Thank you, Steve…

A patient comes to the hospital.

What’s your problem, sir? – asks doctor.

Everybody ignores me, – replies the patient.

The doctor turns around and yells to the receptionist: “The next one, please”

Old joke

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In my last essay I’ve congratulated architectural community with such a successful PR move as inviting U.S. President to the Pritzker Prize ceremony. I also said that overall architectural PR sucks. I repeat it: our PR sucks.  It sucks big time. It’s an epic failure. It’s a shame. It’s a sad fact affecting our profession more than we can imagine.

The confirmation of that fact came immediately upon my cheers to Obama who was supposedly attracting a public attention towards the architects. Apparently he wasn’t. I mean… of course he has attracted a public attention. But not towards the architects.

Next day after the Pritzker Prize ceremony Huffington Post – the most powerful online paper has  issued on it’s “Style” section’s front page an article. D’ you wanna know the title of the article?

Michelle Obama Bold In Blue at Pritzker Architecture Prize Event (PHOTOS)

No kidding! That’s the only thing Huff had noticed about the Architectural Nobel. Obama’s wife “bold blue”! This is not about Obama’s speech presenting the architecture as “the most democratic art”.  This is not about the white-hair masters like Eduardo Souto de Mouro and Frank Gehry attending the event. This is about “bold blue” of Michelle. Great pick, Huffington Post! I’m sure your editors know what public really wants.

The article/slide-show of the first lady in blue has generated 360 comments. The one and only comment mentioning architecture was mine.

I wrote: It’s not about Michelle Obama’s “bold blue”. It’s about architects­. Don’t you think so?

I got an immediate reply: It’s the style section, so I don’t think it’s inappropri­ate.

I got pissed off & answered: Styles change, style doesn’t. Presidents’ wives come and go, architectu­re stays.

Nobody even noticed me. They kept discussing the fashion…

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Being the only reason for the event architects are still openly ignored. We are getting ignored not only by the public, but by the “doctors”, like in that stupid joke. Or in the other words by the clients… And this is what my second episode is all about.

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The only guy who can rival the U.S. President celebrity’s status is Steve Jobs. And yesterday he all of a sudden was also talking architecture. “Apple” has decided to build a new HQ, a colossal structure for 12,000 people – “the most beautiful building on Earth” as guru Jobs has referred to it. (Knowing the perfection of “Apple” products I have no doubt it will be a superior piece). So Steve Jobs made a rare public appearance in front of the Cupertino City Council. Cupertino is the city where Apple is based and where they have purchased 130 acres of land for the new campus.

Steve Jobs presents the project to the City Council. It’s a cool presentation: 21 minutes and 13 seconds long.  Jobs talks about everything: about his childhood, about the lot history, about the existing buildings, about the trees, about the Apple employees’ age and the taxes. He also talks about architects. For 3 seconds! From 3:30 to 3:33. He says: “…we have worked with the architects… with the best in the world actually…” That’s all. That’s the only time he mentions that architects are involved. No names, no details, no acknowledgements. That’s the only time you hear the word “architect”. Thank you, Steve.

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P.S. The only other celebrity that can compete with Barack Obama and Steve Jobs is Lady Gaga. Gosh, I hope she writes a song about architects… And look, she’s also very bold in blue…

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Comments
16 Responses to “Thank you, Steve…”
  1. Fred says:

    Architecture’s PR definitely is awful – architects know how important it is and can’t understand why no-one else does. The best person to do PR for architecture might be someone who isn’t an architect and understands why normal people don’t really get architecture in the same way they get fashion & music.

    Lady Gaga would be perfect! Has anyone got her number… Maybe we could get her attention by running a ‘design Lady Gaga a pad’ competition.

    • Albert says:

      The roots of the PR problem lie in our existing arch. organizations, which are obsolete and irrelevant. All those RIBA, AIA and other similar structures are built upon an English model of the XIX century. Kinda “close club for the masters”… This is model of segregation and isolationism. Model where playing golf with your customer determines your professional status. It doesn’t work anymore. It kills the profession. Public has no idea about how cool, smart and interesting architecture is and under current org. system architects have no chance to present architecture to the public.
      That’s why Steve Jobs gives architects 3 seconds of his precious time.

