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Face to face with inherited mistakes. On the principle of "I had it wrong, so you must, too."

26 of April '24
w skrócie
  1. We focus on cases of success, ignoring the broader context and real challenges. This phenomenon occurs both in architecture, where we judge buildings only through the lens of the best ones, and in society, where the media only promote successful stories of individuals.
  2. Emotions often drive discussions, hindering real change. Articulation of interests in social media can lead to group pressure and distortion of reality.
  3. There are ways to create a more supportive environment. Improving access to educational resources, financial support for students and eliminating unethical practices are some possible steps.
  4. Tearing down the status quo can be difficult, but it is necessary. Improving conditions at universities and in society requires both individual action and broad public discussion.

  5. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the AiB portal

In every field, from architecture to everyday life, we replicate mistakes and patterns without always realizing it. We often succumb to the fallacy of survivalism, focusing on selected cases and ignoring the broader context. In the world of social media, emotions often drive discussions, making real change difficult. However, the voice of reason indicates that there are ways to create a more supportive environment, both at universities and in society.

We often succumb to illusions, make mistakes, inherit and replicate behaviors - even those we don't like. We think that the status quo is untouchable. In my last text I described the difficult financial situation of architecture students. These are facts, figures. The financial costs of the drawing course, materials, prints, software can be easily counted. There is nothing to argue with. How wrong I was when I thought it would make the readers think, including the instructors, that perhaps something could change at the university to make life at least a little easier for the young students.

The comments give no illusions. We operate on the principle of "I had it bad, so you must too." These were, are and (according to the commenters) will be expensive studies. "In our time there were also expensive computers and it was not colorful," "They were always expensive, 40 years ago too." "Unfortunately, but such aids as a computer a student has to buy himself, once he had to purchase a logarithmic slide rule by himself, then a calculator about such wonders as inks, nibs, rapidographs I will not mention". - we can read in the responses. "In medicine they have it worse," "Well. Musical ones cost money too," another section comments. The thing is, I didn't write that it used to be cheaper or that other majors are better off. I only described a phenomenon that, apparently, has begun to measure up.

Architectural survival error

In cases such as this, we have the survival fallacy. This is the logical fallacy of focusing on elements that have passed the selection process, leaving out those that have not. This leads to erroneous conclusions due to incomplete data. Interestingly, this phenomenon applies to many planes of life.

In architecture, for example, it is quite common to say that all historical buildings are more beautiful and better built. In doing so, we forget that both today and in the past, new buildings were built, while older ones were demolished. The history of cities involves a process of constant renewal - demolition and construction. Over time, only the most beautiful, useful and expensive buildings survive. This creates a selection effect, whereby the impermanent ones are eliminated, giving the impression that it used to be only beautiful.

The phenomenon of survival error also applies to people. In the current world, there are often stories of individuals who are determined and tirelessly pursue their dreams. Whether they are movie stars, athletes, executives of major corporations or architects, we can hear stories of overcoming hardship and adversity, and that success is just a matter of determination and effort. However, the reality of this success is much more complex.

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman's "The Traps of Thinking. On thinking fast and thinking slow"

© Magdalena Milert

As experts point out, little attention is paid to the thousands of other people who may also have similar skills and determination, but never achieve success. Sometimes this is determined by purely random events that affect the individual's path. Such facts, however, are very often ignored.

The media mostly omit the context, the whole environment of success or failure. As a result, a false belief is created that anyone can achieve great things if they only try. Meanwhile, a huge number of failures go unnoticed, and only those that survive the selective pressure of the competitive environment are visible.

Analysis of these stories can shed new light on the nature of success and failure. I dedicate this paragraph to all those who have illustrated with comments precisely this logical fallacy. "What's wrong with the fact that reality has consequences and you can't have it all?" "It is necessary to have a certain set of characters otherwise it is better to give yourself a break. Unfortunately, nowadays a myth has been created that everyone can do everything and the fact that you can't manage is not your fault," we can read, as an illustration of the phenomenon. It is necessary to manage. Of course, as for any profession, as in architecture, you need professional aptitude, after all, we even have an entrance exam. However, it is an exam precisely on aptitude, not on drawing, as we used to say.

O naszym sukcesie w dużej mierze decyduje przypadek

Our success is largely determined by chance

© Magdalena Milert

Predisposition or wealth of wallet

In the age of mature capitalism, we have begun to confuse aptitude with wallet affluence. Both the preparatory course and the best print or mock-up will only be afforded by some. Some people are even convinced that it is something you pay for that has more value. "In the U.S., tuition alone for any college degree is expensive. As a result, after finishing them, one is guaranteed a good job. It may be brutal, but in our country, studies are so easily accessible that this diploma doesn't have the same power as it does abroad." - proclaims one commentator. This, of course, is not true. The assumption that the "get a university degree and you'll find a job" formula works was challenged a decade ago. It was effective for more than 50 years, but it is increasingly no longer grounded in many fields. The U.S. in 2015 faced nearly double the number of students (about 1.2 million) enrolled than in 1996. Competition for jobs is at record levels and seems to be manifesting itself in skills inflation.

