24 Feb 2011
I studied architecture in Europe when I was in college – so what.
It’s 1990 and I am heading across the Atlantic to spend the next 6 months taking in all the architecture Europe has to offer me. I was getting a little burned out at school and I had never been to Europe before so this was a big deal. Fast forward 20 years and guess what? Nobody cares that I spent 6 months studying architecture in Europe in 1990.
What I got out of my time in Europe was not what I expected. At the time, it was nothing but architecture – every waking moment of every single day. I lived it, saw it, talked about and on and on. So am I a better architect as a result? Maybe, I’m not sure that is was those 6 months in 1990 that made me the architect I am today … but it forever impacted the way I view things and I am a better person as a result. One of the main reasons I didn’t get out of my trip what I thought I would is because I was a kid and I don’t process information the same way I do now.
Things I learned in 1990 Europe:
how to move around a city where I don’t speak the language
that I am capable of washing my hair/ body with water from a sink on a train for 5 days
you can survive on Ritz crackers, dried sausage and apple juice for a long time and still be “regular”
good looking women in Europe pay as much attention to me as good looking women in America
I don’t mind if people yell at me if I don’t understand what they are saying
you can dry your socks after washing them in the sink by jamming them into the radiator
I don’t buy knick-knacks, doodads, or bric-a-brac
trying to understand somebody with only 2 years of high school German is exhausting
it’s easier to get a bottle of wine for dinner than a bottle of water
I can recover from getting on the wrong train to the wrong place even if it is East Berlin and I have to sleep in the train station for the night
clean clothes go a long way to making me happy
they fold the meat in the sandwiches so it’s all on the edge and you think there’s a ton in there (tricksters!)
sheep’s brain looks a lot like lasagna when you put enough cheese on the top (but it’s way more watery than actual lasagna)
Other than that, it was architecture sensory overload. I simply saw too much to have it make a specific lasting impression. I saw so many things that at times I barely got anything out of my trip other than general exposure and acknowledgement of existence that there was another way of doing things. Do not discount that last sentence, exposure regardless of comprehension is still incredibly important – so much so that I have already brought my 6 year old daughter to Europe just so she knows that there are other people out there that live differently than we do.
Spending time in a place far different from your own environment is important, and it doesn’t have to be Europe. Go to Eastern Europe, South America or the Pacific Rim, I don’t care, and it doesn’t matter. Traveling when you are younger is a life changing process, you will learn a lot about yourself as a person. Going back to Europe as an adult was a far different experience. I prepared, I took notes, I understood history as a subtext to what I was looking at. I had money to eat local cuisine, and I had the patience to slow down enough to see the things around the thing I was looking at. If I had stopped for a coffee when I was in school it would have been goofing off. Now, it’s part of the experience.
So here I was, 20 years later exploring the culture and architecture of Spain. Based on the picture below, there is some evidence at hand that I didn’t completely grow up during the time I spent growing up.