Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: Dreams and Schemes: Stories of People and Architecture

I grabbed Dreams and Schemes: Stories of People and Architecture off the of Free, Take Me! shelf outside our library. It was such a thin little volume, I couldn't resist. I'm glad I didn't.

Dreams and Schemes is effectively what you would get if you sat down David Dibner, a seemingly accomplished architect in his field, and said 'tell me some stories!' There's a nice mix of funny and cautionary tales, most with a clear moral. Rather than focusing on anything technical, Dibner chose to focus on the people an architect comes into contact with, be it customers, builders or other architects. And man, does he run into some interesting personalities.

He opens with a couple of stories about the balance an architect has to strike between his own ideas and the customers who have hired him. For example, the customer asks for relatively large kids bedrooms, whereas the architect is convinced that children's rooms should be small and for sleeping only. Should the architect build what years of training and experience have lead him to believe is right? Or should he compromise his beliefs, and deliver what the customer is asking for? This is something I encounter regularly in my day job, and is actually one of the more interesting challenges I face. These stories alone were worth reading the book for.

A Google search didn't turn up much on Dibner. I did find his obituary, and learned that he actually lived in a town over from me. I'll admit it, Dreams and Schemes wasn't the most remarkable or exciting book I've read, but it was a pleasure to read none the less. It served as a wonderful reminder of what we all aspire to have in our careers: the respect of our peers, the opportunity to tackle big challenges and the chance to have lots of adventures, the interaction with interesting people. I also give him lots of credit for changing how I view what architects do.

All in all, a pleasant read.

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