Saturday, October 8, 2011

80. Why be famous?

One of the most popular question I get from my readers is: Why do you want to be famous anyway? To me, I always thought the reasons were self evident. Its like the question "why would you want to sit in first class anyway? In fact I often wondered who wouldn't want to be famous? But it is a good question and well worth pondering. So below are 22 reasons (not in any particular order):

  • People will respect you. For all the drawbacks of being famous people tend to generally respect famous people. Becoming famous is a tremendous accomplishment and it is universally respected in most parts of the world.
  • Even though architecture is a team sport and the work that comes out of your office is a product of the many talented people who work for you, it is you that gets all the credit. You can pretend to be gracious all you want by showing a picture of you staff and saying “oh, this is my team, and I show them to let you know that it is a team effort. bla, bla, bla...” hogwash! If you are the head of he firm and you are clearly the leader and spokesman, it is you who gets the credit.
  • You will get asked for your autograph. That alone is reason enough.
  • People (esp. architectural critics) will stop really questioning you. They just assume that everything you do and say makes sense and is just wonderful.
  • Even when the hair on top of your head have migrated down to your back, members of the opposite sex will still find you attractive.
  • You may get to have a retrospective at a major museum before you die
  • You don’t chase down magazine editors to get your work published, magazine editors chase you down to get your work published.

  •  You and your image will be such a hot commodity journalists will want to feature you in their magazines, even if its is not an architecture journal. This one below of Zaha Hadid was found while browsing though an inflight magazine:
  • You don’t need to wait till you have something important to say to get heard. What ever bull-shit you think of and say is listened to with the full attention of the architecture world.
  • You get credit for things that lesser known architects have already invented long before you stole...ahem, I mean borrowed it from them.
  • You get to meet other famous people. Why is this so great?  You can take pictures of yourself with them and put it on your facebook profile. You will be the envy of all your friends.
I am hanging with Tutu, top that suckers!!!
  • Even better than just meeting other famous people you get to work with them. 
Me and Pharrell are buddies like that!
  • You get to work for autocrats and dictators. Why is this an advantage? These are the types that have the good sense to put great architecture in its rightful place: above the concerns of uncultured people who have no taste what-so-ever in architecture. With a supreme leader behind you, your design visions can be realized unmitigated; without all the nonsensical layers of regulations and bureaucracy commonly found in democratic countries. 
  • You get invited to competitions that are closed off to regular architects.- imagine offered the opportunity to design some of the most exciting and important buildings of our times. There is real opportunity in that to flex your design muscles and show off your talents, but you don't even get considered if you are sitting in the economy section of the architectural class.
  • Freebies. Oh my God! the freeking freebies. People will just give you stuff for nothing. You will get discounts at hotels, restaurants, get bumped up to first class, etc.

  • You don’t need to prove your-self anymore. You can just sit back on your laurels and regurgitate your same old shtick and everyone will say “oh he is such a genius.” Just look at Zaha and Lebiskind.
  • Like Norman Foster, when your name becomes so famous and valuable you can arrange it so that your own company basically pays you just to keep your name on their stationary. Then you can buy a ranch in the french countryside and come in to the office once or twice a month just to show your face and sign autographs for your star-stuck employees.
  • Also from the Norman Foster play-book: When a financial crisis hits and most of your employees either have to take a pink-slip or a pay cut, you can have your-self a nice pay raise and a hefty bonus. You deserve it!
    • The most talented people will want to come and work for you and what’s more they are willing to do it for free or very little. Even more, they will work much, much, harder for you than they would at an average office. I think Frank Lloyd Wright once had the children of his rich clients actually pay him money to work for him. Now that's what I call "Big Pimpin"

