Defining the contribution of an architect
August 29, 2014 at 5:39 PM
The call for the Eastern Section Design Awards is now distributed and the deadline is only a few weeks away. The question has come up in several meetings lately questioning the need for a design award. A proposal has even been made that there be a progression of awards similar to a sports tournament, in which the section awards are eligible for state awards and there are “playoffs “ at the regional and finally the national level. However, all this organizational structure discussion does not answer first question that is often asked: why should a firm compete?
There are many reasons why firms choose not to submit to the section design awards. Often mentioned is the time that it takes to make a submission, the firm’s marketing strategy is involved, and on it goes as architects talk themselves out of submitting their best work for review.
There are at least three good reasons that your firm should submit a project for the review at the section level this year :
First, the companion question to why submit is the question of what we contribute to the building process. If we are providing purely a client service then maybe the product of the work of the firm may not be “award winning” . The client may not want a signature building and the Eastern Section is not as prosperous as other portions of the state so the budgets for magazine quality work may not be as readily available.
Sometimes our clients and communities may not really understand what we , as architects , contribute to the building process. They understand what the building contractors provide because their product can be seen and touched , but what the architect has to contribute are more ephemeral. If design is our major contribution then the awards are a reasonable means to determine our abilities. Architecture is more than shelter and it is the intention of the design awards to clarify this difference .
Secondly, in addition to defining what the contribution of the architect might be to the client and community there is visibility of the architects within their community. This year the section will publicize our award winning designs. Inevitably, these design award winners will be compared to projects from our urban areas and from the state design awards. We have something to display that is of our region and the design awards give us an opportunity to celebrate that contribution right here at home.
The final reason may be the most important. This year there is a category for projects that make a contribution to their community beyond mere appearance. These service projects may not have large budgets , but they have made a contribution to their community within the resources that were available. Projects that leverage positive change in their community also help define what we have to offer as a profession.
These service projects can provide a deep-seated source of attachment, identity and pride within the communities they serve ; they can make a positive change both visually and in the lives of those who come in contact with the building spaces and aesthetic . That is something that we also can also remind our neighbors that we are uniquely suited to do as demonstrated by an “award winning “ project that serves client and community needs in a truely exceptional way.