"The Dream of the Architect" by Thomas Cole

After seeing the movie “Inception” last night, I’m convinced of one thing. Christopher Nolan, the writer and director, MUST be married to an architect. Or, he has been married to an architect in the past. Or, one or several of his close friends are architects. Or, perhaps he studied architecture at some point. Somewhere, somehow, the man is intimately familiar with the behavioral quirks of the architectural set.

I ought to know. I’m married to an architect myself. One of my closest friends is an architect, and her husband is also an architect. Much of our extended friendship circle is made up of architects. If you look at many of my friends on Facebook, they’re architects. I’m surrounded by an almost constant stream of banter about buildings and starchitects and roof details and the perfect doo-dad to prop up the thing-a-ma-jig that sits behind a cabinet that no one will ever see.

Architects like to draw – on everything, but especially on napkins and scraps of paper while they’re eating. They all do this with relish, like eating is the ritual that incites creativity. When DiCaprio did it in the movie – a pivotal, serious scene – I started laughing out loud, something that no one else in the theater (and it was FULL of architects) thought was funny.

What’s worse about this tendency for drawing on things is that every scrap – even if they’ve blown their noses on part of it; especially if it’s wadded up so tightly that it would be humanly impossible to press it flat again – every shred represents the INCEPTION of a design that may be useful SOMEDAY. Therefore, none of these things that look like rubbish to the non-architect can ever be thrown away.

I’ve also learned that architects design buildings for everyone else, but their own houses are usually unfinished projects, leaving them in a perpetual bliss of design mode. They see what a modernist miracle of perfection it’s going to be one day, when it’s done. But, it will never be done.

Nothing demonstrated these behaviors more clearly for me than the architect husband and wife dream of the perfect world in the movie. I laughed all the way to the car dissecting that place, where the two of them, entirely alone, constructed a mammoth city of their dreams, a modernist miracle of insane proportions that was built all the way into the sea. Without having to deal with deadlines, clients, construction administration, contractors, subcontractors and so on, they lived for over fifty years in what must be every architect’s dream of how they would practice and live if money were no object. They would just exist in the orgiastic bliss of designing and designing and designing.

Knowing and loving architects adds an entirely different dimension to the pleasure of watching “Inception.” Obviously, I adore them, because I’ve chosen to surround myself with them at every turn. Just don’t laugh out loud in the serious architectural moments in the movie. Call me, and we can laugh together instead.

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