    • Contractors don’t argue with you, and clients?... well clients will be clients. Sorry!
    • Just the thought of groupies. If you are famous you will no doubt have a bunch of superficial friends and loyal devotees that will follow you around like secret service agents just because you are famous.
    • People will drop your name to make themselves look important; "Oh I was having dinner with Conrad Newel yesterday darling, who were you dining with again?"
    • People will call you a genius - for most famous people i.e. movie stars, singers, etc, when they are famous people say oh they are fantastic, etc. but architects? when architects are famous people tend to say "well he is a genius!". Just think about that for a second: Conrad Newel a Genius! - I kind of like the sound of that. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
    • You will be memorialized simulntaniously for about a week on facebook when you die. People will replace their profile picture with a flattering picture of you. All the vicious and tyrannical things that you have done throughout your career will be forgotten or forgiven. They will say nice things about you, write quotes of all the wonderful things that you said on their statuses, and every website and news articles will be all about you. Although you won’t be around to basque in all the adoration, I think that's much better than silently slipping off the planet with not a mention in the press.
    • People will actually want to read your autobiography
    Tribute to Oscar Niemeyer, after his death by Brazilian artist Kobra (Thanks Vinícius Vitoriano!)

    Le Corbusier immortalized on Swiss currency
    • You will have a place in History. People will write about you, and continue to be inspired by you long after you are dead. Just think about this. Hundreds of years after you are dead, architecture students will be visiting your grave with flowers.

    Conrad Newel

    Liberating Minds Since August 2007

      Sunday, September 4, 2011

      79. Muses are overrated, Suzannas are underrated: Make a bad First Draft

      muse  (mjuːz) 
      — n
      a goddess that inspires a creative artist, esp a poet
      [C14: from Old French, from Latin Mūsa,  from Greek Mousa  aMuse]
      You know the funny thing about the Ivy League schools is the huge difference between your inflated expectations of what an Ivy League class should be like and what they actually are. Take the kind of students for example. In my puny little brain, I imagined that there would be the most brilliant students there from all over the country and perhaps the world. I imagined them having encyclopedic knowledge and that they could recite Baudelaire or expound on Foucault’s philosophical theories on demand. And, indeed there were quite a few geniuses, and I am not exaggerating. They were some super smart people who seemed like they were hyper intelligent aliens from another planet, but they were the exceptions not the rule. Most of the students there were just plain old average Joes about to be indoctrinated into the cult of architecture. They were kind of the same people you went to high school with ,minus a few class clowns. I said a few not all. There were people from many different backgrounds of varying IQ levels with different ways of working,

      One guy I remember quite well was Alec, he was what you call a classic talent. He was one of those people that was born with it; the gift. His visual skills were highly developed in comparison to the rest of us. Some of his close friends told me that when he was in high school he was close to a rock star. He was revered by his teachers and fellow students because of the things he could make and the way he could draw. When he got accepted to one of the top architecture schools in the country, everyone just kind of accepted it as a matter of inevitability. Alec was never the vocal type, he was a little reserved, and felt more comfortable expressing himself through his work.

      When he got to college, things worked out a little different for him though. The problem with Alec was that he was so accustomed to being the best and the center of attention with his work that he just could not accept being an average guy when it came to design and creative work. He was certainly not the worst in his class but he was not exactly number one either. 

      The way I saw it, there were two broad categories of people in our studio. There were the people who gave a damn and those who didn’t. 90% fell into the first category and Alec fitted squarely in it. They were the hard working types that worked and worked and worked and worked. They lived in the studio and if they weren’t limited to how long you could be in school, I figured they would probably die there too. They always set high standards for themselves in terms of design. It would behove them to create something that they considered banal, or unsatisfactory. Their modus operandi was “I have to make something interesting, something that is gong to blow everybody away”. They were so caught up in trying to make that one masterpiece, that one where people will be talking about it for years to come. They were going to make a memorable super fantastic project and they will do it at what ever cost it takes. 

      They burnt the midnight oil, smoked pot, and drank themselves silly, whatever. Whatever helps them to come up with that great killer idea. 

      Come presentation day, they would pin up and what they have up on that wall was indeed interesting. I remember when Alec used to pin up, everyone would huddle around his work to marvel at the fantastic image that he had up there before he cold finish pinning up. And while the professors were talking about the other folks work their eyes could not help but glance over at Alec’s drawings every now and then. The rest of the presentations was just a long annoying prelude to Alec’s presentation. I could guarantee that everyone in the room was thinking the same thing “I wonder what he is going to say about it?” And when it came time, it was almost always a little deflating. He would present and then once all the questions were asked then things would start to go down hill from there. 

