Retraining: Get in touch with the unfamiliar


Louis I. Kahn, Architect

Louis I. Kahn, Architect 1901-1974

“The architect is in touch with the unfamiliar,” Louis I. Kahn, the legendary twentieth-century architect, once told a group of Yale architecture students. In coining this cryptic phrase, he described the attitude required to explore, probe and test  multiple ways to meet complex criteria and solve a design problem.  When I raved in class the next day about his inspiring talk, one of my architectural professors said, “It’s just magnificent malarkey.” Maybe so, I thought, but it spurred me on to explore architectural designs I’d never before dared to consider. I’m not sure we students knew what Kahn meant, but we thought we did. That was good enough to make great things happen in the design studio.

Well-trained, but unprepared

A dozen years ago, when I began a new career as a writer. I tried to prepare. Sure, I worked hard and earned a university Certificate in Creative Writing. I expected, with this shiny new credential and a lifetime of design, marketing and writing experience, I could hit the ground running and create, promote and sell my books. I thought I could work at my accustomed rapid pace. WRONG. What I didn’t foresee were entirely new technological and social developments. A large segment of the public lost interest in  conventional print and broadcast media and shifted to online blogs, e-mail, social networking and, most shocking, new buying habits. They shifted their shopping from bricks-and-mortar stores to online purchases. Within five years the Internet had turned our world upside down.

To talk the talk, I walked the walk

Confronted with these curious new phenomena, it dawned on me that I’d been blindsided, unprepared. To operate in this brave new world. I soon learned I would have to leave my comfort zone and master a whole new set of skills. I’d have to buy increasingly fast computers, learn new, complicated software, join different professional groups, websites and the new social networks.  I had to study how these changes affect the way things are now done now and will be done into the future. Daily I had to stay in touch with the unfamiliar. I had to meet complex new  challenges, if not to master, merely to use my computer to write, format and publish my photographs and written works, To accomplish this partly artistic, partly technical feat, it helped greatly to have the training and discipline of an architect, willing to face complexity to achieve the simple and beautiful by staying in touch with the unfamiliar. In essence, I’m retraining myself, as we all must do, for a new, vastly altered career in the twenty-first century.

Maybe this would help solve our unemployment problem

Until next time, good words to you,


Peter H. Green, Author and Architect


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