The Hoarding Complex…

Okay, there is something else that all architects need to own up to; though we may be clean, neat, diligent and well coiffed, there is a pack rat inside of all of us.  Don’t deny it.  On the outside, we appear to have simple OCD: harmless compulsive rituals like lining up pencils on a desk; being secretively irked when drawing sets are not bound perfectly square at the corner or when graphics that are not exactly centered on a sheet; dust bunnies collecting in the corner of the cubicle.  All these things are perfectly normal and acceptable behaviors for architects and honestly, people expect this slight level of insanity from us…we are, after all, esoteric and we wear elusive black clothes.  We are not meant to be understood when we talk about spatial constructs and personification of inanimate objects.  People just smile, nod and wish they were that cool.

But there is a dark side to the architect.  Underneath that concrete OCD veneer is a festering hoarding complex.  You will witness this sad condition rear its ugly head when you look at our desks.  Once in a blue moon the desk is clean, like after a massive onslaught of projects have been sent out the door and you need to bill to overhead for a couple hours one day.  However, this is a rare state and if you catch an architect in this natural environment, you should take a picture and post it here because you’ll need it for evidence that tidy architects do actually exist.  But I digress.  Our office cubes are like the black hole abyss of crap piled to the ceiling.  We refuse to get rid of drawing sets from previous projects, even if they are DD or Schematic, so they collect dust and become platforms for other, newer drawing sets.   Project manuals and LEED reference materials litter our floors and useless architectural magazines that we never look at for inspiration (because let’s be honest you will never design a building that looks like that) line our cube shelves in a vain attempt to make us look educated, cutting edge and not disillusioned.  And, samples.  Where do I even start on the loads of samples that pile under the desk, on the desk, along the cube walls, outside the cube walls.  In fact, there is frequently more than one empty cube in a given office that has become the drawing set and sample display cube.  We are talking everything from bricks to metal panels, tile samples…its a regular hardware store in our cubes.  The hoarding overflows even our designated cube boundaries…

This is not just a professional problem, it permeates our very existence down to the core; which leads me to believe that this is a problem of psychology that needs some serious therapy and possibly an intervention.  Piles are our thing.  We “organize” our life and all our crap in piles.  Mostly because we are OCD and piles, even thousands of them in your living room or study, look neat and cleanly.  They are squared off and tucked into room corners, but don’t be deceived.  Piles still indicate a serious problem with not throwing crap out.  Piles are organized stacking of papers that you don’t want to let go of.  I can’t explain it, but if you are an architect, you understand and we are just going to leave it at that.  But the piles are the not the only problem.  Somewhere in every architect’s house, at at least one point during their life, was the model room.  This usually took place in your life sometime after college or grad school.  The farther you get away from that age, the more likely it is that you have parted with the model room, primarily after an emotional and cathartic intervention from a spouse or family member, as well as a trip to some addiction treatment center in the desert, who did not share your opinion that your college architecture models were the wave of the interior design future.  This room, traditionally called the “guest room” or “study” in one’s house, became a wasteland of old, dilapidated and frankly, shameful with few exemplary exceptions, academic models that you probably slaved over and built by hand.  Look closely and you will probably see the model that has blood stains on it from the time you sheared off the top of your finger at 3am with an exacto blade or from crying blood because you waited until too close to the deadline to start the model.  Good times, good memories.  Obviously you cannot part with these since they exacted half of your life force to build them and they hold that power over you.  One day, after considerable coaxing, you decide they have to go and finally reclaim that 150 square feet of your home that is also housing your newborn’s nursery.

Beneath that solid, held together veneer is a creative explosion just waiting to happen.  If you are an architecture student and think you are immune in some way from this lifestyle, look at your studio desk right now….Need I say more?

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  1. May 10th, 2011

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