      It was always like:

      “Yeah Alec, these images are really nice but I have yet to see a section through the project. These plans are great but I can imagine the actual elevations and sections in a hundred different ways. They are all fantastic. But what is your version?”

      or my favorite:

      “Yeah Alec, but what happens when it rains?”

      His answer to all this was:

      “Yeah but, this is just the general idea, I haven’t worked out all the details yet. Can’t you just critique the idea of the project?”

      And so you get this constant back and forth. 

      “No Alec, I can’t critique what is not there!!! you need to...”

      My theory is that Alec could not figure out a very elegant way to solve the section so he just did not draw it or present it. He just needed to go back into his hallucinogenic state and wait for the muses to deliver him that perfect section. It was not because he was lazy or did not work hard. Although he did not produce a lot of physical drawings or models to demonstrate that he was indeed working, he was toiling with the project in his thoughts, visualizing it in many different ways, and was emotionally engaged. Perhaps too engaged. If that fucking muse would just deliver the Gaad damn section he would produce a million beautiful sections like you have never seen before. 

      But the sad thing was, the fucking muse did not deliver in time and Alec, though a talented well meaning and quite a charming fellow, failed the course... and another... and another ...and was eventually thrown out of school.

      I know a lot of Alecs out there in the world.

      On the opposite side of the scale from Alec was Suzanna. Suzanna fits in that 10% of my class that did not give a damn about how it looked. She had no visual talent that I or anyone else could see.  Everyone wondered how she got into this school or any architecture school for that matter. Her work ethic was just abhorrently normal in relation to the rest of the schizophrenic and downright unhealthy work ethic of the rest of us. She was just like a regular normal human being and it bewildered everyone in the class. What the hell is she doing in architecture school? 

      Suzanna would arrive in the studio sharply at 9:00 am and proceed to draw very diligently for about 2 to 3 hours. She would then take a 45 min lunch break come back to the studio and continue to work until about 5 and then she went home. 

      When it was time for desk crit, Suzanna would calmly take her drawings to completion the day before and come to the studio at the appointed time. She would unroll her completed set of drawings: plans, sections, elevations, and details and lay them out on her desk. Then she would reach into her hand bag and pull out a pocket romance novel and begin to read patiently while waiting for a professor to come around to critique her work. 

      Now, I don’t know about you, but seeing a fellow student sitting across from you reading a romance novel while you are in a state of complete and utter stress trying to come up with a building that is supposed to revolutionize architecture, save humanity, create world peace, and eradicate universal hunger is a little bit annoying. 

      When Suzanna pinned up, her work always seems invisible. Everyone would just glance by it as if it was not there. It was just well...boring, bland, blaaaa. All the lines were light and roughly the same line weight. If you stopped to take a look at it, you would see that everything was done by the book. Everything that was required of her was done. She approached architecture with the same even handed logic that one would approach a high school algebra problem. 

      step 1 - solve for all the Parentheses
      step 2 - solve for all the Exponents
      step 3 - solve for all the …

      ...and so on and so on...

      When the professors commented on her work their body language would all express that something was missing. They would explain to her in diplomatic and undiplomatic archi-speak language:

      “This is boring Suzanna you need to get inspired!” 

      But in the end, that was just their opinion. The fact is, she did what was required of her and they could not fail her on the grounds that her work was boring.

      Suzanna passed class after class after class and eventually graduated, became an architect and I presume, went on to add to the collection of grey boring buildings that dominate our skylines.

      When I think back on Suzanna & Alec, I always thought, if they could figure out how to work together, those two would make a really kick ass team. No seriously. Here is how I imagine them approaching an architectural problem.

