#7 - Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
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Like many of the other books on this list, Alice's Adventure's In Wonderland has developed a following and a culture outside of its original context. Like any culture, it evolves and changes over time. I'm sure most of you have seen at least one, if not all of the movie adaptations to this book. I'm convinced that a plot synopsis is not needed nor wanted. The basic story is so ingrained in our culture that it needs no introduction. I would, however pose the question, how is Alice like an Architect? There are some obvious and superficial answers such as, she loves books with pictures, she's a daydreamer, she doesn't quite fit in to society. I think you could apply each of these clichés to any given architect and it would be somewhat true. However, in Alice's case, these quirks are symptoms of a greater internal struggle similar to a struggle that many architects face; The overarching theme of the entire work: "who are you?"
Some time ago I was a graduate student working sluggishly through my thesis project. It was a year long endeavor that pushed me to the very edge of my sanity. In retrospect, most of this was self-imposed. Each year my school publication would feature the premiere thesis projects from the year before. I would often look through these projects and think to myself first, that they didn't make any sense to me and second, how would I graduate if I couldn't reproduce something similar to it. Those thoughts followed me through my entire education, and in some respects hindered my progress. I did, however, produce a project that I felt was worthy of consideration and I worked my way through until I was very close to completion. My advisor came to my studio one day and asked me how things were going. I was in the middle of final production and I think he just wanted to make sure I was getting some sleep and hadn't lost my mind. After a few minutes I confessed my concern that my project wouldn't be similar enough to others in terms of their representation. He seemed pretty flabbergasted at the remark and simply said, "who cares about that?" I was a little surprised at the reaction, but it relieved me and I was able to focus more on the task at hand.
Alice and Architects go through a similar struggle. They need to discover who they are in order to reach their potential. They have a hard time balancing external expectations with their inherent individuality. I felt that I had to perform as others in order to be a successful architect. Architecture, like many things, draws from each individuals values and understanding and ultimately produces something personal and unique. Being able to let go of preconceived notions of what architecture is and is not will empower your abilities and give you confidence to produce something personal without becoming a slave to convention. Or if not, just follow the advice of the duchess:
"Be what you would seem to be, or if you'd like it put more simply: Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise."