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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Architect and Public Perception

Having been an architect for quite some time, I continue to get the same questions from people, namely, "Do you do residential or commercial?" and "What type of style do you do?", or here in Arizona, "Do you do Santa Barbara, Tuscany, Spanish Colonial, _________?" It occurred to me that the public's perception of an architect is that he/she does whatever the client wants.

While it's true the architect must design to meet client needs while also considering site conditions, building codes, etc., what the public does not perceive is the architect as, in some part, an artist. Why? We architects might not be doing well enough in educating the public on not only what an architect does, but who an architect is. Though it seems most architects will do just about whatever the client says, thus perpetuating the perception, there are some who live and work by their own principles or beliefs. They have a distinct "signature" or direction from which they won't stray too far because they believe strongly in the benefits to the quality of the work and to life itself.

In other words, clients might unknowingly be telling a "Picasso" to paint them a "Renoir". I think we all know that no artist of merit would paint like another. So, how can we inform the public that architects can still be artists with very different approaches? It's up to the profession itself through more public speaking, more community engagement, more writing, more school involvement, etc. And just maybe, architects could show more of their own work and ideas in public exhibits and finally taste some of that wine and cheese.

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