Day Zero

By: Jakob Hyde | BSA ‘18

Accepted Students Day wasn’t something he was looking forward to. Three hours in the car, followed by a one-hour info session, then a one-hour tour was almost enough to get him to disregard Wentworth altogether. He’d gotten offer letters from other schools – schools with better reputations and names. But each was disappointing in some way, lacking something he couldn’t quite place. Now, as their tour guide stood in front of them, smiling with folded hands, he couldn’t help but feel that this school would be more of the same. He listened silently to the questions that other parents had: What kind of financial aid could they expect? What does Wentworth do to secure jobs for Architecture students? What’s the program’s retention percentage? But he couldn’t be bothered with any of the answers.

“What do you think?” his mother asked, and to be fair, he wasn’t entirely sure. Admittedly, he felt differently than he’d intended. The space was different than the other schools – the smells were different, with different people doing far more interesting things. The tour guide began moving the group elsewhere, and as they circled around clusters of desks, he got to experience the organized chaos over again with each turn of a corner.

It wasn’t dissimilar from that of an airplane hangar: oversized, with exposed beams and ductwork that showed their age on the surface of the metal. The ceiling was coffered, and from it hung metal strands of wire and string, holding up wood models that, to him, looked more like abstract fighter jets than buildings. There was paper and cardboard and plastic on every surface, riddled with broken-off knife blades and markers without caps. Transparent trace paper hung like curtains on the wall, scribbled with red ink sketches. The concrete floor tiles were massive, and he looked down as they stepped over decades-old paint stains. The students they passed looked tired – exhaustion more a part of their overall being than their mood – but somehow, he wasn’t worried for them. It was a tiredness that showed the ambition in their work, he realized, and the drawings on the walls behind their resting heads served as evidence.

“It’s… it’s like a zoo exhibit,” his mother offered, chuckling. This was her idea, he remembered, and as a result, he tried so desperately to hate it. An endeavor he thought would be easy no doubt – but no. He felt himself smiling, a sensation he wasn’t used to on college tours. He took a deep breath and looked down the long corridor into a white, cork-covered room – a “Crit room,” as their tour guide had called it. There was a class pinning up at the time, and he was able to see their tall, spectacled professor pointing firmly at one of their models. His finger framed individual spaces within it, and the students looked disgruntled in return. Somehow, still, they forced themselves to be open, and nodded as their projects were judged and paraded. He chuckled to himself, amused by the curiosity of such an exchange. It looked dismal, like failing some unspeakable test. But he was able to slow his steps, and as he heard more comments from the students to their instructor, it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. This, he saw, was a place where some ideas died away, and some were destined to grow.

 He was quiet as they left studio, and remained so until the end of the tour. His mother talked excitedly, as she often did, about his prospects there. He didn’t offer much comment in return, but he couldn’t help but smirk once they pulled away in the car. He thought of studio, the many designers at work. He thought of how admirable it was to be that tired – to produce quality building design, to sacrifice nearly everything for this one thing. Of course, he had no idea how difficult studio could become – how hellish it had the potential to be. Nights of sobbing, caffeine-induced model-building, and hairpulling design changes – days of cursing the sleeplessness he had the audacity to think was noble on the day of his first tour. But, to his untrained eye, the misery looked comforting – like the suffering was worth something in the end.

It was the start of a love story. Day One.