      First, Alec would go into a spiritual trance and come down from mount euphoric with a remarkable and very inspiring plan that was sketchy, incomplete and unresolved. Then he would struggle to death to come up with a way to resolve it in a way that was up to his standards. After a fruitless and exhausting effort, he would just keel over with exhaustion. This would be where Suzanna come in. She would take up the hopelessly unresolved plan and sit there steadily, line after line and come up with a clean, comprehensive set of drawings that thoroughly solves Alec’s plan. Upon waking up and seeing what Suzanna have done with his plans, Alec would suffer a mental relapse and pass out again. When he recovers again he would begin to lecture Suzanna 
      “Holy sweet Jesus, what have you done! 
      You are killing me Suzanna, you are killing me! 
      you don’t do it like that” 
      then he would take out his pencil and begin critiquing and editing her solution. 
      “It’s better if you do it like this”. 
      Then he would sit there cutting and pasting and tweaking and polishing until it becomes a brilliant master piece he is satisfied with.

      It would be an ugly process but I think it would have worked.

      The key to this working relationship would be that they complement and compensate for each others strengths and weaknesses. 

      For Alec, like most people, it is a lot much easier to criticize and edit what someone else have done than it is to create something from scratch. He is far too self critical to make something bad, so he just goes into a creative block and freeze up. He just cares way to much about how it looks.

      Suzanna on the other hand doesn't give a damn about how it looks. She just wants to get it done so that she can get back to reading her romance novel. Alec’s unconventional ideas, and forms would challenge her to think outside the box and force her to be a lot more imaginative than she would normally allow herself to be.

      But without Suzanna there to make a bad draft the first time around Alec would never be able to have something to criticize or edit, and thus would never be able to do anything.

      Now I am talking about Alec & Suzanna, but this is also struggle that exist in the heads of most creative people. We all have both an Alex and a Suzanna, embedded into our creative dialogue. I believe however, the most effective creative professionals, (ie. Famous Architects) are the ones who have the courage to back the fuck off and allow their inner Suzannas to do what she does best: produce a boring functional first draft.

      In fact, I think the Suzannas in our creative process have been underrated for far too long. She is always overshadowed by that fucking erratic muse (who comes and goes whenever it pleases her) with the beautiful inspiration that only lives in our heads. Our inner Suzanna is the dependable faithful midwife that allows the idea to come into the world that you and I live in.  There would be no 99% perspiration without our Suzannas my friends. 

      I believe Alain de Botton, put it best when he said.

      Those who go on to be proper writers are those who can forgive themselves the horrors of the first draft

      This was what Alec could not allow himself to do. He could not make a terrible first draft. He could not forgive himself if he did while Suzanna just accepted it. 

      We could have easily said

      Those who go on to be great architects are those who can forgive themselves the horrors of the first draft.

      By Conrad Newel,

      Liberaing Minds Since August 2007

      What better way to celebrate Suzanna than by naming my first airplane after her.

      Thursday, June 23, 2011

      78. What is Architecture? (Part 3)

      Here is an obvious part in this series that just did not occur to me for some strange reason. Thanks to Jody Brown, here it is:
      • Architecture (noun): the memory of that which could have been, that is invoked by the residual form remaining after extensive value engineering.

      • Architecture (noun): Public disinterest derived from a combination of self importance and greed.
      • Architecture (noun): The compromise arrived at by the client and the designers after the president of the firm and the client played golf yesterday.
      • Architecture (noun): The hard metallic other shell surrounding confused school children pointing at the large early period Calder mobile hanging from the ceiling.
      • Architecture (noun): The space between 4 or more glass walls, wherein wealthy people shower.
      • Architecture (noun): The homes that hipsters admire.
      • Architecture (noun): Structure approved by banks.
      • Architecture (noun): The touch, the feel of titanium. The fabric of our lives.
      • Architecture (noun): creativity plus financing minus creativity
      • Architecture (noun): The solid form of angst

      What do you think? Am I getting close?

      Jody Brown

      Jody Brown is an Architect running INFILL, pllc. in Durham, NC. He's drinking coffee with someone at a coffee shop near you. He's that geeky guy over in the corner yammering on about Le Corbusier. Nice glasses though...

      42. What is architecture? (Part 1)
      65.What is Architecture? (part 2)

      Monday, May 16, 2011

      77. Professional Success vs Personal Development

      Milton Glaser is the graphic design world’s closest equivalent of a star-architect . Here he talks about the differences between professional success and personal development. It is directed towards young artists but the lesson is just as applicable to architects as well.

