I chose to study Architecture more than 25 years ago, when most of students in my country tended to continue their higher education in medical courses, and other engineering courses were also more popular than architecture.
All advertisements promoted medical sciences; for a better future, better income, better social status, and fame.
Although Architecture was a six-year course, leading to the M.A degree, few students would choose to study in architecture; and even if they did not choose medicine or other medical courses, they would have definitely chosen engineering courses, the most popular of which were electrical or structural engineering.
In such a situation, I had to choose my future with the highest (A) grades in high-school.
I was good in mathematics, but I was not much interested in engineering fields. I was not an artist, but engineering seemed too though to me. I liked to help the people and influence the society, but I was not inherently a doctor. In my childhood games I always played a teacher; maybe because my best patterns in the early years of schools were my teachers; whom I still meet once in a while after more than 30 years. By the way, unfortunately at that time in my country teachers were not the best patterns to make a brilliant future; and although I was interested in teaching from the childhood, I did not consider to continue my studies to become a teacher.
And my family, with no history of studying in medical sciences or engineering, but involved in culture and literature. I remember, when I was a child my father used to teach me poems from Hafiz and Sadi in hid free times:
The children of Adam are parts of the same body
As in their creation they are of the same essence
Today, this poem is quoted at the entrance of United Nations Organization; and this way I grew up with myths and stories about the good coming over the bad, and people who improved their life, their family, their city, and their country by their efforts, ideas, and thoughts.
Now, I had to decide for my future and fight to realize it.
It was not though easy to go for higher education. In those years, only 115,000 students out of 1,200,000 had the chance to enter the state universities. There were also a number of newly established private universities and educational institute; but it was not easy for my family to pay the tuition; because my family’s occupational and social status was affected considerably by the revolution in Iran. My mother had shifted from a training position to an administration position in the Army, and my father, who was a cultural/art documentary cinematographer, was forced to retire; and I had no chance to fail. When I had a limited number of choices in my application form, I had to choose my priorities properly. The marks I made on the paper showed my way to the future.
I know that today the conditions are totally different in the UK and even in my country; but I deem it necessary to mention that the choice that you make easily today could be too difficult in some societies or periods of time; so we must make the best decision for our future.
Finally, I, Shiva Aghababaei, was about to choose my field of study. I did not follow the advice of my school, family, or teachers due to the reasons that I explained; I rather referred to my ideals, the most important of which was influencing my society. I wanted to make a poem of a tangible essence, and give a new look to the ancient myths that I knew. I wanted to present the life to the people, I wanted to be influential, and finally I wanted to be creative; and Architecture shone like a gem amongst all other choices and fields of study; a hidden gem. To me, architecture seemed like creation, and this was what I sought for. I asked my friends to come with me, but they were influenced by the advertisements and the current trends, and chose other engineering disciplines. I had no experience of studying art, and I had to fight with specialized questions in addition to engineering-related questions; questions about art history and drawing; but I managed to answer them. The fire inside me was so powerful and I was so sure about my choice that it was easy for me to overcome all those barriers.
I finally succeeded. I was admitted in Architecture as my forth choice, and it changed my life.
I was astonished in the university. Besides mathematics, statics, and strenght of materials, which we had generally studied in the high-school, architectural design studio, design in nature, and architectural lessons were a different world. At the beginning of each semester, the design studies made me learn about needs of the mentors in a small scale and those of their origin society in a larger scale; and to me, this was the beginning of a new life.
I was an architect, but I had to study sociology and psychology. I was an architect but I had to be a poet as well; because an eye catching building is a nice poem with proper rhyme. I had to be a painter and sculptor; because architecture is an artwork that must be attractive besides its proper performance. I was an architect, but I could not be away from the music. All these made architecture richer and richer; something beyond a field of study. In my point of view architecture is the entire life. You cannot be an architect and have a life independent of architecture. Architecture is entirely creation, and in my opinion, creation takes place when the love flourishes, and an architect can create a work when his love to the profession, to the family, and to the society is flourished.
Each one of your projects will become your child, and will be with you day and night, from its creation to its development; and this is the major difference between architecture and other engineering fields.
It is true that an architect must be familiar with materials science and know modern technologies and tools and know state of the art materials and benefit from facilities they can provide in design of a project; but remember that thoughts and ideas of an architect cannot be limited, and it is finally the architect that drives this wheel, and tools and materials are developed and new products and technologies become available as efforts spared to realize such ideas.
I definitely do not mean to underestimate other construction-related professions, such as structural, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and other related expertise; because each one of them include certain innovations and leave similar effects; yet, I believe that architecture is the driving engine of this industry, and the architects lead this industry; and they are the ones who link this industry to the human life in the best possible way.
When I set up my company, I named it “Tarh Va Afarinesh” (which means Design & Creation), and used a nine-parts mandala, which symbolizes creation, and the pictogram of “Tarh” (which means “design”) to draw the company logo. The name and the logo are inspired by my beliefs, by my belief in creation that has been the foundation of professional life from the beginning till now, and is manifested in everyday of my life through the project I have been involved in, most of which have been design and build projects.
As a human being, I think we are all born to have an effect – though small – on our surrounding society in our life, and I do believe that being an architect has been my best opportunity to commit to this undertaking.
When I add colors to my projects trying to motivate my people passing through these grayish days of our history, or when I watch those sitting in the space I have designed having their cup of tea with an unexplainable joy, or when I try to help the environment and our Planet Earth by proper selection of renewable materials and using clean energies, or when I initiate an urban space trying to establish a constructive relationship between old and new generations, or when as director of a consulting engineers firm with more than 100 staffs I fight for the wage of my staff with the clients who are not yet used to pay for thinking in my country, or when in spite of all constraints in a man-centered society I go beyond the conventional borders and win international awards in my field of expertise to be a good example for the women and girls of my country, I always believe that these have all come true to me by being an architect.
Finally, I may say that in my point of view, all students must choose their field of study based on their real and inner interest. When the field of study and professional future are based of love and cognition, success and proper income will certainly follow. Architecture as an important and effective discipline of the construction industry has various aspects, each one of which can interest the people.
In spite of all good and bad days I have experiences in my career, I strongly recommend those interested in continuing their higher education in construction-related disciplines to consider and learn about architecture. I also do believe that there is a potential of preparing attractive plans to help the children about this field in preschool ages.
“Architecture is Creation… Do It the Best.”