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    winning the lottery...

    Gregory Walker
    Feb 24, '12 11:13 AM EST

    it's been a long couple of weeks - massive proposals, a respiratory illness, responding to people coming off the last couple of posts. hopefully, we're finally back on schedule.


    for some weekend reading, this piece in the nytimes today sums up the cultural trend that the architectural profession finds itself in quite well. anyone feeling lucky?


    to be sure, there are some absolute 'lottery winners' in practice - oma has a long history of  cycling through many future studio owners. so has steven holl (see aro, lorcan o'herlily, narchitects just to name a few). of course, for every firm who's founders graduated from a 'star' atelier, there's a dozen who didn't. the rub probably is in this question: how 'famous' can those firms become without the inherent advantage of tapping the existing media systems? the answer is probably 'as far as their work/reputation/etc. will take them'. that's another study for someone else to take up.


    what all this points to is an acceleration of clear 'winners' and 'losers' in the system, something which cannot be healthy over the long term. at the very least, it seems difficult for such a system to promote an overall quality and consistency to the built environment - if anything it'll encourage even more aggrandized and spectacular 'one-offs' which seek to get attention in the media....




    • Once it is openly acknowledged that even in the professions requiring much education and experience (say, architecture...) success is primarily due to luck - then we are in deep doo-doo as a society.  A socio-political-economic system that is not structured to supply plentiful across-the-board ordinary goods and services (including architectural design) to society, that eliminates the full spectrum of work opportunities by trending toward a "few winners - lots of losers" dynamic; such a system has failed and failed spectacularly.  It is unfortunate that architects are part of a large class of victims of this system.  Something's gotta give.

      Feb 24, 12 11:37 am  · 

      Doo-Doo is right -  I agree with Walter.  I want to believe that hard work and a commitment to the quality of work you believe in will carry you a long way in this profession. Luck is a product preparation.

      Feb 24, 12 12:21 pm  · 

      I would say that as a society we suffer under a massive delusion of meritocracy that really has very little to do with reality.  In many ways it is the manifestation of the professions being "opened up" over the past 50 years to other strata of the socio-economic food chain than was previously the case.  This isn't to say that one can't make it with intelligence and talent, but that more often than not, who you know defines your opportunities more than what you know.  wake up and smell the 21st century.

      Feb 24, 12 1:13 pm  · 

      walter - couldn't agree more. i'm not sure we're the society that can do that at a large scale anymore - the mechanisms which support that 'plentiful' supply (pensions, generous health care, etc.) are gone. not just eroded - gone. so, the optimist in me says the winners/losers dichotomy doesn't have to actually play out - what needs to happen is create more localized opportunity so that we can broaden the base of 'winners' and allow that to happen at a much smaller scale. in other words, we need less super sized and more craft-oriented, high quality industry/services. those can create real value in both a local and global climate.


      Feb 24, 12 5:02 pm  · 

      nice post and first time reading this BLOG (like).  in the thread of futureboys comment I've been wondering why did Architecture in general adopt the new technology and social media of the 21st century  in such a way that we removed ourselves from quality and right into the spectacle? were lawyers always so involved in the construction process? (does anyone have a stat) nobody creates firms anymore based on last names right?

      in a way the beginning of the end was the end of the beginning - modern architecture.  (Eisenman may have had a point)

      the moment craft became abstract conceptual formulations for a process to conceive the imagination in architectural form, the notion of a quality craft practice all went out the window.  modern architecture happened almost 100 years ago...modern architecture made architecture a product of its age - industrial.  the ability to manufacture efficiently.

      if you'd ask Edmund Husserl he'd blame Galilleo..The commonly accepted understanding that if it can be 'mathematized' =  turned into data and then verified through measurement (experiments) it must be true - has essentually removed the very definition of "Craft" from anything that hasn't been mastered by a machine yet (mathematized).

      in my opinion - Thomas Hobbes greatest philosophical contribution was applying the "logic" or mode of thinking of "physics" or "math" to social philosophy.

      Marx's greatest contribution (in my opinion) was not communism or any social philosophy, his contribution was convincing me thinking/philosophy is not something that floats transcendentally disconnected form ourselves and society but somehow always manifest itself in history, rather thinking/philosophy  is a direct result of 'work' - daily routine of existence. 

      what commonly accepted cutting edge 'tool' of architectural practice best somes up the current state of affairs?  BIM - building information modelling

      if all you are is a data manager of design, implentation, etc... then it makes sense the quickest and easiest escape from managing data is the Spectacle.  overwhelming virtual access to stimulating ideas is much easier than somehow making data management of architecture craft like.

      data and spectacle. 

      Feb 25, 12 4:08 pm  · 

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Central to the blog is a long running interest in how we construct practices that enable and promote the kind of work we are all most interested in. From how firms are run, structured, and constructed, the main focus will be on exploring, expanding and demystifying how firms operate. I’ll be interviewing different practices – from startups to nationally recognized firms, bringing to print at least one a month. Our focus will be connecting Archinect readers with the business of practice.

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