      • Fred says:

        Thinking about it, I’m not sure Steve Jobs is actually the kind of guy to share the credit, especially when it comes to design. He puts himself on a pretty high pedestal.

        That truck driver is a laugh though, seems to really like his job, which is nice.

        • Albert says:

          Yes, Steve Jobs can afford to be a “center of the marketing Universe”… but only as long as he talks about Apple’s products. It’s his company. So if his people are ok with him not mentioning their team efforts – it’s their choice, after all they get their paycheck from the “Apple” owners.

          But here it’s a completely different case… He was officially, publicly(!) presenting a specific product that was done by another professional/s. He hired some registered architects and they have done a job for him. It doesn’t mean he is an author!… By the Law he cannot own an intellectual authorship.

          It’s like a publisher can’t publish a book without mentioning a name of the writer. The book is written by Leo Tolstoy or by Charles Dickens not by some Publishing House owner who might be a very bright and very rich guy.

          If this presentation was some kind of an official procedure, some kind of a Site Plan Approval application then maybe there is even some legal issue here with Mr. Rich Guy submitting a project without mentioning the authors. If architects would have some powerful international organization (similar for example to soccer’s FIFA) that organization could consider a legal action. Don’t know if it would result in some financial gains, but it would be definitely a super-PR move. “Architects are suing Steve Jobs for stealing intellectual copyrights” – that could be a front page on every newspaper in the world.

          Plus it would teach all these arrogant rich bastards a lesson.

  2. Greg says:

    I think another great relevant joke would be from the line-up of “I can get no respect I tell you!”

    I can get no respect I tell you, my wife, my wife cut me down to only having sex with me twice a month, but it’s ok, it’s ok the other two guys she cut off completely…
    (The great Rodney Dangerfield) He will be missed…

    It seems architects just can’t get the respect they deserve… and to think I wanted to be one when I was a kid. My friend’s dad was one and he had drawings on his special drawing board (sorry no idea what’s it’s called) and he seemed so important working with that lamp on. When I was interested in what he was doing he had no problem showing me the schematics of the building he was working on and it seemed that he was god holding the whole existence of the building in his hands. If I could only draw I probably would have made a run for it but since I can’t draw a straight line (no I am not an alcoholic) I thought that architecture would not tolerate me.

  3. Mark says:

    I’m a commercial driver, and probably almost all of the construction material will arrive on site by commercial truck, but I don’t think you’re going to hear many truck drivers complaining that they weren’t mentioned.

    The same could go for any of the other tradespeople that will be involved in building it. Electricians, Plumbers, Glaziers, etc etc etc etc etc.

    Get over yourself.

    • Albert says:

      We don’t drive trucks, Mark. We drive the process.
      We are not tradespeople “involved” in the constructions. We are those who create & lead the project.
      We are not plumbers or glaziers. We are architects, we invent and design things plumbers and electricians are installing on-site.

      Let’s get things straight here, ok? An architect deserves more credit for the building project than a truck driver. Sorry for not being politically-correct. But that’s the reality. Live with it or go to architectural school and get some education.

    • Fred says:

      “Get over yourself.” – Straight back at you.

      If someone else drove the trucks it probably wouldn’t make any difference to the end result, if you changed the designers the result would change.

      I’ve got nothing against driving trucks, but it’s fairly self explanatory what that means.

  4. Mark says:

    Design things all you want, but without all the people “Below” you (and clearly you feel most of the trades are all “below” your level) absolutely squat gets built. You can sit in a big empty field with your blueprints, but until the tradespeople show up, you’re still left with a big empty field.

    I respect your profession, but you make it sound like the world should revolve around you and that you somehow deserve special attention. Seriously, you want Steve Jobs to get into deep discussion about the “importance” of the architects? How about the “importance” of the plumber who hooks up the toilets that those 12,000 people are going to use? The “importance” of the electricians who are going to build that power plant. Hell, if guys like me don’t deliver all of that material to the site to begin with, NONE of you accomplish a thing to begin with, so arguably my “importance” suddenly rises to the top of the heap.

