It was time for me to write another interview! This time’s character of the week is Cedric Boulet. After exchanging some e-mails back and forwards with him, I found myself seating at Rooster’s Café beside a very calm and confident Cedric. With a coffee in hand and a serene expression in his face, he seems to be much older than his appearance reveals.
Cedric is currently a second year studio professor, but not too long ago he was a student at Carleton. Boulet finished his Masters of Architecture in 2010 and has already achieved a lot. Graduating with High Distinctions and numerous awards, including the AIA Medal and the Henry Adam’s Award, Cedric Boulet is a great example of the things a fresh and young mind can achieve. Here are the answers to your questions, enjoy!
Andrea Chiney: What brought you to Architecture? Or Did Architecture come to you?
Cedric Boulet: You know, one of my students just asked me this … I don’t know, I was very lucky. I wanted to be an architect since I was six years old. When all my friends wanted to be detectives and superheroes, I wanted to be an architect and I started drawing plans of houses (properly at about eight). I would stay up pass my bedtime trying to work out plans. I don’t know why but I always knew. I wouldn’t say it came to me, but it’s almost like it was always part of me.
AC: What are the positive and negative consequences of being a young professor at Carleton?
CB: When you’re young you’re fresh and there’s less at stake, and when you are naïve you can do more things. Also, I think you can provide a new kind of energy that some students are looking for. The negative consequences ones are fairly obvious. You have no reputation, no weight in the school, especially being so close to the age of some of my students. I think at first I was worried it was going to be a problem but it hasn’t been. In my experience, I think there are more advantages than disadvantages. As long as students and professors take me seriously, it’s fine.
AC: Is it all about attitude then?
CB: It is, but I was also given great advice: To be confident because there was a reason why I got the job, but also not to forget that I was young; not to pretend I wasn’t close to age with my students, but acknowledge it and use that as a benefit.
AC: How do you keep a balanced life?
CB: Extremes! Burning at both ends. That cliché: “Work hard, play hard” I think that sums up a lot of my life. I think if you play hard one day, you want to work hard the next day, and if you work hard for a couple of days you really want to play hard. I think, the more you have extremes the better.
AC: But some people say extremes are bad …
CB: Yeah! I mean, that’s another philosophy but it certainly doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I think that in a creative world extremes are good. You still need discipline, but you can have discipline within the extremes.
AC: What are your thought on doing your undergrad and masters at the same school?
CB: Don’t do it! I think the main reason is, and I say this all the time, when you spend four years at a school you think you’ve learnt how to make architecture and that there is a certain way to go about it. By going to another school you realize that this second school also thinks that they have a way, but it is completely different. That makes you realize there is no real way of making architecture. There are only different ways. That said, those who went from the undergraduate program at Carleton to the newer grad program feel like they’re getting a non-Carleton experience. I think in this case it is good. Roger has created such a different world that grads are being introduced to something completely different to what they’ve been taught and that is exactly what they need.
AC: Ok, So … Imagine you are starving to death and you have two option: Tim Horton’s or rotten food.
CB: Hahaha, Tim Horton’s. However, there are not many more nutrients in Tim Horton’s than there is in rotten food. I think that’s the ONE case I would have Tim Horton’s. Not the coffee though, just the food.
AC: What was the most difficult part about starting a career after your school was done?
CB: What’s the most difficult part of post-grad you mean?
CB: I think any decent student can find a job. There is no problem with that even though we hear very pessimistic things about the work force and how one can’t find jobs. I think the toughest part is to find a job where you still believe in what you are doing; where you are still able to chase ideas and work in a studio atmosphere rather than a sweatshop. So, the toughest part is not to give up your dreams, and sometimes it only takes weeks to lose them. It takes time to find the right job rather than a job.
AC: What’s the best compliment you have ever received?
CB: … (15 seconds later) Oh… that’s a weird one! Um … that, I can lead from behind. Which took me sometime to understand.
AC: Can you explain that a little bit?
CB: I think it’s better left unexplained.
AC: “Architects are eternal optimist” Do you agree?
CB: Eternal optimists! … Um, yeah. The good ones are.
AC: What is the best advice you were ever given?
CB: Um … a lot of clichés come to mind so it’s hard to pin one down. Best advice … (stops to think, hands straight to his hair) hold on … (15 seconds later) I’ll have to get back to you. Oh! You know what! MAKE IT YOUR OWN. Third year. I heard it between third year and fourth year every day from my studio professor, who was is the director in Manitoba. It took me a long time to understand it… He didn’t just give the advice to me, but maybe specially to me because I needed it. “Just make it your own” that was his only answer to every question I had in studio every day. It’s frustrating at first but very rewarding once you understand what it means. I wish I had the confidence to say, “Make it your own” to every single student Maybe one day.
