In the early 1990s, back when I was barely a teen and "had it all figured out", my future was all about art and architecture. This was before I was introduced to the possibilities of computer programming and before I even considered Asia as a place of residence1. Rarely would I go more than a day without sitting down to draw an elaborate building, be it a skyscraper or a school that didn't rely so much on "hosable construction"2. Occasionally I would even venture to create something residential in the form of a nice house with enough space for people to enjoy. Much of this was inspired by the creative drawings I would see when visiting grandparents, but there was also a book that I distinctly being captivated by that sat ever so prominently in the art room in high school. The book was on the architecture of Chicago with an emphasis on skyscrapers.

Sunrise in Chicago

The building that really captured my attention still stands today at 333 West Wacker Drive and is probably best known for its distinctive curved front. It was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, completed in 1983, and even made an appearance in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Even at 36 years of age, the building looks fresh and modern. Very few buildings can say the same after just a quarter century.

It was from photos and sketches of this building that I would create drawings of my own. Structures of glass and steel would rise into the sky like an organic crystal rather than the giant cereal boxes that so many tall buildings resemble. Roads would curve around the gardens at the base of these structures or, in one instance, dive underground so as not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere surrounding the modern-day obelisk. Most of these pencilled renderings were completely untenable, given that they would insist that the city revolved around them rather than integrate in a symbiotic manner as good architecture demands. These were the sketches of a child, of course.

Studying architecture provided a lot of incentive to learn how to apply mathematics to solve problems3, study how people interact with the world, and appreciate the balance between the beautifully chaotic world of nature and the tranquil order that can be brought about through human ingenuity and creativity. These are skills that I still rely on today despite working in a completely different field.

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have evolved had I not learned how to program computers. Would I have become an architect? Would I have designed yachts? Would I have just taken the easy route and gotten a job somewhere and stuck to it? There will always be questions of "what if" but, at the end of the day, I can't imagine doing anything else. I make a living working from home with just a handful of tools. Despite my occasional rages and bursts of expletive-laced hyperbole, life has been pretty good these past two years.

  1. I'm sure I've shared this before, but I distinctly remember telling my mother and step father at the age of 14 that I would one day live in Japan … to which they laughed and said "yeah, right".

  2. "Hosable construction" is generally how I refer to any building that can have any mishap, be it spilt milk or the slaughter of 1000 cows, cleaned up with nothing more than a hose connected to a water supply. A lot of the schools I attended were concrete affairs. Durable, cool in the summer, but very institutional.

  3. This is something that the schools are not particularly good at explaining. Sure, kids can learn about the quadratic equation, but when should we apply this sort of equation? This is what kids need to know.