Late past November, I was in Prague to announce the winner of the Czech Architecture Award. Earlier on in the year, our international jury panel travelled some 1300 kilometer in an old bus through the Czech Republic to select first six finalists and then a winner.
On the eve of the award-ceremony, unlike on similar occasions in the Netherlands, little attention was paid to the jury-statement on the winner or on serious contemporary topics of debate in the sector. Instead, while the winners were announced swiftly and dryly, the moment was flanked by exuberant acts from acrobats and trapeze-artists, jolly little Cirque du Soleil. I was initially struck with surprise by this unusually lighthearted and cheerful scene. For a change it were not matters such as urban housing, climate change, or circular building that dominated the evening.
But then the deeper meaning of this peculiar mix dawned on me: architecture and the circus, architects and circus artists, they actually share a thing or two. Watching these artists dangling from trapezes and dancing aroundflying across the room, I felt a kinship. For even though their acts look smooth and easy, they require dedicated training and years of experience. One acrobat who came in on crutches and with a taped-up ankle but nonetheless got on the trapeze must have got a seriously high tolerance for pain. One probably falls frequently, but you will have to get up and continue if you want to make it. You will have to prove yourself time and again in front of a room full of critics. Yet it remains an attractive line of work.
In many ways, I felt warm resemblances with our own profession. I suddenly understood why the room was filled with passionate architects, who in their architecturally and economically meager environs must always be ready to pull off their best tricks, to attain small but often beautiful resultspieces of art. That feeling of floating through the air, casting a spell, making it seem effortless, and then the satisfaction of an achieved success: who does not want that?
December 2017, Cobouw.nl