The Agenda of the Architect
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BUILD shares insights into the architect's agenda.
On any given architectural project, there are numerous requirements and considerations to take into account, whether it’s a simple storage shed or a complicated mixed-use development. Many are obvious: the building codes, client goals, programmatic requirements, environmental responses, and so on. And while each is important to achieve a successful outcome, there’s one condition that’s always present and rarely discussed on its own: the agenda of the architect. It’s true, architects have their own agenda. We have an obligation to the institutions and mentors that trained us, a duty to the architectural community and a loyalty to our beliefs. The ideologies that we were taught in school and their evolution throughout our design careers define us as architects.
On the best projects, this agenda naturally dovetails with all of the other requirements. Most of the time, it simply exists as an additional layer of information to be weighed and balanced. And every so often the architectural agenda does not align with a project’s requirements at all, which is typically a red flag that the architect and the project are not a good fit.
When working with professionals, it’s important to understand this agenda is always present. The specifics will vary depending on the architect, the communities and regions, but it’s there. And because it’s the very core of an architect’s beliefs, it could be the deal breaker for taking on a project. With that in mind, we thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to spell out some of the criteria that falls within the architectural agenda at BUILD:
Improving the built-environment. While this is a pretty broad-stroke, most architects know in their gut whether a project is going to improve the built-environment before a shovel even hits the ground. The neighborhoods that get filled with disposable cookie-cutter spec-homes are not making the world a better place. They may fulfill many of the other considerations, like program, schedule and budget, but they get a big ‘F’ on the architectural agenda report card.
Adaptability. Houses and buildings should be designed for more than just the immediate clients. Good architecture should last 100 years (or more), and should extend well beyond the life of the current inhabitants or users. It should be flexible and capable of accommodating different uses, functions or inhabitants throughout time. There is a lack of common sense with over personalizing architecture and it threatens the long-term practicality of the built-environment.
Authenticity. In the big picture, it represents a design process honest to how people really live their lives. Designing houses that respond to how people think they live as opposed to how they actually live, misses the mark. Authenticity in design encourages buildings that look like what they’re doing. The result of an authentic design process will often produce a strong visual relationship between the exterior of a building and the internal structure.
Timelessness. Fashions, styles and trends are fine in some areas of design, like clothing. Houses and buildings should last generations and by no means should they fall subject to perceived obsolescence.
Financial sensibility. An important part of doing good architecture is being mindful of its financial implications. If the cost of a house comes in at $1,000 per square foot, we don’t really care how cool it looks. Society is well beyond the architectures of excess, and conducting design in such a way is gratuitous and irresponsible.
Advancing humanity. We know architects aren’t curing cancer or going to Mars, but the work we do should move the ball forward. Architecture should continue to responsibly explore possibilities and push innovation. We have no interest in designing buildings that copy the past or glean nostalgia from faux-traditional illusions.
These are a handful of items on our architectural agenda. While they continue to evolve and adapt, they’re at the heart of our values in architecture, business and life.
Cheers from Team BUILD