      Professional Success vs Personal Development

      In professional life you must discover a kind of identity for yourself, that becomes a sort of trademark; a way of working that is distinctive that people can recognize.

      The reason for this is that the path to financial success and notoriety is by having something that no one else has. Kind of like a brand ( one of my most despised words)

      So what you do in life in order to be professional is develop a brand, your way of working, your attitude that is understandable to others.

      In most cases, it turns out to be something fairly narrow...

      ..and then you discover you have something to offer that is better than other people have, or at least more distinctive.

      And what you do with that, is you become a specialist.
      Then people will call you to get more of what you've become adept at doing.
      So if you do anything and become celebrated for it, people will send you more of that.
      For the rest of your life, quite possibly, you will have that characteristic and people will continue to ask you for what you have already done and succeeded at.

      This is the way to professional accomplishment: you have to demonstrate that you know something unique, that you can repeat, over, and over and over until ultimately you lose interest in it.

      The consequence of specialization and success is that it hurts you. It hurts you because it basically doesn't aid in your development.

      The truth of the matter is that understanding development comes from failure. People begin to get better when they fail. When they move towards failure they discover something because of it. They fail again and they discover something else. So the model for personal development is antithetical to the model for professional success. As a result of that, I believe that Picasso as a model, is the most useful model you could have in terms of your artistic interest, because whenever Picasso learned how to do something he abandoned it. As a result of that, in terms of his development as an artist his results were extraordinary.


    • 14. Do Good Work & Keep Your Soul

    • 15. You have to work at it
    • Friday, April 22, 2011

      76. Predicting The Pritzker Part II: Take a Lesson from Brad and Angelina

      The Pritzker would like to consider themselves the Nobel Prize of architecture. I know this because they say it on their website:
      (We are) Often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel” and “the profession’s highest honor” 
      So let's compare them to the Nobel prize then.

      Although on the surface it would appear that the two awards are similar, in actuality they are ideologically worlds apart. The biggest difference can be summed up in what I call the Brad-Angelina Doctrine. I know, I know, just bear with me for a little bit, hear me out. Please! 
      I define it as follows:
      When a well known celebrity such as Brad Pitt and/or Angelina Jolie commands so much attention from their celebrity status and at the same time begin to feel that their lives are empty and meaningless (usually when it becomes evident to said celebrity that their contribution to humanity and the greater society is just hype and empty vanity) they begin to look for other ways to make a substantive contribution to the world. This usually comes in the form of a strategy that leverages their fame to positively influence or support a worthy cause of their choosing. They may adopt a child from a war-stricken country to show by example that it is cool to do that so others can follow. When disaster hit New Orleans, Brad and Angelina took active roles in charities such as the Make It Right Foundation and Global Green. In the subsequent months, they were also engaged in projects that aided in the rebuilding of many parts of the city. In doing so, they direct some of the massive attention and publicity that they command towards these charitable organizations. In my view this is a good thing, it is a marriage between the meaningful and the meaningless; a mutually beneficial relationship. Brad and Angelina find meaning in their lives and a substantive purpose behind what they do, while foundations like Global Green and the Make it Right Foundation finds a spokes person to raise awareness and raise funds to solve problems.  Say what you want about Brad and Angelina or their motives, but because of the humanitarian work they do, the world is better off because of them.

      The Nobel Prize uses a similar strategy by maintaining a relatively even ratio between “the famous” and “the relatively unknown” among their recipients. Take the Nobel Peace prize for example. In 2009, the award was given to President Obama (He is pretty well known I would say). When Obama goes to Oslo to pick up the prize, the whole world media follows him and the world focuses its attention on the Nobel Prize too. This attention elevates the profile of the prize itself and increases its recognition value. For Obama, it gives him credibility, respect and places him among a select group of highly distinguished and respected figures in history. Its a win-win situation for both parties, but more importantly, it is a win for peace in the world, since (whether it works or not) it puts pressure on a sitting U.S. president to live up to a promise to he made to ending the wars that his country was engaged in and work for peace.

      The following year, the Nobel Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, an unknown Chinese political prisoner and human rights activist that needed the attention and support of the world. Everyone remembered that Obama won the prize the year before, and suddenly Liu Xiaobo is in the same elevated group as Obama. Suddenly everyone around the world was Googling Liu Xiaobo and finding out more about him, bringing a lot of welcomed attention for the cause he supports. Along with that, came a lot of pressure on the Chinese government to reconsider their human rights policy. Again we have another win-win situation.

      In a delicate maneuver, Obama’s notoriety was harnessed and carefully diverted to help a worthy recipient whose cause would have otherwise gone unnoticed. 

      Historically the Prize has done similar. In 1964, it gave a relatively unknown preacher named Martin Luther King and his civil rights cause the international attention it needed by awarding him the prize. With the whole world focusing on the conditions of segregation in southern United States, it embarrassed the U.S. government into putting pressure on the segregationist mechanisms that were in place and bringing it to an end. 

      The Nobel prize has a benevolent if not humanitarian agenda behind it. Its not just handing out prizes to the latest sensation in the profession or the guy who have racked up the most credentials under his belt. Without reading its mission statement and just looking at their track record alone, it is evident that there is an intent to advance humanity in some sense.

      One might say "well, that is the peace prize, that is inherently humanitarian". Well, that's a plausible argument, but I would disagree. They could have opted to give the prize only to the Obamas of the world, but they didn’t: By giving the attention to the un-famous as well, they have made the prize more than just a symbol of status, they have made it into something that is useful to greater society.

      But to be fair, let's take a look at another type of Nobel Award. Take Literature for instance (since it is an artistic expression and closest to architecture). The only thing it has in common with the Pritzker is its far less than perfect record. Though not as flagrantly lopsided along gender lines as the Pritzker, its list of recipients are predominantly male and Western. Its first female recipient however, was awarded the prize as early as 1909 and its first non-Western was awarded to a novelist  from  India back in 1913. Beyond this dismal commonality, the prizes begin to differ sharply from here on out.

      The choice of Nobel’s recipients in Literature is guided by its founding mission to reward a writer with outstanding works that is moving towards higher ideals. Directly translated from the will of Alfred Nobel, it reads, 
      "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"
      The latter part “ideal direction” implies a built in forward looking predicate imploring the jurors to consider the direction in which the writer’s work is developing and the ideals that they champion.
      Although this can be (and often is) liberally interpreted by the jury, in recent years, this has come to mean a kind of idealism championing human rights on a broad scale. So thought is given to the political, social, and/or humanitarian impact the attention of the prize will have on the recipient and what he or she represents. Take the last award in 2010 as an example, it was given to Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat". His hugely political writings explores the dangers of power and corruption in Latin America. Think about the consequences the attention a prize such as the Nobel brings to the issues he discusses. The Nobel jurors certainly did.

      Unlike architecture, literature is significantly more difficult to grasp across linguistic and cultural barriers.  Never-the-less, the Nobel Literature Prize jury have attempted to consider literature from the greater part of the entire planet for the prize (not just the first world).

      The Nobel prize for Literature has been awarded to a greater variety of recipients across a wider spectrum of genres and cultural view points in comparison to the Pritzker.  With the exception of Antarctica, it boasts a list of recipients representing every major continent on the earth including the Caribbean, the Middle-East and even the Republic of Mauritius (a tiny island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent)

      With the Nobel Prize in general, you get the feeling that anyone, absolutely anyone who is doing something outstanding to advance the condition of humanity in their respective field can win, no matter where in the world they are: Whether you are neuro-psychiatry professor at Columbia University discovering the physiological basis of memory storage in the nervous system or a banker in Bangladesh pioneering micro-credit for poor people to help them establish credit and financial self-sufficiency, you can win the prize. But more importantly, the attention, especially in the case of the un-famous recipients, will help to advance something useful to the world.
      Now, compare this with the Pritzker. Do you see where I am going with this?

      The Pritzker only celebrates the celebrated and gives more attention to the already famous. It does not advance architecture or humanity in anyway beyond creating mindless chatter in the hallways and online chat-rooms throughout the architecturally-interested world about whether the latest pick was worthy enough to be crowned America’s top star-architect. 

