Aric Gitomer

Our world has been altered in such a short amount of time. As I work from home, I try to stay optimistic by thinking of when we can begin to rebuild, when architects will have the honor of being part of the healing process by creating and reimagining spaces for people that can help shape their day-to-day experience. Catching a glimpse of light in a hallway or stepping through an opening into an unexpectedly intimate or, conversely, grand space that was intentionally planned never gets old for me.

And I know I’m not alone. I recently decided to reach out to architects and design aficionados worldwide and ask, “What continues to surprise you about architecture?” I hope that the design community can gain newfound inspiration and insight into our profession during this extraordinary time—and remember how our work can matter to those around us.

@leemindel, Lee F. Mindel, FAIA, SheltonMindel, New York
What surprises me is how crisis architecture can rise to a level that transforms function into an art form. If we look at the health issues that have plagued us universally, we see hope in structures such as Otto Wagner’s 1900 Kirche am Steinhof, in Vienna, Austria, designed for the mentally challenged; Josef Hoffman’s Sanatorium Purkersdorf for rehabilitation, in Austria; Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium, in Finland, for tuberculosis; and Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, in San Diego, Calif., for the polio vaccine. Architecture is transformative.

@sua_nova_casa, Sua Nova Casa, Santa Catarina, Brazil
What surprises me most about architecture is that we can accomplish almost everything in terms of creating a scenery in which we can live and stage our characters just like in a play.

@kiltro.polaris, Kiltro Polaris, Cancun, Mexico
What surprises me about architecture is how it represents the solutions to all the problems—not only architectural, but also with regulations, clients, money, financing, and construction—that were resolved in order for it to be standing there, proudly representing its own time. Sometimes, we don’t see that—we just walk by. Fortunately, sometimes we do see it, smile, and continue walking.

@abrahamcotaparedes, Abraham Cota Paredes, Cotaparedes, Guadalajara, Mexico
What surprises me most is the wide range of things you can do with architecture knowledge.

@gregoryphillipsarchitect, Gregory Phillips Architects, London
One of my inspirations is the entrance sequence to the Guggenheim in New York by Frank Lloyd Wright. You move from a small low space into the large volume; the contrast and shape of the gallery invoke awe and delight. I have used this sequence in houses. I aim to surprise too!

@lerichti, Philipp Heer, Lerichti, Zurich
What surprises me most is the diversity of architecture around the world or even within a city, like London. I’m also surprised by the context of buildings—how they work with the surroundings, or not—and because I am currently photographing many interiors, how some buildings look from the exterior as compared to the interior. The impact of architecture on me is also incredible: the feeling of being small and overwhelmed by this machine.

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@allofarchitecture, Ruan Erasmus, South Africa
Because it is so broad, architecture is something that one needs to look at from their own perspective and realize its adaptability. Comparing architecture over time reveals how its development is changing with technology, and how the information surrounding architecture is becoming this fast-paced, increasingly accessible thing. Being connected to architecture in such a diverse context, I find that my perspective on it changes daily.

@ahmedhusseindesigns, Ahmed Hussein Designs, Cairo
Architects, like musicians and painters, are playing with certain elements, but can produce a new piece of art each time. Everyone leaves a fingerprint on their work. Architecture is the art of engineering and the engineering of arts.

@fernandogguerra, Fernando Guerra, Lisbon, Portugal
What surprises me really depends on the architecture. Some architecture surprises me while some does not. Through my work in architectural photography, I try to level that difference by creating a surprise in all architecture in the end.

@cannyborlandarchitects, Canny Borland Architects, Melbourne, Australia
How subjective design can me is surprising. Good architecture responds specifically to its unique context and, importantly, to each client’s taste and needs. We’re not surprised how varied this can be given that we’re all individuals. What is surprising is how little variation is actually created in reality. The design process often diminishes the individual and tries to put us all into one of a few boxes.

@architecture_in_love, Daniel Hülseweg, Berlin
Architecture speaks to our feelings and emotions, and reveals how spatial our memories really are. You remember physically the first room that was yours: its smell and light, that weird corner where the ceiling and the wall met. You remember how the attic or the basement made you feel. The job description and the expertise of an architect is to design spatial needs and memories—nothing less.

@archi_students, Sara Naoura, Beirut
The difference between architecture education and architecture practice along with the lack of financial reward in the field of architecture continue to surprise me.

@enrico95, Enrico Guzzoni, Milan, Italy
As an amateur photographer, I love how architecture deals with light and colors, during different times of the day and night. I enjoy losing myself in the details of an eclectic façade or the simple lines of rationalism. As a history student, I appreciate that architecture is probably the strongest trace of human presence, and I’m always stunned about stratification of styles in the urban structure.

@architecture.crc, Razvan Cristea, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
What surprises me the most about architecture is the way in which each person can create and design their perfect and ideal building, from their imagination to reality.

@flaviamedina.arquiteta, Arquitetura Flavia Medina, São Paulo, Brazil
What surprises me in architecture is the creation of an entirely new—and happier—life for my clients.