There are so many things that drive me nuts about practicing architecture. There are egos to deal with, interns, engineers, contractors, building officials and inspectors. On a given project there are literally hundreds of opportunities to send your blood pressure straight to the moon, just like Ralph always promised Alice in The Honeymooners. But the one thing that sends me over the top is a phrase that should be forever stricken from the English language:
“But that’s just the way we’ve always done it.”
“But we did it that way on the last project.”
You can feel it can’t you? The blood boiling, the face turning 50 shades of red, fists clenching and hair being pulled out at the root. It just drives me absolutely nuts to hear these very common phrases come out of someone’s mouth in our profession. It suggests an unwillingness to learn, to grow, to experiment, or simply to look at a problem from a new perspective and see if what “we’ve always done” is actually doing the job right.
More than that these seemingly innocuous sentences will keep a good architect from becoming a great architect. An illustration of this is in a recent interaction I saw on Facebook between two architects I know and respect. The image being commented on was a sketch of some detailing that was being worked out for a glazed wall. One of the questions that popped up was “why are you wasting time on standard details?” To which the proper response was given – “I don’t ever use standard details.”
This simple interaction tells me something very profound about each architect. The one is most likely more concerned about using products to make his/her project look good, relying on the ability of the manufacturer to produce a good product or system, while the other is more concerned with using particular materials to achieve a desired aesthetic result while also focusing on how those materials will perform together as a system.
You may think either way is acceptable, but at the end of the day it’s the architects job to investigate, understand and design the interactions between each and every piece and system in a building to ensure they work together properly and achieve the design intent. No two projects are ever “standard”.