The Gifts of a Son of an Architect March 13, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in books, career, change, creativity, fiction, identity, nonfiction, possibility, reading.
Tags: career, Catcher in the Rye, Frank Lloyd Wright
Before having kids I decided I was neither going to push them in the direction of architecture nor, if they showed interest at any time, discourage them from pursuing it as a career. I’d wait for them to show an interest in something and when they did help make it available to them to explore and study as they saw fit. Less of a catalyst than an enabler, the interest had to come from them.
When it comes to which career a child pursues: How much is nature and how much nurture?
I realized that this was a largely irrelevant question after attending my 10 year high school reunion, where I discovered that the vast majority of my graduating class had rejected their first (or sometimes second or third) career choice in favor of another. I wasn’t going to sweat what my kids became obsessed with when they were 9, 10 or even 15.
That said, if my son had chosen architecture as a career path, it would have meant, in part, that my frequent absences, long nights working and preoccupations with all-things-architecture wouldn’t have left a bad aftertaste for him. It would have been an affirmation of my career choice as though to say, “what intrigues you intrigues me. I want to give it a try.”
My observations about architects and their sons is not new.
There was of course the film MY ARCHITECT: A Son’s Journey written by Nathaniel Kahn, son of Louis Kahn.
Saif Gaddafi, considered by some to be the most powerful son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, is an architect.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s son and architect, John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs in 1918, and practiced extensively in the San Diego.
My own son showed an early interest in art, but not architecture. A few years back, when I was working at Adrian Smith-Gordon Gill Architecture, I took Simeon to spend the day with me up in their studio. Surrounded by some of the most interesting and intriguing models of high-rises being designed and built anywhere in the world, he sat beside me the entire day not looking up once from his book – Catcher in the Rye. Either he had no real interest in architecture or, more likely, the book had him mesmerized.
When Simeon was 10 he painted a series of acrylic paintings that were impressive by any standards, not just his proud parent’s. But his interest turned out to be in the subject matter – African animals – and not the artistic media, and his involvement in painting waned as soon as he outgrew his interest in animalia.
Of late, he has taken-up photography and glass art – at both of which he excels.
He also blogs. He and a friend purport to review “EVERYTHING EVER MADE” at The Greatest Review.
I’ll watch a DVD with him and afterwards ask him what he thought, and like most teens he’ll say “it was fine.”
Later that night I’ll log onto his site and read a 1200 word incisive critique of the film that is sharp, entertaining and, in some cases, especially critical of his father’s taste in films.
He may not care for Shakespeare, but his reviews of Shakespeare plays and film adaptations have influenced other film reviewers, who tell him so in their comments.
Even his enlightening list of top Radiohead albums got me to rethink my favorites.
My relationship with my son reminds me most of architect Gunnar Birkerts’s relationship with his son, the literary critic, Sven Birkerts.
Gunnar, because of his long career in Michigan, not far from where I was born and raised; because of his metaphoric architecture; and because he was a visiting critic at University of Illinois in the early 1980’s when I was in school there.
His son, Sven, interestingly enough didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps but in every way is as accomplished in his chosen field, of literary criticism and as an essayist, best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies as well as others.
It is as though Sven had to blaze his own trail so as not to be extinguished by the shadow cast by his domineering architect father.
Like sons, daughters of architects often have to find their niche as well.
A son’s birthday wish list
My son, Simeon, turned 16 today. A few weeks back he emailed a list of things he wanted for his birthday to his mother, and she forwarded the list to me. Of all his creations so far – the cleverly designed but painfully slow award winning Pinewood Derby cars, the paintings, glass art and blogs – I think his birthday wish list is his greatest creation to date and that of which I am most proud.
I think he would be mortified if he knew I was posting it (probably why he sent it to my wife and not to me) but as in so many cases, I would rather ask for forgiveness than permission. I intend no harm in sharing this with you.
No matter how he decides to spend his life, anyone who has created such a list before turning 16 is on track to live a rich, fulfilling inner life. Writing, art and social media gives him a chance to share that inner life with others.
I especially like item j) below. I hope you do so as well.
Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2011 5:44 PM
Subject: Birthday Presents
It seems like M. really wants to get me Halo: Reach and I’m not really sure why because I continuously tell her that it wasn’t on my original list and that if I wanted a video game it would be that one but otherwise I don’t necessarily have a particular need for it.
Here’s a list of some things that I’d like for my birthday that don’t have to be ordered from the internet and would simply require someone to drive her to Borders or something: but if she’s gotten Halo already then maybe this could be more suggestions for you guys or other people or something like that. Not saying you need to get all this stuff………… just some suggestions for individual things.
Anything by Hermann Hesse (except Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, or Damien)
Everything by John Steinbeck (except the one’s I already have which are lined up consecutively on my bookshelf)
Big books that we don’t own; like Moby Dick or Don Quixote or War and Peace or a copy of Anna Karenina with a less feminine cover
The Possessed or The Idiot by Dostoevsky
Anything by Jean-Paul Sartre
Anything by George Orwell (except the obvious two that I’ve read already)
Anything by Thomas Mann
The Rebel by Albert Camus
Amerika or The Castle by Franz Kafka
Anything by Jack Kerouac (except On The Road)
Anything by Kurt Vonnegut (except Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle)
Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger
Anything I’m forgetting by an author I like
The Trial- Orson Welles version
Othello- Orson Welles version
War and Peace- Russian version from the 1960s
Some posters would be nice; like the ones I listed in the previous e-mail. I’d like one for Apocalypse Now or Grand Illusion or The Third Man or There Will Be Blood or Chimes at Midnight (Falstaff) because I like those movies and the posters look cool.
I have enough music
Any guitar pedal that’s not a “Distortion” or a “Wah-Wah” pedal, because those are the two I have. Preferably a pedal that changes the guitar’s octave (“Whammy” pedal or “octave changer”) or just a pedal that has multiple effects to choose from on it. Ask a guitar guy and he’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Or any other pedal really, just not a Distortion or Wah Wah pedal. It’s been something I’ve wanted for a long time but I’ve never gotten around to it and this, above most other things on the list, would probably be the one thing that’ll be the most fun/engaging/distracting/fun for me to use.
Another guitar (relatively cheap “Stratocaster”?)
Don’t get me anything to GameStop or any major stores like Target or Sports Authority because you know I’m not going to spend it for a year or so probably.
a) Obscure/hard to find movies
b) Many Books
c) Guitar Pedals that aren’t “Distortion” or “Wah-Wah”
d) Movie Posters
f) Clothing that may appeal to me (example: has a picture of someone I revere on it/band I like/comedic phrase or pun or something)
g) All of the above
h) other things you can think of because this is all I can come up with.
i) Not video games/electronics/accessories or decorations of any kind unless listed above/anything I might not care for but could be useful to someone else like say for example a light-up Ipod speaker
P.S. Most of the stuff I’d like for my birthday. Some other stuff too. I’ll e-mail that later.
Amazon.com: The Trial: Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Elsa Martinelli, Suzanne Flon, Akim Tamiroff, Madeleine Robinson, Arnoldo Foà, Fernand Ledoux, Michael Lonsdale, Max Buchsbaum, Max Haufler: Movies & TV
And if we don’t end up finding this: