A Few Good Architects: Can You Handle the Truth?
by Anand Parthasarathy
Engineers tend to think with the left side of their brain, that is, the rational part that relies on logic. Artists on the other hand tend to think with the right side of the brain – the creative part (aka day dreaming for the most part). And Architects, for some inexplicable reason, are expected to think with both sides of the brain – so that they can produce aesthetically pleasing structures that seamlessly accommodate the logical functions of its occupants, I suppose.
Needless to say, architects are not always a perfect amalgamation of such balanced thought, and there are a good number of both left-leaning architects (e.g. the ones that build HDB flats and train stations) and right-leaning architects (the ones that build buildings that don’t look like buildings anymore). The general populace, however, considers the proverbial architect to be someone who belongs to the creative community – and rightfully so – for all the artistic hype that surrounds the profession.
Ever since Engineers and Architects started to work together there has been considerable friction between the two disciplines ranging anywhere from a clash of ideologies to more mundane differences in thought processes. To some extent this can be attributed to the so-called divide between left and right-sided thinkers. For those of you who like to watch movies, chances are you would have seen a great movie called A Few Good Men, a classic that dates back to 1992. (I saw it in 2007 and liked it – there’s Demi Moore in the movie apart from other things…a must-watch!) One of the most famous scenes in the movie is the courtroom exchange between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson about truth claims and admission of guilt. This argument had since spawned a flurry of online jokes, in which people took the premise of the argument and adapted it to suit their own situations. I found one such hilarious adaptation online, which had the Architect and the Engineer arguing about the sizing of mechanical and electrical rooms. The argument as follows…
MEP Engineer: Jack Nicholson
Architect: Tom Cruise
MEP Engineer: You want answers?
Architect: I think I’m entitled to them.
MEP Engineer: You want answers?!
Architect: I want the truth!
MEP Engineer: YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!
Son, we live in a world that has CHILLERS, BOILERS AND SWITCHGEAR. And those PIECES OF EQUIPMENT have to be LOCATED IN ROOMS. Who’s gonna DESIGN THEM? You? You, MR. ARCHITECT? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for LOST PARKING SPACES and you curse the SIZE OF MY GENERATOR. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that THOSE MEP SYSTEMS, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…
You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you WANT me on that DESIGN TEAM. You NEED me on that DESIGN TEAM. We use words like DESIGN, CODE, ANALYSIS…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent PROVIDING OWNER COMFORT AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY. You use ’em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain my DESIGN to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very ENVIRONMENT I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a DUCTULATOR and DESIGN a BUILDING SYSTEM. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!
Architect: Did you OVERSIZE THE MECHANICAL AND ELECTRICAL ROOMS?
MEP Engineer: (quietly) I did the job you HIRED me to do.
Architect: Did you OVERSIZE THE MECHANICAL AND ELECTRICAL ROOMS?!!
MEP Engineer: You’re goddamn right I did!
A youtube video of the courtroom scene and the original movie script…
Jessep: Jack Nicholson
Kaffee: Tom Cruise
Kaffee: Colonel Jessep, did you order the Code Red?!
Judge: You don’t have to answer that question!
Jessep: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled.
Jessep: You want answers?!
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom! You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives!
You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall! You need me on that wall! We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline! I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “Thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?
Jessep: I did the job that—-
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?!
Jessep: You’re goddamn right I did!! ♦