The Fountainhead, AYN RAND
“…. These rocks, he thought, are here for me; waiting for the drill, the dynamite and my voice; waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn; waiting for the shape my hands will give them….”
This line at the beginning of the book just ignited that fire in me and got all my attention. I identified with it so strongly!
The Fountainhead came to me at the very young age of 16, recommended by a senior friend of mine as she saw the passion with which I wanted to pursue Architecture and Interior design. I took it up as I joined my university the year next. It was time to begin, and it took me a while to finish, as intense as it was, I had to pause and let it all sink in and go right back to it!
The book is not about architecture but is used to set the foreground. We relate to it as it takes us back to the beginning of our journey and reminds us of all the hard work we put in, and the incidents that take place in the book which we relate to even today. It’s like a bible for us and I keep going back to it when needed. And every time I learn something new, as my perspectives of life have changed over the years so has my take on the book.
Howard Roark the protagonist is an independent, innovative architect who struggles for the integrity of his work against social opposition. This book is a dystopian allegory for the architectural society of that time. Of course, the world today has evolved, and we see the likes of Zaha Hadid and Bjarke Ingels who have changed the face of architecture.
All of us came from that school of thought that Design is never wrong. It’s how you perceive it with the changing times – create it and let it go. Sometimes accepted, sometimes not.
As a chain breaker in the family, a rebel, spoilt with conviction, I always had a strong sense of what I am going to be when I grow up. A businesswoman – I have grown up around dinner table conversations that involved strategy and challenges and how to overcome them.
Design is my strength; my passion and I believe that – If I can imagine it I can create it and I have the tools for it! Architecture was not considered a business, but I was convinced I would excel. This book gave me just what I needed to hear – Do what you Love!
We designers are extremely egotistical, with a stronghold on our designs. The selfish ‘I’, is very pronounced in the world of architecture. I feel we are selfish in the most paradoxical way – we let go of our own creation for the world to see through their eyes and draw conclusions.
Many of us have tried to fit in, cave in, and go with the flow, it’s an uncertain profession. We end up following the big firms, working with them, and adapting to them but the end is very much like Peter Keating – a very well-constructed character in the book to show the two sides of human behavior in our world. In the end, he is in despair. The authentic self comes out, you cannot hide who you are, and it will have to surface someday.
There are a lot of instances in the book which remind me of myself and why I do, what I do.
There is this initial part in the book where Howard gets his first commission, I had chills down my spine as if I had won it! He did not get it because he was different or a modernist so to speak, but because he got the brief right. She explains it brilliantly in the architecture lingo, the approach to design after getting the brief from the client, the inspection of the site, and how the space just talks to us and tells us to shape it. He merged the brief superfluously with the right method of thought. That’s what we do and that’s why the clients come to us; we are their medium of expressing what they want.
“I’ve felt that when I move into this house, I’ll have a new sort of existence, and even my simple daily routine will have a kind of honesty or dignity, that I can’t quite define. Don’t be astonished if I tell you that I feel as if I’ll have to live up to that house”.
“I intended that,” said Roark.
“There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence.”
These lines are what I live by day In and day out. The sheer pleasure of recognizing the work we do is what we thrive on. And these lines became the core of my thought process back then and into my existence today reflected in my work.
After so many years when I connect the dots of my life, and the way it has progressed and evolved – The Fountainhead has been a major catalyst for me. The passion, the conviction with which I do what I do, I Just am – I Am!
“Architecture is not a business, not a career, but a crusade and a consecration to a joy that justifies the existence of the earth….” -Henry Cameron.