If it’s not for architecture’s calling, I would have become a chef.
As a matter of fact, I have considered enrolling into the Culinary Institute of America. Maya Angelou once said, “I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.” Growing up in the kitchen of my family’s restaurant washing dishes and doing food prep also made me realize this is a tough business. There are long hours and stress during typical meal times. The prospect of working inside one of the harshest and hazardous conditions swayed my desire to be a chef.
Knowing I will not achieve full satisfaction working in the kitchen, I still want to serve others by using the creative energy that is the hallmark of a great chef. So there I was, at thirteen years old, trying to figure out what it is that I want to do. The moment came when my parents took me to an architect’s office in a small town near West Hartford, Connecticut. I must confess that I was reluctant to join my parents on this excursion. Nonetheless, they were busy planning the opening of another restaurant so they couldn’t find anyone to look after me.
As soon as we stepped out of the elevator into the corridor of the office complex, I wanted to turn back. The smell of ammonia was in the air and as we approached the office, it got so strong that I pinched my nose so hard that I made the mistake of breathing through my mouth. The toxic fumes were unbearable, and I could taste it. Things changed drastically as soon as I stepped into the office. I saw a set of blueprints for the first time, and there were men drafting at the table. There were miniature models of buildings everywhere. I let go of my nose because the smell was no longer the object of my displeasure. Fascinated, I asked my parents what is the name of the profession that these people seem to enjoy doing. “They are architects”, said my mother. I knew then that it would be a career I wanted to pursue.
Fast forward to thirty-five years after that fateful evening, I found myself assessing whether architecture was the right calling. The hours are long, and the job sites are dangerous and hazardous to health. In the early days of my practice, to survive, I took on the least inspirational projects. Working into the wee hours is often over a few days at a time. Over time, however, my portfolio comprised mostly of custom home renovations and hospitality projects. While I enjoy working on these projects tremendously, deep down in me I still think there is more to architecture than just solving spatial problems and needs for the clients.
Stuck in this perpetual cycle of finding the very reason why I practice architecture, I stopped taking on projects and began to take the journey inward. It was during a vacation on Cape Cod with my family that the revelation of why I do what I do came to me. At the base level, I see that as an architect, I am trained to solve spatial problems brought forth by my clients. At the next level, it was my innate desire to create something that would satisfy the five basic senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Taking it to the ultimate level, I long to enrich human experience by connecting us back to our environment. It is with this conviction that I became certified in Classical Feng Shui and became a Fitwel Ambassador. To me, creating spaces that align our body, mind, and spirit to our surroundings and being one with nature is why I do what I do.
From this perspective, architecture is not just the right calling, it is a higher calling.