I love working with people. In fact as a solo practitioner it can be a bit “too quiet” at times during days without meetings or many phone calls. The collaboration with people makes this profession very fulfilling. Yet in my early days this really wasn’t going through my head. Why did you choose architecture? I mean why did you choose to pursue this as your profession?
If you are a client or someone considering hiring an architect, please don’t take offense for the transparency of this discussion, it is only architects thinking out loud. I enjoy allowing a peak behind the curtain and saying what others are thinking.
Why did you choose to be an architect? I’ll bet you your iPhone that you were not thinking to serve people. I’m guessing you liked to draw or make things. Perhaps you had other reasons like a particular cause or past experience, but it’s likely it had something to do with creativity on some level more than service.
For our profession to exist, we need people to buy our services. So to all of you clients out there, we all acknowledge your importance and are grateful for you because without you there is no project and there is no profession of architecture. We truly do have your best interests at heart and we do want to respond to your desires, wishes and needs. Without you all of the moves we make are purely arbitrary and meaningless. Yet with a real client the parameters of the project are real and give us a meaningful basis for making decisions and recommending a direction for the architecture to be substantive. With great constraints comes more creativity.
But let’s admit dear architects that many of us didn’t choose architecture primarily because we wanted to provide a service for people even though we knew that was part of the deal. We were all about the architecture part. How many of us sat down and thought, for the rest of my life I want to meet with people and take requests from them and serve them. As we sat up late in that uncomfortable studio, strung out on caffeine and sugar, bandages on our fingers and drowning in trace and chipboard, we just wanted to express ourselves as architects. We were hoping that one day you’d be “buyin’ what we’re sellin’.”
Am I right? Be honest.
For some architects, especially the highly design oriented, they may find the working for a client a real bummer; a shot to their ego. The fact that they have to please the client may be a real drag, especially with demanding clients. Unreasonable clients can really frustrate the process; ones who challenge their architect make it better.
Some professions are built on the simple understanding of service. If you are in the medical field, it’s all about the patients. I suppose someone could be more fascinated with biology than bedside manner. I suppose a lawyer could be fascinated with the intricacies of law and the art of arguing more than seeking justice for their clients. If you’re a waiter/waitress, you’re waiting on people! If you own a restaurant or are a chef, you need your customers to like your food, but you’re not just making food for arts’ sake. In a profession like architecture we also make things, but it affects far more people than a single meal at a restaurant.
The whole serving the client part was something not addressed much in school in my experience. Now that I teach part-time, I could go down that path for a tangential discussion, but let’s save that for another day other than to acknowledge it.
Has this interest in “making” over “service” affected our profession? Has it influenced the current direction of our profession? Should a redirection start in school? Should we do better at understanding the service end of our profession more than the design end of our profession? Let’s not forget the introverted personalities of architects.
Our current profession faces so many important issues for which most of us are advocates. We believe others, namely our clients should share in our values and beliefs. We do much to convince them. Yet since we are interested in making things, we often ignore (innocently or intentionally) what those whom are served want from the servers. I’ve been guilty of this and you have been too.
I have read so many cases where projects (large public ones especially) are wrought with problems, design flaws, oversights, roof leaks or other types of seemingly egoist gestures that make one wonder about the architect’s real intent or desire to serve. The other important side of the argument is how we bring more to the table as architects than mere draftspersons for our clients. This is a paradox at best or a dilemma at worst. We don’t want clients, code officials or developers making all of the decisions.
What is the price of innovation or enduring architecture?
We certainly want to demonstrate our value and we certainly want to be the problem solvers for our clients. Collaboration is a necessary part of our jobs. Integrated design is a methodology gaining in acceptance. I believe the roots of these concepts are correct as a means of generating the richest architecture. However, if we as architects are truly honest with ourselves, many of us, dare I say most of us would often like to be our own client where we could sculpt and mold, create and shape architecture into what we believe would be Architecture in its purest form.
This may sound utopian and perhaps if that is how architecture was really made we may find it to be empty. Architecture without service is the real meaning of the Greek term utopia – ou (no), topos (place).
photos are from all over the web and are not intended to be a double entendre, but merely pure sarcasm for Twilight Zone fans like me. Rod, you were a genius.