I want to start out this post by expressing my deep sadness for the recent tragedies associated with the earthquake in Mexico. The loss of life is always deeply depressing, but buildings collapsing and trapping children is an epic level of heartbreak. I want to go pull my first grader out of school, give him lots of hugs and kisses, wrap him in bubble wrap, and put him in a bunker. But that’s not living, so I will attempt to restrain myself.
A key pillar of my personal outlook on life is to find the positive in every situation – because life is too short to dwell in sadness. When I think about the recent slew of natural disasters that have been impacting our world, I am not only grateful for not living on or near a fault line or on a coast – I am also extremely thankful for structural engineers, building codes, and well-designed buildings.
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico with a group of students from Ball State’s College of Architecture and Planning to look at designing and building a sustainable village. We teamed up with a group of local architectural students for two weeks and had a wonderful experience.
One of the most interesting revelations of the trip for me was how architecture is considered a form of art in Mexico, and studying architecture is like going to art school. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that architecture is an art form, but it is also highly technical. In the US, architecture falls more in the STEM world than the art world. This is because it is great when a building is beautiful, but it is more important that it functions and stands soundly.
In the United States, architects and engineers spend 4-6 years of secondary education focusing on how to design and construct buildings, 3+ years practicing in the field, and then are required to take a series of exams to prove that this knowledge has sunk in and registered. This helps insure that the buildings you work, live, learn, and play in are well-constructed and are there to protect you from harm. Does that mean that buildings will never fail? Of course not, some situations are outside of anyone’s control. However, you can walk around in buildings in this country and feel a sense of security in the fact that it was constructed in a way to keep you safe from harm.