An Ancient Profession

An excerpt from The Profession of the Architect by Renzo Piano:

The architect's profession is an adventurous one, a job on the frontier. The architect walks a knife-edge between art and science, between originality and memory, between the daring of modernity and the caution of tradition. Architects have no choice but to live dangerously. They work with all sorts of raw materials, and I don't just mean concrete, wood, metal. I'm talking about history and geography, mathematics and the natural sciences, anthropology and ecology, aesthetics and technology, climate and society --- all things that architects have to deal with every day.

The architect has the finest job in the world because, on a small planet where everything has already been discovered, designing is still on of the greatest adventures possible. As far as exploring the physical world, our ancestors have beaten us to it. People like Columbus, Magellan, Cook, and Amundsen have already discovered everything. We are left with the adventure of the mind, which can bring as much anxiety, bewilderment, and fear as an expedition to a land of ice and snow.

Designing is a journey, in a way. You set off to find out, to learn. You accept the unexpected. If you get scared and immediately seek refuge in the warm and welcoming lair of the already seen, the already done, it is no journey. But if you have a taste for advance, you don't hide, you go on. Each project is a new start, and you are in unexplored territory. You are a Robinson Crusoe of modern times. (p10)