"Students don't think it's fair, but it's times like this that everyone is used to being fair and getting their due," said one student.

Another person shares a comment that students may now feel uneasy because they expect fairness. "Students think it's not fair, but it's times like this that everyone is used to being expected to be fair anddue," - she recalls. She recounts that when she studied, most of the people in her year were already working full time. They believed that an internship was necessary to get a good job after graduation. Thanks to the fact that she was working in the industry from the very beginning, she was lucky. However, some of her friends worked "on the cash register" or in the pub. Although she sometimes had to save money to afford materials needed for projects, she believes it taught her time management. Although life at the university was not always fair, she notes that combining is part and parcel of the profession.

Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with expecting other people to follow the rules, to be fair. Secondly, let's not confuse the expectation of being fair with being a claimant. The PWN Dictionary of the Polish Language defines "demanding" as "expressing itself in unreasonable or excessive demands." Is the article about how many people who can't rely on their parents for support end up having to make decisions about printing or buying lunch an example of entitlement? I don't think so. It is gratifying to see that acct in the commentator's case difficult conditions made her gain a new skill. However, many people did not pass such a test. Each of us is different, reacts differently to stressful situations, and financial instability causes the phenomenon of financial stress. We also find an echo here talking about replicating patterns, often the only ones one knows, which unfortunately are negative patterns.

Deceptive articulation of interests

Of course, I realize that trying to change breeds resistance. This is perfectly natural. In change management, resistance, resentment and disagreement are natural reactions that can occur in response to proposed changes. Demolishing the status quo always involves something new and unknown. Uncertainty can cause stress and anxiety, and social media is a lens for these phenomena.

Many social media discussions are provoked by emotions such as anger, frustration or outrage. People are more likely to challenge opinions if those opinions conflict with their perception of the world, the aforementioned status quo. Articulation of interests is high, especially when we care. In social media, it's even easier, after all, you only need an account and access to electronic equipment to share your opinion. It's also easy to give the impression that the audience only has an opinion, as it is in the comments. However, it is important to keep in mind that only a subset of people are responding there, and those most involved. What's more, processes work in these sections just like in any other group. If the community says something, it is difficult for individuals with a different opinion to break through. Group pressure works.

Because of this, we have studios that promote the attitude of strong and feisty people, we have cities made for people of strong character who can push and carry a wheelchair up and down stairs and climb curbs on crutches without any problems.

Fortunately, other voices are also emerging. In a message, one observer shares her thoughts with me. "It sounds terribly abstract, but it's true that people with sensitive souls, or those who have had to overcome difficulties, such as going through depression while studying, have a greater understanding of the situation of others," she mentions. My interviewee states that they are the ones who are able to create better cities, spaces and buildings. Because of the fact that we have studies that promote the attitude of strong and feisty people, we have cities created for people with strong character , who can push and carry a wheelchair up and down stairs and negotiate curbs on crutches without a problem.

Demolishing the status quo doesn't have to be so scary, however, it will probably be better for all of us if we end this intergenerational transmission of trauma.


Fortunately, there is also a voice of reason in our little discussion, showing that it is nevertheless possible to create friendly, supportive places. As Lukasz Panacevich mentions, students can spend a little less, if there is the will of the university. Conducting electronic consultations is the first step, also boards can be composed and returned electronically. While mock-ups are interesting, it doesn't always make sense to invest in finishing them carefully, unless universities have the necessary spaces. Universities should also make sure that they have access to educational versions of software, and in some of the universities computer labs can also be used, he mentions.

The architect also says that organizing trips could be simpler with the support of study circles and raising external funds. Particularly important in his opinion is the issue of internships needs to be improved by giving subsidies to universities and transferring funds to students, instead of forcing free labor, which is unethical and harms the market. Universities should identify studios that use such slave practice and prevent such practices, and lobby for the elimination of free internships from teaching requirements.

It is also worth taking fairly significant steps and limiting the number of majors in a college," Pancevich continues. As a country and as a society (remember, studies in Poland are funded by taxpayer money), we don't need an excess of graduates in the department unless we intend to export them or force them into expensive retraining. "Unfortunately, we won't change as teachers ourselves the mentality of the architects themselves, who often earn minimal wages after graduating from this prestigious faculty, and the cost of studying is not compensated by salaries on the market," - he concludes.

But perhaps another article in a trade magazine will add a pebble to this change. Below is the post under which the discussion arose.

Magdalena Milert

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