I’ll re-phrase that. What made you an architect? As an architect, you will most probably be fuelled daily by endless inspiration, relentlessly driven by some inner-self to create, viewing the world in some kind of 3D spacial wireframe, but rewind to the beginning, before all this, to your beginning; where did your original inspiration to take up architecture come from?

Having just returned from Milan, the mecca of all things design, a city grown out of the formidable heritage of Leonardo da Vinci, I’m convinced there must be something in the water. The city simply lives and breathes design, from clothing and fashion, through engineering and cars to architecture and interiors, to lights, chairs and everything else imaginable. But why is that?

Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York who studied architecture in Milan recounted in a recent interview: “We were 15,000 students, only in Milan, only in architecture. Sometimes we would have to wait twenty minutes in a line for the staircase to the second floor where we were taught.”

Paola has never practiced architecture. (She would have designed escalators into everything for sure.)

Precedents in genetic dependency are prolific. We have all heard of Genghis Khan’s awesome legacy: the fearsome Mongolian warrior of the 13th century, according to a well published genetic study, may have roughly 16 million descendants living today.

So that’s it, Italy’s 21st century design gene pool stems from Leonardo’s frenetic social life.

Unfortunately not: no wife, no children. He was assumed to be a homosexual. Mmm… back to the drawing board.

A quick search of the WAN database reveals that globally, the ratio of architects per 1,000k head of population varies tremendously; from Japan at pole position with 240 through Italy with 174 and the US at 74 with the UK trailing in at a mere 54. So is this evidence of a creative gene lurking in our bloodstreams? Would the existence of an archi-gene explain the huge disparity between countries?

Szabolcs Kéri, a researcher at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, recently carried out a study into brain development and found that a genetic mutation (neuregulin 1 protein) that influences creativity is also linked to psychosis and schizophrenia (sorry guys).

For my part, the only reason that I’m not an architect is that my father was. Having made the grown-up decision to pave my own way in life, I seem to have spent most of my working career paddling against the tide, always being drawn back inexorably into the fold. But is that genetic or just parental influence?

I’m now obsessed with finding out what inspired today’s architects to take up the profession and would be pleased to hear from you, particularly if either of your parents were architects… tell us your story.

To be continued…

Michael Hammond
Editor in Chief at WAN

Key Facts:


Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team