Oftentimes, a liberal arts education program can get stifling.
I find myself unexcited about certain required courses, and daydream about skipping to say, an architecture school. Can I just skip my two more years of college and go straight into a more specialized academic environment? Two of my best friends have got into architecture schools this year, one in Australia, Curtin University and another at Berkeley! Despite uncertainties I feel for myself, I am proud and happy for them for living in their dreams and knowing their passion, which is something I lack.
However, to console my impatience, I turned to classics and read that even Vitruvius, the first writer on architecture, mentioned the benefits of liberal arts for architects in his ten books of architecture. I certainly hope this still holds true to 21st century, Mr. Vitruvius. In fact, I wonder if I.M. Pei would agree with the virtues of liberal arts, given that he’s managing three projects in three distinctive scenarios: Musée d’Arte Moderne in Luxembourg, a museum in Suzhou, China and the Museum of Islamic Art in the Middle East, in Qatar. He designed the breathtaking East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in D.C.
Enjoy his words quoted below.
When this commission came, it was very special. I was born in Suzhou, a city not very far from Shanghai. It’s a very interesting town–there is a long artist’s tradition there, especially during the Ming and Ching dynasties, which produced many, many scholars and painters and so forth. That’s where my family lived for 600, 700 years. When the mayor first came to me about designing a museum, I said no, it’s too far away. They invited me to go back six or seven years ago, and I always tried to say no. But finally, a couple of years ago I accepted it. The location could not be more exciting. It’s a very special site, surrounded by a wonderful garden. I thought the project would touch on my relationship with my past, my ancestors, my old home. The building is now under construction. It has two more years to go before it’s complete.
Architectural Record , 2004