“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
- Seneca

Architects must seem a strange breed; they work long hours and take on huge liability, having emerged from seven years of expensive training, only to be paid less than a bricklayer. It is a life full of stress, so why do so many people want to do it?

Perhaps architects enjoy the tension and pressure which come with the job. This starts early at architectural school where, as a student, you enter a culture of doing ‘all-nighters’ before important crits. Many people are rightly trying to end this way of studying because they worry about the mental health of the students and it is hardly an efficient way of working. I feel the intention is undoubtedly worthy, but because I never took my studies very seriously, I actually really enjoyed all-nighters. You’d have music playing, you’d be smoking and drinking your way through the night, everyone would be there - it was like a party. As I never liked nightclubs, all-nighters became an important part of my social life. In that way, I developed a way of enjoying stress, which I now view as an essential part of the profession. A while ago I was at a wedding and I heard a sermon that stuck in my mind. The priest made an argument which rested on the assumption that animals are happy in their natural state. ‘Has this man ever watched David Attenborough?’ I thought to myself. I am no zoologist, but from my limited knowledge, life for animals in the wild is anything but happy. Think of the zebra on the African plain constantly looking around, fearful of a lion appearing from nowhere and ripping them apart, limb from limb, while still alive. This would be an extremely painful death, which brings to mind the worst of medieval torture. This way of dying is a common occurrence for a zebra, and it is probably happening somewhere, right now.

The zebra who wakes up in the morning and thinks…

“…..life is wonderful, how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world, blue sky…..again! Why are you lot looking around all the time, the lions won’t bother us today, don’t be so pessimistic. Relax enjoy yourself….”

Zebras do not think like this for the simple reason that all those zebras are dead. They are what is known in lion circles as ‘low lying fruit’. This is why all zebras who live to any age are constantly worried about their imminent death.

We should not feel any less sorry for the lions - they have to catch these zebras who are impossibly quick and if the lion does not catch any for a while, they will be too weak to chase them and so die of starvation.

What does the zebra, the lion or the architect get out of life? Is their life worth living or are we doing them all a favour by bringing them to the brink of extinction? ….I would argue not.

Nietzsche asking a similar question with this theory of eternal returns. The question he poses is, would you, with all the suffering of your own life, live it all over again exactly the same? The answer must be a resounding, loud YES!

Though some things which people have to deal with are so terrible that it is impossible to see anything positive to take from those experiences, the trials and tribulations of being an architect are generally not of that order. A certain degree of stress, I feel, is a necessary part of being a human and being an architect satisfies this need.

Francis Terry

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