The present AIA chapter president, David Zatopek, can write! (More elegantly than I.) What's more, he writes about thoughtful subjects. The rest of the mag follows his lead with a 30th year retrospective that's chock full o' nutty articles: a piece on influential early Dallas architects; another on archiving drawings; a piece on State Fair Park, one of the great collections of Art Deco; a photo-essay on restored houses; and a playfully written page (playful? AIA? together??) on the fraught relationship between architects and contractors.
The "President's Letter" is about the loss to architects as technology and modern practice take us farther from the dirty hand-work of construction and even from the dirty shirt cuffs of hand-drafting. Gothic architects were masons who built cathedrals with their own hands - we don't even draw first hand, but once-removed by CAD.
I agree. There is something wonderfully real - and instructive - in thinking through a design by drawing, erasing, redrawing, or in wrestling with real materials under real conditions, whether it's weather, mud, deadlines, or the obstinacy of concrete as it's poured. The nature of materials, like the grain of wood, can inspire. And it's deeply satisfying to create with your hands. One of the things I love about theater work is that I get my hands dirty. (Or my leg to the knee.)
So I will quote David here: "What have you really made today?"
image by J. F. Millet, public domain courtesy of WikiPaintings