AC: We all strive for timeless Architecture, but is trendy Architecture ok? Is it wasteful or just fun and contemporary?
CB: I think is fun and I think is good that it has to be fun! Some people want to be timeless in their buildings and some people want to be contemporary, and some people want to be ridiculous. Is trendy Architecture ok? No, I think is not Ok but I don’t think is wasteful either.
AC: What is it then?
CB: I think it tells something about our time. Who said we need to make timeless buildings? Who’s idea was that? I think that in the world that we live in – in the digital world – where something is here and is gone in the next second, I think things need to adapt to that.
AC: ok, game time! I am going to say a word and you have to say the first word that pops on your mind. Ready?
CB: Grass? White picket fence
CB: Thai food?
CB: Frustration? Healthy struggle.
AC: Frustration, it has to be one word.
CB: Um, I don’t know. I don’t get frustrated very often. You know what frustrates me? Slow Internet!
AC: Slow then.
AC: Ok, next. Are architects on a quest to change things around them? Or just living a way of life that happens to produce beautiful experiences for people?
CB: The latter. I think that one thing I strongly believe is that architecture doesn’t solve any problems. At least that is not why we make architecture. Architecture has a potential to affect people spatially but I don’t think we make buildings that solve or change things.
AC: So, Architects create beautiful experiences for people
CB: I don’t think they have to be beautiful. Just experiences.
AC: Do you miss Ben (Benoit Lagace and Cedric are good friends)?
CB: Oh, yeah! He is Bologna right now. Probably not working hard enough.
AC: What is your favorite thing to cook?
CB: Um …
AC: Do you cook?
CB: I love cooking! I’m trying to think about the one thing I cook the most – maybe that’s my favorite thing. How about fajitas… I think fajitas are really fun.
AC: cool! Next, What is your BMI?
CB: Hahaha, I don’t even know what that means.
AC: Your weight?
CB: My weight! Oh! 155. That’s not BMI though. Body mass Index … that’s maybe the percentage of fat in your body?
AC: Yeah, I’m not sure. It’s when they pinch your arm with that thing and …
CB: Yeah I don’t know. Probably very low.
AC: Stripes or Polka dots?
CB: Polka dots!, Stripes are terrible.
AC: Hahaha, How do you do your hair, Gel or natural messy? And what do you tell your hairdresser?
CB: Natural!, Put a tuque on after the shower. My hairdresser? I tell her to do whatever she wants. She spends 20 minutes explaining to me something she wants to do and I ultimately just give in. I never really know what she is going to do so I don’t tell her anything, I just sit down.
AC: If possible list 10 contemporary firms we should be paying attention to
CB: Yeah I saw this on the list in the hallway and it made me nervous. Because I can list ten easily but I would miss so many good ones. Ok, contemporary it says? ( I nod) ok, I’ll name some obvious and not-so-obvious ones:
1.Diller + Scofidio
2. LTL: Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis
3. Wolgang Tschapeller
4. Herzog & De Meuron
5. Bernad Tschumi
6. Atelier Bow-Wow
9. Cedric Price
10. Coop Himmelb(l)au
also, check out http://www.bustler.net
AC: Recommend a book and a movie.
CB: Le Mepris (1968) and The Fountainhead (1943), is the one must.
AC: What is the future of architecture and Where do you see yourself in ten years?
CB: What is the future of architecture?! I don’t think I can answer that! Really? What is the future of architecture?!
AC: Where do you see architecture going from now on?
CB: That one is too tough. I’ll have to think about it. I mean, who is in the position to guess the future of architecture? I think we are all going to be so naïve as to what has happened in the past. I think it’s going to be architecture without history. Like the Post-Theory/Post-Critical architecture where we no longer talk about theory, we just make buildings. Not knowing that films and books influence our buildings, and I think that’s something the last generation had a real hold of. We’ve lost that in a horrible way.
AC: And where do you see yourself in ten years?
CB: Oh… ok. In Montreal, poor, because I just started my own office.
AC: Ok last question! What advice can you give to all the students reading the blog?
CB: To read a lot more, to watch films a lot more, and know that they can extract any kind of information from anything around them and use it in architecture. And to not give too much sh*t about what any prof says, because every prof thinks they know what they are talking about and none of us do. At least I don’t. I think that’s the reality.