Professor Ewok, Devil’s Advocate

June 6, 2010

The saying goes, “Those who can’t do, teach.” For architects, this is not quite the case. For us, it should say “Those who can’t do as well as they think they should, teach.” You see, when young people begin the study of architecture, we’re told that, with hard work and long, long hours in studio, we can be the next starchitect (star architect). We’re urged to push our design sensibilities to the limit in hopes of, one day, running in the same circles as Rem Koolhaus, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid (even though I’ve heard she’s a total cow). So, for years architecture students bust our rumps for a degree and a chance to make our architectural mark on the world. Then, we get a job and reality slaps us in the face.

For all our hard work and perseverance most of us end up detailing emergency exit stairs or researching building codes and reporting to managers who care more about furthering their own careers than what you think can be done to make a building design more successful. As you can imagine, this make architects super bitter and we’re forced to make one of three decisions. First, we can take the path of Pirate (for more information on Pirate, see Excessive Air Quoters and Pirate Part Two: Cultural Insensitivity) and quit our architectural pursuits and study something else while you still can. Second, we can accept our place on the lower rung of the architectural ladder and hope that, one day, we’ll actually get the opportunity to design something.  Or thirdly, you can turn to teaching and take out all your frustrations of a wasted degree out on bright-eyed young architecture students. This was the road chosen by my nemesis studio instructor, Professor Ewok.

I call him Professor Ewok because, like the furry creatures from “Return of the Jedi” who lived on Endor, he was covered in body hair, had an annoying, high-pitched, squeaky voice and, even though he was small and seemingly harmless, he was a complete pain in the ass and really did nothing to better society or my architectural studies. He was also an endlessly negative teacher who did nothing but criticize student projects. But, like most passive aggressive, bitter architects-turned-teacher, he never came out and said he didn’t like my design. Instead, he would listen to my entire presentation with his body hair sticking out of the cuffs and collar of his shirt and, when I was finished explaining my project, he’d run his hairy little hand through his black curly hair and say “That’s an interesting concept, but let me just play Devil’s advocate.” He’d then rip my project up and down. As he slammed my project from every angle, all under the guise of speaking for a fictional character I’d imagine what he’d look like with red horns and a fiery pitchfork and ask myself “Why does he keep using this stupid phrase to mask what he really wants to say?”

I mean, why would he want to be an advocate for the Devil? I’m pretty sure that most of the human race would agree that the Devil is a dick and, if we were propositioned by him for a job, we’d turn it down. Also, as an architectural studio teacher, Professor Ewok was supposed to tell us what he thought. He was the experienced architect, or so we were told, who, through his years of practice, was mentoring us to become the starchitect we knew we were all going to be. And finally, just because he was an unhappy, hairy little troll of a person, he could have at least said on complimentary thing about my work.

I suffered through Professor Ewok and his advocacy for the underworld until I’d had enough. So, I hatched a plan for revenge.

It was the end of the semester and I was giving my final presentation to Professor Ewok. It was a design for a medical facility. It was, in my humble architecture student opinion at the time, a gorgeous building that married private and public space in a symphony of concrete and glass. While I was talking, I could see Professor Ewok making mental notes for the critical onslaught that was to follow. I finished my schpeal and, as always, he removed his glasses, ran his hairy knuckles through his quaff of hair, sighed and said “Nice presentation, but let me just play Devil’s advocate.” He then rattled off everything about my project that he hated, but was too chicken to take credit for. Per his modus operandi, he did it all under the guise of speaking for the most hated and vilified creature of all creation. And as he talked, I too, like he did during my presentation, took mental notes of everything he was saying, already equipped with a response that, hopefully, would annoy him as much as he’d annoyed me all semester.

Professor Ewok, finished his critique, leaving me with one thought. “I mean, it’s a good project.” He muttered, “I’m just playing Devil’s advocate.” With that, he sat down and smiled. I matched his grin and responded. “Those were some interesting points, but let me just play God’s advocate.”

My advice to Professor Ewok: Shave off all your disgusting body hair, weave it into a scarf and wrap it around your mouth. No one wants to hear what you have to say.

My advice to all Devil’s advocates: Think twice before doing the bidding of The Prince of Darkness. It’s a slippery slope from advocacy to full on submission. You don’t want to spend eternity floating down a lake of fire, do you?

My advice to everyone else: Pray for Devil’s advocates. I think they’re going to need it.


5 Responses to “Professor Ewok, Devil’s Advocate”

  1. Frank Gehry’s Cleveland Clinic, here in Las Vegas, center for brain surgery and brain studies, was criticized as being designed to drum up business – that upon seeing it, people would believe they needed to have their heads examined. I think it’s gorgeous – as is your project, Michael.

    • mnkey75 Says:

      Frank Gehry’s buildings are all starting to look the same to me.
      So great seeing you this week!

  2. […] to become an architect. After three years of sleepless nights and horrible design reviews by my Ewok professor and his stupid role of playing the devil’s advocate, I graduated and started my third career. In that same time I met BF and made some good friends. My […]

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