An architecture graveyard can teach you and I a few important lessons about life. Though I grew up running around graveyards and casket rooms in my father’s mortuary, most normal people I know prefer not to visit any kind of graveyard. So it was only until last week when my daughter Ellie and I visited Cal Poly’s “architecture graveyard” while on a tour of the campus. Ellie was recently accepted into the SLO School of Architecture and we’d heard much about the famous “architecture graveyard,” also known as the Design Village. Although we didn’t come across any tombstones, I soon discovered there were several things an architecture graveyard could teach me about life. Read on…
First, it might be a bit helpful to explain what this graveyard is all about. The SLO Architecture Graveyard is the final resting place of many final senior projects designed by architecture students. The place is filled with all sorts of architectural designs, environmental sculptures and experimental structures. It’s a veritable playground of creativity, innovation, design and experimentation, which is one of several reasons why we enjoyed it so much. As the Design Village, it is also used for annual competitions in experimental structures hosted by Cal Poly.
After oohing and aahing at the uniqueness of each structure, Ellie and I walked back down the beautiful Poly Canyon road surrounded by large oak and sycamore trees. I couldn’t help, but consider what these structures might have to teach me about life. Here’s three things I learned (questions I considered) from this architecture graveyard.
1) Have I considered basic design principles for my life? “How might I best design my life?” is a question few people actually consider on a regular basis. Would it be safe to say more time is spent memorizing our favorite Starbucks drink?? The architectural structures we visited, though some were quite funky, reflected initiative, creativity, and thoughtful design. God gives us a lot of freedom to design a life that reflects meaning, purpose and ingenuity. These timeless design principles, authored by the Divine Architect, are found in His word if we only took more time to listen and learn.
2) What am I building that will last? Great thought and planning went into developing these structures. Many of them were quite complex, built with wood, stone, cement, steel and cable rigging. Who know how many countless hours of hard labor went into these structures? Unlike a regular graveyard, the only thing missing here was the “dash” we see between the dates on tombstones. You and I are living that “dash” right now…what are we building with our lives? Living? Designing? Will it be built to last?
3) What am I passing onto the next generation? As Ellie and I walked from structure to structure, many of them had dedication plates fixed to them with the student’s names and the construction completion date. A tombstone of sorts. Some of the structures were built back in the 1970’s. Set among rolling hills and groves of oak trees, the structures were silent witnesses to the passing of time. Made a long time ago, now simply sitting there for our enjoyment, wonder and awe, we would all do well to consider a few final questions…
- What are we building now that can be passed onto the next generation? Who am I mentoring? Who am I influencing for a greater good?
- How can I better invest in the relationships I deeply cherish? My relationship with God? My marriage? My children? Friends and extended family?
- How do I deal with the inevitable conflicts, obstacles, setbacks and failures that come with life?
- How can I simply make this world a more beautiful place?
- What is at stake if I don’t spend a bit more time asking myself these questions?
Question: Which one of these three questions impacts you the most? Why?
I’d love your thoughts and comments.