There comes a point in every design process when those witnessing the lines being drawn, altered, added to, erased, traced and multiplied come to dissociate their attention from what the final result will be, never again to taste the alpine air of those first few minutes of optimism. And that’s all well and good if you’re one of the unfortunate cadre of recent-graduates whose job is to put their heads down and only raise them to ask if anyone else would like a cup of tea or make a risky joke about the many qualities of sunshine you’ve come to miss, but if there is no one person responsible to maintain that the lines piling up on the drafts will describe a finished building one day then pretty quickly those line drawings become the practice’s medium. The same can be said of a fundamentalist reverence for parametric modeling, as it is true of a studio a little bit too preoccupied with spinning around inside the SketchUp model. In the end what was once that enchanting and empowering dream of your inspired design sited in a future reality where the proles who chance to look up at it break into a smile, kicking their heels together to go off whistling “Pack All Your Troubles (in your old kit bag)” their day recharged, will soon wilt into a reality of having to churn out the lifeless drawings, type up some repetitive bullshit to make the documents sufficiently heavy, admit the only way to fix the model is to keep adding trees and people, stare wide-eyed at area schedules until you begin to hear voices, write snide personal attacks in the meeting minutes only to have to delete them, wonder what it is that trade consultants do for the four hours after they confirm the drawings they’ll send you, and engage in futile e-mail ventriloquism until one day you’re lying on the bathroom tiles curled up in the foetal postion rolling from side to side wholly unable to suck your thumb, let alone dream. As denial of hope is the antidote to trampled hopes, it is entirely understandable many practices end up fantastic at practicing architecture but not at producing it. I’ve picked on Make once already so it isn’t fair if I used them as a shining example of what I’m getting at…
Who the hell are Broadway Malyan?
Yes, it’s that time of the year when one baulks at the thought of actually reading the AJ100. Most I can do is flip through it and tut until I run out of self-respect. I was glad to see Hawkins Brown get practice of the year, they deserve it for a number of reasons, for the gender ratio of its employees (a nice mix of 50 / 50) and the fact they haven’t yet been out on the corner hooking for an oil-money ‘sustainable’ development or chinese (looking-to) Party propositions, is reason enough. And fine, there are the other notables that can, when the occasion calls for it, make a half-decent building. It is just a hunch, and I admit I have no proof of this, but it seems that the AJ100 compiles a list of those practices that 1) under no circumstances work to a small budget 2) can only make a decent building from a huge budget, or 3) neither of the above.
In case I one day have to accept the award on behalf of D Lequeu and Slaves for topping the 100, I have these notes:
(Wait for booing and raspberries to die down). (Pause to clear throat). (Flip Foster the bird). Zaha and gentlemen, it is with a validated sense of selling out that I humbly accept this golden goose and empty self-congratulatory gesture. (Swagger slightly through the ‘hear, hear’s and table-banging). You know, the practice of architecture isn’t about who’s got the biggest infrastructure project or the longest client list or the highest building, in fact it isn’t about any double entendres at all – it’s about working in a team, against the odds – not to get out of it what you can, but to give back more than was asked. It’s about a dream of a better environment that everyone can share in and that we can make for ourselves. And finally, when that precious dream dies, you try and convince people that this is architecture. (Brings up slide of Make’s Broadgate. As Ken Shuttleworth rushes onto stage, throw award at him and make getaway.)