No Such Thing As Defeat
R04, Jan Vondrák, 17.11.2019
We have often taken risk on our journey. And even though they say nothing ventured, nothing gained, there are limits to this logic. It seems obvious that young boys, fresh out of school, have no clue about the real life or the work of an architect. They might. But we were quite green. We found an office space and started "business". The first idea of how to make our new home more homely was that of an internal project called a horizontal library. The gist of it was that we buy six hundred army surplus crates, from which we create a library on the floor. Today I chuckle just thinking about it. But back then, we didn't want to admit defeat and we had spent half a year walking on a floor that was good for anything but walking. Our blue thumbs, bruised from connecting the crates, bloody scars on our ankles and myriad of callouses made us reconsider the whole concept. We built a conventional vertical library and left the abundance of army crates to our favourite paintball enthusiast. Was it a defeat?
Few years later, we had designed a small garden library house for a friend of ours. We had built this miniature study with tiny stove in Hlásná Třebáň. Twice. Yeah, small structures are nice. We had often used them to dispel the grief over how long it takes to built a regular house. And so we had brought our drills, saws and screwdrivers and built something ourselves. A sauna, a library or festival sets. And it was all very nice. Well, with the exception of the library. The construction itself went pretty well. Aside from the carrying of heavy material, our work was fun. During the summer we had built a beautiful little building with an opening roof and we were excited for it's opening. When applying finishing touches to the interior, we used the stove for little heating. They worked great. Let's go have a lunch, today they have the pork feasts in town, Milan declared, and to lunch we went. The next they there was going to be the photoshoot. We were excited and stuffed ourselves with pork, horseradish and mustard. On our way back we noticed a column of thick, black smoke. At first, not realizing it was our library going up in smoke, we threw around jokes about people burning tires. The reality from up close was cruel and sobering. The Library had burnt down. Well, charred. We spent the next six months repairing it on our own expense and cursed our foolish faith in home-made chimney thimble. Today the library is back the way it was. It is charming and has soaked up a great story. It has also soaked up way too much sweat and, perhaps tears, of the boys from Mjölk, who sometimes tend to be a little too brave.
Every time something unfortunate happens to us, I experience a load of negative emotions, but also joy. Mistakes prove that we do things to the fullest. That we pushing against the edge of possible and impossible. It proves that one's alive, takes risks and has the courage to do thing different and better than others might. And that's why we'll keep on taking risks. Keep on losing and winning. Take joy in success and failure. Because our driving force is a belief that our work has a purpose. No matter the outcome.
The vocation of an architect is commonly associated with long hours spent in front of the screen and sedentary life styles. Back when I started school, I was a young athletic fellow, who had no clue of what the proper lifestyle of an architect ought to be. It didn't take long and my life became a cycle of sleepless nights at clubs and tired days in front of the screen. My body had began to dilapidate.
For the lack of physical activity, we tried to make up with sets of table tennis in between classes. What I found soon enough, was that the driving force wasn't a lack of movement anymore - it was the appetite for victory. Imagine then my excitement when a field hockey league was formed in the school studio. The game was wild. Often it more resembled a match in a correctional facility or an institution for the mentally handicapped. We loved it. I recall sometimes going to school only to play a match and then sneaking off to dorms again. Our DIY field took up roughly one sixth of the studio. Needless to say this "sportsmanship" drove many teachers close to madness. The Field-hockey-fever lasted for a semester.
The matches even earned an audience. Three months later, people lost interest. What I realize, after all these years, is that all those boys that used to play in the league had gone on to become great architects. Even then, teams represented future successful studios and the results where brilliantly commented by today's theoreticians of architecture. The same people who had a questionable attendance in prearranged matches now sit in well known studios around the globe. What brought us together, back then, wasn't field hockey - it was the desire for victories. It might have been just a game, but I am grateful for having been part of this insanity.
When we teach at the faculty, we are always glad to see competitiveness and the drive for victory in our students. What drives them forward is not the lectures themselves. It is the company of great people from whom they can learn a good deal. It is important to keep one's eyes for a good, healthy competition. Victory isn't everything - it is the only thing.
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R04, Jan Vondrák, 17.11.2019