“Architects believe that not only do they sit at the right hand of God, but that if God ever gets up, they take the chair”
Some designers have an ego.
Maybe it is the way we’re educated early on – working solo within a studio of 12 to 15 other young designers on projects we hope will win the praise and approval of our critics, professors and classmates. Maybe it’s the history of architecture that strongly focuses on the individual work of the old and new masters: Michelangelo to Mies Van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright to Zaha Hadid. Whatever the reason, this is the profession where a healthy dose of ego is welcomed. Besides the education and training there are other areas of design and lifestyle that may encourage the ego of the designer. Let me know your thoughts on this!
the language: Each profession has its own language, but the language of the architect is a very special language indeed. Some architects believe the bigger the words, the better. For example, instead of using the word “window”, the word “fenestration” is used; for “door”, the word “threshold” is used. This secret language is encouraged (and appropriate) in academia, but becomes something different when you are sitting down with a potential client and you spout out an archispeak word like “interstitial” or “tectonics”. After this word leaves your lips, trust me, you will hear crickets. Please don’t get me wrong – I, too, love rolling these pretentious and sexy words around, I even know what some of the words mean! I just prefer to wax poetically with other designers and talk to my clients in plain old, everyday english so we can get to what really matters – them!
the attitude: Do you recall the Kohler commercial with the architect who is asked to design around a faucet? The 33 second commercial focuses on the many projects the architect has completed around the world and the many awards these projects have earned. In the early 90’s I attended a lecture given by Peter Eisenman at Auburn University. I do not remember much about the lecture, but I do remember that he was quite arrogant – he talked ‘at’ us and above our freshman vocabulary level (see “the language”). I recall him stating that he got his ideas from “balling up a piece of paper” and seeing how it hit the floor, how the shadows interacted with it – something like that. Even as an impressionable 9th grader who knew very little about architecture at the time, I was not impressed. Attitude is not specific only to Eisenman, it exists in other architects and designers as well. I’ve never been able to fully understand why a profession that is geared towards making the built environment better sometimes has designers who separate themselves from “the people” by their attitude. We all have an ego, it is healthy to have one, but too much of anything is not a good thing.
the dress code: The wardrobe of most designers is quite simple, just wear black. For a little punch, pair your black with a neutral taking care to vary the texture, shape, and fit. No seriously, most designers dress themselves in a fashion similar to the way they design: simple lines and elegant textures mimic a minimalist designer while bold and experimental shapes and colors mimic a more flamboyant creator. This is honestly the area where I have the most fun and express myself without having to get prior approval from a client. There is something sleek and powerful about wearing a well made and well fitting garment. While this does not contribute to my ego, some of the items warrant a little ego to be able to pull them off (see some images below). The next time you attend an architectural lecture, exhibit or art opening – notice the dress code. We dress pretty.
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