautiful Picture: Photos from the Heartland at Nelson-Adkins

Design Observer has a piece on photos of the American Midwest by Terry Evans–mostly taken from a Cessna airplane.

From the essay by Alan Thomas:

“The airplane,” Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote, “has unveiled for us the true face of the earth.” [2] From the vantage of a Cessna, Evans could tell different stories of the prairie — stories of irrigation and extraction, flooded fields and drained wetlands, feedlots and bomb targets. Seen from the air, these features of the prairie could be shown in truer relation to one another, although in Evans’s photographs the aerial perspective offers not a panoptical view but a provisional and humble one.

The exhibit has a good web site. And the Nelson-Adkins was a spectacular museum even before the new building by Steven Holl, which judging from the photos is an astonishing addition.

Buildings for Books: Book Mountain + Library Corner

Spijkenisse, in the Netherlands, has a spectacular new library. Books may be on the way out, but buildings for them seem to get better and better (the Danish National Library in Copenhagen, Black Diamond, is also gorgeous). 

The idea of having the books housed within a free standing enclosing structure is also used in the Beinecke Library at Yale (thin panes of marble there rather than glass) and also King George III’s library at the British Library. But both of those are glassed in and a bit forbidding (understandably as they are rare book collections). I love the “pile of books in a train station” quality that this new one has. The café at the very top is a nice touch. Another potential stop for my “library tour” of the world…

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
King George’s Library within the British Library