What if the boiling frog just said eff it, I’m outta here?
All architectural graduates must bring a dose of patience to their first jobs. That’s not easy in the best of times, as I explored in an earlier post. Today, the disruptions of social crises, rampant greed, and environmental degradation threaten our very existence, not to mention the non-human beings who live here with us. Patience and hope seem not just misguided, but naive or irresponsible.
When we asked Ava Omidvar what patience means to her now that she’s in the work world, she started by acknowledging that she is not known for her patience: “Not when I know my values are misaligned with what’s happening in front of me and I can see ways to change it.” She invoked the analogy of the frog in the pot of cold water put on to boil: “Respectfully, there's been a lot of frogs in the water. And I'm a new frog that just got put into this water and I'm not comfortable in this pot of water and, and it needs to stop.” She noted that, when she sees a problem, she is one to flat-out say, “We need to fix this.”
But many of today’s problems in the arena of architecture have no easy solutions. “You know the world is falling apart because our industry is making it this way,” Ava said. Recognizing all the ways that architecture and construction contribute to climate change, resource depletion, and historically to social injustice, answers aren’t easy to come by. “When you get into the day to day of work, you're really just trying to figure out where you fall into all of it. I don't particularly feel it's useful to just say something if you don't have at least a hint of the solution.”
“I've learned to give myself some grace,” she said. “I've learned from my co-organizers in Design As Protest that everybody has a part to play in the revolution. My part might not be the loudest and I can't play every role. My patience is learning what that means for me in a professional setting. In settings outside of work, yes, I am the alarm ringer. I will say the thing that people don't want to say, but it’s the truth.”
She noted that adding your voice in any capacity carries its own power: “If all I can do is spread the word that we can do something and that inspires one person to talk to somebody else, and then they do something small, that's my contribution. And we need to have many more people doing that.”
Though she’s out of school and in the work world, Ava hasn’t abandoned her values. “There are times to be impatient, like when we're speaking to corporations. Some need to be yelled at and some need to be sat down and have a stern talking to. Those are the people we should be impatient with.”
“The corporations are the ones turning the heat up on the pot. They're not the frog sitting in the water.” Balancing activism with architecture just might propel Ava—and the rest of us—out of that pot for good.
Our podcast trailer is almost finished! We’ll share it next week.
This project is supported by a Faculty-Student Research Award from the Graduate School, University of Maryland, as well as grants from the University’s Sustainability Fund and the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation.