Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Architecture as we know it is over

Writing in the April 24 issue of archdaily, Steve Mouzon, Miami based architect, urbanist, author, and admirably hyperactive player in architecture for social good,  proposes seven reasons why architecture as we know it might be over.  His reasons, as he sees them, are:
  • The End of Experienced Employees — describing the loss of mid-career employed architects in the wake of the 2005 GFC;
  • The End of Trusting Clients referring to the accessibility of web-based information undermining clients' dependence on professional expertise;
  • The New Frugality not just affecting the likely budgets, but also shifting spending preference from services to products;
  • Smaller & Smarter specific to likely pressures on budgets for people building individual architect designed houses;
  • Younger & Greener ie. Baby Boomers being replaced with GenX and GenY, who are supposedly much more concerned with building and living sustainably;
  • Patience, Generosity, and Connectedness being a somewhat utopian speculation on the transformation of business from the prime virtues of 'better-faster-cheaper', to what he calls the 'Age of the Idea', supported by patience, generosity, and connectedness;
  • The New Tools in which he talks exclusively about marketing, and the inoculation of a connected clientele where impatience with spam means they are not interested in actual information.
OK, let's just get this straight.  That isn't about the end of architecture.  It's about the possible end of an expectation, that certain kinds of people will be gainfully employed in the architecture profession as it is currently organised.  And what's more, it is a very USA-centric view, sort of like calling the baseball grand final the World Series.

Viewed from other places on earth, and especially through the lens of the current deluge of interest in design more generally, the picture is a lot more complex.  Each of Mouzon's points can be seen to be either wrong in some of those contexts, or at least contestable.  Ironically, in spite of that, I agree with Mouzon's core thesis.

But, for instance, in reference to loss of experience and new tools, I find it curious that he completely ignores the advent and impact of collaborative Building Information Modeling.  I have written about that in Will BIM catastrophically divide the architecture profession?

As for information on the web, I can see certain relationships at the scale of individual house projects being strained, by clients who would also find other ways to be a pain in the butt.  In most other contexts, a competent architect will most likely benefit from a better informed client.....just as Italy, where Architecture is an accepted humanities education, provides fertile ground for a design culture.

And as for either 'younger therefore greener' or frugality, the evidence is just not conclusive.  Not to mention that any contraction of consumption in the US and Europe seems to be swamped by the aspirations and rising affluence of other societies.

Read the original article here.

Steve Mouzon, a principal of Studio Sky and Mouzon Design, is an architect, urbanist, author, and photographer from Miami. He founded the New Urban Guild, which hosts Project:SmartDwelling and helped foster the Katrina Cottages movement. The Guild’s non-profit affiliate is the Guild Foundation, which hosts the Original Green initiative

BTW. Why the image of the long demolished Kowloon Walled City? Not my alternative prognosis of a dystopian architecture. Merely: things change.  Get used to it.