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Today, I went to the free day at SF MoMA. Very nice exhibits, decent building, even with the scary bridge you have to cross to access the fifth floor if you take the stairs up. (I know, I know, I should trust the engineers to know their jobs, but it’s hard with that little material between me and a five-story drop…) But mostly, it made me miss the museums I visited in Italy. Today, I was more interested in the BART station than in the museum building. That, to me, is a sad state of affairs.

Granted, most of the museums I visited in Italy were housed in beautiful, sprawling old buildings, usually a former palace of some sort, but really, is this the best we can offer in the U.S.? I’m a bit disheartened, after having visited a few museums since my return from Italy, to find that in the U.S., we seem to think “museum” is a synonym for “art warehouse.” Yes, some of them do have somewhat interesting buildings, or at least an interesting wing, but nowhere that I have visited so far do I spend more time looking at the building than the “art” on display! I believe that the building should be part of the art, not just a box to put it in. I realize that much of the building’s purpose is, in fact, to house art. But that does not preclude it being art. It can be an artistic container, or an innovative container. Even the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, England has more to recommend it than many museums in the U.S., and it is modeled after an airplane hangar, of all things! At least it has an innovative double-skin envelope with all the service areas contained between the two skins. That, at least, is something!

I will say this: I haven’t tried to design a museum yet, so maybe I do not understand fully the challenges that such a building presents. Maybe Americans just want empty white boxes to put their art in so as not to “upstage” the paintings and sculpture and whatever. But, I do believe we can give it the old college try. I am going to have to search for some truly fascinating museums in the States.

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I took a quiz on Facebook today, which was supposed to tell me which architect I am. I think that the quiz is inherently flawed.

First of all, it assumes that architects will all have wives, and leans towards the belief that architects are male. As a married female architect-to-be, I take exception to those notions. I think the world needs more female architects, and more good architects, for that matter. I also don’t understand how so many architects are married. Quite frankly, we can be a hard lot to put up with, and then you add the job on top of that, and it is a wonder that any of us are married, or stay that way for long. (I am fortunate enough to have a very patient and understanding husband, even though he does work in construction, a field that has typically been full of animosity towards architects.)

Secondly, my result was Frank Ghery. I also take exception to this. While his buildings are certainly very intriguing, I hope I never make a building like that. My hopes include the following as well: that I will never have a repetitious style, that I will achieve Ghery’s level of success though not necessarily his level of fame, and that I will not be a starchitect. I think buildings need to speak to the function they house, the surrounding area/style, and the narrative of the space. Each building should be a unique thing, and designing something that looks like a computerized, calculus-based representation of a crumpled piece of paper, no matter how many different ways you tweak it, just doesn’t cut it for me. There are so many things that architecture can do; why do the same thing again and again? Reinvent the wheel! It can be good for you! Who knows? You might actually come up with a better wheel. We’re not exactly rolling around in cars with Flinstones-esque rock wheels, are we?

Finally, I don’t believe I am any architect… yet. But I will be someday. And on that day, I will be the architect BJ Dietz Epstein. Though I certainly take inspiration (and anti-inspiration) from other architects, and other fields, I don’t want to be the next Frank Ghery, or Richard Meier, or even Norman Foster or Borromini or I.M. Pei or Shigeru Ban. I want to be me, and create my own great work. I don’t want to be a starchitect standalone. Architecture takes teamwork, and I am searching for the team I belong with.

And this is why you should never take Facebook quizzes too seriously.

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