Thomas de Monchaux at n+1:
HERE ARE TWO THINGS TO KNOW about architects. First, they are fastidious and inventive with their names. Frank Lincoln Wright was never, unlike Sinatra, a Francis. He swapped in the Lloyd when he was 18—ostensibly in tribute to his mother’s surname on the occasion of her divorce, but also to avoid carrying around the name of a still more famous man, and for that nice three-beat meter, in full anticipation of seeing his full name in print. In 1917, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris—who is to modern architecture what Freud is to psychoanalysis—was given the byline Le Corbusier (after corbeau, crow) by his editor at a small journal, so that he could anonymously review his own buildings. The success of the sock puppet critic meant that after the critiques were collected into a book-length manifesto, the nom-de-plumeeventually took over Jeanneret-Gris’ architect persona, as well. Ludwig Mies—the inventor of the glass-walled skyscraper—inherited an unfortunate surname that doubled as a German epithet for anything lousy or similarly defiled. He restyled himself Miës van der Rohe—vowel-bending heavy-metal umlaut and all—with the Dutch geographical tussenvoegsel “van” from his mother’s maiden name to add a simulation of the German nobiliary particle, von. Ephraim Owen Goldberg became Frank Gehry.
Second, all architects are older than you think. Or than they want you to think. Unlike the closely adjacent fields of music and mathematics, architecture has no prodigies. Design and construction take time. At 40, an architect is just starting out. Dying at 72 in architecture is like dying at 27 in rock and roll. The body of knowledge required is broad and intricate, philosophical and practical, and the training is long.