I usually don’t tell people that I cut my own hair. I’ve been doing it since last summer, and it’s been a real journey of self-discovery. I like the feel of having short hair and of being able to run my fingers through it. Feeling the breeze on my head when I walk or ride my bike is very liberating.
At the same time, long hair is very stylish. Having a long head of groomed hair seems so majestic and free. Having short, buzzed hair seems to imply a militaristic or Spartan reserve. A buzz cut is the sign of a man who is regulated, either by his own will or someone else’s.
With all this in mind I found it very strange when my roommate, after watching me cut my own hair, asked me to cut his as well. Now, to set the record straight, my roommate has a lot of hair. I could never imagine having so much hair in a this hot New York summer, but he manages to pull it off pretty well and so I was shocked when he asked me to cut most of it off (firstly because I think longer hair is stylish, and secondly because I’ve never cut anyone’s hair but my own!)
Nevertheless, I took on the challenge and gave him a haircut. It was a really strange experience – I was altering the way he looked in a very permanent way and he trusted me to do what I thought looked fashionable and feasible. I don’t often have that kind of responsibility. Or do I?
THE FARNSWORTH HOUSE: A BUZZ HAIRCUT?
I see all sorts of parallels between cutting hair and architecture. A haircut is like the design of a building – the client puts his livelihood in an architect’s hands and expects the architect and his (or her) team to create a space that is both beautiful and pragmatic. Essentially, architecture is like a very permanent, very expensive haircut.
How does this play out in the built environment? Just like hairstyles change over time, so do building types. Some buildings can be very clean-cut (compare Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House to a buzz haircut) while others can be very formed and sculpted compare Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall to the “Big Hair” styles of the 70’s).
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL: BIG HAIR?
As an architecture student, I am essentially learning how to “cut hair” and develop a style at a slightly larger and more permanent scale. I think New York is a great place for seeing a whole range of “styles”, but every place has its own vernacular design and its own culture to convey. I need to learn how to take what I see from nature and the built environment and craft it into buildings that are responsive to the physical and ecological themes of the place. I need to learn how to create something that exemplifies utility, commodity, and beauty. And maybe I need to give a few more haircuts too.