Odi et Amo: the role of the architect and his relationship with the client
06 Oct 2011
Perhaps the best definition about the role of the architect is that of Frank Lloyd Wright: “Every great architect is - necessarily - a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” This definition manifests itself in many forms and styles or, more precisely, languages. Let’s take the example of Modernism, the testimony of a broken age - a moment of experimentation and a breeding ground of proposals for a new society. Although, from a strictly urban point of view the mind jumps to the anxious atmosphere so vividly depicted by Stanley Kubrick in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (the pin-up of the alienation and youth unrest in those years), from the point of view of quality housing we instead find ourselves facing a very interesting possibility: the rediscovery and the reinterpretation of many of the works constructed in those years. For instance, the work of firstly Walter Gropius and Laszlo Maholy-Nagy and secondly Mies Van der Rohe, Ernö Goldfinger, the Brutalists Peter and Alison Smithson- as well as obviously many others working in that context - are enjoying a renewed bout of interest, chiefly from a commercial point of view, from an attentive/conscientious and educated audience.
I consider Frank Lloyd Wright’s definition to be still very relevant, even if in my opinion it should be expanded to better define the not always easy relationship between architect and client: a good architect should of course be an interpreter of his own time, an original poet of the contemporary age; however he must never give secondary importance the taste, the ideas, and the aspirations of his own client. In the time in which we live, which is characterized by a huge choice in terms of qualified and established professionals as well as materials and new technological solutions that are, now more than ever, adaptable and ‘made to measure’ to such a point as to become almost unique creations of a ‘sartorial’ nature, the relationship between the professional and the customer must be founded principally on trust and collaboration, regardless of the expressive language in question. The relationship architect/client must base itself on equal ground, a sort of two-way process in which the ability to listen, and often to compromise, by both sides will bring about the desired result. Solutions no longer come from just one side, not only as far as architecture and design are concerned, but rather in all typical aspects of contemporary society as we become more liquid and flexible compared to the rigidity of the past. Architecture in general, and particularly that of a residential kind, should therefore express itself coherently within the contextual conditions in which it is working; this can only occur if the nature of the relationship between professional and client is developed in an almost osmotic fashion: if it is true that the architect should not express himself as Deus Ex Machina, proposing solutions at times only to perpetuate a pointless exercise in style, it is also true that the client cannot (and must not!) expect to employ the professional merely as an executor. Therefore the only successful way is to imagine a kind of hermeneutic circle between architect and client; a process of reciprocal interpretation aiming for a continuous exchange between the parties until reaching the “everything”, which in this case is represented by the final result.
by Nina Rennie02 Sep 2011
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