Dear Boy in the Plastic Bubble,

Googling “Advice for Future Architects” – there is one link featuring nuggets of wisdom from 6 Starchitects. It would be inconceivable for my advice to be heralded above the likes of Zaha, Frank, Norman, Wolf D., Peter, or Bjarke. Therefore, this is an open letter to one specific type of architect: The Boy in the Plastic Bubble Architect.

Dear Boy in the Plastic Bubble,

Do you have an innate ‘disease’ that nobody else can quite comprehend – unless they too are inflicted with the same disease? I know how you feel, I am also a Bubble Boy Architect. Yearning for advice on the profession, I also turned to the “Masters” and was disheartened by their words.

Norman Foster iterated, “Architecture, sculpting, painting, drawing – is that what you really really want to do more than anything else in the world? If that’s the case you made the right choice… but if you don’t believe in it, then you have to find something else.”

Zaha Hadid once stated, “If you want to have an easy life, don’t be an architect.”

And depressing one’s spirit further, Peter Eisenman said. “Unless you are really committed to being an architect in the true sense of the word, it’s a terrible business and I wouldn’t recommend it for anybody. Unless you need to do it for some personal reason, I would say go into business. Go into law. Medicine. But don’t be an architect.”

Even my High School Guidance counselor advised against me being an architect – because her daughter was in architecture school, and it was hard!

Blasphemy I say! All those naysayers don’t know you. You are different. You are unique. You are a boy in a plastic bubble.

Nevertheless, I understand your reservations and know what you are thinking, “I’m smart, artistic, and good at math. But how can I be sure Architecture is the right profession for me?”

Peter Eisenman also had the same reservations. When he was asked if he always wanted to be an architect, Eisenman responded, “No. Never. I didn’t know what an architect was. I didn’t know there was such a thing as an architect till I went to college. I never wanted to be anything because I didn’t think anything, know anything. I was a nerd. I was nothing, nulla, niente.”

Eisenman was a nobody in 3 languages, but he reveals the Architectural Catch-22 of entering into the profession. To summarise Eisenman: You can’t comprehend what architecture is until you’ve academically studied architecture; yet, you should not pursue architecture unless you are totally committed to being an architect.

I believe that everyone should take at least 1 architecture studio class. However, you will never know if you are destined for a career in architecture until you can further comprehend architecture. In reality, architecture is comprised of ever-increasing bubbles within bubbles. Your little insular bubble will grow to accommodate a larger architectural bubble. (Un)fortunately, your vacations, your acquaintances, and your entire life will grow into an all-encompassing architecture bubble. 

Yet architecture also subsists within a larger bubble1 – the economy and whims of clients who hold the bottle of soapy liquid – waving the plastic wand around in circles.

All of this negativity regarding the profession is probably warranted. Hours are stereo-typically long. Wages are depressed. And I have never heard of an architect retiring. The old adage that an architect dies at his desk is appropriately apt.

Indeed, Architects are considered “young” when they have had their AARP membership card for less than a decade. But you are an aspirational young architect that wants advice from somebody that can relate to your generation. That is why I will share this quote with you from Bjarke Ingels.

“Hair don’t care to realize that here to build for all that you do for all of the human kind and so many different people from so many different backgrounds that he needs to care about the people understand what the dreams and desires and understanding as the driving force of the world forward.”

-Miscomprehended quote from Bjarke Ingels.


Bjarke Ingels is the epitome of the Bubble Boy Architect. I actually had to make sure Bjarke wasn’t the lead actor in Bubble Boy the film. IMDB says it was Jake Gyllenhaal, but the spiky hair and throngs of overly-enthusiastic cult-like members who have christened Bubble Boy as the next messiah haven’t yet convinced me.

However, gleaning advice for future architects from Bjarke Ingels proved difficult. I was listening intently to him answer a question regarding young architects, as he transitioned to talk about how the Anthropocene is considered a current epoch through technology, or sometimes viewed at the start of the Industrial Revolution. However, others have argued that the Anthropocene Era began 8,000 years ago when humans became sedentary and began building fences for cattle and structures to live near crops. Instead of humans adapting to life, at this point in time humans became the predominant member of the food chain and made life adapt to humans.

He talked about this for awhile, and then I attempted to have crappy voice-recognition software transcribe his words. “Perhaps, the written words would lead to an easier comprehension of his opinions for young architects,” I thought. But the above “quoted” words seemed even more ambiguous.

I don’t know if it is slightly difficult to fully comprehend Bjarke due to his accent, or because he is talking through the thick membrane of his architectural bubble. But mis-quoted Bjarke actually makes a more valid argument – “Hair Don’t Care.” Whether through ignorance, naivety, or an innate passion to pursue architecture, you shouldn’t let anyone dissuade you from becoming an architect – you live within your own bubble.

Bubble-boy architects are intrinsically drawn to the flickering light like a moth in the night. However, little moth, you will never know if the light at the end of the tunnel is what you were meant for, or if the light turns out to be a dimly lit incandescent bulb on a porch – until you bounce down the inevitable architectural path.




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1 Thanks a lot Housing Bubble!

This post is part of the #ArchiTalks series in which the multi-faceted architect Bob Borson, of Life of an Architect, selects a theme and a group of us other (architectural) bloggers all post on the same day, on the same topic. This month’s theme is Dear Future Architects,.

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Dear Future Architects: A Confession

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Dear Future Architects: You Need to Hear This

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Dear Future Architects: 4 Perspectives

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
dear future architects

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Dear Future Architects

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Dear Future Architects: 3 letters

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
future architects: #architalks

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Dear Future Architect, Listen Here

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Dear Future Architect — Remember Then

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Dear Future Architects,”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Dear Future Architects..

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Dear Future Young Architects… Please Quit Screwing Around!?!!

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Dear Future Architects: Don’t makes these 4 Mistakes

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Dear Future Architects

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Dear Future Architects, Be Authentic

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
Dear Future Anthony

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Dear Future Architect,

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Dear Future Architects…

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Dear future architects, never lose your optimism

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Dear future architects, are you credible?

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
Dear Future Architect, a Letter to My Younger Self

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Dear Future Architects…

Ken Saginario – Twelfth Street Studio ()
Dear Future Architects…


  1. michele grace hottel

    jake gyllenhall was in the bubble boy? not john travolta? i’m confused, jeg kan ikke forstar det!!! i think if you heard bjarke pa danske, you would understand him. Maske! Good job Brady!

    • brady ernst

      Thanks Michele,
      My generation’s Bubble Boy was Jake Gyllenhall – the far superior version that received a meager 29% Rotten Tomatoes score.

      • I’m with Michelle on this one … John Travolta (but we are burying the lead just a bit).

        Hair don’t care and yes, you won’t know until you know; a sentiment that applies to almost all things in life.

        • brady ernst

          Well… now that you astutely revealed that my conclusive argument was “you won’t know until you know’ – it probably didn’t hurt to bury the lead in what has been regarded as Jake Gyllenhaal’s worst movie.

  2. I think we all need our own bubbles to a certain extent. Bjarke’s bubble, in my humble opinion, is how he has come to his current status as a young emerging starchitect. Even in bubbles, we can view the surrounding world, while it mutes our negativity and pessimism from time to time. Maybe we need to pop our bubbles from time to time, but I don’t think they’re necessarily a bad thing! :)

    • brady ernst

      I agree. I think architects use their bubbles as a lens to analyze the world. While it may appear selfish, I don’t think the bubbles need to be burst either.

    • brady ernst

      Yeah, I thought is was fitting the speech-to-text software mis-transcribed Bjarke talking about his hair.
      Thanks Evan.

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