I have been engaged in a discussion on an on-line forum of residential architects in which we are debating what good design is and what our profession should do about it. It has been my contention that we have negatively influenced public opinion about architects be creating an elitist image of ourselves. I would like to see this change. I would like to see more architects designing more houses and becoming a positive influence on good house design.

    Here’s what I posted today. I thought you might be interested.

   “I have no problem with modern design done well. It is not about a style preference. It is about who we are as a profession.

    I like modern design. I’ve designed, built, and lived in two of my own. And I’ve designed many others for my clients. But I don’t think that much of what wins awards (Residential Architect magazine) and is therefore held out to the public as the “best of our profession’s work” is very good, at all. Because of that, our mission of improving residential design is crippled by this negative public opinion that we are creating. We are praising a very narrow sliver of residential architecture that is appealling to a very narrow sliver of the population. And in many cases, the leaders of the profession come across as disparaging anything that comes closer to matching the public’s image of “home.” Couldn’t we at least find good examples of modern architecture? What we feature doesn’t even have furniture in it, for goodness sake. It’s often merely a metal and glass museum box with a Barcelona chair. Where are the people supposed to go?

    So my point is that by doing this, we are actively alienating the public, except for a very small segment, and our opinions about what good design is are losing credibility. All of this hurts us in the marketplace. It distresses me that we remove ourselves from the game and then complain about how the game is being played. Wouldn’t it be better if we embraced all styles, regained a voice (not just a voice to the elite) and then spoke out to make a difference?

    What is truly disturbing are the reactions that come from within the profession. If you dare accept that anything even a little bit traditional might be “good design,” then the cognoscenti will ostracize you as a heathen who can’t comprehend the intellectual superiority of modern. I find the modernists to be unyielding and, frankly, close-minded. Shouldn’t the profession be more multi-cultural? Shouldn’t we have a bigger tent?

    So although this may sound like an endorsement of traditional, it isn’t. It is an endorsement of all styles and a call to the profession to open its arms and embrace all styles. Let’s not continue to marginalize ourselves. If we do, good design will be the loser.”

    I would love to hear your comments on this topic.

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