Sunday, June 24, 2012

85. Do you really think that all starchitects actively try and brand themselves?

Hi Carlos,

Thanks for the question.

Yes! I do think that all famous architects actively promote and brand themselves. Obviously some do it much more than others.

I am normally skeptical about painting things (especially sociological issues) with such a broad brush, but I have been looking at this for quite some time now (as you can see) and the more I look, the more I am convinced that it is just that way.

Being a famous architect is an extremely difficult thing to pull off. It is something you have to actively work at, and there are many out there who have worked their whole career at it with little or no result. 

To become a starchitect without trying would require a lot of miraculous opportunities to magically fall before you in a perfectly aligned sequence, at the perfect time, while you just happened to be in the perfect places and say just the right things. I am not saying that miracles do not happen or that it is impossible, but it would be extremely rear.

It would be like just whimsically winning the Mr Olympia bodybuilding contest without trying. 

Now if you are talking specifically about branding I will also say yes. Absolutely!. However, when we think about branding we have negative connotations about it. We think of it as some kind of contrived thing that corporations do to deceive people to buy their product; that the brander is really a kind of Dr. Jekyl & Mr Hyde character who brands himself as the good guy meanwhile he is really a hideous monster underneath the cloak. 

This is not necessarily so. Branding, is about putting your best foot forward and making a reputation around your best qualities. It is about standing out from the crowd in light of your most unique and admirable characteristics.

Think about it. You and I brand ourselves all the time without even thinking about it. When you go out on a first date don't you try to show the best side of yourself? You shave off that scruffy beard that you were too lazy to cut for the past 5 days, you take a shower even if you normally shower ever other week, and you don yourself in the clothes that you think you look most attractive in. 

When you meet her, you take her to a nice restaurant that you normally don't go to. You talk more politely than you normally do, and laugh hysterically at things that are nowhere near funny.  

So does, that mean that you are really the boogie man in disguise or that your motives are sinister? No. Unfortunately for some guys it is, but if you are really a descent guy and you are looking for a relationship with this lady, then you go through this process because you want her to come away with a positive impression of you.

Famous architects (and even non famous architects) do this with their careers as well. They build up a public image based on the positive aspects of themselves. If they are very good at it, you don't even know that they are doing it (like Peter Zumthor) and if they are really bad at it ( like Daniel Libeskind) then that's all you see. 

In addition to looking and acting the part (as you and I have done on first dates), star architects have to take their branding/promotion a step further. Since they are courting large communities of architects, students, clients, scholars etc, and not just one person, they have to brand on a massive scale and thus have to use media appropriate to that scale. So they present this positive impression of themselves through publishing, giving many lectures, participating in interviews for magazines, attending symposiums, networking with the right people etc. 

I am sure if you do a little research on Oscar Niemeyer, Kevin Roche, Alvaro Siza,or Eduardo Souto de Moura, you will likely find that they all have done these things as well. 
Best Regards,


Conrad Newel

Liberating Minds Since August 2007

On Fri, May 25, 2012 at 9:08 PM, Carlos wrote:

Comment I've thoroughly enjoyed your blog ever since I started reading it a few weeks ago. I have a question though, do you really think that all starchitects actively try and brand themselves to become famous?

There are certain architects that do seem like they seek the fame, but there are others that I believe are genuine. The people that I'm talking about are Oscar Niemeyer, Kevin Roche, Alvaro Siza, Eduardo Souto de Moura. These are all architects that seem to be to be more concerned with the quality of their work than their fame. I'm very interested on what your opinion of this is.