Thank you, Mr. President…

Unfortunately as a professional group architects are pretty invisible for the society. Besides couple of flamboyant architectural celebrities (so called starchitects) people know nothing about us. We are definitely not a Hollywood with its glitzy Oscar, we are light years from the flashy MTV awards… even absent-minded scientists are much more visible than us given the Nobel Prize popularity…  For Christ sake! Cooks and ballroom dancers with their stupid reality shows are way more famous than architects…

Of course we have our leaders and our prestige awards but nobody from the outside world ever heard of it. We are not on TV. Papers never publish architectural news on a front page. Websites have architecture as a sub-sub-topic under “Lifestyle” menu (this is not a joke!) Put it briefly our PR sucks, architects.

This year it was different though. From the very beginning it went to the right direction. You don’t hear me saying this too often, do you?

First… the Pritzker Prize (it’s our Nobel, in case you don’t know) was awarded to Eduardo Souto de Mouro, who’s not a trendy starchitect mingling with the fashion gurus and shady oligarchs but a real master of architecture. And then the central speech at the prize ceremony was delivered by the biggest celebrity on Earth – Barack Obama. Yes we can! Die Hollywood and eat your heart MTV!

It’s not that important how Obama got there. Obviously he has some ties with Pritzker family (he admits it in his speech) and the ceremony was held in Washington D.C., which definitely helped. But to me it doesn’t matter…

What matter is that the President of United States of America talks to the word about the architects and architecture. He quotes Frank Gehry, he mentions that his hometown Chicago is a cradle of modern skyscrapers, he analyses (no kidding!) a design solution of the stadium project in Portugal… Once in a while instead of mentioning crazy dictators and Wall Street thieves President talks about Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe… Bravo Mr. President! I might not share some of your foreign or fiscal policies but your statement that “architecture can be considered the most democratic of art forms” means a lot to me. And to many other architects from around the globe.

Thank you Mr. President for putting us on the map. Even if it’s for a very brief moment… We still deserve it.

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Comments
3 Responses to “Thank you, Mr. President…”
  1. Jeremiah says:

    “biggest celebrity on earth”….NOT how I wish the office of President of the United States to be described, but, unfortunately, you’re right on that.
    All politics aside, I think it’s a good thing that such a public figure would come out to award the Pritzker Prize. It does put architecture, and architects, in the “lime light” so to speak. But then, I actually think we already are, we just don’t take advantage of it the way we should. Architects, in general, are their own worst critics and their own worst enemies when it comes to marketing and promotion. Now, we are REALLY good at making ourselves INFAMOUS. Anytime something either goes wrong with a building or a particular design is deemed “controversial” or “ugly”, it’s the architect that is put center stage as the sacrificial lamb – after all, it is their design, their responsibility. But then when the awards come out….it’s always the owner and Contractor in the spot light. The architect might be in the crowd somewhere as long as he bought a ticket.
    Why is this? Because too often once design and construction documents are finished, an architect invariably “checks out” of the process except for the occasional site visit or progress meeting. We do not take active roles in the COMPLETION of our works and that is the greatest failing of our profession, in my opinion.

    • Albert says:

      Your observation is very keen, Jeremiah. Although I don’t think the only reason for being so infamous is our absence from the final and the most important stage of the project known as “construction works”. There are many other reasons for such a grand failure in promoting a wonderful profession of architect. For example our idiotic organizational structure being based on the English system of the XIX century plays a huge regressive role.
      I’m also glad you have noticed a note of sarcasm in my honorary mention of Mr. President.

  2. Philippe says:

    ” the Pritzker Prize (it’s our Nobel, in case you don’t know) was awarded to Eduardo Souto de Mouro “.
    First of all, I’m just going to express how happy I am that Eduardo Souto de MourA got the prize. I really appreciated that they gave it to a none “starchitect”.
    I just wanted to point out a personal question related to the fact that architects are not known by the public (I’m only a student but this question has always played with my brain from the beginning of my studies).
    It seems like you feel pretty sick about the status of our discipline in this society and I do agree that architects are not getting enough recognition in there work. It’s just that I can already say (in my personnal experience of only a couple of years) that architects are more and more egocentric during their years, transforming them selves sometimes into what they believe they are, “god like higher beeings”. Would the celebrity have a positive effect on architects, or would it act as polution on their creative skills?
    Personnaly I think we need to be as down to earth as possible to be able to innovate and create the best architecture possible. I’m pretty sure Recognition brings a lot, especially for the financial side and the opportunity of different projects, but on the long term I’m not so sure it would be the best thing…

    Since you like asking questions, I hope you won’t mind giving a quick thought on my question.
    Please don’t be too critical on the language since english isn’t my mothertongue.

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