A little while back I finally got around to watching The Fountainhead (1949) with Gary Cooper as Howard Roark and I remember finishing that movie nearly in tears…well, not nearly. I’m a bit of a crier…my wife thinks it’s funny. But that’s not the point.
The point is INTEGRITY in architecture. Not just as a profession, but as an art, as a passion, as that thing that makes your blood pump and your spirit feel alive! Do we have that anymore? Sadly, it seems more and more clear that we do not. Howard Roark was a man, a architect, who refused to give in to the status quo. He refused to sacrifice his art, his craft, his buildings to the whim of pop culture or the mob mentality. He dared to stand up, to stand out. And he suffered greatly for it, but in the end his clients kept coming back and eventually he won the respect of his peers who were too cowardly to do anything not in line with what others felt “should be”. We need more like Howard today.
In an economic climate that can be described as nothing better than “dismal” where we’re experiencing upwards of 30% unemployment in our field and everyone is fighting tooth and nail for their next client…well, things like integrity, pride and self worth are the first things to be thrown overboard to keep the ship afloat. And quite frankly it just pisses me off.
Architecture should not suffer the same slings and arrows of outrageous fortune like the stock market or the rest of corporate america. Our work, our craft, is not and should not be a commodity to trade to the lowest bidder. But it happens more and more, architects trying to undercut other architects’ fees in order to get a client that will only haggle for a lower fee on the next project.
Instead a resurgence of integrity not only for our profession but also integrity and responsibility for our projects, our designs, our creativity, that which we bring to the table is priceless. Instead of the cut-throat, winner take all mentality, what would happen if architects instead pooled their resources and talents in order to best serve the client and best serve architecture? How many more projects would we get based on real quality of design AND construction than simply trying to chase that next magazine cover or developer with “an exciting new project” (i.e. another salt box apartment complex with no character or thought involved)?
I see lots of us out in the blog-sphere decrying the woes of our profession, and that’s all well and good. I hear even more touting that we should “take back” our prestige, etc. But it’s a lot of talk. I’ve made the call several times to any architect reading this to step up, to help, to be the leadership for a new generation of architect that is truly passionate about a profession and an art that DOES have the power to change the world one building at a time.
One of my favorite quotes is by Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Will anyone out there answer the call? There are a few, and you know how you are. We need more.