Once upon a time not very long ago…..” These are the words we repeated way too often in the past few months. Thanks to the global pandemic, everyone is stuck home indefinitely, with little to no cherry things to converse. The only thing that helped in keeping the spirits alive and hopes burning was walking down memory lane. As Aristotle said, 

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” 

Well, wiser words haven’t been spoken. All those memories on replay in our heads were of times we had fun, so much so that we cried laughing. But after a point in time, all the details blur, but what stands out vividly are the characters. Imagine these memories with people frozen in place, and you are wandering around them. Similar to a scene out of a Christopher Nolan film, complete with touch screens, jazz, and all. So here is my once upon a time embellished with a hardly atypical clan. Hoping it would reel you with nostalgia, leaving a smile at the end of it. Brace yourself because this ride will most definitely throw curveballs your way. 

People with the jarring concept:

As architects, our rite of passage into the field is by designing toilets. It has been one of the fundamental things that students learn to detail. More often than not, madcap concepts and ideas trickle their way into the design juries. But there is this singular design that has been etched into my brain. This student followed Louis Sullivan’s famous words-

“Form ever follows function.”

, quite literally. The public toilet was designed to take the form of an inverted WC. There was also a physical model whose image is seared in my memory for a lifetime. Though this student was the butt of all jokes for several days, they couldn’t seem to care less. 

Nostalgia of an Architect - Sheet1

The people with overactive imagination:  

Richard Neutra once aptly explained the life of an architect- 

“I am simply submerged in work from five in the morning to eleven at night, almost need a few days off to escape a breakdown!” 

Owing to their nocturnal custom, architects and students alike look for an outlet or coping mechanism. One of the most creative, engaging, and probably the weirdest approaches was role-playing. Surprise surprise! People managed to act and behave like movie characters during their breaks from work. Thank heavens costumes weren’t involved, but dialogues in authentic dialects, concocting their screenplay made up for it. This was just the tip of the iceberg in the wild meter.  

The furious teacher- A subject of nightmares:

“Give them the vision of Oz, show them the direction, convince them you can create the yellow brick road; the rest is civil engineering.” – Dirk Susharme.

If only it was as simple as that, Mr.Susharme. All students have been through the ‘redoing-sheets-to-sway-a-tough-crowd-of-teachers’ phase. I distinctly recollect one professor, who tore the sheets to shreds and perpetually turned red as a tomato. Every time they went ballistic (this was at every drop of a hat, in all honesty), we used to snicker, afraid of being next in line. One thing that stands out is a student who used to get chewed out customarily for using shiny baking butter sheets for sketching. Also, not to mention, we were invariably disparaged for being inferior to their 3-year-old niece in painting and/or colouring. 

Titanic sank moment:

This moment is literal gold. All of us used to jump at the opportunity of winning national competitions back in the days, didn’t we? Well, not so much after hearing this encounter. There was this student who spent heaps of money on sheets and flew miles to present it. (Is that even surprising?) This friend was high on hopes that their investment would come back as prize money. Does anything ever go according to plan for an architect? (Pun intended) The twist in the tale was half the prize money was given as books that would hardly come in handy. Could fate be more twisted? 


The sketch client:

Clients attempting to micromanage architects have become as quotidian as day turning into night. But some are bolder than others that they push the envelope a little too far. 

“Architect- One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money.”      – Ambrose Bierce. 

These golden words became a tad too real for my taste. This client decided to take it upon themself to design, despite hiring an architect. What more? They used my design, “rearranged” the whole plan and gave me a sketch with furniture dimensions in it. Like wow!! For a moment, it was like reliving college jury but just a lot more tangled. Frank Gehry’s words-

 “I don’t know why people hire architects and then tell them what to do.” 

This made me contemplate- should I pay the client for doing my job? Food for thought!

One too many boss stories:

How much is too much when it comes to talking about our boss? Oh, I bet it is the favourite topic to discuss. Like John Lennon once said- 

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” 

All those late nights and unapproved leaves are indeed a testimony to our lives happening while we are busy with CAD plans. Architects working through the night for submissions have been a thing since time immemorial. I have seen people working late hours on a Saturday, aspiring to make an impression on their boss only to find out their boss had left hours earlier. That is definitely better than having a long-awaited vacation being called off because of leave being cancelled. Like the idiom goes, 

“Grass is always greener on the other side.”

And each of us would pitch our trials and tribulations are more taxing than the others.

Renzo Piano hit the bull’s eye when he stated-

 “One of the great beauties of architecture is that each time, it is like life starting all over again.” 

The life of an architect cannot be explained better. Amid all the madness that is dear to us, we felt like the time had frozen when lockdown happened. But hey! There indeed was a silver lining. We took a moment to imagine, but when we come out of it, the memories would feel more than a fleeting thought.  Because this time around, it wasn’t a vanishing moment but is a memory in itself. A souvenir- that would be cherished as a part of us for times come. Something that could get us through the tough times. Musing that would rest assured, make us feel tranquil.


Srinidhi Sriraman is a climate responsive architect who believes in giving back to the environment. A travel enthusiast who strongly believes “what is life worth if there are no stories to tell.” She took to writing to share, learn and also grow in the process.