30 Days of PS
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Your Personal User Manual

I started my academic architectural studies about 17 years ago, in a historic building full of amazing contradictions, located in the center of Bucharest. I was part of a new generation ready to take over the world! Aren’t we all?

The very first projects were simple exercises of spatial composition. They were LEGO games, but with a very limited variation of pieces. We had two weeks to come up with two interesting designs, four drawings and two 3D models. Doesn’t sound that complicated, does it?

I don’t remember starting work on the project. I do remember however that I had been working for a while, drawing sketch after sketch, yet could not find a solution. It shouldn’t have been all that complicated, it was just a composition. And yet I found nothing.

There is a particular moment I distinctly remember. It was the end of the first week and I was drawing at the kitchen table. I had already covered several papers with rows of different compositions and had decided they were not good enough. I was no longer feeling any pleasure in working on it. It felt arduous, hopeless and quite unreachable. I started doubting my creative skills and the ability to become an architect. And it really did not help seeing many of my colleagues already working on their 3D models come Monday morning.

I think it was the Friday of the second week, less than 3 days until deadline, when it finally made sense to me. I had two coherent ideas and sketches that didn’t make me want to scream. And I was actually having fun looking at them. Go figure!

I didn’t sleep much that weekend. I piled on the coffee and covered the rug in my room with shavings of modeling foam. By Monday my initial excitement had returned and I was back on track.

Throughout six years of university and two and a half years of a master’s program I have never completed a project with time to spare. I’d always go through the same process: piles of sketches, desperation, doubt, pure insanity, and right before the deadline a glimmer of hope, a brilliant idea and days of insane work with no sleep.

True, I wasn’t alone in this insanity; however, many of my colleagues would have more time to finish their designs and actually get some sleep. They could play with different ways of presentation and techniques while I was just hoping to be done in time. I’d see raised eyebrows and people surprised as the deadlines approached and I was nowhere near the finish line. All of this, made me slowly but surely think that there was something wrong with me, that my process was flawed and that I wasn’t good enough.

And so, my dear reader, I know you’re doing fine! But if at any point in time you feel unable to breathe under the weight of a project or its deadline, think of this:

You don’t come with a manual. It would be beautiful if you did and life would be so much easier, but you’re unique. So, you have to write your own manual. And to be able to do so you have to first learn your own innerworkings. It’s best to start observing yourself and, in particular, your thought patterns.

By doing so you will be able to understand your reactions, anticipate your needs and not get annoyed with yourself. You’ll be able to remove yourself from within the project you are working on and instead look at it and at yourself as an observer from outside. As the stress will dissipate, taking decisions will get easier and you’ll be much more efficient. Invest in knowing yourself and your mind and you’ll be able to finish well anything you put your mind to.

And I am happy to let you know, I now have time to spare when completing a project.

Corina Popa

Corina Popa is an architect living in the Netherlands. She researches how architecture can be used to make people thrive, and its practical application in residential architecture. She enjoys drawing, writing, taking pictures and reading books. Corina is also fascinated by how countries reach different views on the same items, based on the implications of history, society and culture. She admits to being a bit of a SciFi nerd as well.

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