#8 - The Catcher in the Rye
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A truly novel idea for a book in the early 1950's, The Catcher in the Rye was one of the most controversial books through the end of the twentieth century. It was banned from public schools and libraries throughout the United States. It is, however, an interesting case study for architects. The story revolves around Holden Caulfield, a boy that is expelled from his school. He then sets on a journey home, during which he meets quite a few interesting characters, has an altercation with a pimp and has an awkward moment with an old school teacher. He spends a total of three days wandering the streets of New York in a state of drunkenness and depression criticizing the "phony" people in society. Holden makes plans to leave his life in New York and move out west, but he is held back by the pleadings of his little sister, the person he holds in the most high regard.
There's something about being an architect (or wanting to be an architect) that makes us ultra-sensitive to the world around us, particularly in terms of the built environment. We see better than most people the nonsensical aspects of society, and can't quite understand how or why it came to this point. Better yet, we see society defending its idiosyncratic tendencies vehemently. Architects see more political opposition to their work than almost every other profession outside politics. This makes us feel disenfranchised and outcast. Holden often criticized the people around him for being phony, but at the same time you have a hard time sympathizing with him due to his own destructive behavior. Architects ultimately have an uphill battle ahead of them in terms of public opinion and political clout. We see the world differently, that's why we're designers. The goal is to find encouragement in a world full of nay-sayers. Holden found that in his little sister - the one whom he saw as free from the ills of society and a source of strength. Architects are no different. We can't succumb to the destructive externalities the world would impose on us. We need to find support and strength in order to face the challenges ahead of us.