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  • Aaron C. Ruby, AIA

My most important lesson

There’s nothing quite like being stuck at home during a pandemic that’ll cause one to add to the blog. While I maintain my social distancing and allow myself time to pause in the silence of rural life, I admit my mind wanders often to my work, and the subject I love, architecture.

Readers that have been to Fayetteville, Arkansas, home to my alma mater, might appreciate my sharing of my first memory of visiting the University of Arkansas in the autumn of 1990. In those days, there were no cell phones and GPS devices, I had only the Rand McNally Atlas to guide me and my friend from central Illinois to visit this college I was considering in pursuit of becoming an architect. While the atlas easily showed us the way to Northwest Arkansas, we hoped signs would lead us to the campus. Those signs didn’t materialize. Trusting in intuition (which I firmly believe now was the work of higher power), one random right turn after another left turn, my friend and I ended up on Layfayette Avenue, squarely on axis with and driving towards the symbol of the U of A, Old Main. Long meant to serve exactly this purpose, you can imagine the impact the large Second Empire inspired icon had on an 18-year-old excited about his future.


I also remember vividly the impression I had nearing the end of my education, taking six years to finish a five year degree: I was not prepared to design the magnificent buildings I saw around me, on campus, and especially what I saw while studying in Rome for a semester. Knowing full well I did not possess the design talent of my colleagues (nor was I ever overly-enthusiastic with what was being taught, to be honest), upon graduation I knew what I needed was to learn more about great buildings already built. I pursued a job where I would learn about historic preservation. I love where I’ve been led.

I know now what the most important lesson was after six years of school and accumulating debt: Humility. While I can’t say I mastered the basics of proportion and scale, nor did I learn the difference between Cyma Recta and Cyma Reversa, I did learn how to love architecture. I did pick up the passion for it from excellent teachers and a university setting second to none. To this day, I still feel I have much to learn, and limited desire to design the next Fallingwater. I just appreciate the work of others, and I am grateful to my first employer and clients for allowing me the opportunity to learn.

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