Recently I was re-reading some of the posts from my thesis blog. Things like 'micro-scale urban planning' and 'second nature' as a viable basis for productive nature within the city. Along with the FutureCitiesLab at the Guggenheim Lab and the workshop on urban agriculture this weekend, I've been thinking a lot about whether I'm really following my goals when it comes to my career.
The broad brushstrokes of my life are fine. Working at a Landscape / Urban Design firm seems like it would be a fine way to get into the kind of work I am interested in. It seems like the most direct path to realizing the productive potential of landscape infrastructure. But in reality, it is doing the opposite.
Germany may have some forward thinking bylaws that encode a will to integrate nature as a functioning part of the city (rather than just a decorative overlay), but firms themselves are doing a pretty neat job of completely obliterating any good intentions on the part of the government.
I see plenty of potential in the project briefs that arrive at my firm. But many times this potential is dashed by a minimalist, modernist program of taking away 'view blocking trees' and installing mono cultures of cut lawn or paving stones over vast swathes of the city. So in fact, the direct opposite of what I am passionate about. There may be some legislated green initiatives in the project brief -- untouchable 'musts' the project giver has decided upon -- but these are often counteracted by the aforementioned non-functioning symbols of nature (cut grass... I mean 'green space'...)
I think I wouldn't feel so hopeless about my future here if there was the possibility of my firm even considering some different ideas. But my boss told me straight up that while he likes my ideas and likes to have the input, he doesn't think they will ever be realized in Germany. Whether that is because competitions are run by stodgy old Bauhaus fan boys, or whether that is just fictitious nonsense, it doesn't matter.
The point is that right now I am learning and gaining experience but in a side-long sort of way. Sometimes I feel that I am learning what not to do (which is arguably as important as what to do, but still...) I want to be in a place where I can actually be a part of the design discussions, not just give my 2 minute English presentation and then spend the rest of the hour listening to my colleagues go back and forth in German. I am still very inexperienced, I don't fool myself that my ideas are necessarily good... but I need a mentor and someone to help me develop, not just to be told to sit down and draw for 8 hours all so that someone else can say 'nice work. Now here's what we're going to do.' (as they go off in a completely different direction...)
I love Berlin. I love my life here. I like our apartment and the area. I love all of the time I spend outside of work. But work is a pretty important factor and I need to know that what I'm doing is helping me get to the next step..