In the Building of Your House

By: Alexandra Moutafi

image by Ian Ransley

The artist of a house is always considered to be its architect; when in reality, the carpenter has just as much control of the building. The carpenter knows more than the color of the walls and the shape of the rooms, he knows the density of the cement in between the bricks, the angle at which the doors open. But yet, how do we know how much our carpenter really controls when it seems like every decision is taken for him?


The reason he built the house the way it is, is because the architect designed it. The reason he used quick-setting cement is because it was going to rain. The reason the doors are not parallel to the floor is because his wife made him angry and he didn’t notice. The reason the roof is slightly sloped to the side is because his teacher never focused on roofs.

This is what people see of a carpenter’s role in a house: the way he built it is controlled by the architect’s blueprint, the weather, his opportunities, and other people.


But the truth is, he made the house exactly as its model because he likes to please the architect. He used quick-setting cement because he wanted to finish early and see his kids which he loves. The doors are not parallel to the floor because he is sensitive and fights really hurt him. After putting so much work into the roof he didn’t realize it was crooked because his pride takes over him at times.


At the beginning of the building process, carpenters merely follow the architect’s blueprint. They are expected to follow this guide throughout the forming of the entire house although, slowly, as the house progresses, carpenters begin to incorporate ideas of their own and form a house of their preference. No woodworkers are ever perfect. At times they stop following the blueprint (not always by accident) which makes architects mad. Nevertheless, it is impossible for carpenters to always stay on task when it begins to feel like they are only watching as the architects sharpen their pencils and design the entire blueprint of the house alone.


It is easy for woodworkers to get lost in building blocks and smearing cement, losing what seems like a fine line between their own constructing and the plans of the world around them. They sometimes forget that at the end of a long sweaty day, building under the sun, no matter how many factors influence the making of the house, their own hands are the ones that perfect it from top to bottom.


Architects are convinced they know what is best for carpenters. Not to abuse their power, rather in an overprotective way because they care. They insist on teaching carpenters all types of lessons, although (more often than not) these students will still make the mistakes they were warned about. Carpenters can get carried away while building, adding more ideas of their own that clients end up disliking, which is how they learn the importance of cooperation. Other times, when they become lazy and lose clients because the buildings are not ready on time, they discover the value of hard work.


Architects are here for you. When you’re alone trying to keep building, they give you stronger support than any brick ever could. They calm you down when the cement is slipping and the doors are creaking. Architects protect you from scary clients and unexpected weather that makes you want to cry, that ruins your plans and strips your strength like wet cement sticking to the floor and drying under the boiling sunlight.


Throughout their lives, carpenters spend a lot of time observing others build too. Along with their coworkers, they often keep each other company while they work, sharing their burdens of burning sunlight and heavy lifting while they speak of their favorite movies and funniest memories. Some of these carpenters we only stumble upon and never see again, others stay in our lives for long and influence a great part of our house. As we meet new carpenters and learn more about each other, it can seem difficult not to let the impression of a new house devalue our own. It is important to remember the effort and experience that we put in our own houses that differentiates us from everybody else. Our house can not be compared to the one of any other woodworker, each is distinctively individual in ways less evident than its height or color. To get to know somebody else’s house you must put in time and effort, just as you'd want them to put in yours. 


How much of ourselves we really control has always been an unanswered question. If we are already born with our parents’ genes into predetermined circumstances our personality appears to be a result of pure chance. Unwanted emotions are inevitable when life keeps hitting us with falling bricks and crooked nails that hammers can’t fix. As much as we think we know ourselves, there comes a time when we begin to doubt everything that defines us, realizing that we have become our own mother, discovering that our whole life has been planned out for us since we were born, questioning our worth because the person we love the most doesn’t love us back, realizing that (no matter what) sickness is more powerful than us, regretting impulsive past decisions that have shaped our lives. These questions and doubts not only make us who we are, but most importantly, they show us whom we want to be.