Lessons from an architect’s past (Part 01)

The architects we have come to know and love were (and are) exactly like us.

They each have a unique story that molded them into who they have become. Some inherently had an interest in design. Others, well not so much. While it is one thing to recognize an individual of talent for their qualities (dedicated, determined, hard-working, the list goes on forever), it is another to recognize their story. What we can learn from our architect idols goes beyond the fundamentals and principles of design and into the complex realities that make up life. Below is a collection of short stories of some of our beloved designers before they “made it big.” So, the next time you feel frustrated or unsure about what the f**k you are doing, rest reassured that no one was (or is) perfect at everything.

Walter Gropius

Bauhaus anyone? Imagine if the Bauhaus never happened though! It almost did not. At the age of 31, Gropius’ career was paused as he served his country in World War I-and was almost killed. Also, though Gropius followed the footsteps of his architect father and great uncle- he could not draw. He hired an assistant to complete his homework in architecture school. He relied on trustworthy partners and interpreters throughout the course of his career.

A young Walter Gropius (https://dustingoffron.wordpress.com/)

Walter Gropius

Tadao Ando

The Master of Concrete. Clean. Simple. Beautiful. But he wasn’t born a concrete connoisseur (he actually was born a twin!). Ando was a truck driver, and training to become a boxer. It was not until a high school field trip to Tokyo, that the Imperial Hotel (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) caught his eye and architecture was on his mind.

Ando as a young boxer (http://architectboy.com/tadao-ando-architect/)

Tadao Ando, age 17

Frank Gehry

Considered “The Most Important Architect of Our Age” by Vanity Fair, Gehry has needless to say has made a very distinct mark on the world. According to his grandmother, as a child he would construct miniature cities out of wood scraps. Though creative from a young age, Gehry explored becoming a radio announcer and chemical engineer before architecture. A rumor at the architecture school he attended at the University of Southern California is that his third year professor encouraged him to “drop out.” He later graduated at the top of his class.


Early years of Frank Gehry

Why does any of this matter to us? Sure it’s interesting to know the background of a figure we have come to admire and respect, but more importantly, we can learn from it. Today’s lesson teaches us that some of us may drift away from design or come into the design field later in our lives. No matter our skill-set, we should seek help from others. We should be open to new experiences and fields of work to help find our passion. The childhood days of playing with Legos, Lincoln Logs, and even the Sims can build a foundation for a future career. And possibly most importantly, don’t let the opinions of others bring you down.

Stay tuned for more architects and their stories.

*Note: information found on Wikipedia.

Author: Gabriela O’Connor

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