I had a Professor Kingsfield moment recently. I was honored to have the opportunity to speak to Kevin Sloan’s ARCH 1301 class at the University of Texas at Arlington. I was one in a series of guest lectures that are designed to give these students a sense of the enormous opportunity and responsibility that awaits those who dedicate their lives to architecture. Titled An Introduction to Architecture and Interior Design, the room was filled with students who are just beginning a journey that will equip them to one day shape our communities.
My job, I felt, was to make them aware that they will be inheriting an architectural legacy that is centuries in the making. No pressure there. I took the opportunity to illustrate the intrinsic value of our historic fabric and to start to dispel some of the common but discredited ideas about difficulty in working with historic buildings. I was most excited, however, to have a chance to introduce them to the underlying, fundamental concept of authenticity in historic preservation. These students, like most others, including me, will have the opportunity to spend years studying architecture without even rubbing up against the concepts behind historic preservation and will thus be ill equipped to deal appropriately with important historic buildings they encounter. That is no longer true for these students. The seed has been planted. For those that will remember, they will now know what questions to ask.
It was a Kingsfield moment only in the setting of a large class in a stadium-like environment. There was, of course, no standing ovation. However, I believe I understood Kevin to say that this is the second largest lecture class in all of UTA. I love it that an architecture class has that distinction.
And for those who do not understand the Kingsfield references, Professor Kingsfield is a fictional professor in the Harvard Law School in a movie that came out in 1973, my freshman year at the University. The movie is “The Paper Chase”. It literally changed the way many of my contemporaries thought about and reacted to academics. Study habits changed. Many were inspired to work harder. Kid you not. It’s also an entertaining movie if you can get past the 1970’s imagery. I have always said that the 1970’s were the high point for music and the low point for fashion of the entire 20th Century.