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joan vergara

An ode to yellow-brained architects

We architects have a trait that is scarce, and when something does not abound it is usually valuable. Our yellow brains can be very useful to society – let’s see how.

A few weeks back, at a meeting with a group of 15 architects, we took Ned Herrmann’s HBDI test, which is used to determine one’s dominating brain area.

In a nutshell, this researcher identified four modes of thinking: blue (analytical), green (practical), red (relational) and yellow (experimental). You can check it out here. This is clearly an oversimplification, as nobody exclusively functions one way. But there usually is a mode of thinking that dominates over the others.

Test results showed that almost all of these architects were predominantly yellow-brained.

Yellow is the colour of imaginative, creative, holistic, conceptual, integrative thinking. It is the colour of intuition and imagination. It considers answers that shatter the original questions to pieces. Its utmost goal and reward is innovation.

Oddly enough, this is the least common thinking type in society, accounting for about 6%. Why is it, then, that it was found in such a high percentage within a group of architects? It can be no coincidence.

We are either deeply influenced by our training, or we flock towards this discipline precisely because we are yellow-brained. It does not matter. The fact is, architects have that scarce quality in society, and what is scarce is usually valuable.

These are hard times and people do not understand the value we provide. We live our lives competing in the worst possible way, lowering our rates and turning ourselves into commodities.

Well, we do have something to offer society – our yellow brains (amongst other things).

Mind you, though. This creativity of ours does not only serve to build better houses than the third little pig’s. It is also useful for imagining, solving problems and integrating solutions beyond architecture design.

An Arquitectus Vulgaris can come in very handy in any workforce, as he/she is likely to provide diversity, and diversity provides balance and strength. We have exactly what robots (currently) lack, something sought after in many a profession. We just need to use it. To do so, we need to become aware of a couple of issues.

First off, let’s not give in to egotism. I know that one cannot paint with a broad brush here. All I am saying is we should strive to be more empathetic. Sometimes even our egos have an ego, especially when being an egomaniac pays off and further inflates our ego (in what is perhaps a feature of architectural dandyism).

We should also not disguise ourselves as ourselves in order to look more like ourselves, as Bergamín would put it. All we need to do is show our true colours and put them at the service of others. Connecting. We have some very good qualities, but they are good for nothing unless we help others.

A well-known zen kōan goes: what is the sound of one hand clapping? The answer is none. We need other people to make noise. Bridging the gap between architecture and society.

There are several ways of achieving this, and we usually disregard those coming from places other than architecture.

Architects are quite able to carry out a wide array of creative tasks that require innovative thinking and strategy. How many architects provide value to society through non-architectural activities?

Let’s use what we learned in training (a tough one at that) to create value. Not only knowledge – also skills and, naturally, our yellow brains.

I still have one loose end to tie. If you are not yellow-brained, this message applies to you as well. Your architecture training enables you to do all of the above. Do you not think so?

All the talent we have cannot go to waste. As Manuel Saga pointed out here, architects are survivors. Let’s prove it.

Text translated by Beth Gelb

Image: Carson Arias en Unsplash (Prhotographer)

Arquitecto, consultor y coach. Cerebro muy amarillo. Wagneriano y fanático del rugby y el Taichí. Ayudando desde ARQcoaching a profesionales de la arquitectura a conseguir más y mejores encargos o un empleo y a gestionar su trabajo con efectividad.

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