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2 inspiring commencement speeches worth listening to

These are two of the most inspiring speeches I’ve heard from people successful in their different careers – Steve Jobs and J.K.Rowling. Both of them begin with some reminiscing about their college lives and move on to talk about lessons learned from their lives. Jobs even manages to take a dig at Microsoft while talking about the importance of doing what you love – and Rowling talks about not fearing failure and the power of imagination to uplift not just ours, but others’ lives as well.

1. Steve Jobs stanford commencement address 2005

My favourite quote in his speech?

You have to understand that you can’t connect the dots looking forward – you can connect them only looking backward. …Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path – and that will make all the difference.


2. J.K Rowling Harvard commencement 2008

She keeps the tone light almost throughout – you are guaranteed a few laughs along the way.


She speaks about fulfilling parents’ dreams and how  she struggled through in her initial stages after finishing college and that was my favourite part –

Poverty entails fear and stress and sometimes depression. It meets a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts that is something on which to pride yourself but poverty itself is romanticized by fools.


How do you form friends in architecture?

This question can even be framed as…how do you judge people in architecture?

Moving on from the third year of architecture in my college, I’ve seen friends circles get formed and broken, in my studio as well as throughout the college. I’ve seen also the general stereotyping that goes around in every studio – there are roughly three groups of people:

1. The A-grader – The person (or group of people) who consistently score high marks, turn their assignments in on time, attend every class in time, and generally have a spotless academic record. They are also the ones who keep their design professors happy, by adhering to whatever code of requirements or standards that have been set, and produce safe(?) designs. This is also the group generally regarded as not being able to design well, both by seniors and the faculty. (No kidding – I’ve had teachers ask the class in general – “Who are the ones who generally get A grades; not the ones who do design well, but get A grades?”) These people will be well known in college, although it might be for all the wrong reasons.

2. The average Joe (or Jane) – This group of people don’t do anyone any harm – neither the first group nor the third, which I’ll mention below. They are also largely invisible, because the kind of work they do doesn’t stir up the design gods for spoiling the sanctity(?) of design, nor does it stir up anything else, either. Less fastidious in design submissions, for them architecture is any other course – they are here to get a degree as quickly as possible and with as much less noise as possible.

3. The design demi-gods (or so they think of themselves) – The select few in each class, who would like to think of themselves as being responsible for raising the standard of the college as a whole, or at least their class; they usually do not turn in their designs on time, waiting for the perfect moment of inspiration to strike – they might be known outside their class for being the non-conformists (and that is a good thing, right?) Their designs might be lauded for their ingenuity or teared down for its absurdity – whatever it is, they’ll do a good job of keeping themselves noticed (whether intentional or not).

For anyone waiting with hatchets to tear this post down – if you didn’t get the irony, read it again.

What categories of people are there in your studio (or college?) Does this kind of categorisation happen in your college, in the first place?

Which brings me to the initial question – how do you really judge people in architecture? While similar lists can probably be drawn up for other professions or courses (there was one for my school as well) nowhere else has I found broad categorisations about the way people work dictate the way they look at other people or form friendships.

I’m a hypocrite -although I’ve pointed this out, I’m guilty of this myself and I’ve wanted this post to be a satire on the way I see things happening.

Do you find work based associations forming friendships more other important ideals?

Fountainhead and why I couldn’t get through it

You’ve probably heard of the novel – The Fountainhead – by Ayn Rand. Everyone and their dog were recommending it to me when they heard I was doing architecture. But no – yours truly had gone one step ahead and had ordered it from Flipkart already.

Finally laying my hands on the book a few months back, proceeded to read the book to be taught a few lessons in architecture by the spotless Howard Roark. The next few days were a case of must-read-book-even-if-boring-giving-up-is-a-crime kind of attitude. I managed to reach around 400 pages or so, then gave up. A couple weeks back, started again from the beginning. Now I can’t reach even 200.

So why do I dislike The Fountainhead? (‘Hate’ is probably a very strong word)

The primary reason is the main character, of course. Ar.Howard Roark. If there ever was a character I couldn’t relate to at all in a novel, it would be him. The first of all, is his maddening superiority over everyone else – the environment included. Picture this –

He always looked at people and his damnable eyes never missed a thing, it was only that he made people feel as if they did not exist.

I could go on quoting many more examples, but I don’t want to open the book again. Every time, with a new character interacting with Mr.Roark, it’s the same drill. He/she feels Howard to be properly attentive, but displaying about as much emotion as a doorknob. Or in the case of the person who commissions Howard to build his first house (the name escapes me), it is quite similar – he finds Howard to be a good friend intellectually but not emotionally. And oh – to ensure that Howard Roark’s achievements were not purely academic, the author goes so far to make him a plumber, stone cutter, woodworker, mason and what not. You name a job in construction, he would’ve done it. Thank God Howard was not a scientist – he would’ve made Einstein lose sleep with his achievements.

By creating a character raised in a pedestal like this – she creates an instant disconnect with the reader. In fact, the character I could identify more with is actually his nemesis, Peter Keating. And don’t even get me started on Howard’s ‘love’ interest – Dominique Francon – a character as plastic if you could ever have on. She’s beautiful, talented, tra la la and all that bullshit, and at the same time is supremely disinterested in the world. In fact, she dislikes beauty in the traditional sense because she thinks the world in general is not mature enough to appreciate it or have it.

Something tells me the two main characters should get off their high horses.

Was Mr.Howard Roark suffering from the architect’s ego?

And there is the author’s tiresome style of writing, of course. The 200 odd pages I read had pretty much the same theme – the world against Howard Roark. And supremely detailed descriptions of incidents which highlight this. It is one man’s vision against the herd mentality of the architect crowd in general, apparently.

I’ll probably never give a shot at reading that book again.


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