Currently architects are stuck in a time of flux between optimism and pessimism. Indeed it’s hard to be cheerful about the current state of our economy and even more difficult to muster up a pleasant outlook for the future. The economy is almost a constant topic on most of the blogs that I read. I’ve seen questions posted from students wanting advice about getting into the architecture profession, from those in the profession wondering if they should bail, still others simply shouting out frustrations at the wind and anyone who will listen, and who can blame them? Each day listening to the news brings a renewed sense of near hopelessness at our elected officials who seem hell bent on destroying the economic prosperity of our country. Banks and car companies have been bailed out and allowed to continue trudging along with their old and inefficient technologies and even sometimes criminal practices while rail and infrastructure projects all over the nation are being placed on the chopping block to make room for more social entitlement programs that only inhibit growth – solid investments in our future are being dashed in favor of pork barrel spending and wasteful government services.
So is there any optimism to be had? Will we ever dig ourselves out of the sorry state of affairs we currently find ourselves? The turmoil in Egypt puts this all in a unique perspective. For years they have lived under an elected dictatorship that has squandered the resources and talents of the populace and a breaking point was reached a week ago. Now the citizens are demanding their country back, demanding a leadership concerned with growth and prosperity not with greed and government largess. Is this any different than the situation we currently find ourselves in? I don’t think so. The only difference I see is we have lulled ourselves into this state of apathy, where we’ve allowed ourselves to be put in a similar situation but without any pride left to stand up and fight against the establishment.
I’ve read that we (architects and building professionals) need to remain fixed on the “bright side”. The bright side being the fact that we’re working and not living in abject poverty like a majority of the worlds’ population. Is this true? Should we simply be happy with what we currently have instead of working to make things better?
In the words of my British compatriots I say “bollocks” to that. Architects are the ultimate innovators, we are constantly thinking of things in new ways and finding new uses for old materials. But there is only so much that we can do when our hands are literally tied behind our backs by government idiocy and the total lack of vision on the part of 99% of our clients out there. And there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of advocacy going on on our behalf either. Sure there is a significant Advocacy/Lobbying arm to the AIA at the State and National level, but are they lobbying our best interests or are they simply lobbying big government and social change?
In the last 7 years of my practice I haven’t seen a lot of positive change in legislation for architects. Our fees are steadily decreasing because we aren’t allowed to pool together and discuss how our fees should be structured unlike nearly every other profession on the planet, including doctors, lawyers, mechanics, dentists, insurance companies (health and auto), etc. Why are architects shoved into the back of the drawer on this issue? Why is it legal for everyone else, but illegal for us?
All of these questions (and yes I’m aware of the staggering lack of answers) leads me to believe that architects do truly represent an optimistic profession because we are so angry and discontent with the current state of affairs. It is this anger that is driving us ever forward toward something better – toward a tomorrow that is more responsible, more prosperous and more sustainable. So, to all my architect friends out there, raise your glass, raise your hand and raise your voice. Talk may be cheap, but without solid ideas no action will ever take place.