‘The case for working with your hands’ by Matthew Crawford presents interesting and at times theatrical versions of fact, to back-up a theory of how a young person could, or rather should, progress from their late teenage years into life; suggesting maybe that life as a ‘stoic’ could be life as a happier, more successful person. In short, I translated his text into a question: “Do you really need to add that education to your CV, learn those old tricks and add yourself to a company payroll? – When in fact you could actually go into the world with your eyes open and make a real difference or discovery, possibly owing entirely to the freedom of your naivety”.
Crawford is an American author, who I believe writes his opinion of various subjects, heavily influenced by the relatively short stint he was employed as a researcher at the George C. Marshall Institute and I quote “Making arguments about global warming that happened to coincide with the position taken by the oil company that funded the think tank”.
Concepts he produces as a preamble to his theory, include de-valuation of Blue collar workers, but unusually of White collar workers too. He initially references Henry Ford and the creation of the production line in 1913, citing it as the sole reason for a significant number of ‘Blue collar’ workshop mechanics simply walking out, as they felt such distaste for the machine-like process and the ‘dumb-ing down of their skills’.
The workers were said to have less pride in their work and as such were not interested in the new style of work, this led to unskilled labour taking their place, whilst the process was refined more and more by the day. With the work becoming more mundane, salary was doubled and output in certain Ford factories was quadrupled due to the unskilled workers being faster and some could say less careful, but none the less tremendously grateful for their large pay increase and promotion and so also tremendously loyal.
The degradation of White collar workers was almost the opposite in terms of its contentions. Larger companies and think tanks alike benefitted widely from employing several ‘experts’ at a slightly lower cost up front, this ultimately meant the sharing of knowledge and a wider band of expertise toward the cause. This was also heavily influenced by the addition of computers and artificial intelligence, meaning patterns of process started to emerge. With patterns emerging and experts multiplying it did not take long before the market was flooded with too many people that were sharing old information, claiming it was their own and therefore never actually becoming a so called ‘expert’.
It was at this point my mind wandered, I am after all, a trainee architect. Truth be told, I have a heavily biased opinion on the subject of architectural education. The current route is always under debate, I believe that nowadays, the world is overwhelmed with poorly prepared students; students who have studied for six years at university, often learning modern disconnected methods such as parametric design are then thrust into positions at local architecture firms where if they are lucky, they may just design the toilet core of a new high-rise. The reason for this is, in my mind at least, a simple lack of building technical knowledge and also basic contractual knowledge.
My few years as a working, part time student, have resulted in workplace based practical experience, a degree in architectural technology to sit along-side my part one degree in architecture and lastly completing projects for private clients over the summer months. During this time I have progressed from assisting toilet core design, through to producing full working drawing packages and assisting several projects to completion. The idea here isn’t to blow my own trumpet, but rather once again to ask a question:
Am I a great architect in training, holding the knowledge and confidence to genuinely enter a project and rock my client’s world, making a difference? Or as Crawford suggests, have I completely messed this up and become the unemployable robot, that suffers either from his lack of naivety toward the end product, or maybe even whole hearted naivety to the creative world that he may or may not, have absolutely missed and left behind before it all got started!
Food for thought.