“Why are doorframes made to be seven feet high? Why are desks usually four feet from the floor? Why does a Greek column suggest the human body?” Farhad Mirza ’12 pauses. “It’s because our first point of reference is always the human form. It’s people who are our constant.”
It comes as no surprise, then, when asked what connects and defines his college interests, that Farhad doesn’t say architecture—or literature, or theater (his other interests). Instead, what he talks about are human beings. Architecture, he explains, is very much defined by people since it is an art form meant to be inhabited by people. And literature, he says, offers a rich and explicit way to understand “what people are about, what their behaviors are.”
Farhad likes these kinds of conversations; he appreciates even more the ways intellectual pursuits intersect: the relationships between literature and architecture, between science and art, between people and place. So much so that he has crafted his education around what could be called the “overlaps.”
But it wasn’t always this way. For much of his first two years at Bennington, Farhad was torn between dedicating himself to architecture or literature. He says he wrestled with this tension until he concluded he didn’t have to. “I had to be honest with myself about exactly what I wanted in an education. And I guess I felt that the learning process wasn’t as static when your learning development isn’t different from your personal development.”
So he made a decision: no longer would it be about architecture or literature, but how literature informs architecture; it would no longer be about science or drama, but science in drama. As an example, he cites a theatre course whose reading list consisted of plays about math and physics, such as Arcadia by Tom Stoppard or Copenhagen by Michael Frayn. “Two or three people would be assigned the research for the play,” he says, which involved diving into the science, and then that research would be married to the writing and acting the class conducted.
He also notes a favorite architecture class, whose most fascinating building project came out of a Herman Melville reading. “‘I And My Chimney’ is a short story about a man who loves this huge chimney in his house, but his wife hates it,” he recounts. “My teacher asked us to redesign the house to please both the wife and husband. I created a plan that moved around walls but preserved the things the husband liked, like privacy, and also brought in what the wife wanted, like a large living room.”
Farhad has in fact become a deliberate architect when it comes to his education, building a structure that can accommodate his hybrid mind. It is a structure that he has extended outside the classroom, as well.
Ultimately, it’s the why that has always united Farhad’s mind. Why an architect must build in response to human behavior and not simply contain it. Why physics is in fact a function of literature. And why a Greek column suggests a human body.