I realized the other day (or perhaps “remembered” would be a better word) that the most efficient way to become good at something is not simply to do it, but to do it with intention and to study the greats. That seems obvious, but it’s a bit more subtle in its scope. I want to do architecture, and I have always felt like I can be my own source of inspiration, like I don’t need to know architectural history to be good. But that idea doesn’t square with studies that have been done. You could probably point to Renaissance painters or something like that to illustrate the importance of studying the greats, but I find that Malcolm Gladwell’s discussion of chess grand masters is much more insightful. He found a study that showed that the single factor most correlated with high level chess ability was not time spent playing, but rather time spent studying famous games. It is only by getting into the heads of the greats and seeing why they made the decisions they did that these modern players are able to excell and go beyond.
That’s what we should all be doing in whatever field we inhabit. In my case that means really studying the great works of architecture to find out what makes them so special. Because this may be a new time, and I may be a new designer, but what I am ultimately trying to cultivate is a creative process, and that’s something that we share.