Friday, March 28, 2008

44. Warning: Architecture is Politics, so be Good

Being an architect is not very different from being a politician if you think about it.

Both are always responsible to a constituency if only on a moral level. In the politician's case its the general public in the area that they represent. In the architects case its the public who use the building and will interact with it even if they just walk by it.

Both are dependent on and oftentimes instruments of the rich & powerful. For architects we are dependent wholy on our clients for our income. While politicians get paid for their services as elected officials they usually dont get elected without the contributions of wealthy donors.

We are both criticized for being sellouts, whores, puppets of the rich, and so on when we fail to protect the public against the profit motivated interests of the rich developers. Its a tough place to be, having to choose between your career and the interest of the common good. For some it is an easier choice than for others. For architects like David Childs, its do what the clients want, its my career fuck everybody else. With others like Lebbeus Woods, its the other extream. You build nothing except on paper, but at least you have your morals. For most in between its a delicate balancing act.

The parallel goes even further if you consider the architect famous. Also, like politicians Famous Architects are constantly under scrutiny and held to much higher standards than the rest of us. For politicians, a laps in judgement like having an extra marital affairs, or use illegal drugs that are so common place among the public are grounds for ending a career. For Famous Architects, one leaky roof can become a blight as legendary as the legends themself. Never mind all their other meritable acomplishments. The less famous in our profession are guilty of much worse but because we are not in the spotlight we can easily let it go. We only have to answer to our own guilt and self standards.

Before you start promoting yourself, you had better make sure that you are more than talented. You had better be able to take a few punches, harsh and unfair criticism, and intense scrutiny. You had better be able to come back from a fall. The fame game is NOT for the faint hearted. You had better make sure that you are more than interesting, You had better be good.

By Conrad Newel,

Liberaing Minds Since August 2007


Anonymous said...

A good example of the diffusion between architecture and politics is the career of Jaime Lerner.

Subsequently he was architect, mayor and governor in Curitiba, Paraná state in Brazil. And now he's practicing architecture again. Check his story here.