      In this respect, it is much more like the Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Awards that honors the career achievements of retired or near-retired movie-stars: It is sentimental, retrospective and backward looking. Because it is devoid of any underlying mission to advance the profession or humanity, it is ideologically no different than the spectacle of a cosmetic beauty contest.

      socially insecure post-pubescent fraternity jocks, preoccupied with prestige and exclusivity

      If you are a juror on the Pritzker committee reading this, listen up and pay close attention to what I am about to say.

      You ain't no Nobel Prize!

      Not yet anyway.

      For reasons that I will not get into today, you are highly respected in the architectural world. Every year towards the end of March, tremors of anxiety erupts in the bellies of the worlds most prolific architects as they sit anxiously and await your call and they get extremely upset when you don’t. The rest of us look to you for leadership. You have an enormous influence on our profession. The values that you expose through your choice of recipients send profound currents throughout the world of architecture. As much as I wish it weren’t so, but because of the weight of your influence, you are indeed the profession’s highest honor. This is why I care about what you do.

      Although you have the power to harness the attention of the world and focus it on the architect of your choosing, you have not been using it in a very thoughtful way. 

      You are hurting architecture!

      I get it, you are a first-world boys club. You guys are awarding within first-world boundaries that was created along political lines drawn in the cold war era.

      Pritzker Prize distribution Map

      compare to the cold war era divisioning of the world

      Loosen up! The cold war ended over 20 years ago! 

      I know architecture and politics have been inextricably linked together since the beginning of the profession, but I have always thought that as an expression, architecture at its finest is when it is able to transcend politics. An award system such as the Pritzker could be a wonderful vehicle to encourage and challenge architecture to strive towards its highest ideals. Instead you are using it as a shackle to re-enforce our darkest prejudices?  

      One Caucasian or Japanese male star-architect from Europe, America or Japan after another, after another?

      Look, senior star-architects don’t need more attention than they already have. They are stars because they have mastered networking and publicity skills. Giving them more attention is like giving financial aid to thriving billionaires.

      Think a little deeper.

      You have heard of Brad and Angelia haven't you? You can take a lesson from them. You guys have been around for 32 years. You are grown ups now, and you are behaving like socially insecure post-pubescent fraternity jocks, preoccupied with prestige and exclusivity to make yourselves feel more important than the next guy. 


      Why the long face? ...Cheer up!

      Guys, I hate to criticise you at a moment when you are actually stepping in the right direction. With the selection of Eduardo Souto de Mora, a relative unknown, you were celebrating a recipient who has not been celebrated so much, but deserves to be. That's all well and good, but it is also too little too late. Don’t you think?

      In the long view of things, I think you guys can cut the exclusive-fraternity-club mentality and be a whole lot more inclusive. I am not saying you should forget about the first-world or star-architects all together. Star-architects worked hard to get where they are. They contribute to architecture by challenging us to look at it in ways we have not done before, and in doing so they inspire us. That is certainly worth recognizing, but they are not the only ones and their ways are not the only ways to contribute to architecture.  What I am saying is that you could mix it up a little bit.

      If you really want to advance architecture, throw some of that support and attention to areas where it can make a real difference as well. Think about the political and humanitarian impact the attention of the prize (not to mention the $100,000 prize  money) could have if directed in a socially conscious way.
      Look outside your fraternity, outside of Europe, America and Japan. There is a second and third-world too, there is a whole world of talented, committed, architects that exist out there. Architects that are genuinely working to make “significant contributions to humanity”. They live in the Middle-East, Africa, the rest of Asia outside Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Caribbean. Although you have chosen from South and Central America before, there is a lot more from there as well. 

      Look around you, beside Kazuyo Sejima and Zaha Hadid, there are many more architects out there without penises as well; committed, talented and making significant contributions to humanity and architecture. They are architects too.

      It is up to you to discover them, reveal them to us and give them the attention they need.

      Come on, I believe in you. 

      You could do it. I know you can!

      Conrad Newel.
      Liberating Minds Since August 2007