    I routinely deliver to construction sites. I know how urgent almost everything I deliver is when you’re working on a just in time project. Trust me when I’m made to feel pretty damn “important” when a contractor is calling every 15 minutes looking for an ETA because he has a 200 man crew, 4 front end loaders, and 2 construction cranes waiting for the material that I’m delivering.

    Wake up call – your place in the process is important, but others are just as important, arguably much more so. You do the imagination and logistics…we do the actual construction, last I checked. One is slightly more involved than the other. Your dreams don’t actually happen unless the rest of us are involved.

    Try to sound somewhat less elitist and come down to the real world. And thanks for the little “Get some education” dig, but for your information I’m a commercial driver by choice, not requirement. You’d actually be very surprised at my level of education, thank you very much – look outside the stereotype and you’ll be surprised to learn that I’m not alone, either.

    • Albert says:

      Mark, your sincerity and passion deserve great respect.
      And yes my remark about education was stupid. I apologize for that.

      But, man, we are talking about architectural project here. So obviously and naturally architects are the leading figures. And once the names of the project team are mentioned – architect’s name comes first. Then the structural engineer, mechanical, electrical and so on…

      It’s like a movie. First comes the director’s name. (Although I think it should be a script writer)… Then lead actors, script writer, director of photography and eventually a producer (like a client in architectural field). They also list all those electricians, plumbers or truck drivers that participated in the movie’s creation, but their names come in a fine print after all those people who invented the movie by writing a script and directing the process. Do you have something against this?

      It doesn’t mean that your profession is less important or less appreciable. Hell, no! As long as you perform it properly and professionally, as long as you enjoy it you deserve the same respect as the best movie director in the world. (One of my cousins is a truck driver. I love him. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever known and he reads my blog too, by the way…)

      And hey, Mark, say… when I move (an apartment or an office) a commercial truck driver is my God. Screw those architects and movie directors! Take it easy, man.

      And again! forgive my stupidity about arrogantly telling somebody: go to school… I have seen and have worked with unprofessional morons owning PhD degree from Harvard and with brilliant people with no High School diploma.

  5. sol says:

    the Apple doughnut reminds me of the Roman coliseum or the ancient Fujian Tulou in China

    • Albert says:

      The best reaction to Steve Jobs proposal I read on business website MartketWatch.com:

      “Pharaohs of Egypt built huge pyramids, Roman emperors built themselves palaces and gladiator arenas. All symbols of a need to live in posterity as they contemplated their finite life on earth. Steve Jobs seems to have moved from a mid-life crisis to an end-of-life crisis.

      From an architectural point of view, this looks very dated like the 70s sci-fi movie sets. I hope this does not define the valley architecture of the future. Between the drab Eastern European architectural proliferation south of Market in San Francisco and this, future doesn’t look promising.

      What next, Oracle’s Larry Ellison will want to outdo this and get together with Richard Branson to build an office building in space?
      Ego maniacs.”

      by user “CommonMan” (here’s a link to the comment >>) Bravo, CommonMan!

  6. BRex says:

    Here I am looking for the name of the architect in an article and this one (and the posts) still never mention who it is.

    I don’t want to have to watch the dang video to find who Steve Jobs mentions. Can’t you, in your complaining about no one mentioning architects mention the bloody architect?

    Thank you Albert.

    • Albert says:

      I have no idea who’s an architect of the “spaceship”. That’s the problem, that’s the main reason of my complain – somehow Steve “has forgotten” to mention the author in his 21 min. long speech…
      If Jobs presentation is an official submission of the project to the City authorities he has to inform the public about the project author by law. Probably in Cupertino Mr. Jobs is above the law.

  7. adrianalemus says:

    I think I remember some time ago Lady Gaga said she took inspiration for her outfits from architecture, for example, the Chrysler building. This was probably 2 years ago and her style has changed a bit since.

  8. Marco says:

    Awesome, i took the effort to listen to it up till 4 minutes and he says “we” have come up with a design….Great job Steve. By the way, each time my ipod crashes, i loose all the songs on it. Good thing i didnt pay for them.

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