When UMD invited me to give a lecture about my professional and creative life, I started to freak out. It’s not easy for me to speak about myself. I don’t like to brag about my projects and I tend to be shy and protective about my life outside of school. When I realized that a lot of students were going to be sitting in front of me, and some of them would be alumni from the MARYSTUDIO (i.e., my studio at ISI Florence, which is named after Maryland and Marywood), I started to feel the responsibility of the event and the challenge it posited. I usually see US students in Florence, outside of their comfort zone. Once in class, I keep telling them that they must embrace this discomfort with enthusiasm instead of trying to avoid it. Strange though it may sound, that uncomfortable feeling is a large, precious part of their experience as international architecture students.
But this time I was the one being confronted with this situation … . And if it is true that we mainly teach by example, I had to brace up and start by defining myself as an architect. The Split (the title of my lecture) was about the nature of my job. I have one foot in education and one foot in practice. A sort of split personality, one may say. My daily effort is trying to find a balance (and, therefore, coherence) between these two realms. In a sense, I feel like a tight-rope walker. Trust me when I say it’s a dangerous job!