Friday, June 28, 2013

A Field Guide to Architects: Identifying In The Natural Habitat

For avid architect-watchers in the US, spotting and correctly identifying a typical architect in its natural landscape seems easy, but only on the surface.  One must be careful not to mistake an architect for an interior designer or even a German tourist.  Here are some tips for correct identification.

Clothing:  For the most part, architects have black plumage, with the occasional bright color in the form of an accessory.  The black and accent color scheme can sometimes be found in other professions as well; beware misidentifying the jazz musician as an architect, or still worse, the interior decorator!  Look for the tell-tale bulge of a Moleskine in pockets.  Also, the architect's hair is frequently idiosyncratic - on a woman this can mean closely cropped or perhaps even a crest, and on a man this can mean a disheveled cloud or carefully combed and styled.  Colorful hair is unusual in mature architects, but is frequently found in young adults.

Accessories:  Accessories can be broken down into a number of categories:  bags, neckwear, shoes, and eyeglasses.  There is some overlap between the males and females in typical accessory display in the species, but not in all categories.

  • Bags:  No self-respecting architect is without a trusty bag of some kind when moving about its habitat.  Common materials for bags include leather, industrial felt, canvas, and recycled materials such as bicycle tires or billboard tarps.  Older architects tend toward more sober materials and shapes; younger ones use bags across the spectrum.  Bags will invariably contain at least one sketchbook and writing instrument.  Also, an architect's bag is generally a cross-body shoulder strap type, though backpacks are not unheard of.

  • Neckwear:  Architects are idiosyncratic in neckwear, particularly the males.  Bow ties, while unusual in other fields, are frequently spotted on male architects.  Scarves are common on female architects, but as this is a more universal accessory for women it is less reliable as identification. On occasion female architects will also wear typically masculine neckwear, but one should not mistake Diane Keaton for an architect.

  • Shoes:  Architects love unusual shoes, though this fades somewhat as they age.  Particularly elderly architects may have shoes indistinguishable from elderly members of other professions - this is largely due to architects typically remaining in practice until death.  For fledgling and mature architects alike, casual footwear is often brightly colored, sometimes garishly so.  More formal footwear tends to be in soberer colors but with unusual shapes or styling.  One well-known architect specimen has signature yellow socks; what a prize to see in the wild!

  • Eyeglasses:  While architects without eyeglasses do exist, they are very rare.  Most have at least one pair of eyeglasses; many have multiple pairs.  A common type is the Le Corbusier eyeglasses, or some derivative thereof, with heavy black plastic frames and round lenses.  Other types also exist, but the heavy plastic frame is most common.  This can come in a variety of colors, black being the most predominant.  Eyeglass types can be found on both male and female architects, with lots of overlap, but female eyeglass types are frequently more colorful and with unusual shapes.  Occasionally architects will have eyeglasses only as an affectation; these can be difficult to discern from hipsters, but the hair and clothing should easily differentiate between the two groups.

Behavior:  Architects are no different from other professions under normal conditions, but there are a few behaviors unique to the species to look for.

  • Awkward-looking Photography:  Architects love to take photographs of all kinds of things, though buildings are most often photographed.  Subjects can range from a cast shadow to roadkill to rusting steel.  While it can be difficult to differentiate between an architect and a photography student in the midst of this behavior, the equipment will likely be more easily maneuvered and handled for the architect than the photography student.  This will not make it less awkward-looking when the architect tries to photograph the facade of a building from a supine position at its foot.

  • Sketching: Architects will often sketch out in the wild; this behavior is nearly indistinguishable from art students except for the content of the sketchbooks and the quality of the sketchbook itself.  Look for leather-bound sketchbooks with heavy paper (Moleskine is very popular) and drawings that are difficult to reconcile with their subjects.  People are frequently absent from architect drawings - this is often reflected in architectural photography as well.
We hope these tips help eager architect-spotters!  Any further tips are welcome in the comments!

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